THE GOVERNMENT'S trend towards using more non-statutory regulations and codes is “undemocratic” says leading employment lawyer Barry Mordsley.
Though the Fairness at Work Bill, released last week, has been welcomed by employment lawyers for granting concessions to both employers and employees alike, concerns have also been expressed at the way the law is being changed.
Mordsley says that dealing with aspects of the new Bill – such as unfair dismissal, time off for family incidents and parental leave – in regulations which are separate from the Bill itself is “a retrograde step because it makes legislation less subject to parliamentary scrutiny and public comment”.
Bevan Ashford employment head David Widdowson is also worried that the Trade and Industry Secretary will have the power to push through significant regulations quickly and quietly.
These regulations are the latest in a trend that dates back to the Transfer of Undertaking Regulations in 1981 and disability legislation in 1995. It comes at a time when Labour is under fire from the opposition for stifling public debate.
“You can't pick up this legislation without looking at the regulations with it. I think it's undemocratic in that you don't have a full public debate when you don't actually have the mainstream provisions in the legislation,” says Mordsley.
Under previous governments, regulations were used only “for very complex matters”.