News in brief: UK an attractive business environment, says unit

• The labour market in the UK is less heavily regulated than other European countries, the Government claimed last week. Research by the Economist Intelligence Unit, the research arm of the Economist magazine, found that the flexibility of the UK labour market and lightness of the tax regime compared to other European countries make it an attractive business environment for the next five years. Graham Stringer, parliamentary secretary at the Cabinet Office, welcomed the findings. “While we make no apology for ensuring decent minimum standards for workers, such as the national minimum wage and the measures in the Employment Relations Act, we are also determined to limit the burden that regulation places on business and to promote competitiveness and efficiency,” he said.

Licensing changes make HR even more vital

• HR professionals from the leisure and innkeeping industries were meeting last week to debate the recruitment and retention problem and the likely impact of changes to the licensing laws. Maureen Heffernan, head of external affairs at the British Institute of Innkeeping, said at £300m a year the cost of turnover makes it an issue for finance directors and managing directors as well as HR. Nick Bish, chief executive of the Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers, added that licensing reform will make HR’s role more crucial. “Licensees and staff will be more exposed to penalties under the new licensing conditions and therefore will have to be better trained and more professional than ever,” he said.

Innovative schemes boost business skills in East

• Twenty-eight projects to develop the skills of people living and working in the East of England have received £2.8m from the East of England Development Agency. The projects range from a region-wide scheme to place 150 business champions in schools to help pupils set up their own companies for a year, to a project to pilot a qualification for entrepreneurs. Sal Brinton, EEDA’s representative on skills, said, “These 28 exciting and innovative projects were chosen from over 100 submissions we received from across the East of England. They will make a major contribution to raising skills in our region.”

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