The government is expected to announce plans to exempt small and medium sized businesses from a raft of expensive regulations at the Budget on 23 March. The “small enterprise exemption initiative” would see firms with just a handful of employees – most likely five or less – exempted from a range of regulatory burdens. Employees at these firms would be unable to request flexible working, for example, and could see their maternity or paternity leave entitlement cut. The government is hoping that businesses will use the money they save from not having to comply with the onerous rules to take on new staff. But Labour’s shadow chancellor Ed Balls said the plans were “ideological claptrap” that threatened employees’ “work-life balance”.