On 26 March 2015, an agreement by both Houses on the text of the bill was passed into law for Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Act 2015 (SBEE).

This has paved the way for employers and businesses to improved access to finance and puts an end to zero hours exclusivity clauses. The SBEE Act contains lots of new legislation that will impact small-to-medium sized businesses across the U.K. The law is designed to make Britain the “best place in the world” to start a business by encouraging transparency. A key focus of the act addresses the availability of finance for Britain’s SMEs and startups. With more than 5 million businesses in the UK, the act will open up new opportunities for small firms to innovate, grow and create jobs.

Under the new legislation, business owners who are denied financing from some of the UK’s largest financial institutions will get a second chance with alternative lenders. The well-known banks will be required to pass on details from the denied loan applicants to an online platform that will help match them with alternative finance providers, with the applicant’s permission of course.

Business Secretary Vince Cable said “there is nowhere to hide for firms who do not play by the rules, whether abusing zero hours contracts or not paying the minimum wage.” This would mean stopping abuse of zero contracts by preventing exclusivity clauses which stops individuals from working for another employer, even if the current employer is offering no work. Also, the Act gives rights to staff that have been on these contracts for long periods of time, with employees working regular hours will have the right to request a contract other than a zero hours contracts after six months.

By enhancing the reputation of UK as a trusted and fair place to do business, increasing transparency around who owns and controls UK companies to facilitate illegal activities will allow others to see who is in control over the company. A last minute amendment to the act addresses the gender pay gap. Under SBEE, businesses with 250 or more employees will have to publish the difference between average pay for their male and female employees.

The new legislation focuses on the following key areas:

–          Access to finance

–          Regulatory reform

–          Public sector procurement

–          Childcare and schooling

–          Company transparency

–          Company filing requirements

–          Directors’ disqualification

–          Insolvency

–          Employment

–          Pubs Code Adjudicator and Pubs Code

–          Education evaluation

The legislative changes will affect companies of differing size and require people with different roles, such as company directors and shareholders, to be proactive in implementing the new law as it is applicable to their particular circumstances. At Douglas Wemyss Solicitors we are urged to read and familiarise ourselves with the legislative changes in order to understand how the new provisions affect your practice and to provide up-to-date advice to our clients.