It was easy to completely miss the detail in the Queen’s Speech, coming as it did between the Conservative’s landslide election victory and Christmas.
But it’s worthwhile taking a closer look, because buried in the small print are proposals for a new Employment Bill containing the following:
- Creation of a single enforcement body for employment law. As recommended in Matthew Taylor’s “Good Work Plan” there are proposals for a single labour market enforcement agency to take action on behalf of vulnerable workers to enforce their employment rights. This proposal was found in every major party’s election manifesto, so it’s not a surprise that it’s top of the employment law “to do” list. It’s significant for employers because the state will be able to challenge their employment practices in court, and it will not just be up to the employees to bring such claims. In practice the new body is likely to target (at least initially) the worst employers in order to set an example to everyone else.
- Tips to go to workers in full. All employers would be required to pass on all tips and service charges to workers; this basic legislative requirement would be supported by a statutory Code of Practice, to ensure the fair and transparent distribution of tips amongst the relevant staff. This change is in response to public pressure after some big-name restaurant chains were caught not passing on credit card tips to their staff.
- Right to request a more predictable contract. This follows earlier indications by the Government that it intends to implement the recommendation in the “Good Work Plan” that workers on zero hours and similar contracts be given the right to request a more predictable and stable contract after 26 weeks’ service.
- Extending redundancy protection to prevent pregnancy and maternity discrimination. Every major party promised to improve the protection of women who are pregnant or on maternity leave. It’s now proposed to extend the period of redundancy protection from the point an employee notifies their employer of their pregnancy until six months after the end of their maternity leave. During this time any woman put at risk of redundancy will have to be offered any other suitable role in preference to all other at risk employees; currently this protection is only available during maternity leave.
- Extended leave for neonatal care. Another proposal that featured in all the major election manifestos is a new right to neonatal leave and pay to support the parents of premature or sick babies.
- A week’s leave for unpaid carers. This was a feature of the Conservative manifesto as part of the policies to combat workplace inequalities. The Tories recognised that carers were mostly women and therefore required this support in order to improve workplace equality.
- Making flexible working the default. The government intends, subject to consultation, to make flexible working the default position unless an employer has a good reason to reject a request to work flexibly. This reflects an increasing trend for work to be undertaken flexibly to meet the needs of both employers and employees. This change is likely to make it more difficult for employers to justify standard full time working. A significant change will potentially be to the statutory remedies available to an employee if an employer improperly denies a request. At the moment employees can claim up to eight weeks salary as compensation for improper flexible working decisions made by their employers; we anticipate that the new statutory remedy will be harsher on employers who act incorrectly. These statutory remedies are separate from any claims for indirect discrimination that the employee may have.
In addition to these immediate proposals, the Government announced that, within the next year, it would bring forward detailed proposals in response to the results of its “Health is Everyone’s Business” consultation. These will include measures to encourage employers to play their part in employing and retaining disabled people, and those with health conditions short of disability. The intention is to reduce the disability employment and pay gap. Reporting obligations on employers are anticipated.
If you have any questions in relation to this topic, please contact a member of the employment law team at Fox Williams or speak with your usual Fox Williams contact.