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The Employment Bill - Why Didn't the Queen's Speech Mention It, and Where Are We Now?

on Friday, 21 May 2021.

On 11 May 2021, the Queen's Speech set out the Government's legislative programme for the next year. However, one of the most notable points was the apparent absence of an Employment Bill - previously promised in the Queen's speech of December 2019.

The Employment Bill - Background

In December 2019, the Queen delivered her speech at the opening of Parliament. During this speech, she outlined the Government's proposal for a new Employment Bill, which would apply in the main to England, Wales and Scotland. However, this Employment Bill has been delayed, and was notably absent from the Queen's speech last week.

The proposed Employment Bill was in response to pressure for new laws to outlaw practices which unions say are cutting workers' pay and conditions. One more recent example of this is the emerging 'fire and rehire' practice, which has recently been in the news following British Gas' decision to fire and rehire a number of their employees. This has flared up concerns of such practices within companies.

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What Did the Proposed Programme Cover?

The Bill was proposed after it was feared that workers rights might be diluted when the UK left the EU. The main elements of the Bill were:

  • A single enforcement body - This was proposed as part of the 'good work plan' whereby the Government announced proposals for a single labour market enforcement agency to better ensure that vulnerable workers are aware of, and are able to exercise their rights. The enforcement agency was also proposed to support business compliance.
  • Tips to go to workers in full - In the October 2019 Queen's speech, the Government proposed legislation that would require employers to give all tips and service charges to workers and, supported by a statutory Code of Practice, to ensure that tips would be distributed fairly and transparently.
  • The right to request a more predictable contract - Again, as part of the 'good work plan' the Government had indicated its intention to legislate to introduce a right for all workers to be able to request a more predictable and stable contract after 26 weeks' service.
  • Extending redundancy protection to prevent pregnancy and maternity discrimination - The Government had announced its intention to extend the period of redundancy protection so that an employee would be covered from the point they notified their employer of their pregnancy (whether orally or in writing) until six months after the end of their maternity leave.
  • Extended leave for neonatal care - The Government's consultation on this ran until 11 October 2019, and proposed a new right to neonatal leave and pay, to support parents of premature or sick babies.
  • A week's leave for unpaid carers - This proposal was made in the Conservative party's election manifesto.
  • Making flexible working the default - The Conservative party's manifesto set out that the Government intends to make flexible working the default position, unless an employer has a good reason.

None of these policies have yet been legislated for.

What's Causing the Delay?

In spite of the fact that the proposals were made a year and a half ago, they have been delayed by the pandemic.

According to BBC news, the TUC said the Government had 'rowed back' on its pledge, while the Recruitment & Employment Confederation (REC) said the Bill was 'long overdue'.

If you have any questions generally relating to employment law updates, please contact Sharmin Chowdhury in our Employment Law team on 01923 919 373. Alternatively, please complete the form below.

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