HC Deb 29 November 1994 vol 250 cc1061-2
3. Mr. Mackinlay

To ask the Secretary of State for Employment what measures he proposes to improve the rights of employees at work and protection against unfair or arbitrary dismissal.

The Minister of State, Department of Employment (Miss Ann Widdecombe)

The Government recently introduced a number of extended and enhanced rights for employees in the Trade Union Reform and Employment Rights Act 1993. It is now automatically unfair for an employer to dismiss an employee for taking certain specified types of action on health and safety grounds, for seeking in good faith to assert a statutory employment right or for reasons connected with pregnancy or childbirth.

Mr. Mackinlay

What advice would the Minister give a constituent who came to her surgery and who showed prima facie evidence of unfair and arbitrary dismissal but who had been employed for less than two years? What remedy to that wrong would she suggest to her constituent?

Miss Widdecombe

Certain automatic rights are available to all employees, regardless of hours worked. It is important that a balance is struck between undue burdens on employers and the protection of employees. The two-years' policy strikes the right balance.

Mr. Butterfill

Many people, particularly hoteliers in my constituency, think that rights are already loaded against them and that industrial tribunals' decisions prevent them from operating efficiently. If the social chapter were introduced in this country, would not many jobs be destroyed and our unemployment level be the same as that in Spain and France?

Miss Widdecombe

I agree with my hon. Friend's latter point. To maintain that balance and to ensure that we do not overload employers with unreasonable requirements, we have strongly resisted paternity leave, the part-time work directive and other measures that militate against employers employing and that destroy jobs. The most important protection that a worker can have is to be able to get a job; the Opposition would ensure that he would not have it.

Ms Eagle

Almost nine months ago, the Government lost a case before the European Court and were told to equalise the rights of part-time and full-time workers. Since then, we have heard nothing but a deathly silence from them. When will they bring part-time workers' rights into line with those now enjoyed by full-time workers?

Miss Widdecombe

The hon. Lady confuses the European Court with the House of Lords, which I should not have thought was easy to do. The Government will announce their conclusions in due course.