Not waving, but drowning

2004

HR professionals in the UK are drowning in a sea of overly-complex employment laws and regulations, according to new research.

A cross-section of senior HR professionals from more than 500 UK employers polled for IRS Employment Review’s third annual HR Prospects survey complained that legislation is too complex, unclear, inflexible and impractical.

An overwhelming 84 per cent believe there is too much emphasis on employee rights rather than responsibilities and that the employment law framework is too complex. Three-quarters also complain that it does not give employers the flexibility they need.

Unsurprisingly, the message from the majority of HR professionals is that regulations need "simplification, standardisation and consistency".

Yet despite these criticisms, most HR professionals think that recent legal changes have had a neutral effect on their business.

Looking into the future, HR managers are concerned about the potential impact that any removal of the UK’s 48-hour opt-out from EU Working Time Directive would have and also express doubts over legislation surrounding data protection, transfer of undertakings (TUPE), maternity rights and dismissal rights.

Meanwhile, the issue cited as a priority today by more HR professionals than any other is getting to grips with absence management.

IRS Employment Review’s Mark Crail said that practitioners appeared more hopeful that they would be able to spend the next year dealing with training, equal opportunities and other developmental issues as external pressures ease.

"The overall sense we have from this year's study is that many HR departments have had their work cut out over the past year dealing with problems not of their making," he said.