Other measures flagged by the monarch include addressing the pay divide between men and women in the workplace, encouraging low-income Brits to save more and strengthening the NHS.
Business groups have praised legislative plans to improve the financial sector; Federation of Small Businesses national chairman John Wright said: “Reforms to the financial sector are very welcome, following a very difficult year for small businesses which have seen costs on overdrafts rise and loans being defaulted.”
The focus on flexible working for parents of older children, however, has garnered mixed responses. Jackie Orme, chief executive of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, was delighted by the news: “This legislation is where the politicians’ favourites of hard working families and hard pressed small businesses come together. Too many commentators and business bodies represent this as a clash. But all our evidence shows that flexible working is good for employers and employees alike,” she said.
“Part-time and flexible workers are happier, more engaged with their work, and therefore more likely to perform better and be more productive which just as important in a downturn as in the good times – if not more so.”
But Wright stated: “Measures to extend flexible working for parents will be an extra burden for small businesses at an already difficult time.”
He added: “The FSB is also concerned that small firms will struggle to pay extra business rate charges in what will be a very difficult year.”
The CBI’s deputy director-general, John Cridland, welcomed the speech’s emphasis on the economy. “It is important that government policies assist businesses facing the credit crunch without placing unnecessary administrative burdens on them, which cost time and money, and stop companies focussing on the important challenges they face,” he commented.