David Cameron confirms consultation on ‘protected conversations’

Date online: 21/11/2011

In a speech setting out measures intended to promote economic growth, the Prime Minister has indicated that the Government will consult on the introduction of ‘protected conversations’. The proposal is designed to allow employers to have frank discussions on issues such as performance, which would be inadmissible in tribunal proceedings.

In a speech to business leaders on Thursday 10 November, the Prime Minister stated his ambition to deregulate to create ‘fair, simple processes that are good for business and good for employees’. The effect of introducing protected conversations, in his view, would be that ‘a boss and an employee feel able to sit down together and have a frank conversation – at either’s request’. He went on to commend other employment law reforms that the Government has already announced. He referred to the increase in the qualifying period for the right to claim unfair dismissal, noting that it would ‘help address employers’ fears of a tribunal’. And he confirmed the proposal to introduce fees for bringing claims to employment tribunals, meaning that ‘potential claimants are much less likely to pursue this option unless the employer has a genuine case to answer’.

The speech has been seen by some as indicating that the more radical proposals set out in the Beecroft report – such as the introduction of ‘compensated no-fault dismissals’, for which the employer would need to give no reason – will not be introduced. For example, The Guardian reports that the protected conversations proposal is a compromise, following the Liberal Democrats’ objections to the Beecroft proposal to further restrict the right to claim unfair dismissal.

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