The Queen’s Speech on 10 May 2022 highlighted some of the 38 laws ministers plan to implement in the coming year with one exception – the Employment Bill. Suzanna Ghazal, Solicitor, and Emma O’Connor, Director ask – “where has it gone?”
Employment Bill: downfall or waiting game?
Much to the disappointment of many commentators, the Queen’s Speech delivered last Tuesday 10 May 2022 omitted any mention of the long-awaited and anticipated Employment Bill.
Way back in the Queen’s Speech of 2019, the government promised that it would introduce an Employment Bill that would extend workers’ rights and protections. Much was made of the anticipated changes which the Bill would introduce; for example, the Employment Bill would:
Make flexible working the default position;
Create a single enforcement body;
Offer redundancy protections to prevent pregnancy and maternity discrimination;
Introduce a day 1 right to one week’s leave for unpaid carers;
Enforce a requirement that tips for workers are paid to workers in full; and
Provide the right to request a more predictable working contract
This month, the Queen’s Speech set out the government’s legislative plans for the next parliamentary session; however, the speech confirmed that no plans have been made to introduce the proposed Employment Bill. It is now uncertain whether the plans to enhance workers’ rights will be implemented this year as had been hoped and envisaged, leaving employers in limbo and workers disappointed. It will be interesting to see if employers look to introduce for example, a form of carers’ leave themselves as a way to distinguish themselves from their competition.
For now, it is a waiting game for legislative change, although many businesses are already considering implementing policies in conjunction with the proposed reforms. For example, it will be interesting to see if employers look to introduce for example, a form of carers’ leave themselves as a way to distinguish themselves form the competition
Exclusivity Clauses in Zero Hours Contracts
Although no mention in the Queen’s Speech, the government has recently responded to the December 2020 consultation on exclusivity clauses in zero hour contracts. Exclusivity clauses restrict workers and employees from working for other employers and such clauses were banned for workers on zero hour contracts in 2015. The government has announced plans to widen the ban on exclusivity clauses to all contracts where workers’ guaranteed weekly income is below or equivalent to the Lower Earnings Limit of £123 a week. This legislative change will enable many workers to work for more than one employer. The proposal is welcomed as a ‘win-win’ expansion as many workers will have the benefit of working flexibly for other employers and boosting their income. On the other hand, this change is beneficial for employers as it widens the talent pool of workers, relevant at a time where there is a fight for talent in the hospitality and retail sectors.
So what happens now?
Could we see a resurrection of the Employment Bill – or parts of it – in the future? Perhaps. Maybe the burden on employers with increasing NICs, energy and taxes bills, perhaps to add more red-tape would have been too difficult a pill to swallow. So for now at least a pause. However, perhaps there are opportunities presented by the Employment Bill – a refocusing as a business on what working flexibly means or a chance to look at your benefits holistically.
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