By Max Clarke

The government should remove the red tape businesses have to deal with when handling employees’ requests for flexible working or for training, according to Bibby Consulting & Support (Bibby CAS), specialist in employment law, health and safety and environmental compliance.

On the day that the Institute of Directors (IoD) marked as ‘Regulation Freedom Day’, Bibby CAS reiterated its support for the current proposals, also raised by the IoD, that anyone wanting to take their employer to a tribunal should pay a fee, refundable if they win their case.

The IoD has calculated that last year company directors spent around 17 hours a month — or £7,674 per director — filling in forms, reading compliance guidance and requesting legal advice. This is equivalent to more than £110bn in 12 months and is a major barrier to business growth.

Among the IoD solutions to the problem are scrapping employees’ rights to request flexible working, abolishing the right to request time off for training, and charging workers at least £500 to initiate an employment tribunal.

Michael Slade, Managing Director of Bibby CAS, said the company supports any attempt to minimise bureaucracy for employers. This includes removing the rigid procedures involved in arranging flexible working, although not completely extinguishing the right. Also, the right to request training should be dropped entirely because hardly anyone working at our clients’ businesses has taken up the option since it was introduced nearly a year ago.

“While we feel that flexible working is beneficial to both employers and employees,” Slade said, “there should be no reason why this cannot be agreed on an informal basis. It is important that requests for flexible working are considered and accommodated where possible but it is difficult to see what benefit is achieved by the current onerous procedural requirements. And there is simply no point to the training request scheme.”

Slade added: “We would also suggest introducing a reasonable fee in the region of £100 to deter vexatious claims and serial litigants, with the fee being recoverable if the claim is successful. However, there should be an element of flexibility for no fee to be paid in cases of low paid workers.”