The Queen's Speech – What are the employment law implications?
On 11 May 2021, the Queen's Speech was delivered to both Houses of Parliament, setting out the programme of legislation that the Government intends to pursue in the forthcoming parliamentary session. This article aims to summarise the key employment law implications addressed in the Speech of which employers should be aware.
What employment law changes can we expect?
A National Insurance Contributions Bill
This Bill is intended to provide relief from National Insurance contributions for:
- employers of eligible veterans on earnings from April 2021 (applicable for the first 12 months of their employment on earnings up to £50,000 per annum);
- employers of eligible employees in freeports employed from April 2022 (applicable for three years on earnings up to £25,000 per annum); and
- the self-employed who receive NHS Test and Trace Payments.
Professional Qualifications Bill
This Bill is intended to create a new framework to recognise professional qualifications from across the world. It is hoped to:
- ensure the UK can access professionals in areas of a workforce shortage;
- improve the transparency around the entry and practice requirements of regulated professions, such as medicine, nursing and teaching; and
- enable the UK to implement its international agreements on professional qualifications and to allow regulators to enter into reciprocal agreements with their international counterparts to facilitate the recognition of professional qualifications.
The Queen's Speech also set out proposed changes to Employment Tribunal rulemaking powers and procedures, which are to be transferred from the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy or Lord Chancellor to the Tribunal Procedure Committee.
In addition, the efficiency of the process for Employment Tribunal procedures is to be increased by aligning it with that of other tribunals in the Unified Tribunals structure. This is intended to tackle the impact of coronavirus backlogs.
What was not addressed?
The Employment Bill
In December 2019, the Queen's Speech addressed the introduction of a new Employment Bill. A key reason for the introduction was to address concerns that workers' rights could be diluted after Brexit. The Employment Bill was expected to include the following measures:
- Introduction of a single labour market enforcement body - to better ensure that vulnerable workers are aware of and can exercise their employment rights.
- Tips and service charges - a statutory requirement for employers to pass on all tips and service charges to workers and to ensure that tips would be distributed on a fair a transparent basis.
- Right to request a more predictable contract – applicable after 26 weeks of service and aimed at those engaged under contracts with variable and unpredictable hours, such as zero-hours employees or workers.
- Redundancy protection for pregnant employees – increasing the period of redundancy protection to be applicable from the point an employee notifies their employer of their pregnancy until six months after the end of their maternity leave. The current protection applies only during maternity leave.
- Extended leave for parents of children in neonatal care – to support parents of premature and sick babies and entitle them to take an additional week of leave for every week their baby is in neonatal care, up to a maximum of 12 weeks. Those with a minimum qualifying period of 26 weeks’ service and who earn above the minimum pay threshold would be entitled to receive pay for the neonatal leave period at the statutory rate.
- A week's unpaid leave for unpaid carers - for employees with caring responsibilities to take a week’s unpaid leave per year.
Mention of the Employment Bill was noticeably absent from the Queen's Speech this year. However, on 23 March 2021, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, Paul Scully, said the Employment Bill would be introduced 'in due course'.
As such, it appears to be more a matter of 'when' it will be introduced, as opposed to 'if'.
This article is for information purposes only and is not a substitute for legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. Please contact Siobhan Murphy to discuss any issues you are facing.