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Ministers launch latest attempt to improve employment tribunals

24 May 2012

Employment tribunals, competition law, directors' pay, copyright, and the new Green Investment Bank all feature in a new bill presented to the Westminster Parliament with the aim of encouraging growth.

The Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill is proposed by the Government as the way to cut the costs of doing business in Britain and remove regulatory burdens that currently inhibit innovation.

Among its provisions, parties to employment disputes will be encouraged to come together to settle their dispute before an employment tribunal claim is lodged, through Acas early conciliation and greater use of settlement agreements – as ministers want to rename compromise agreements, to help improve understanding of their purpose. A new "rapid resolution" scheme will also allow legal officers to determine prescribed simpler employment tribunal claims, such as claims for holiday pay, quickly and at less cost to both parties.

A new Competition and Markets Authority will bring together the competition functions of the Office of Fair Trading and the Competition Commission, with the aim of speeding up competition processes and providing clearer timeframes for businesses.

Investment

The bill also sets out the purpose of the UK Green Investment Bank, embeds its operational independence and providies Government with a specific power to finance it, with initial funding of £3bn to March 2015, to accelerate long-term private sector investment in the UK’s transition to a green economy.

Shareholders of UK quoted companies will be able to pass binding votes on directors’ remuneration. Further detail on how this will work will be confirmed as the bill progresses.

There is an attempt to deter the importation and sale of unauthorised replicas of classic designs which qualify for copyright protection; and copyright protection for mass-produced artistic works will be extended to life of the creator plus 70 years, to promote innovation in the design industry and encourage investment in new products.

Among measures to simplify regulation are reduced inspection burdens on businesses of all sizes, and increased SME access to reliable, consistent advice on complying with regulations in areas such as trading standards, health and safety and environmental health. The bill also confirms the power to put a time limit on new regulations via "sunset clauses".

Business Secretary Vince Cable said: “Growing our economy out of a period of acute crisis is the most pressing issue for this Government. We want to make sure the right conditions are in place to encourage investment and exports, boost enterprise, support green growth and build a responsible business culture.

“The measures in the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill will help make Britain one of the most enterprise-friendly countries in the world. It will improve our employment tribunals, reform and strengthen competition enforcement, scrap unnecessary red tape and help ensure that people who work hard and do the right thing are rewarded.”

Katja Hall, CBI chief policy director, commented: "This bill offers an opportunity for the Government to set out a strategy for growth, but at this point it is light on detail in some key areas."

She added: "Companies will judge the Government’s progress by what changes in their business on the ground. So far, there has been too little progress in too many areas, with the Government’s intended changes yet to filter through.”

Click here to access the bill.


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