When can conversations really be off the record?

David Cameron has announced that the Government will be consulting on the introduction of ‘protected conversations’ in the workplace as part of the Government’s employment law reforms.

Speaking in the context of the UK economy, the Prime Minister highlighted employers’ reluctance to have frank conversations with their employees for fear of being taken to a tribunal, pointing to the detrimental effect this could have on UK job creation in the future.

Mr Cameron emphasised that whilst he wanted to deregulate and cut back on bureaucracy in order to make the UK more competitive, this was not only to help business but to create fair, simple processes that were also just as good for employees. The idea of protected conversations, he explained, were that both employer and employee felt able to sit down together and have a frank conversation, which either party could request.

Protected conversations had the support of Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minster, who had first expressed his support for the idea in a separate speech given in October 2011. Neil Carberry, director for employment at the CBI, was also in favour, stating how “Protected conversations would provide a safe mechanism which builds confidence in management and helps businesses make better decisions”

The Prime Minister also re-iterated in his speech the Government’s commitment to its existing employment law reform proposals, increasing the qualifying period for unfair dismissal claims from one year to two years and introducing fees for those wanting to bring cases to an employment tribunal, with a view to reducing the over number of claims employers were facing. For more detail on this see our blog article Unfair Dismissal Claims – How much change is actually in the air?

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