Growth and Infrastructure Bill — Commons Amendments

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 5:51 pm on 24th April 2013.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Viscount Younger of Leckie Viscount Younger of Leckie The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills 5:51 pm, 24th April 2013

My Lords, after a touch of verbal Houdini in reading out the Motion, I hope that I can offer some clarity to the contents of the clause. Before I discuss the clause in further detail, I am grateful to those noble Lords who met me earlier today. I draw the House's attention to a further amendment that we tabled this afternoon, which I hope will provide reassurance to the House.

We believe that it should be up to employers to recruit as they see fit, and if a company wants to recruit an employee shareholder, in the same way as an employer may wish to recruit an employee or a worker, it should be able to do so. As has been made clear, no one will be compelled to apply for or accept an employee shareholder job.

I turn to the clause itself. I remind the House of my remarks on 22 April. In that debate, I stated that I had listened to and heard the strength of feeling in the House towards this clause. I also stated that if the House insisted on its amendment to remove the clause, as indeed was the case, I would ensure that the strength of feeling would be conveyed to my ministerial colleagues. I have conveyed the strength of feeling expressed by this House, and I now turn to the amendments laid today and how we believe they improve the clause and address key concerns expressed by the House.

The package of amendments ensures that individuals entering into employee shareholder status are given the opportunity to fully understand the employee shareholder contract, the benefits and the risks involved. The package ensures that the individual will have the space, the time and the means to receive and weigh up the information in order to make an informed decision that is right for them.

First, we propose that the company must give the individual a written statement of particulars setting out the employment rights that are not associated with this status, and detailing the rights, restrictions and other conditions attached to the shares. This will include whether the shares being provided as part of the employee shareholder status have any voting or dividend rights; whether there are rights to have the shares bought back or redeemed; whether an individual may freely sell the shares; and if there are certain other rights and restrictions attached.

This written statement of employee shareholder particulars is separate to that already required by the Employment Rights Act 1996, which sets out the terms and conditions of the job, and which employee shareholders are entitled to receive within two months of starting work with their employer.

Most importantly, once the statement of particulars has been given to the individual, he must then receive legal advice. This advice can be given by a solicitor, a barrister, a fellow of the Institute of Legal Executives employed by a solicitor's practice, a certified trade union official or a certified adviser in an advice centre. A person employed by the company, such as in-house counsel, cannot give this advice. It must be independent.

Some advice may be free, such as from a trade union official or an advice centre. Where payment must be made for the legal advice, the company must meet the reasonable costs of that advice. This is the case even if the individual does not take up the job offer. Once the legal advice has been received, the individual has seven clear calendar days to consider that advice. Any acceptance by the individual of an employee shareholder contract is of no legal effect until those seven days have elapsed.

This is about giving the individual the space to consider their position. It gives them time.