Flexi-time vetoed in bid to cut red tape

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Plans to give employees new rights to take paid time off for training or to work "flexi-hours" are to be scrapped in a Government drive to cut red tape, Vince Cable will announce today.

The Business Secretary will argue that the priority has to be helping companies recover from the recession rather than distracting them with changes to employment law. Mr Cable will disclose that firms with fewer than 250 staff are to be exempt from rules that allow employees to request days off for training courses.

A separate move that would have enabled the parents of 17-year-olds to apply for flexible working has also been vetoed. Currently, the right is limited to those with under-16s.

The moves will be confirmed in next week's Budget, which the Chancellor, George Osborne, has said will be geared towards fostering economic growth. Ministers have insisted they remain committed to extending employees' rights "in due course".

Government sources also dismissed suggestions that they were planning to restrict maternity and paternity leave. It is believed any such move would fall foul of EU legislation. But critics will view the moves as a signal that ministers are inclined to draw a line under the extension of employees' rights.

Mr Cable will also announce that new firms and those with fewer than 10 staff are to be exempt from new employment regulations for the next three years.