Posted by

Kamala Mackinnon, Campaigns Adviser

19 Jun 2012

BCC welcomes measures to legislate on the establishment of the Green Investment Bank and to make changes to the employment tribunal process. BCC also supports measures to reduce unnecessary legislative burdens on companies, however questions the degree to which the extension of the Primary Authority Scheme will reduce the regulatory burden on small and medium-sized businesses.

The Green Investment Bank will help unlock the huge potential of clean energy and create much needed employment. It should focus on areas that offer the best level of return, such as energy efficiency. BCC acknowledges that there is an argument to be made for not allowing the bank to borrow from the financial markets until 2015. However, it is clear that the bank’s ability to meet its objectives will be limited until that point. BCC would like to see its powers to borrow be brought forward. The bank should also have flexibility to change its lending priorities as the needs of the UK change. It is unclear if the legislation gives it this flexibility and BCC would like this clarified by the government.

Notable changes will also be made to the employment tribunal process. This includes providing for prospective claimants to contact the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) before they can begin certain types of employment tribunal proceedings so that parties can be offered conciliation to attempt to resolve their dispute outside the tribunal system. A series of reforms will also be introduced to streamline the existing system and encourage employer compliance, including a new discretionary power for an employment tribunal to impose a financial penalty on an employer found to have breached an individual’s rights in order to encourage greater compliance with employment obligations.

BCC welcomes most of these changes, as tribunals are an undesirable way to resolve workplace disputes and cost employees and employers time, money and stress. According to BCC research, one in five businesses has been threatened with a tribunal in the last three years. Three-fifths of claims are settled due to cost and uncertainty (the average cost to defend is £8.5k; the average settlement is £5.4k). However we have concerns about the introduction of fines for employers who breach employment law.

Many of the proposals in this Bill are welcome and should make a difference to businesses on the ground. Whilst the Bill won’t solve some of the major barriers to growth faced by businesses such as access to finance, investment incentives and problems around infrastructure, many of the measures will help to boost business confidence and reduce burdens on firms.