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Sun August 14 2022

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Red tape taskforce recommends safety laws be relaxed

16 Oct 13 A taskforce of six business leaders has delivered its report to the prime minister with 30 recommendations for cutting European red tape to make life easier for businesses.

A workplace without red tape
A workplace without red tape

The taskforce’s report, Cut EU red tape*, sets out how the EU could promote enterprise by axing rules some consider to be needless and burdensome.

Others would clearly disagree.

The task force wants the Acquired Rights Directive to be relaxed so that employees of companies taken over can have their contract terms changed more easily by their new employer.

It also wants new proposals on environmental impact assessments dropped and proposals on soil protection withdrawn.

Other workers’ rights, including new rules on employee consultation and pregnant worker proposals, should also get the axe, the task force says.

A recommendation to relax health and safety laws prompted a reaction from both the Institution of Occupational Safety & Health (IOSH) and the construction union Ucatt.

The report recommends that employers with fewer than 10 employees should be exempt from all future employment laws and not have to write health and safety risk assessments.

IOSH head of policy and public affairs Richard Jones said: “It’s important to remember that health and safety failures in the UK cost society a staggering £13.4bn per year, double this once you take into account the cost of occupational cancers and property damage.

“In this latest report, we’re concerned that once again health and safety is misunderstood and wrongly labelled as a hindrance to business – whereas research shows that positive feelings about work are linked with higher productivity, profitability and worker and customer loyalty.

“We would argue that what small firms actually need is more help from government, for example more promotion of all the free tools, welcomed by SMEs, which help make risk assessments easier.”

Ucatt general secretary Steve Murphy said: “These proposals are simply outrageous it is recreating the welfare and employment practices of the 19th century, where a worker’s rights and their safety were ignored in a rush for profits.

“Removing the requirement for companies to have written health and safety records is a green light to employers to ignore safety laws. The report gives a price for the savings gained in not having to comply with safety assessments but no price can be put on the life of a worker who is killed or maimed at work.”

Mr Murphy added: “By exempting small companies from employment laws they will be creating a two-tier system where some workers will have rights and others will have none. Unscrupulous companies will create micro subsidiaries in order to be exempt from the law.”

However, prime minister David Cameron welcomed the report, saying that its proposals would help firms “succeed in the global race”, the latest favourite buzz phrase of ministers despite being totally meaningless.

Mr Cameron added: “This report makes clear that there are lots of simple and practical ways to cut EU red tape and save businesses across Europe tens of billions of euros. We must now persuade our European partners and the European Commission to listen to business and to move faster to reform the way Europe regulates. At next week’s European Council, I’ll be calling for a clear commitment to sweep away unnecessary bureaucratic barriers and to unleash private sector growth - helping to secure the economic recovery for all.”

* Read the full report at

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