By Marcus Leach

New proposals unveiled by Business Secretary Vince Cable say employers should be able to hold protected conversations with staff about poor performance without them being used in future job tribunal claims.

Further to that the new government plans suggest that, in order to settle job disputes quickly and fairly, there should be a rapid resolution scheme.

Mr Cable said he wants to help firms expand without making existing staff feel insecure. However, unions say the changes will make it harder to bring legitimate claims.

The government say the proposed changes will save more than £10 million and, further to that, benefit employers in the region of £40 million.

The key points include:

– a consultation on “protected conversations”, which would allow employers to have frank discussions about poor performance with workers without fear that they could be used as evidence in a tribunal

– a “call for evidence” on the length of time required for a consultation period on planned redundancies. It is currently 90 days, but the government is considering reducing that to 30

– a requirement for all claims to go to the conciliation service Acas before reaching employment tribunal

– options for a “rapid resolution scheme” for more simple cases to be settled within three months

In other plans Mr Cable wants to insist workers, as of April, complete two years of employment before they are able to make a claim for unfair dismissal. At present it is only one year before a claim can be made.

“We are not trying to create an environment of ‘hire and fire’ and insecurity, absolutely not. That is not the way we want to proceed,” he told BBC Breakfast. “In current conditions that would not be helpful at all.”

“But we also want to create an environment in which entrepreneurs want to start businesses, expand, take on staff and feel confident that they can do that and, if they run into difficulties with a particular employee, they can have a conversation with them without worrying they are going to be taken to a tribunal.”

Adam Marshall, director of policy at the British Chambers of Commerce, believes the proposed changes will make the system fairer.

“Mandatory Acas involvement and new claimant fees will make the system fairer by ensuring that baseless claims are weeded out, and the pressure to settle is reduced,” he said.

“The proposal to investigate a fast-track scheme for simple claims could also help.

“Once these reforms are in place, firms won’t have to waste time and money and can focus on running their business and delivering growth instead. It will also mean that genuine grievances get a better hearing.”

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