Sarah Green column

The continuing cry from employers as I travel the North-East is "no more employment legislation please!"

The continuing cry from employers as I travel the North-East is "no more employment legislation please!"

According to key findings in the annual CBI-Pertemps Employment Trends Survey, published this month, employers are working with employees on the issues that matter to them. But unions are calling for a raft of unnecessary new employment rights.

The TUC wants to prescribe the time staff spend training and are calling for collective bargaining on the issue. The CBI agrees with the interim Leitch Review that the UK needs to raise its game on skills. This will not be achieved by setting down a blanket prescription for a minimum spend per employee or the number of days spent training as this would ignore the needs of individuals.

Unions would like to see Government remove the EU Working Time opt-out. But nearly half of employers (42%) believe losing the UK's opt-out would have a severe or significant impact on their business.

Businesses need flexibility to meet demand. At the same time, employees appreciate the opportunity to earn extra money. The opt-out remains a valued cornerstone of the UK's flexible labour market and this is rightly a matter for individual choice.

In addition, the unions want the Government to adopt the draft Agency Temps Directive as it stands. The draft law would give agency temps the same pay and conditions as permanent staff after six weeks and it would undermine flexibility and put jobs at risk.

The UK employs over 700,000 temporary staff so temporary workers make up a significant part of our economy. Even more importantly, agency workers offer companies the flexibility they need to meet extra demand, cover vacancies or periods of absence and offer excellent opportunities to people who want the chance to work on their own terms. A qualifying period of 12 months is essential to safeguard jobs.

Since the right to request flexible working was introduced in 2004, business has reacted very positively.

Nearly all companies (91%) now offer at least one flexible working practice, with 46% offering at least three - up 30% on last year.

People issues remain at the heart of employers' priorities.

But increasingly rather than growing the business or managing people, effectively two thirds of employers (64%) report too much senior managers' time is taken up with administrative compliance.

 

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