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Tuesday, 26 March, 2002, 00:31 GMT
Small firms seek temporary help
employment agency
New rights for employees; new help for businesses?
The UK Government should soften the financial blow on small businesses of new employment rights with a package of training and temping help, the British Chambers of Commerce says.

With the Budget less than a month off, the BCC is also urging the government to allow bigger tax breaks for small businesses, as well as action against cartels.

Unlike some employers' organisations, the BCC is not rejecting extra rights for British workers out of hand.

But in a meeting later on Tuesday it intends to tell the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Gordon Brown, that businesses need some help to absorb the changes - a package of measures totalling 815m which it says the government could easily absorb.

"Government is asking a lot from small employers to meet various new employment rights being introduced over the next two years," said BCC president Anthony Goldstone.

"If these engines of growth and employment in our economy are not to seize up, it is important that the government balances the obligations it imposes with sufficient support."

Time off and training

With temporary workers set to gain some of the maternity and other rights that permanently employed workers have, the BCC said the government should:

  • Create a "locum" service of temps to help firms find cover for workers during parental and maternity leave;
  • Provide greater funding for the Department of Trade and Industry's Work/ Life Balance Challenge Fund to help employers with 250 staff or fewer;
  • Help with analysing training needs;
  • Introduce a tax-free 500 grant for individuals to study job skills in their own time; and
  • Set-up a centre for applied learning to help develop teaching materials for schools which can put studies in a business context.

The BCC is also seeking a rise in the tax allowance that small businesses get each year for IT equipment, to 100%.

And it wants the government's upcoming Enterprise Bill to emphasise the fight against cartels, including criminal sanctions against managers of firms which participate in price fixing - both buyers as well as suppliers.

See also:

18 Feb 02 | Business
Bosses warn against rights for temps
18 Feb 02 | Business
Q&A: Your rights as a temp
12 Dec 00 | Business
Microsoft settles 'permatemp' case
26 Jun 01 | Business
Holiday pay for temps
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