The UK’s regulatory watchdog has slated the government’s impact assessment of the Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Bill (weekly LELR 804) as not “fit for purpose”.

As with the Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill 2022 (weekly LELR 800), the Regulatory Policy Committee (RPC), an independent body sponsored by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, has red-rated the impact assessment accompanying the bill.

It was particularly critical of the government’s failure to justify the inclusion of small and micro businesses (SMBs) in the assessment, as well as a failure to include sufficient discussion about the specific impacts that they may face. As the assessment did not clearly establish the size of the SMB presence in affected sectors, the RPC was not able to fairly assess whether the policy would be undermined if SMBs were exempted. The government should also have discussed whether medium-sized businesses (MSBs) should be exempt.

As for the department’s cost-benefit analysis, the RPC said that it relies on assumptions which are not supported by evidence. Although the assessment monetised the initial familiarisation costs, it did not provide further analysis of other impacts. Specifically, it did not indicate the likely scale for businesses across the varied sectors of complying with a minimum service provision. It would, therefore, have expected the department to provide a more detailed description of the affected sectors and the costs to trade unions alongside secondary legislation.

Finally, it was highly critical of the fact that BEIS did not follow its own policy for submitting the assessment to the RPC for scrutiny, not least so that parliament could consider both the assessment and its opinion. Instead, the bill had already passed through the House of Commons and had moved on to the House of Lords by the time the assessment was submitted to the RPC.

As a result, the watchdog issued this formal opinion without first providing an initial review notice as is standard practice when red-rated issues are identified in final stage assessments in order to inform as much of the parliamentary debate as possible. However, it “proceeded in this way to ensure that this opinion could be issued on a timescale that might be of some use to parliamentary scrutiny”.

To read the RPC’s opinion in full, click here.