The Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Bill was introduced into Parliament in June and will proceed through the system to become law over the next twelve months. So what are the main battlegrounds likely for the bill?
The Bill proposes measures to push ahead with the electronic scanning of cheques for paying in, together with measures to release small business credit data – with their permission – for other lenders to offer more competitive funding. It also gives the Secretary of State powers to impose reporting requirements on larger companies to details their payment times and terms in annual reports.
We’ve longed campaigned for better measures to tackle late payment and lengthening payment terms and this is a positive step forward. It is rare that a business body calls for more regulation but this is a case where more accountability is needed, to help try and stop the issue from getting worse.
Research indicates that the cost of complying with regulations continue to rise for small businesses, though there is a case that some of this rise is down to perception. Major costs are health and safety (£3.7bn), employment law (£4.7bn) and tax compliance (£6bn).
Measures to tackle burdensome regulations, such as the Red Tape Challenge and One in Two Out, means that in terms of sheer volume of regulation the Government is likely to meet that objective.
The Bill means Government will have to review regulations for their appropriateness after a few years and put in place targets for deregulation over the course of a parliament. But it’s an area where more needs to be done.
Governments must understand that regulatory impact comes not just from the size of regulation but the frequency of change too. Minor rules which change often are just as time consuming as major ones that change more infrequently. Whilst the Forum welcomes the proposals, it will do nothing to support a true reduction in regulatory burden unless politicians of all parties regulate less in the first place.
The employment bit of the bill is largely uncontroversial though there are clauses seeking to ban the exclusivity element of zero hour contracts.
The growing use of these contracts, primarily their abuse by larger companies, is a concern but there are varied and legitimate uses for them, particularly in retail and hospitality sectors, as well as start ups.
The pub trade
The Bill looks to introduce a pubs adjudicator and pub code. The adjudicator is the direct result of a failure of self-regulation in the industry, as many pub tenants have been increasingly squeezed by the pub companies over the last few years or longer.
The pub code will perhaps be the fiercest battle of the whole bill. On one side, pub companies maintain there is no need for the code. On the other many groups, including the Forum, want it to go much further, with a compulsory free of tie option and an independently assessed rent review, to ensure a tied tenant is no worse off than a free of tie one.
These are the main four clauses for small business but with less than a year to the election, there is plenty left to fight for, for small businesses and many groups will see this bill as a vehicle for further supportive government legislation.
For more information on how we’re lobbying for small businesses and how you can get involved, call 0845 130 1722 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.