Too much legislation - but it's not all bad

Jun 24 2005 by Brian Amble Print This Article

Many employers find employment legislation helps to build trust and improve the motivation of their staff. But almost two-thirds (62 per cent) of employers find that a lack of resources, such as staff, time and budget, is a major barrier to its effective implementation.

But a survey of 600 HR professionals by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) and law firm Lovells has also found that almost two-thirds of employers in Britain believe that there is too much employment legislation and more than four out of 10 (43 per cent) believe they receive inadequate guidance about it from the government.

Despite the excessive volume of employment legislation, almost two thirds of employers feel that existing legislation has helped them earn the trust of their employees and ensure that they feel fairly treated.

Meanwhile over half of employers believe that legislation can drive good practice and over four-fifths of employers believe it can drive change.

Specific examples of good employment legislation include the Disability Discrimination Act, the Race Relations Act, the Sex Discrimination Act and the Right to Request flexible working legislation, with the majority of employers identifying these as both necessary and as helping them to meet their strategic business goals.

Ben Willmott, CIPD Employee Relations Adviser, believes that more effective regulation would come about if the government helped employers through improved consultation and better-drafted legislation and guidance.

"Clearly employers recognise the need for much employment legislation and in some cases they find it can actually benefit the business by driving the development of policies and practices that can help them recruit, retain and motivate employees," he said.

"But debate remains over the amount of red tape and the need for the Government to simplify the legal duties facing employers.

"If employment legislation has a clear purpose, fits with the UK's flexible labour market and is well drafted it can act as an important lever for change. In order for this to happen the Government must consult with employers before legislation is drafted and showcase the business case for good employment practice.

Only then will employers recognise how legislation ties in with good people management and development, and understand how central this can be to business success."

A need for more effort to involve line managers in the implementation of employment law also emerged from the research, with over a third of organisations lacking awareness of changes to legislation.

However, almost two-thirds of employers also recognise changes to people management policies as one of the best methods of making changes in employment practice and helping to implement employment law.

David Harper, Partner and Head of the Employment Group at Lovells, said that organisations that invest resources into the introduction and management of employment law gain a competitive business advantage. But line managers play a critical role in this process.

"Providing adequate employment law training and support for these managers is a key driver to business success," he said.

"Employment law issues can be dealt with effectively when managers understand the legislation and how it affects overall business objectives. Employers have found that some legislation has encouraged greater communication both during and after implementation, which has helped to gain the trust and commitment of employees."