The proposals to implement a new employee shareholder status are contained within Clause 27 of the Growth and Infrastructure Bill, which is currently before the House of Lords.
The Government said the aim of the new status is to boost employee engagement and productivity and to remove the perceived barriers around the fear of being taken to employment tribunal, which the Government says is deterring businesses from hiring.
However the Law Society is concerned that small businesses, who are the prime target audience for this proposal, will be put off by the complex tax, company law requirements and extra costs.
Lucy Scott-Moncrieff said: “The new status will cause substantial confusion for employers at the beginning, but particularly on the termination of an employee’s contract. There is potential for costly litigation on a range of complex issues which are likely to arise when an employee leaves, which runs counter to the Government’s stated aim of supporting small and medium sized enterprises through simpler regulation.
“The decision to restrict employee shareholders access to maternity rights and flexible working also conflicts with the Government’s commitment to family friendly policies. The proposals are likely to have a discriminatory impact as employers may not be aware of the interaction between the rights being sacrificed and those rights governed by domestic legislation, which still apply to them. Employers would have to take this into consideration in order to avoid allegations of indirect sex discrimination.”
In a letter to members of the House of Lords, Law Society President Lucy Scott-Moncrieff said the proposals to offer employee ownership to workers in return for the forfeiture of employment rights should be deleted from the Growth and Infrastructure Bill.
Commenting after the letter was sent today, the Law Society President said: “The Government has not undertaken an adequate assessment of the proposal’s likely costs and consequences. The restricted period of consultation on this proposal has prevented constructive engagement with stakeholders. It is unrealistic to provide interested parties with only three weeks within which to respond to a consultation on what are complex issues covering a number of areas of law.”