Vince Cable is today announcing that the government will not be taking up Sir Adrian Beecroft’s ‘fire-at-will’ proposals to allow bosses to sack underperforming staff without risking unfair dismissal claims. There was no great appetite for the plan, the Business Secretary will say, arguing that 34 per cent of small businesses consulted by his department were in favour, with 32 per cent against and 30 per cent unsure. Though many Tory MPs embraced the idea of ‘fire-at-will’ as a means of encouraging firms to take on more employees without the fear of costly consequences if the arrangement did not work out, others within the party were uneasy that they might damage the mortgage market by making lenders extremely reluctant to offer loans to people, even if they had months of payslips. And the Lib Dems kicked up an enormous fuss about the idea, arguing it would create a climate of fear.
But today’s announcement isn’t mainly about what the government isn’t doing: in fact, Cable is still announcing a number of measures which are designed to get businesses hiring. These include reducing the cap on unfair dismissal payouts, and speeding up the tribunals system so that weak cases fail earlier. He will also announce settlement agreements which mean staff will leave with a payoff rather than putting their former employer through a lengthy tribunal process.
Significantly, those around the Business Secretary are pointing out that 80 per cent of the recommendations in the Beecroft report are still being implemented. It’s important to underline this, as Beecroft has now become shorthand for the fire-at-will proposal that so angered the Lib Dems, while the majority of its proposals were perfectly acceptable to the party. For Cable, the announcement is a way of signalling that he is not the obstacle to growth he has been caricatured as.Tags: Adrian Beecroft, Business, UK politics, Vince Cable