Business Support and Flexible Working Reforms in Queen’s Speech

Plans to extend the right to request flexible working to all employees and to reform the government’s business support network, were the key measures for small firms in the Queen’ Speech.

The Queen’s Speech contained 22 Bills, including planned legislation to cut the budget deficit, invest in high-speed broadband, create a Green Investment Bank to support investment in low-carbon projects and raise employers’ National Insurance Contributions from April 2011. 

Flexible working reforms were also announced. Currently, only employees with children aged up to 16, or disabled children up to 18, have the right to request flexible working.

But under the Government’s proposals, all employees will have the right to request flexible working. The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) will hold a consultation on implementing the reforms this autumn.

The Federation of Small Businesses’ (FSB) head of public affairs, Stephen Alambritis, said he was not opposed to the changes as long as they did not place an extra administrative burden on small firms.

“Most small businesses already offer flexible working, but on an informal, ‘as and when needed’ basis. We are calling on the Government to take a reality check on future legislation, so that it’s not riddled with complexities for small businesses.

“The current legislation allows the employer to refuse on good business grounds, and we just want to ensure this will also be the case for future legislation,” he added. “We’re not opposing the changes, but we want to ensure the business’ needs are sacrosanct.”

The Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development’s employee relations adviser, Mike Emmott, said that employees who have the option of working flexibly tend to be more engaged and more productive.

“Employees expect to be treated the same and have the same opportunities as each other. So, removing any jealousy about parents who receive special treatment will mean that it becomes a more cohesive workforce.”

The Queen’s Speech also outlined plans to reform the government’s business support network. Local Enterprise Partnerships will be created to replace Regional Development Agencies. These will be formed by local authorities in collaboration with other business bodies.

The National Federation of Enterprise Agencies welcomed the plans.

“This new system might offer a more localised, individual service to businesses,”

said NFEA spokesman, Daniel Locke.

“People are more trusting of local groups with knowledge of their area than they are of national websites, so the more localised it is, the better.”

For more information on the Queen’s Speech, visit the Prime Minister’s office website

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