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Small government focus turns to employment law

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Proponents of small government have ramped up their campaign for a slash and burn of the Statute Books over the past week.

Yesterday, Further Education Minister John Hayes launched a consultation on the future of the right to request time at work to learn new skills.

This right came into effect in April 2010 for employees in large businesses (i.e., with over 250 staff) and was supposed to extend to workers in small and medium sized businesses ('SMEs') from April 2011.

The right is similar to the right to request flexible working in that employers do not have to pay for training and can refuse an employee's request so long as they can show that it would be detrimental to the business if that member of staff takes time off unpaid.

Following yesterday's announcement, however, it seems almost certain that the right will not be extended to employees in SMEs, and many predict the government will scrap the right altogether.

This consultation will be shorter than the normal 12 weeks and will close on September 15. In view of the short consultation period, John Hayes has instructed civil servants to "actively promote" the consultation to "interested organisations" to ensure that a "good response" is obtained.

At the end of last week, Vince Cable also announced details of a new 'one-in, one-out' approach to regulation. From 1 September 2010, Ministers will not be allowed to introduce new regulations imposing costs on business or the third sector without identifying current regulations with an equivalent cost to be removed. Regulations made in response to emergencies or to address systemic financial risks will be excluded from the rule.

The government plans to continue its review of employment law and health and safety to identify "burdensome regulation" that can be trimmed.

It has also encouraged the public and businesses to nominate onerous regulations through the 'Your Freedom' website that they believe should be removed or changed.

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