By Max Clarke

The CBI today called on the Government to fundamentally rethink its approach to employment law in order to bolster workplace flexibility and foster better employment relations.

Launching its first ever digital report Thinking Positive: the 21st century employment relationship, produced in collaboration with Hays, the CBI explores how the employment relationship has changed, becoming even more flexible.

“Traditionally when making employment law governments have tried to specify every last detail of what should go on in the workplace,” said John Cridland, CBI Director-General.

“With a strong base of employment rights already in place, we simply don’t need the state telling us how to manage every aspect of basic human relations.

The report includes video interviews with employees and staff on the benefits of good communication and flexibility, and looks at how this helped minimise private sector job losses during and post-recession.

Now the CBI says the Government should build on the success of workplace relations forged during the recession by embedding this flexible approach into future employment law and in its Employment Law Review. Rather than automatically opting for legislation, in most cases the Government should specify what it is trying to achieve and set out suggested processes in more flexible guidance or codes of practice. With much of our employment law coming from Europe, this approach should also be applied to EU directives.

So far, the Government has given some welcome signals on reducing regulation and is looking at ways of improving the tribunals system. But it has also introduced policies that have reduced flexibility, including abolishing the Default Retirement Age without addressing the need for employers to have protected conversations about retirement plans and failing to review the Agency Workers Directive, which has been gold plated to include extra process costs for employers, not required under European law.

“The Government should adopt a simpler approach to future employment law, one which maximises choice for employers and staff and plays up the strengths of our flexible labour market,” continued Cridland.

“Good communication helped companies and employees work together to make difficult changes to working patterns to get through the recession. These lessons are particularly important now the public sector is facing similar challenges as a result of measures to cut the deficit.”

Commenting on the benefits of greater workplace flexibility for staff, Alistair Cox, Chief Executive of Hays plc, added:

“Flexibility is a key ingredient in driving future economic growth in the UK. It is also a key aspect that more and more professionals look for in their lives and careers, particularly at a time when we want to encourage employers to invest and create more jobs, despite today’s economic uncertainty.

“Juggling their work commitments around other commitments in their busy lives is increasingly important to people, so giving them the opportunities to benefit from flexible working practices is key.

“Endless red tape and legislation prevents employers and employees from being able to capitalise on the vast number of benefits that flexible working offers. It is time these constraints are removed so that we can get more people into worthwhile work.”


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