Queen’s Speech: Impact on Employment Law
It was hard to escape news coverage of the Queens Speech which was delivered on 27 May 2015 and set out the government’s plans. In case anyone missed it, here is a brief summary of some of the employment law implications.
British Bill of Rights
There was a much commented on (and criticised) step back from the Conservative’s manifesto pledge to replace the Human Rights Act 1998 with a British Bill of Rights as reference was made to proposal rather than concrete legislation.
Trade Unions Bill
This Bill sets out to reform trade unions and protect essential public services from disruption caused by strikes, by introducing the following provisions:
- Minimum threshold of 50% of voters to turn out to vote on union ballots (with the requirement for a simple majority of votes in favour).
- For industrial action in the health, education, fire and transport services, the requirement that 40% of those entitled to vote, vote in favour of striking (in addition to the minimum 50% voting turnout threshold).
- Prevention of intimidation of non-striking workers during a strike.
- Time limits on mandates following a ballot for industrial action.
- Transparent opt-in process for the political fund element of trade union subscriptions (as in practice in Northern Ireland).
- Changes to the role of Certification Officer.
In an effort to help working people through the Childcare Bill, the government will increase the provision of free childcare for eligible working parents of children aged three and four years old to 30 hours a week (for 38 weeks of the year).
The government wants to reduce demand for skilled migrant workers and crack down on the exploitation of low-skilled workers. The Bill will achieve these aims through the following provisions:
- Illegal working will be made a criminal offence, allowing wages paid to illegal migrants to be seized as proceeds of crime.
- Creation of a new enforcement agency with powers to take action against employers who exploit migrant workers.
- It will be illegal for employment agencies to only recruit from abroad without advertising those jobs in Britain.
This will introduce:
- Measures to reduce regulation on small businesses to help create more jobs.
- A cap on exit payments made to public sector workers to end six-figure payoffs.
Full Employment and Welfare Benefits Bill
The plan is to create three million new apprenticeships over the next five years. The Full Employment and Welfare Benefits Bill will introduce statutory duties on ministers to report annually on progress towards:
- Achieving full employment; and
- Meeting the target of three million new apprenticeships.
This Bill will introduce a number of measures including the ability for employers to check whether an individual is an extremist and bar them from working with children; a clear commitment to defeat extremism.