The Government is to introduce no new employment legislation before the next election, Trade and Industry Secretary Stephen Byers has announced.
The Employment Relations Bill will be the last new labour law before 2001 at the earliest, Byers told a conference last week.
The Bill, which gives staff new rights to union representation and parental leave, is to receive Royal Assent next week. It will be phased in over the next 18 months.
The total cost of new employment laws, such as the National Minimum Wage and Working Time regulations, is estimated at over £5bn across the whole economy by the Government.
`I am conscious that there has been a huge workload for employers in recent months,’ Byers said. `No fresh employment legislation will be introduced by this Government over the lifetime of this Parliament.’
David Yeandle, head of employment affairs at the Engineering Employers’ Federation, said manufacturers would welcome the commitment. But he added that over the next 18 months, employers would still have to deal with introduction of the The Employment Relations Bill.
`The choice of words he uses is interesting,’ said Yeandle. `Presumably the Government means there will be no more Acts of Parliament, but regulations being put through at the moment will drift out over the next 18 months.’
He added that legislation from Europe could force the Government’s hand even if it introduced no new laws of its own.
Byers admitted that the Government has been poor at implementing employment legislation. Earlier this month he said the Working Time regulations, introduced last year, would be amended after complaints from employers.
Companies will not have to keep records of staff who have opted out of the 48-hour maximum week. More managerial staff will also be exempt from the directive.
`What we were not terribly good at, and what we want to concentrate on in future, is implementation of legislation,’ said Byers. `We want to deliver on the commitments we have made but reduce the burden of bureaucracy.’
John Robinson writes for Personnel Today magazine