LONDON Companies will be freed from "burdensome" employment rules in a bid to boost hiring and aid an stagnant economy, the government said on Wednesday.
Employers' groups welcomed the plans, which include restricting workers' access to tribunal hearings, but unions said the proposals would not create a single job and could provide cover for rogue bosses to bully staff.
The Conservative-led coalition is under pressure to find ways to ways to reignite growth as the number of unemployed hit a 17-year-high and the euro zone crisis threatens to tip the economy into recession.
The employment regulation changes come ahead of a statement next week from Chancellor George Osborne who will detail further growth plans to revive the economy, which has barely grown over the last 12 months.
The government hopes firms will be encouraged to hire staff by making it easer to dismiss workers.
Its measures would "boost business confidence, help (employers) hire new staff and remove burdensome regulation which makes it hard to let go of staff - all of which can inhibit growth," it said.
Among the changes is a plan to cut by a quarter the number of claims taken by workers to employment tribunals, by resolving more disputes in advance through conciliation.
Some 218,000 tribunal claims were submitted last year, of which nearly 50,000 were for unfair dismissal.
The government has already announced a doubling of the qualification period for unfair dismissal to two years' service, as well as proposals to charge a fee for taking a tribunal case.
The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) said current employment regulations often created uncertainty for businesses and were a barrier to job creation.
"Once these reforms are in place, firms won't have to waste time and money and can focus on running their business and delivering growth instead," said BCC policy director Adam Marshall.
But the Trades Union Congress (TUC), the umbrella body for British unions, said reducing protection for workers would neither save nor create jobs.
"It's not employment law that is holding firms back, it's the tough economic climate and the problems many companies are having getting the banks to lend to them that's to blame," said TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber.
(Editing by Ruth Pitchford)
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