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.
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.
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?
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.
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?