More than three quarters (78%) of employment lawyers polled in a recent survey believe the proposed employment law reforms announced last month by Business Secretary Vince Cable will lead to a ‘hire and fire’ culture within small businesses.

The poll, which was conducted by find-a-solicitor service Contact Law, also revealed that two-thirds (67%) of employment lawyers surveyed do not believe the proposals are ‘workable’, and fewer than one-in-ten (8%) is in favour of all the changes.

Although the aim of the reforms is to relieve pressure on small businesses, the results of the survey suggest this is unlikely. Almost three quarters (73%) said they did not think the reforms would encourage SMEs to take on more staff, and almost two thirds (63%) did not think the changes would alter the way that small businesses deal with their staff.

More worrying, at a time when thousands of small businesses are barely surviving and need all the assistance they can get, the proposed changes could have a detrimental impact on small businesses attracting talent. A third (33%) of employment lawyers surveyed believe the reforms will lead to small businesses losing out on talent in the jobs market, with jobseekers deterred from considering small businesses when looking for employment because of concerns over job security.

When questioned about the individual reforms proposed by Mr Cable, the responses were mixed. The proposal which proved least popular was the ‘no fault dismissals’, in which employers could sack a staff member in exchange for compensation, without facing an unfair dismissal case. Three quarters of those polled were against ‘no fault dismissals’.

The proposal with the most backing from lawyers was the introduction of a ‘rapid resolution scheme’, which would allow more simple cases to be settled within three months. More than three quarters (78%) supported this proposed reform.

When employment lawyers were asked about current employment laws, the majority (60%) backed the system, stating it was not overcomplicated, and just a third (34%) believe reforming employment laws would lead to a reduction in the number of claims being made.

Therese Wallin, legal expert at Contact Law, comments:

“Vince Cable’s proposed employment reforms are generating a great deal of debate amongst legal professionals. Whilst some of the changes, such as the ‘rapid resolution scheme’, have the backing of the industry, many of the other proposals are far less popular.

“But what is clear is that amongst those lawyers surveyed, the majority don’t agree with Vince Cable’s assessment that the reforms won’t lead to a ‘hire and fire’ culture. The general feeling seems to be that rather than assisting small businesses, these reforms could actually have an adverse impact. It’s difficult to see how the proposed changes, in their current form, could be implemented without a significant degree of resistance.”