The Queen’s Speech – employment law reform proposals

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The Queen’s Speech gave us the first glance at Boris Johnson’s legislative agenda following his tightened grip on power earlier this month. Among other things, the government outlined its intention to introduce an Employment Bill, to establish a fairer balance between flexibility and security for employees. The government’s objective, following consultation, is to make granting a flexible working request the default position unless an employer should have a good reason to withhold that right. This will be accompanied by a right for all workers to request a predictable contract to reflect their working patterns.

Another inclusion was the pledge to establish a single labour market enforcement agency, for vulnerable workers to use should they receive poor treatment in the workplace, and raise their awareness of their rights and improve business compliance. The body will ensure fairness at work, by protecting businesses who are legally compliant from being undercut by businesses who profiteer from overseeing unfair or illegal working practices.

Further notable proposals to be contained within the Employment Bill include granting extended rights to pay neonatal leave to parents and carers of premature or sick babies, an obligation on employers to pass on all tips and service charges to their workers, and an extension of additional redundancy protections to women from the point of becoming pregnant to 6 month after the end of any maternity leave.

The Queen’s Speech has only outlined the government’s objectives and there is a lack of detail as to how these pledges will be implemented and the intricacies within them. Reference to workplace regulation within the Withdrawal Agreement Bill have been removed, and there is proposed legislation restricting employees’ right to take industrial action within the rail sector by requiring a minimum level of service to the public. Moreover, the current political soundings from the UK Government indicate that it will be unlikely the UK follows a similar trajectory with regards to rights, and regulations at work. As it commences negotiations of future trading arrangements with the EU, the possibility of some deregulation or future significant change in employment protections during the current Parliamentary term cannot be ruled out.