The Government published the 2011 Budget and accompanying ‘Plan for Growth’ last week. While many of the employment-related measures had already been announced, some were unexpected, including a commitment to review employers’ liability under the new Equality Act 2010 for third party harassment. The Government’s stated aims are to create a more educated workforce that is the most flexible in Europe, coupled with the lowest burden from employment regulation. The Government has confirmed that it will:
Impose a moratorium exempting businesses with fewer than 10 employees and start-up businesses from new domestic regulation for three years from 1 April 2011;
Not extend the right to request time to train to businesses with fewer than 250 employees, as was originally due to come into force from April 2011;
Repeal the extension of the right to request flexible working to parents of 17 year olds;
Launch a public review of employment-related regulations, removing those which are excessively burdensome;
Not bring into force the dual discrimination provisions of the Equality Act 2010; and
Consult on moving the May day Bank Holiday to either St George’s Day in England or a new ‘UK day’ or ‘Trafalgar Day’ during the October half-term.
They have also indicated some other targets. These include the European Parliament’s position on the Pregnant Workers Directive, which would create a right to 20 weeks’ maternity leave and two weeks’ paternity leave on full pay and the European Commission’s review of the Information and Consultation of Employees Directive, which gives employees in medium and large businesses a right to be informed and consulted on a regular basis about issues including a business’ economic situation and employees’ contractual arrangements.
Many of these aims are laudable, but whether the government can achieve them in practice is another story. We will of course keep you updated on events.