Shares for rights move back in Bill

Michael FallonThe Government has moved to force through its plans to allow businesses to offer free shares in return for reduced employment rights but tightened up rules to deal with claims it would hurt the unemployed.

Business minister Michael Fallon insisted the scheme, promoted at the heart of Chancellor George Osborne's 2012 party conference speech, represented a good deal, particularly for new businesses.

But shadow business secretary Chuka Umunna said Labour would continue to oppose the plan, insisting his party could see no good reason for linking the offering of shares to the surrendering of employment rights.

Under the proposals, in the Growth and Infrastructure Bill, employers can offer to swap some employments rights, including those relating to redundancy, for at least £2,000 of shares.

Mr Fallon insisted it would be "wholly voluntary" and unveiled changes to guidelines to ensure anyone on Jobseekers' Allowance could not be "mandated", or punished, for failing to either apply for an "employee shareholder" post or failing to accept one when offered.

Last month peers defeated the plan and stripped it from the Bill. On Tuesday, MPs voted 277 to 239, a majority of 38, to re-insert the contentious clause and send the Bill back to the Lords.

Defending the plan, Mr Fallon said it was an "imaginative proposal".

He said: "British companies are competing in a global race... what is at stake here is choice and a new status that companies can use to give themselves a competitive edge and more flexibility in deciding how to structure their work force.

"The Government has always been clear this measure was voluntary for companies and individuals to use if it suits their circumstances or their business needs.

"This new employment status gives young companies, in particular, a new option they can use to attract high-calibre individuals to help grow their business. It is important we give companies that choice, but it is also important we give people this opportunity to share in the growth potential of the company they work for."
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