Lords examines bill on small business and employment

18 March 2015

The Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Bill had its third reading, a final chance to 'tidy up' the bill and make changes, in the Lords on Tuesday 17 March.

Members of the Lords discussed proposals on late payment - the government confirmed a reporting requirement designed to bring increased transparency to payment performance. They also discussed the exclusion of the Equality and Human Rights Commission from the small business appeals champion in the bill.

The Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Bill now returns to the Commons for consideration of Lords changes.

Lords report stage day three: Wednesday 11 March

Members began by discussing pay transparency. The government announced it would support efforts on the publication of information on the gender pay gap.

A proposal on employers' responsibility to pay compensation to workers, including those on zero hours contracts, if shifts are cancelled at short notice was taken to a vote. Members voted 221 in favour and 235 against, so the change was not made.

The second vote concerned additional protection for whistleblowers who are job applicants. The change was not made after members voted 174 in favour and 231 against.

A suggestion to extend a right to a fixed hours contract to workers who have worked regular hours over a continuous period - even if they are employed on a zero hours contract - also went to a vote. Members voted 133 in favour and 208 against, so the change was not made..

Lords report stage day two: Monday 9 March

Members of the Lords considered the Pubs Code Adjudicator and the Pubs Code. They also discussed amendments covering childcare, schools and education evaluation. Company filing requirements and changes to existing legislation on company directors' disqualification were also on the agenda.

Lords report stage day one: Tuesday 3 March

Members of the Lords discussed amendments on access to finance, regulatory reform and public sector procurement.

A proposal to strengthen the Prompt Payment Code to address the issue of late payments was taken to a vote. Members voted 187 in favour and 256 against, so the change was not made.

Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Bill grand committee stage

The Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Bill spent seven days in grand committee in the Moses Room. The process is almost identical to committee stage taken in the chamber as members carry out a detailed line by line examination of the separate parts (clauses and schedules) of a bill.

Starting from the front of the bill, members work through to the end. Any member of the Lords can take part. The single exception is that votes do not take place in a grand committee. Any issues requiring a vote must be resolved when the bill returns to the main chamber for report stage.

7 January (day 1)

12 January (day 2)

14 January (day 3)

19 January (day 4)

21 January (day 5)

26 January (day 6)

28 January (day 7)

Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Bill second reading: Tuesday 2 December

The wide-ranging bill received broad support, although several  members expressed regret that it was not more ambitious. Peers also identified a number of issues to be considered as the bill makes its way through the Lords. These included:

  • the need for a small business support strategy
  • more opportunities for micro-businesses
  • the question of regional variation and imbalance
  • failures in the credit market, and the problems small businesses face in accessing finance
  • the problem of late payments.  

Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Bill summary

The bill contains a number of measures including:

  • improved access to finance for small businesses and reducing regulatory requirements
  • further opening up public sector procurement
  • the introduction of a pubs code and adjudicator
  • enhanced transparency in company ownership
  • stronger rules for the disqualification of directors
  • reform of insolvency laws
  • the introduction of a number of reforms to employment law, including banning exclusivity in zero-hours contracts.

Further information

Image: iStockphoto

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