Bosses don't want a Brexit bonfire of red tape

Contrary to popular perception, most employers are happy with current levels of regulation.

by Michael Burd and James Davies
Last Updated: 26 Jul 2017

We all know that UK employers want to cut red tape and reduce burdens on business, right? It goes without saying – we’re told so all the time. But a recent report published by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) in partnership with Lewis Silkin suggests it’s time to put that canard to rest.

Based on a YouGov survey of more than 500 employers, the research shows that much of the rhetoric around workplace regulation does not match the reality. All 28 areas of employment law surveyed were regarded as "necessary" by most employers. These included, for example, unfair dismissal (rated as necessary by 93% of businesses), the national minimum wage (87%) and the Working Time Regulations (74%).

More than half (52%) of employers went beyond what is required in order to comply with employment legislation, while 44% said they meet the minimum obligations. Businesses also recognise the positive impact on their staff, with more than two-thirds agreeing that employment rights increase employees’ sense of fairness and trust in their employer and seven in ten saying implementing them improves the quality of working lives.

This demonstrates just how much business support there is for employment laws that are appropriate and effective. The UK is not generally an over-burdensome regulatory climate and employers continue to enjoy the benefits of laws that achieve a good balance between worker protection and business flexibility.

Not everything in the garden is rosy, however. Over half of the respondents to the CIPD/Lewis Silkin survey believe that employment legislation is generally too complex. Certain regulations in particular were regarded by significantly fewer than half of businesses as well drafted and easy to apply - for example, the agency workers laws (36%) and TUPE, the law that protects employees on business transfers (32%). Both of those are likely candidates for legislative attention following Brexit.

The research survey generally points to employers being less concerned with the quantity of regulation than having legislation that is clear, well implemented and fit for purpose. When asked what areas should be the focus of future legislation to improve protections, 36% of survey respondents said wellbeing (for example, alleviating workplace stress), while 30% thought the emphasis should be on technology.

The broad support among employers for the UK’s existing employment rights framework - including EU-originated legislation - suggests there will be no 'bonfire of employment law' following Brexit. Still less are we likely to see the UK turning into a European Singapore - a deregulated, low-pay economy racing to the bottom on labour standards.

Contrary to what you read in some newspapers, it appears the great majority of employers will be relieved to hear that.

Michael Burd and James Davies, Lewis Silkin LLP solicitors, e-mail: employment@lewissilkin.com

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