The decision by Stephen Byers to delay the implementation of Part-Time Work
rules should be welcomed without question. A quick fix of forcing through the
legislation without proper notice for employers would have created more
problems than it solved.
There are very encouraging signs in the announcement. Byers said he would
give eight weeks to employers between the publication of the regulation and
their implementation – a fortnight more than the six weeks he has proposed in
the past. He also made clear he was aware there was concern among employers
about the implementation of the part-time regulations. Clearly Byers and his
officials are keeping a closer eye on what firms are saying, which can only be
a good thing.
While the eight-week extension is the right decision, the game isn’t quite
up. For a start we still don’t have the regulations. Byers may have thrown
employers a bone by delaying implementation, but he failed to give any
indication if the Government has made its mind up on exactly who will be
covered by the law when it comes in. For many employers this is the bigger
issue. Given the flak the Government has taken over the Rover fiasco, there is
a danger it might decide to extend the remit of the legislation to win some
credibility with the unions.
The nature of the announcement also deserves some scrutiny. It was slipped
into a speech to the British Chambers of Commerce. The spin put on this speech
was Labour restating its business agenda and most reports were happy to take
this line. As a result the delay over Part-Time Work seems to have gone all but
unnoticed. No one likes to admit a climbdown, but surely for simple information
purposes the DTI might have flagged up the announcement for employers?
That said, these are minor gripes and it is important to recognise that the
department has done the right thing this time. In our campaign with the EFSP
for better regulation we have repeatedly called on the Government to give
employers more time to deal with employment legislation and this time it has.
It looks like Byers is listening to what employers are saying. Let’s hope this
is a taster of a more open and flexible approach to implementing workplace