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14.10.2019

Today marked the reopening of Parliament and, while the Queen’s speech necessarily had a strong focus on Brexit, it also included proposals in a variety of other areas. Below, we take a look at what might now be on the horizon for employment law.

Making work fairer

The text of the Queen’s speech itself was remarkably light on detail in the employment law sphere, simply stating that the Government will take steps to “make work fairer” and introduce “measures that will support those working hard”.

At the time of writing, the subsequent debate in the House of Commons has not yet shed any light on the types of measures the Government has in mind. However, we would expect these to include at least some of the following, all of which had been proposed prior to Parliament being prorogued:

  • Introduction of a new, single labour market enforcement agency to improve vulnerable workers’ awareness of and access to their rights, and to support businesses’ compliance with those rights. This follows a Government consultation on the introduction of such a body, which closed on 6 October 2019.
  • Protections for casual workers addressing the issue of one-sided flexibility, potentially including a right to reasonable notice of changes to hours, compensation for short-notice curtailment or cancellation of shifts and a right to request a regular-hours contract. These proposals formed a key aspect of the “Good Work Plan” and the Government consultation on them closed on 11 October 2019.
  • Legislation to improve the clarity of the tests for employee and worker status, which the Government acknowledged in the Good Work Plan are currently a source of confusion and may not accurately reflect modern working relationships. However, the Government has not published a response to its consultation on employment status, so little is known about what such legislation might look like.
  • Various provisions to improve support for families. This could include the introduction of neonatal leave and pay for parents of babies born prematurely, and a requirement for employers to be more transparent about their family-friendly policies, e.g. on their website or in recruitment materials. Consultations on both of these proposals closed on 11 October 2019. It could also involve reform of statutory maternity, paternity, adoption and shared parental pay, which is the subject of an ongoing consultation, due to close on 29 November 2019.
  • Extending protection against redundancy during pregnancy and maternity leave, so that it begins at the point a woman notifies her employer of her pregnancy, and lasts until six months after the end of the maternity leave. Protection against redundancy for those on adoption leave would also be extended until six months after the end of that leave. Following consultation, in July 2019 the Government confirmed its commitment to introducing them when parliamentary time allows.

What next?

MPs will continue to debate the content of the Queen’s speech for several days, after which it will be put to a vote. There is some speculation as to whether the vote will pass, since the Government doesn’t have a majority in the House of Commons. And in any event, it is likely to be some time before any of the employment-related proposals make it into legislation, as Brexit-related matters are bound to take priority on the parliamentary timetable in the short-term.

How can Make UK help?

We will continue to monitor legal developments, and will keep members updated on the ever evolving HR and employment law agenda.

For day to day employment matters, Make UK members have access to our bank of online legal documents and templates, and can always contact us for specialist guidance on HR & legal issues as they arise.

We also offer in-depth legal training on a wide range of employment issues. Our latest seminar, “Redundancies: Top tips to tackle the trickiest issues (or, ideally, avoid them altogether)”, will address some of the trickiest issues that can arise in a redundancy exercise through a series of case studies and interactive exercises. Our HR and Legal experts will also look at realistic options for side-stepping redundancies. For more information and to book your place, click here.

News / HR & Legal