Swinson also announced plans to legislate to make clear that fixed term contracts which have reached the end of their natural life are excluded from obligations for collective redundancies consultation and introduce new non-statutory Acas guidance to address a number of key issues affecting collective redundancies consultation.
Announcing the changes, which will be made through secondary legislation and put in place by 6 April 2013, Swinson said: “The UK has a labour market that is flexible, efficient and fair but some of our laws need reform to respond to an ever changing employment landscape.
“We have listened to stakeholders and there is a strong argument for shortening the minimum period which is backed up by hard evidence. The process is usually completed well within the existing 90-day minimum period, which can cause unnecessary delays for restructuring, and make it difficult for those affected to get new jobs quickly."
She added: “We want to improve the quality of consultations by making sure there are tools available to help employers manage this process fairly and successfully to deliver the best possible outcomes for all parties. Acas will be working with stakeholders to produce non-statutory guidance that will be designed to help improve the quality of consultations.
“Our reforms will strike an appropriate balance between making sure employees are engaged in decisions about their future and allowing employers greater certainty and flexibility to take necessary steps to restructure.”
Harmajinder Hayre, employment partner for HR Legal Service, welcomed the announcement.
“Any changes to lengthy and difficult collective employment negotiations is to be welcomed in these tough times for employers," he said. "While one could argue that halving the consultation period is a dramatic cut, in reality the consultation process is often concluded well within the 90 day period, and as such the proposals meet the needs of a modern flexible labour market. With the right type of advice and support these large scale consultations should be easily achieved fairly and professionally within 45 days”.
Today’s announcement responds to a consultation launched in June and to calls for improvements to the way collective redundancies rules operate and for the processes involved to be made easier to understand. It also forms part of the Government’s commitment to review employment law to support business and concentrate on growth.
The news comes a year after HR magazine launched its Crush Complexity campaign, urging government to simplify employment law.