Belfast Telegraph

Change be slow but Westminster is still set to shake up businesses

By Brian McGuire, ACCA

Arguably for the first time in Northern Ireland, the economy and the key role of the private sector is very much on the election agenda.

Businesses and representative groups are having their voices heard - the recent announcement on the corporation tax consultation being a case in point.

But as is the case with corporation tax and the majority of policies for businesses, be they positive or negative, the power lies with Westminster and not the Assembly.

With nearly one full year in office under their belts, the Conservative and Lib Dem coalition is introducing legislation which they believe will develop the business sector.

However, they are also engaged in a number of rethinks in respect of the plans of the previous government for new legislation. As a result, there is currently some uncertainty as regards what we can expect businesses to have to cope with this year. With that caveat, we have set out below just some of the business-related measures scheduled to be introduced over the next 12 months.

  • National Minimum Wage: NI businesses should keep an eye out on any changes to minimum wage come October 1st with the hourly rates being announced in the coming weeks.
  • Default retirement age: From October 2011, employers will be prevented from forcing employees to leave employment because they have reached the age of 65 - the so-called 'default retirement age'.
  • Flexible working

From this month, the Government will extend the statutory right to ask for flexible working rights to parents (or adoptive parents) of children under 18.

  • Equal treatment for agency workers: New rules regarding the employment of agency workers will come into effect on October 1. The changes set out will give agency workers the same basic employment terms and conditions as full-time employees after 12 weeks in a given job.