Confused? You should be

Victoria Phillips is the Head of the Employment Rights Unit (ERU) at Thompsons Solicitors.

The Thompsons Solicitors UnionHome blog


Cutting so-called red tape to reduce the “burden on business” has become something of a mantra for this government. Some might say an obsession.


And it has become so fixated with getting rid of great swathes of employment rights law that it is now in danger of alienating the very audience it’s supposed to be trying to woo.


Take the repeal of some key provisions of the Equality Act. Despite opposition to the proposals in recent consultations, the government announced it was going ahead anyway on the questionable basis that “very few of the responses, whether from those opposed to or those in favour of repeal, offered quantifiable evidence or specific evidence based on actual situations and outcomes to support their views”.


 Pots and kettles spring to mind. Let’s go back to the responses to those consultations again and crunch the numbers:


  • 83 per cent of respondents to the consultation on obtaining further information opposed repeal. A decisive 15 per cent were in favour
  • 79 per cent were opposed to repealing the wider recommendations provisions. A crucial 12 per cent were in favour
  • 71 per cent opposed repeal of the third party harassment provisions with a massive 20 per cent in favour.


The government’s conclusion? “Taken as a whole, this response has not persuaded the Government that there is a need to re-think the proposals on which it consulted.”


Likewise the ill-considered proposal by George Osborne a couple of months ago, allowing employers to force prospective employees to give up key employment rights in return for a so-called “share” in the business.


The consultation on “implementing employee owner status” gave respondents just three weeks to reply to questions on introducing the scheme in practical terms, not on whether it should happen at all. A recent YouGov poll showed just 20 per cent of the public supports the proposal.


So perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised that a survey published last week showed overwhelming support for the Equality Act among the business community, despite the fact that the government is currently repealing crucial provisions on the basis that it’s a “burden on business”.


This time, though, the government can’t argue that the responses aren’t to its liking as the survey was commissioned and published by the Equalities Office.


But then again, one hand often doesn’t know what the other one is doing. So perhaps it wasn’t strange that the survey results were celebrated on the  Culture, Media and Sport website with the headline “Companies say equality is good for business”.


We couldn’t put it any better than the Women and Equalities Minister, Jo Swinson who said of the survey:


“The Equality Act has been in force for two years now and it is only right that we find out what employers know or don’t know, and how they genuinely feel about the Act.


“It is really encouraging to see from the survey that so many employers think equality is important for their business.


“The Act is there to protect individuals from unfair treatment and was introduced to both strengthen and simplify the law. The results provide helpful evidence on whether the Act is working as it was intended.”


Well said, Jo. Just a pity that so many of your colleagues on the front benches don’t seem to agree. Or maybe, like most other results they don’t like, they are simply not “persuaded” by them.


 Confused? You should be.


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