On 10 May at the State Opening of Parliament, the legislative intention of the Government for the next parliamentary session was set out in the Queen’s Speech. Despite the speech containing proposals for 38 new laws, the long awaited Employment Bill was omitted.
The Employment Bill, which was first proposed in 2019, was intended to improve worker’s rights and was intended to include the following proposals:
- making flexible working the default position;
- introducing one weeks unpaid care’s leave;
- extending paid leave for neonatal care;
- extending the redundancy protections to those on maternity leave;
- creating a new right to request a more predictable contract;
- ensuring that tips and gratuities were retained by the employees in full; and
- creating a new single enforcement body to ensure that workers’ rights are protected.
The omission of the Employment Bill has been criticised by a number of bodies: the TUC has accused the Government of turning its back on working people and the Head of Policy for the CIPD responded that shelving the Employment Bill is a missed opportunity to protect workers’ rights.
Although the Employment Bill was not included there were pieces of legislation of interest to employment lawyers and HR professionals:
- The Government proposes to introduce the Harbours (Seafarers’ Remuneration) Bill which is intended to protect seafarers working aboard vessels visiting UK ports, by ensuring the ports have powers ultimately to refuse access to ferry services that do not pay an equivalent to the National Minimum Wage (NMW) to seafarers while in UK waters. The main elements of the Bill will include a power for ports to surcharge ferry operators if they do not pay the equivalent of the NMW and ultimately to suspend them from access to the port. It is also proposed that ferry operators will be required to have access to all relevant details of employment even if they don’t employ the crew directly. There will also be legal sanctions in case of non-compliance with any directions to operators including if the operator supplies false or incomplete information. The Department for Transport is seeking views on this proposed new legislation. The consultation seeks views on the scope of the services to which the new legislation should apply and the compliance process, including powers of enforcement. The deadline for responses to the consultation is 7 June 2022.
- The speech also contained reference to the Brexit Freedoms Bill: The stated purpose of this bill is to end the supremacy of European law and seize the benefits of Brexit by ensuring regulation fits the needs of the UK to support economic growth. One of the main benefits it is suggested is to ensure that retained EU law can be amended, repealed or replaced with legislation which better suits the UK. This could mean that some of the existing EU derived employment protections may be removed.
- A new Bill of Rights: The stated purpose of the bill is to introduce a Bill of Rights which will ensure the UK’s human rights framework meets the needs of the society it serves and commands public confidence and end the abuse of the human rights framework and restore some common sense to the justice system. We will wait to see how this may affect employment rights.
In addition to the Queen’s speech the Government announced on 9 May that it would extend the ban on exclusivity clauses. Currently exclusivity clauses for those workers on Zero hours contracts are banned. The Government is now proposing to extend this protection to the lowest paid workers whose guaranteed weekly income is £123 or less.