HC Deb 01 November 2001 vol 373 cc1002-4
11. Mr. Iain Luke (Dundee, East)

What action is being taken by her Department to improve employment rights in the workplace. [9559]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (Miss Melanie Johnson)

The Government have shown their commitment to minimum standards and fairness in the workplace with the introduction of the national minimum wage, paid holidays and many other measures. New rights to paid paternity and adoption leave, and enhancements to maternity rights, come in from 2003.

Mr. Luke

I know that my hon. Friend is very much aware of the great concern and uncertainty that is felt by many public sector workers about the arbitrary changes in working conditions before initial guarantee is given and the possible loss of pension rights in the transfer of an undertaking. Will my hon. Friend give an undertaking that following the consultation period the Department will welcome the proposals made at the TUC conference to strengthen the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations 1981? Will she implement the recommendations as soon as possible once the consultation period ends in December?

Miss Johnson


Mr. Speaker

Order. I should say to the House before the Minister replies that Members should not read from notes.

Miss Johnson

I know that my hon. Friend has a considerable and relevant background on these issues. I am grateful to him for bringing his expertise to the House, even though Opposition Members are mocking it. As he knows, the Government are consulting on reforms of the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations 1981. These reforms are designed to help the smooth management of any change by ensuring that employees know where they stand when a business changes hands.

We are proposing options for extending TUPE to occupational pensions, which my hon. Friend has mentioned. That would help to ensure that more employees have a basic minimum pension provision. We want to ensure, too, that the liabilities in respect of employees are honoured by requiring transferrers to notify transferees of such liabilities. We want to clarify the position on when dismissals or changes to terms and conditions of employees who are involved in a transfer can be made. As my hon. Friend is aware, consultation ends on 15 December, so we are still awaiting the full consultation response.