As of March 2015, the ‘ Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Act (SBEE) ’ gained Royal Assent and is now official law.
The intention is to improve the access businesses have to finance while putting an end to zero hour exclusivity clauses. The Conservatives business secretary, Vince Cable, has stated that the new legislation has been tailored for entrepreneurs ‘looking to establish new and growing business’.
“The Small Business Act will create the right environment for small businesses to continue to thrive by giving them greater access to finance to help them innovate and grow, and make it easier for them to export goods and services made in Britain.”
“The bill’s measures also means there is nowhere to hide for firms who do not play by the rules, whether by abusing zero hour contracts or not paying the minimum wage.”
The New Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Act Focuses On:
• Access to finance
• Regulatory reform
• Public sector procurement
• Childcare and schooling
• Company transparency
• Company filing requirements
• Directors disqualification
• Pubs code adjudicator and pubs code
• Education evaluation
The legislation now requires that banks pass on the details of small and medium-sized businesses, which they drop or decline for a loan, onto online platforms that can help match the banks offer with alternative providers.
Further to this, the legislation contains eight specific employment measures. Firstly, the government are required to consult on the detail of regulations to implement section 78 of the 2010 Equality Act. This will require employers with at least 250 employees to publish information about the pay of employees, for the main purpose of showing any differences in pay by gender.
The parliament offer this explanation of the act;
“To make provision about improved access to finance for businesses and individuals; to make provision about regulatory provisions relating to business and certain voluntary and community bodies; to make provision about the exercise of procurement functions by certain public authorities; to make provision for the creation of a Pubs Code and Adjudicator for the regulation of dealings by pub-owning businesses with their tied pub tenants; to make provision about the regulation of the provision of childcare; to make provision about information relating to the evaluation of education; to make provision about the regulation of companies; to make provision about company filing requirements; to make provision about the disqualification from appointments relating to companies; to make provision about insolvency; to make provision about the law relating to employment; and for connected purposes.”
Further specific employment measures are outlined:
• Provide the Secretary of State with a power to require certain prescribed persons to report annually on the disclosures they receive.
• Provide the Secretary of State with a power to make regulations to prohibit defined NHS employers from discriminating against applicants for employment who have previously made protected disclosures.
• Impose financial penalties when an employer fails to pay an employment tribunal award or a settlement sum following conciliation in which a settlement certificate has been issued.
• Allow regulations to be made placing a limit on the number of successful applications for the postponement of an employment tribunal hearing a claimant of respondent can be granted in a case. (This came into force on 26th of March 2015).
• Amend the National Minimum Wage Act 1998 so that the maximum penalty that can be imposed for underpayment is the arrears owed to each worker up to a maximum of £20,000 per worker. Currently the maximum penalty is £20,000 per notice of underpayment no matter how many workers are involved.
• Ensure that exclusivity clauses in zero hour contracts are invalid and unenforceable, so that no one is tied into a zero hours contract without any guarantee of paid work elsewhere.
• Allow regulations to be made requiring highly paid public sector employees to repay exit payments if they return to the public sector as an employee, contractor or public sector office holder within a short period.