Visit by Priti Patel, Minister for Employment


We were delighted to welcome Priti Patel, Minister for Employment, to our offices on Friday 20th November 2015.

This visit gave us an opportunity to discuss a number of issues relating to employment that affect our Clients.  These included the following:

The new auto-enrolment requirements and the additional cost and administration this will create for smaller businesses, together with the concern about the huge number of employers that will need to 'stage' over the next 2 years (1.9 million at the last count!).  We also raised concerns that this could be a further barrier to employment, especially for new businesses who have to decide whether to take on their first employee. 

Apprentices and the proposed changes to how apprenticeships are operated. Our message was that anything that makes the recruitment and training of an apprentice more difficult, time consuming or bureaucratic will be a barrier for small businesses and could therefore affect the number of apprentices taken on by SME's.

Fit For Work. The new Fit for Work scheme that provides free occupational support services. This requires further promotion to businesses. It is also limited to where an employee has been off sick for 4 weeks or more. Our view is that this service should be extended so that it can be accessed at an earlier point of absence and even accessed where an employee is not currently off sick, but there are concerns for an employee's well-being or there is frequent short term absence.

Employment Tribunal System. Since the introduction of 'fees', the number of tribunal claims have fallen significantly and this is a good thing for businesses.  However, we still feel that the system needs to be more business focused and there needs to be an appreciation of the time and cost involved. We have had examples of tribunals changing the goal posts at the 11th hour which has the knock on affect of incurring additional costs for our clients.  We also raised issues around the remission (where an individual cannot pay the fee and applies for remission) and how this can create uncertainty as it can affect the period in which claims need to be lodged.

Our discussion would not have been complete without mention of the new Living Wage that will come into force for over 25 year olds in April 2016 and the impact for many of our Clients. Practical HR are also meeting with the Low Pay Commission in December to discuss this and other related issues.  We would love your views to take with us so please complete our questionnaire.

(Closing date 27th November 2015).

I would like to thank Denise Rossiter, CEO, Essex Chambers of Commerce for arranging the visit from Priti (and Essex Chambers will also be facilitating the meeting with the Low Pay Commission). Denise and the team at Essex Chambers continue to work for businesses and amongst other things, help ensure that some of the real issues affecting businesses in Essex are communicated to Government at the highest level. Our visit from Priti is just one of many examples.

We will be involved in some follow-up discussions about many of the issues and if you have any comments or additional issues you would like us to raise, please feel free to email me at

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