Byers was speaking at the Equal Opportunities Commission in London today, where he defended the government’s introduction of a national minimum wage, paid holidays, parental leave and other measures aimed at improving the working conditions of employees.
And he claimed the government was listening to the needs of business and would regulate ‘only where necessary and with a light touch’.
Byers cited examples such as the the Regulatory Reform Bill, currently going through parliament, as measures that would ‘provide a fast track’ to reducing the burden on business and scrapping outdated legislation.
Byers said red tape was not placing a Pounds 10bn burden on business, and claimed the majority of costs incurred by business were as a result of improved pay and conditions, not administrative costs.
He estimated the actual cost of implementing ‘decent standards’ at around 50p per employee per year, and cited an Arthur Andersen survey, which claimed the UK, provided the most entrepreneur-friendly environment for fostering business growth.
This was despite fears expressed by the ACCA and CBI, reported last year, that increasing the minimum wage would force many businesses to close down.
He called on business to drop the ‘futile label of red tape’.
‘Forward-looking innovative companies have realised the benefits of providing employees with good working conditions,’ he said.
Such companies would attract and retain skilled staff in the future, Byers claimed.
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