Byline: DAVID FROST
David Frost Director general of the British Chambers of Commerce
ALTHOUGH we are now halfway through the General Election campaign, employers are still waiting for politicians on all sides to recognise the difficulties facing British businesses.
The recent MG Rover episode serves as a stark reminder that our firms operate in a highly uncertain, volatile and - more particularly - a global marketplace.
It is vital that a future government continues to provide a stable environment for our companies.
Politicians need to understand that if we are to have the high-quality public services that we all want, then we have to create the wealth to do this. It is business that creates wealth and an incoming government must allow companies to flourish.
The British Chambers of Commerce represents over 100,000 firms which employ more than 5m people and we sought their views on a range of issues in order to prepare our recentlypublished business manifesto.
At the very top of their list of concerns was the need to simplify and reduce the regulatory and administrative burden on employers. Our research shows that regulation has cost businesses an additional [pounds sterling]39bn since 1998.
One of the central debates of the pre-election campaign was about employment legislation and in particular familyfriendly policies. The rate of change in recent years has been dramatic and continues apace.
Most recently it is proposed that maternity leave be extended to nine months and, eventually, 12 months. In addition, it is now proposed to allow maternity and paternity leave to be shared between parents and to extend the right to request flexible working to carers and parents with children up to the age of 17 years.
Owners of small firms in particular have expressed deep concerns about the consequences of such steps. The fear is that these latest changes are too much, too soon.
Employers are concerned that these moves will undermine their ability to manage staff working patterns in a way that meets the needs of their business.
Taxation is another major concern. …