Government eases employment regulations for small firms

There has been a mixed reaction to the Government’s proposed changes to business legislation that it says will make life easier for small firms.

Speaking today at a Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) conference in Liverpool, business minster Mark Prisk announced a three-year moratorium on new business regulation for businesses of fewer than ten employees and for “genuine new start-ups”.

Prisk also outlined Government plans to remove workers’ rights to request leave for training at companies with fewer than 250 staff, and scrap Regulations giving parents of children up to the age 17 the right to flexible working hours.

However, there has already been some angry response to the proposals, with trade union Unite claiming that the Government has an “anti-women bias”. Assistant general secretary of Unite Gail Cartmail said: “[This] announcement is the latest example of a policy that will make it harder for women to hold down jobs and make a valuable contribution to the economy and the financial well-being of their families.

“Last summer’s emergency Budget saw a series of measures that hit women’s income disproportionately harder compared with men’s. The so-called Employer’s Charter saw women bearing the brunt on all fronts, with maternity rights being under threat.

“Only last week we had Lord Hutton’s report on public sector pensions, which if implemented, will hit local government and the NHS, with their huge female workforces, very badly.

“And then in the background, you have works and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith’s aiming ‘to make work pay’, with the implication that women will be forced back to work in very low paid jobs, despite the lack of national childcare facilities and the threat to their incomes.”

Ben Willmott, senior policy adviser at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, said the decision to repeal April’s planned extension of the right to request flexible working for parents of 17-year-olds shouldn’t be seen as conceding that felxible working is burdensome to employers. He said: “We understand the argument that multiple changes to flexible working regulations are not helpful. But this limited repeal mustn’t be seen as conceding the ill-conceived belief that flexible working can only ever be seen as a regulatory burden and a cost. Millions of workers already benefit from flexible working well beyond anything enshrined in legislation, because employers in firms large and small see the benefits they derive from a more flexible, more engaged, more diverse and more effective workforce as a result.

“Recognising that your employees have lives outside of work, and seeking to accommodate those lives where business requirements allow isn’t a cost, it is a sensible employee retention and motivation strategy that can boost organisational performance and economic growth.”

Meanwhile, a spokesperson for construction union UCATT said the decision to scrap the right to request time off for training risks lives. They said: “The decision is particularly alarming for the construction industry, due to the fact that as the industry begins to recover from the recession an increasing number of new inexperienced workers will be recruited. Without proper training they could place themselves or their colleagues at risk.
“The announcement has very serious implications for the construction industry. As the industry recovers from recession there are genuine concerns that fatalities and injuries will increase. If companies make short-term knee jerk decisions and high levels of safety training is not provided to new entrants, those dangers will increase.”

XpertHR FAQs on employee requests in relation to study or training

XpertHR FAQs on flexible working

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