The Prime Minister’s ‘Business Taskforce’ of ‘six heavy-hitters from the UK business community’ has presented 30 recommendations for cutting EU ‘red tape’. The report makes recommendations in several areas, including employment law. Among other things, it proposes establishing a presumption that micro-enterprises will be exempt from new employment law proposals.
The report states that the members of the Taskforce consistently heard from businesses, in particular SMEs and micro-enterprises, that they are struggling to cope with the unnecessary burdens placed on them by EU law. In the Taskforce’s opinion, faced with the risk of being sued for breaking the law by accident and countless pages of law they cannot understand, many micro-enterprises simply decide not to employ people. Thus, the complexity and quantity of employment legislation coming from Europe is preventing job creation and cannot continue. The report therefore makes a number of recommendations to cut EU employment law ‘red tape’:
• the starting presumption for new employment law proposals should be that micro-enterprises are exempt. When a proposal is beneficial to micro-businesses, they should have a ‘proportionate’ regime
• the European Commission should withdraw its proposal to amend the Pregnant Workers Directive, given to the European Parliament’s demand for 20 weeks’ maternity leave on full pay. The report states that if this position were adopted, the UK would face extra costs of around £2.5 billion per year. Such high costs would be likely to lead to a greater share of this financial burden falling directly on business
• a revised Posted Workers Enforcement Directive should not introduce mandatory new complex rules on subcontracting. There should also be strict limits on the paperwork a EU state can ask a business to provide before sending a worker to another EU country
• existing information and consultation legislation should not be extended to micro-businesses, no new proposals or changes to existing legislation should be made, nor should there be any action to standardise agreements for dispute resolution. The European Parliament has called for further action to give workers rights to information and consultation and the European Commission is currently considering the above proposals in response
• the report states that the level of fear, confusion and uncertainty created by the Working Time Directive is unacceptable. ECJ rulings on ‘on-call’ time and requiring paid leave to be given to workers who have not worked at all during a leave year have expanded the original scope of the legislation and ‘need urgent action’. The report states that any new working time proposals must:
o keep individuals’ ability to opt out of the 48-hour week
o provide more flexibility on on-call time and ‘compensatory rest’, clarifying that not all workplace on-call time counts as working time, and that compensatory rest does not have to be taken immediately
o make clear that there is no right to reschedule leave which is affected by sickness, nor any right to carry over leave, and
o ensure record-keeping requirements are kept to a minimum, to enable businesses, especially SMEs, to have confidence that all they need to retain are proportionate, limited records
• the Agency Workers Directive should be amended to give greater flexibility for individual employers and workers to reach their own arrangements and to make clear to companies that they only need to keep limited records. Furthermore, any new proposal must start by considering if a Directive is still actually necessary and/or what provisions in it are no longer required
• the report considers that the Acquired Rights Directive, which protects employees’ rights on the transfer of all or part of a business, goes too far. The Taskforce states that the Directive should allow an employer and employee more flexibility to change contracts following a transfer. The Taskforce believes that increased flexibility would boost business and could improve fairness for employees, and EU Governments should be allowed flexibility to decide when low-risk companies need to keep written health and safety risk
• assessments and how traineeships and work placements should be provided.