Business bosses’ red tape warning over Equality Bill

Business chiefs have warned that the Government’s controversial Equality Bill will bring major red tape and cost burdens at a time of recession.

The Government has resisted calls to abandon the Bill, championed by Equalities Minister Harriet Harman, despite the ongoing economic crisis.

The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), however, say they will oppose the legislation. Director General David Frost warned that the compulsory pay audits proposed in the Bill could cost businesses thousands in consultancy fees.

He asked: “What sort of message is this sending potential investors around the world about the UK as a destination for inward investment?”

John Cridland, the Deputy Director General of the Confederation of British Industry, added: “If compulsory reporting of pay stats found its way into the Bill we would strongly oppose it.”

Miss Harman is already thought to have faced opposition to the Bill from Business Secretary Lord Mandelson. However, there are concerns that the Bill will be forced into law in spite of the economic difficulties.

Christian groups have warned for some time of the potential consequences of the Equality Bill for religious liberty.

Politicians say they want the Equality Bill to “de-clutter” existing discrimination laws. But a survey last November by law firm Pinsent Masons and Personnel Today magazine suggested that more than a third of employers did not think the move would make things clearer.

In February the Institute of Directors (IoD) said the Government put the estimated cost to UK businesses of its planned new employment laws at £1 billion per year, with £70.9 million spent on implementing the Equality Bill.

But the IoD has warned this is an underestimate, and says the Government has also exaggerated the potential benefit to the economy.

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