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CSP members in Northern Ireland can help fight plans to erode workers’ employment rights

16 September 2013 - 4:23pm

Proposed changes to employment laws in Northern Ireland have been condemned by the CSP as a ‘potential erosion of hard-won rights and a step back that we should fight against'.

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Claire Ronald: Changes could 'promote bad employment practice'

That was the message from Claire Ronald, senior negotiating officer for Northern Ireland.  She said the CSP is paying close attention to the possible changes, which are set out in a Northern Ireland Assembly consultation on a review of employment law.

The proposed changes could extend the qualifying period for unfair dismissal to two years and cap compensation pay-outs for unfair dismissal. Northern Ireland is the only region of the UK where employment law is devolved, but the changes could bring it into line with the rest of the UK.

Ms Ronald said: ‘We are always told that the changes in employment law are required to secure business confidence, but we are never shown the evidence for this.

‘Take the change in the qualifying period for unfair dismissal from one year to two years. Companies have said this will boost recruitment and help them to grow, but they present no evidence to support this claim.’

The consultation was launched by the Department for Employment and Learning in July and ends on 5 November.

In a foreword to the document, employment minister Stephen Farry said: ‘Historically, we have sought to mirror Great Britain with respect to employment law matters. There have frequently been strong reasons for doing so.

‘However, where it is in the best interests of Northern Ireland, I am committed to taking the necessary steps to divert from the Great Britain policy position and to develop local tailored solutions.

The assembly will also consider the merits of amending the consultation period for collective redundancies, and routing all potential tribunal claims, at least initially, directly to the Labour Relations Agency. The aim is to encourage people to resolve disputes without resorting to a formal legal process.

CSP members in Northern Ireland should urge their legislative assembly members not to back the proposals, said Ms Ronald.

‘Where there is no evidence that change will promote business confidence, then the preservation of employee entitlement is paramount,’ she noted. ‘Our fear is that some of the changes proposed will not only deny workers access to justice, but will promote bad employment practices.’

‘Northern Ireland has a chance to mitigate against the damaging changes imposed by Westminster and to make changes that will benefit the people of Northern Ireland,’ she added.

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