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Still no Employment Bill in the Queen’s speech?

By Victoria Brown

By Victoria Brown

This week Victoria looks at the latest Queen's Speech and what it means for employers.
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This year marked the first time in the Queen’s 70 year rein that she did not herself attend this major official engagement. Instead, The Prince of Wales stood in and left many disappointed that for the second year in the row, the long awaited Employment Bill was not mentioned.

The Employment bill was first promised in the Conservatives’ 2019 election manifesto. If it does one day arrive, it is expected to deliver amongst other things the following;

 -Expand rights to flexible working arrangements

-Strengthen legal protection of pregnant employees

– Create obligations to Employers to prevent sexual harassment

– Give workers the right to request stable contracts

-Create a single enforcement body to protect workers’ rights

For me, the decision to not create a single enforcement body was a real shame, particularly after the horrendous treatment of workers by P&O Ferries.  As a decent Employer you may read this and not understand why this would be required, but there are unscrupulous employers out there, that do ignore their legal responsibilities and have a questionable moral compass.  I often come across them when I talk about what I do for a living and they advise me they don’t need ‘HR’, if they have a problem they will just ‘pay for it to go away.’

There is however plans for enforcing minimum wage for seafarers in UK waters. This would potentially see ferries that don’t pay their workers the equivalent to minimum wage banned from docking at UK ports.

What was included in the Queen’s speech?

The main focus for the next 12 months being the growth of the economy, easing the burden on families and ‘levelling up’.

The government did announce that there would be a Data Reform Bill.  What we currently have in place for data protection could need to be reviewed and amended as the Government has suggested that GDPR rules and the way data is handled in the UK will be reviewed. It’s also proposing to modernise the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) to crack down on data breaches. Employers will need to be aware of how these upcoming changes may affect their policies and amend them as such to avoid any potential penalties. More information on the proposal will be set out later in the year.

There will also be an extension to the ban on exclusivity clauses.  2015 saw that employers could not add exclusivity clauses to zero-hour contracts for employees.
The government now proposes to extend the ban on exclusivity clauses for workers whose earnings are below the Lower Earnings Limit of £123 per week (increased in April 2022) which could affect an estimated 1.5m workers throughout the UK.

This will be laid before Parliament later in the year.

Post-Brexit opportunities for small businesses

The Government intend to give itself the power to change and abolish current regulations on businesses that are preserved in EU legislation. It is proposed that a new Brexit Freedoms Bill will allow laws inherited from EU legislation to be easier to amend and, under an additional new Bill, “public sector procurement will be simplified to provide new opportunities for small businesses”.

The Working Time Directive, family-friendly rights, discrimination protections, Agency Worker Regulations, and TUPE are all key pieces of employment legislation that fall within EU Directives, which under the new Bill the government will have the ability to amend or potentially abolish totally. No changes are confirmed as of yet and won’t be for some time until the Bill is passed.

What is very apparent is that there is a huge amount of employment legislation looming… least that will keep me busy and out of mischief.

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