Jeremy Corbyn plan for self-employed maternity pay is a 'token'
Businesspeople in Northern Ireland gave a lukewarm reception to Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn's plans to extend statutory maternity pay to the self-employed, with one calling the plan a "token gesture".
And Northern Ireland Independent Retail Trade Association (NIIRTA) chief Glyn Roberts invited Mr Corbyn to visit Northern Ireland to gain insights into the province's business environment.
During his first speech as leader at the Labour Party Conference, Mr Corbyn (right) raised the prospect of self-employed workers receiving statutory maternity and paternity pay as he reminded people that the party had created the welfare state.
The Labour leader questioned what the Conservatives were doing to help the millions of self-employed.
"They're clobbering them with the tax credit cuts, and they are going to clobber them again harder as they bring in Universal Credit.
"So I want our policy review to tackle this in a really serious way.
"Labour created the welfare state as an expression of a caring society, but all too often that safety net is not there for the self-employed. It must be."
He called for statutory maternity and paternity pay to the self-employed to be considered.
NIIRTA chief Glyn Roberts said more detail was needed about Mr Corbyn's plans for business.
"Jeremy Corbyn made some welcome comments about supporting small business owners and investing in infrastructure in his speech. We need to see in greater detail what his policy agenda is for small businesses and the economy as a whole.
"Mr Corbyn needs to listen to the concerns of business owners and ensure his party has a sensible plan to grow the economy of the UK as a whole.
"NIIRTA would encourage him to visit Northern Ireland to meet the local business community and develop a Labour economic policy programme for Northern Ireland."
Meanwhile, Wilfred Mitchell, policy chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses in Northern Ireland, was at the conference in Brighton.
Mr Mitchell said: "FSB Northern Ireland welcomes the Labour Party's recognition of the value of small businesses and the need for a more stable environment for small business owners and the self-employed.
"Small businesses are the largest employers and contributors to the Northern Ireland economy. Whilst welcoming support, we need to be cautious about how support measures will be funded and are keen to be involved as the Labour Party develops its business policies."
Recruitment specialist Neal Lucas said he admired Mr Corbyn's desire to help the self-employed. "I think any initiative that seeks to support entrepreneurs and the self-employed is admirable.
"However, by definition people who are self-employed have a business to run, even if it's just themselves running it.
"Therefore whilst giving broader maternity rights to the self-employed sounds like a positive move, it really smacks of being a token gesture rather than a well thought out plan."
Businessman Jeff Peel, who owns consulting firm Quadco and is a member of the Conservative Party, said: "Mr Corbyn claims this is a pro-business policy - it shows just how little he knows about small business."