A ivil service union has raised the alarm over early-stage proposals to reduce the employment rights of higher earners, with the introduction of no-fault dismissal for people on salaries of £100,000 a year and above.
Business secretary Jacob Rees-Mogg reportedly floated a package of measures for a post-Brexit streamlining of employment law with prime minister Liz Truss. It included no-fault dismissal, ending working time regulations that mean nobody should have to work more than 48 hours in a week, and scrapping corporate reporting on the gender-pay gap and payment times for suppliers.
According to the Financial Times, Rees-Mogg’s proposals also included an end to “passporting” arrangements that allow agency workers to transfer to full-time workers’ rights.
Despite being framed as contributing to Truss’s growth drive, Rees-Mogg’s proposals were knocked back as “half-baked and unworkable”, aides told the FT. However, the paper suggested that a modified version of the no-fault dismissal proposals is still “in play”.
Although Rees-Mogg is originally supposed to have set £50,000 as the bar for no-fault dismissal, the paper reported that officials believe any threshold would have to be set above £100,000 if the plans were ever to be implemented.
The FT said Rees-Mogg’s allies reckon no-fault dismissal for people on higher salaries is acceptable because many people in the category have transferrable skills that make it easier to move to other jobs.
Prospect general secretary Mike Clancy said it was “deeply worrying” that such plans were being given consideration, even if they would only affect higher earners.
“Rights are important because they apply to everyone – once you start picking and choosing who is exempt you make an already complex system unmanageable,” he said.
“It would also be hugely damaging for equality of opportunity. If you are from a minority group starting out in your career and you see a senior manager being discriminated against with no consequence, what is that going to do for your confidence in the system?
“Far from boosting productivity, this would be an anti-growth measure making the UK less competitive, less able to attract talent – particularly in areas with shortages – and leaving senior staff subject to abuse.”
TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said the government appeared to be rushing into “reckless and cynical measures” that would downgrade workers’ pay and conditions.
“Not content with throwing the economy into turmoil, ministers now want to turn the clock back on workplace rights,” she said.
The government is currently looking to reform the Civil Service Compensation Scheme, which sets out officials’ entitlements if they are made redundant.
Under the 2010 version of the scheme – which currently applies – staff are entitled to one month’s salary for every year they have worked in the civil service.
The latest proposals would offer only three weeks salary' for every year worked and provide a maximum payout equivalent to 18 months’ salary.
No-fault dismissal could make it much cheaper to get rid of surplus high-earning staff, as part of the 91,000 cut in headcount agreed by Boris Johnson’s government in May – which departments were instructed to prepare for over the summer.