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Written Question
Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy: Working Hours
21 Jan 2022

Questioner: Chris Stephens

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, what records his Department keeps relating to staff working times under Regulation 9 of the Working Time Regulations 1998; and how long those records are kept for.

Answered by George Freeman

Staff at BEIS work a standard 36/37 hour full-time week. Pay and Time Off In Lieu for overtime, and flexitime, are available where agreed and recorded locally. Managers are responsible for monitoring the hours worked by their team members and for addressing any excess hours that are worked on a regular basis.


Written Question
Working Hours: EU Law
13 Dec 2021

Questioner: Chris Stephens

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, what assessment he has made of the potential merits of amending the Working Time Regulations in response to the Court of Justice of the European Union ruling in the case of Federacion de Servicios de Comisiones Oberas v Deutsche Bank SAE (CJEU Case C-55/18); and if he will make a statement.

Answered by Paul Scully

It is important that employers comply with the Working Time Regulations in respect of working hours and daily and weekly rest, and that they are held to account if they don't. Workers can take a case to employment tribunal concerning insufficient rest, and the Health and Safety Executive directly enforces maximum working hours. The Government has also committed to bringing forward state enforcement of the rules in the Working Time Regulations on holiday pay for vulnerable workers, to ensure that workers get the paid time off they deserve.


Written Question
Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy: ISS
6 Jul 2021

Questioner: Chris Stephens

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, what assessment he has made of the compliance of the facilities management contractor ISS with employment practices for staff based in his Department's buildings.

Answered by Amanda Solloway

The Government Property Agency (GPA) is the contract holder for the facilities management provider ISS. Both GPA and BEIS work closely with all their suppliers on all aspects of service delivery. GPA and the Department draw facilities services from a Crown Commercial Service framework supplier to help ensure confidence in the supplier base.


Written Question
Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy: ISS
6 Jul 2021

Questioner: Chris Stephens

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, what assessment he has made of the (a) covid-19 health and safety practices of facilities management contractor ISS and (b) potential effect of those practices on staff based in his Department's buildings.

Answered by Amanda Solloway

BEIS collaborates closely with the Government Property Agency which manages the facilities management contract with ISS. BEIS has reviewed the COVID-19 health and safety practices of ISS, which include risk assessments, training information and protocols for ISS staff working within the BEIS demise of buildings.

The review of ISS practices gives the Department assurance that sufficient COVID-19 mitigations are in place to enable BEIS staff, or others working within the BEIS demise of buildings, to work safely.


Written Question
Self-employed: Fraud
21 Jun 2021

Questioner: Chris Stephens

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, whether the new Single Enforcement Body is planned to have powers to (a) identify, (b) investigate, and (c) take legal action over cases of bogus of self-employment.

Answered by Paul Scully

The Government has recently published its consultation response on the single enforcement body for employment rights which sets out the high level remit, powers, and overall approach of the new body. The full government response can be found here:

https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/good-work-plan-establishing-a-new-single-enforcement-body-for-employment-rights.

The body will not specifically cover ‘bogus self-employment’. Employment status is based on the reality of the relationship between an individual and the person for whom services are provided. That might not be the same as what the employment contract states. For disputes around the interpretation of employment law, which are often complex and finely balanced, it is right that Employment Tribunals have the power to determine the result, taking into consideration all of the detail of each individual case to ensure any judgment is the conclusion of a fair and transparent process.

We recognise concerns around employment status and the potential for exploitation and the Government is clear that businesses cannot simply opt out of employment rights. The Government is considering options to bring further clarity around the employment status framework, making it easier for individuals and businesses to understand which rights apply to them.


Written Question
Employment Agencies
29 Apr 2021

Questioner: Chris Stephens

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, if he will ban the practice of recruitment agencies asking for incentives to recommend contractors to an umbrella company.

Answered by Paul Scully

Commercial and loyalty incentive schemes may be a legitimate business-to-business interaction, between the employment agency and an umbrella company. They are therefore outside the scope of the agency regulations enforced by the Employment Agency Standards (EAS) Inspectorate, which regulate the relationship between the agency and work-seeker.

The Government will continue to work with the recruitment sector to seek compliance with existing regulations. The Government will also continue to ensure current regulations remain fit for purpose, drawing on the expertise of trade bodies and businesses in the sector. Proposed regulatory changes would be announced in the usual way.


Written Question
Employment Agencies: Pay
29 Apr 2021

Questioner: Chris Stephens

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, what steps his Department is taking to ensure umbrella companies comply with legislation on the payment of holiday pay.

Answered by Paul Scully

Protecting and enhancing workers’ rights, including those employed by umbrella companies is a priority for this Government. We have already introduced requirements to improve the information provided to new agency workers about their contractual terms and pay rates. We have also committed to extend the remit of the Employment Agency Standards (EAS) Inspectorate to include umbrella companies. This will enable EAS to take enforcement action against an umbrella company that has not paid holiday pay. We will bring forward the legislation to implement this in due course.


Written Question
Parental Leave
12 Feb 2021

Questioner: Chris Stephens

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, what steps he has taken to (a) identify the main challenges that new parents face during parental leave and (b) make an assessment of the effect of the covid-19 pandemic on parental leave.

Answered by Paul Scully

In 2019 we consulted on high-level options for reforming parental leave and pay. We are also conducting a formal evaluation of the Shared Parental Leave and Pay scheme, including large-scale, representative surveys of employers and parents. Together, these will give us a fuller picture of how well the current system of parental leave and pay is working for parents and employers.

We are currently processing and analysing the data from the research and analysing the information that we have collected through the consultation. We intend to publish our findings later this year.

The Government has also remained in close contact with stakeholders and charities supporting parents throughout the pandemic.

We have taken steps to support new parents by passing emergency legislation which ensures that parents who are furloughed during the period that is used to determine entitlement to Maternity, Adoption and other family-related statutory pay do not lose out. This legislation ensures that entitlement to pay and the rate of pay that parents receive is based on their normal earnings, not their furlough pay.


Written Question
Conditions of Employment
9 Feb 2021

Questioner: Chris Stephens

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, whether he has made an assessment of the implications for his policies of the UK being ranked by UNICEF 34 out of 41 OECD countries for family friendly policies; and if he will take urgent steps to support people on parental leave during the covid-19 outbreak.

Answered by Paul Scully

We have a strong tradition of supporting working families in the UK and our parental leave arrangements are generous and flexible.

We go much further than the EU minimum and employed women in the UK have access to up to 52 weeks of Maternity Leave , 39 weeks of which are paid. Where the mother does not intend to use her full maternity entitlements, she can share up to 50 weeks of leave and up to 37 weeks of pay with her partner , subject to the parents being eligible for Shared Parental Leave and Pay.

In 2020 we introduced Parental Bereavement Leave and Pay to support parents who suffered the loss of a child. We will also legislate to create a new Neonatal Leave and Pay entitlement to support new parents whose baby needs to spend time in neonatal care, as soon as parliamentary time allows.

The Government is sympathetic to the position that new parents have found themselves in during the pandemic. We have taken steps to support new parents by passing emergency legislation which ensures that parents who are furloughed during the period that is used to determine entitlement to Maternity, Adoption and other family-related statutory pay do not lose out. This legislation ensures that entitlement to pay and the rate of pay that parents receive is based on their normal earnings, not their furlough pay.


Written Question
Parental Leave: Coronavirus
9 Feb 2021

Questioner: Chris Stephens

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, if he will extend paternal leave to support people who have lost access to health services, baby groups and childcare support as a result of the covid-19 outbreak.

Answered by Paul Scully

The Government is sympathetic to the unique challenges that new parents have faced because of COVID-19 and the social distancing measures that we had to put in place to protect lives and the NHS. We recognise that these restrictions have meant that some parents have been, or still are unable to participate in activities normally available to them, such as baby groups.

The Government is not minded at this stage to extend Paternity Leave and Pay entitlements. We believe current entitlements to Paternity Leave and Pay and Shared Parental Leave and Pay are generous enough to allow fathers to care for the child and support the child’s mother or adopter. Fathers have access to two weeks of Paternity Leave and Pay and through Shared Parental Leave and Pay, they can share up to 50 weeks of leave and up to 37 weeks of pay with the mother if she does not intend to use her full maternity entitlements.

We understand that social distancing guidelines have made finding childcare more challenging. Parents who are unable to find suitable childcare can contact their local authority where they will receive advice on available settings. In addition, parents of children aged under 14 are now able to form ‘childcare bubbles’ to allow friends or family from one other household to provide informal childcare. Early Years settings (including nurseries and childminders) also remain open during the new national lockdown.

The NHS has made arrangements to ensure that new parents were supported throughout the pandemic. Operating digitally where possible, community health services have continued to provide support, prioritising higher needs families, and NHS mental health services also remained open.


Written Question
Deparment for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy: Artificial Intelligence
13 Nov 2020

Questioner: Chris Stephens

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, what (a) artificial intelligence and (b) machine learning projects are being (i) undertaken and (ii) considered for his Department.

Answered by Amanda Solloway

There are a number of projects currently being undertaken or considered by the Department, in some cases the progression will be dependent on availability of budget from next financial year.

BEIS are exploring AI and machine learning techniques internally to enable more efficient working. Projects are being:

(i) undertaken:

  • a proof of concept for the use of virtual assistants to help staff find information regarding corporate policies, whereby the assistant will improve by learning from the enquires responses
  • planning a proof of concept using Machine Learning for automatic labelling, setting up retention periods for past and future documents that form the official record.

(ii) considered:

  • the use of AI handling of inbound enquiries into the department to create draft responses and to triage requests to the correct teams.

BEIS Analysts use machine learning techniques, under the umbrella of artificial intelligence, where appropriate as part of analysis supporting policy development.

Machine Learning projects are being

(i) undertaken:

  • identifying the location of industrial strengths
  • pilot for targeting communications about business support
  • Categorising internal documents by subject

(ii) considered:

  • project to understand the labour market through analysing job adverts
  • a pilot for organising internal processes
  • a pilot for predicting economic impacts using real time indicators
  • exploring automatic text generation
  • planning to repeat a machine learning exercise on HMRC data to identify high growth potential businesses, to build on the successful ‘DECA pilot’ of 2019. This would underpin further operations in 2021, depending on the outcome of the SR process

BEIS policy teams are exploring the use of Artificial Intelligence. AI projects are being:

(ii) considered:

  • by the Better Regulation Executive who are looking to convert the stock of regulatory requirements placed on business into machine readable code and pilot hosting this as open source a metadata set on the ‘Open Regulation Platform’ (ORP), freely available on The National Archives .gov.uk platform. The project is currently in discovery phase to identify all data that government holds on regulatory obligations that could be relevant for this platform. This application is closely related to work that has already been undertaken as part of BEIS GovTech challenge to apply Artificial Intelligence (AI) to understand the cumulative impact of regulation

Written Question
Land Registry: Artificial Intelligence
10 Nov 2020

Questioner: Chris Stephens

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, what (a) artificial intelligence and (b) machine learning projects are being (i) undertaken and (ii) considered for the Land Registry.

Answered by Amanda Solloway

HM Land Registry has been exploring new and emerging technologies including Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning as part of its Digital Street research and development project since 2017. It is aiming to begin to use Machine Learning capabilities within its casework management systems in 2021/22, and is building its Data Science capability to explore and exploit future opportunities that Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning may provide.


Written Question
Parliament: Coronavirus
3 Jun 2020

Questioner: Chris Stephens

Question

To ask the hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire, representing the House of Commons Commission, if he will ensure that a full return to Parliament during the covid-19 outbreak will only take place after a full consultation with (a) trade unions and (b) other interested parties; and if he will make a statement.

Answered by Pete Wishart

The safety of all of those on the estate is the key concern of the Commission. Working extensively with Public Health England and via the implementation of the Covid-19 workplace guidance the appropriate steps have been taken to ensure the safety of all on the estate.

The House authorities have met with representatives of the Trades Unions for staff in the House of Commons and PDS formally at least three times per week since the beginning of March, and with representatives of Members’ and Peers’ Staff Association (MAPSA) and Unite as representatives of Members’ staff.


Written Question
Parliament: Coronavirus
2 Jun 2020

Questioner: Chris Stephens

Question

To ask the hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire, representing the House of Commons Commission, what discussions the Commission has had with (a) trade unions and (b) hon. Members to facilitate a full return to Parliament during the covid-19 outbreak; and if he will make a statement.

Answered by Pete Wishart

The House authorities on behalf of the House of Commons Commission have met with representatives of the Trades Unions for staff in the House of Commons and PDS formally at least three times per week since the beginning of March, and with representatives of the Members’ and Peers’ Staff Association (MAPSA) and Unite as representatives of Members’ staff.


Written Question
Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy: Trade Unions
21 Jan 2020

Questioner: Chris Stephens

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, whether the introduction of the General Data Protection Regulation has affected the right of recognised unions in her Department to bargaining information in relation to section 181 of the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992.

Answered by Nadhim Zahawi

The introduction of General Data Protection Regulation has not affected the right of recognised Trade Unions to bargaining information in accordance with section 181 of the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992.