Move on, nothing to see here

The Beecroft report is not a dynamic list of recommendations to steer UK businesses to increased efficiency

The new ‘furore’ over further leaks from the Beecroft Report that led to its release four days earlier than planned seems a little overblown.

It is essentially the same report, completed in October 2011, a draft of which caused the last ‘furore’ when selected details were released ahead of Vince Cable’s speech on the state of the Employment Law Review.

There are good ideas in Beecroft’s report, but many were not new thinking: they are still part of the Employment Law Review but are subject to various stages of calls for evidence or consultation, such as the suggested reduction from 90 to 30 days of the period for consultation on larger collective redundancies. Others could be in breach of the UK’s European Community (EC) obligations.

In relation to the Agency Workers Regulations, the report included the suggestion that the Government might ignore EC obligations and risk infraction proceedings from the European Commission for not implementing the Agency Workers directive.

In relation to Tupe, one suggestion is to risk implementing a dubious interpretation while lobbying Brussels to change the directive – hardly rapid routes to stability and growth.

While there are areas of Tupe that could – indeed should – be reviewed, the Department for Business, Innovationa nd Skills is slow tracking the call for ­evidence on Tupe compared with the one on collective redundancy, partly because there seems to be little appetite among business for yet more tinkering with the Tupe regulations.

The most potentially confrontational issue is the so-called ‘Compensated No Fault Dismissal’, designed to allow employers to dismiss non-performing employees more easily and less expensively – not a new concept globally, albeit new to the UK.

If the ‘no fault’ element were translated into removal of unnecessary process but preserving employee rights, it would seem less repugnant.

The Government is already ­looking at the concept of ‘protected conversations’, along with a streamlined process, that does not wholly remove employment rights; these ideas are included in the March 2012 call for evidence on the issue.

Unfortunately, the report’s ­analysis of the impact of ‘Compensated No Fault Dismissal’ is internally inconsistent and there would be unforeseen consequences.

The Government’s difficulty with this report is not so much the quality of its thinking, but the strident propositions on which it is based.

Meanwhile, the real solution to under performing employees is to have an efficient and properly ­managed performance management process – something at which, generally, UK business does not excel.

The purpose of such a process is ­essentially to help employees to ­improve performance, not to create an aggressive exit strategy. But if employees do not improve then it is not at all difficult to justify their dismissal – so long as it is done properly.

There is virtually nothing new in this seven-month-old document; the Employment Law Review includes most of its valuable points already and the apparently most extreme issue of ‘no fault liability’ is already part of a wider call for evidence.

Let us not become too exercised over something that was, at best, a stepping stone. We should focus on responses to the existing consultation processes and move forward.