Unsurprisingly the recent Queen’s Speech focussed mainly on the issue of Brexit. We were however, given some idea about the changes we can expect to see in relation to workers’ rights.
What changes can we expect to see to workers’ rights?
We have set out the key points below:
- ‘A bill will be introduced to repeal the European Communities Act and provide certainty for individuals and businesses’.
The Government intends to enact the Great Repeal Bill, which will convert EU law into UK law. This means that existing workers’ rights will continue to be available – at least for the foreseeable future.
Campaigners have expressed their concerns that rights which have devolved from Europe will be slowly eroded. For example, the right for agency workers to be given the same rights as permanent employees after a 12 week period.
Ultimately the effect of the Great Repeal Bill will be that the government has the power to amend/repeal legislation through Parliament. In practice, this may be curtailed by public expectations e.g. the well-established equality legislation. Indeed the government has committed to making further progress on tackling the gender pay gap and discrimination in the workplace.
- ‘The government will consider how best to ensure that individuals with mental ill health are protected from discrimination in the workplace’.
As part of their original manifesto, the Conservatives indicated that they would amend discrimination legislation to ensure that more people suffering mental ill health have the opportunity to make a claim for disability discrimination.
- ‘The National Living Wage will be increased so that people who are on the lowest pay benefit from the same improvements in earnings as higher paid workers’.
The government has pledged that the National Living Wage will be increased to 60% of median earnings by 2020.
This is of course likely to be popular with workers but troublesome for some employers. They may struggle to fund the higher wage bill without reducing overheads/passing the cost on to consumers, for example, through price hikes.
- ‘My ministers will seek to enhance rights and protections in the modern workplace’.
The government has committed to ensuring that employment law and employee rights are taken seriously.
This will take into account Matthew Taylor’s review of modern employment practices commissioned in October 2016. This review will analyse modern employment practices and provide an understanding on whether workers’ rights need to be updated.
There were of course additional pledges within the Conservative Manifesto which were not alluded to in the Queen’s Speech. For example: pledges to introduce a statutory right to a year’s unpaid leave to care for a relative and to a two-week period of paid leave for parents whose child has died. We may well see this legislation in the future but clearly the current focus is on getting the most fundamental points across.
Notably however, the government will not be going as far as Labour. They pledged to ban the use of zero hour contracts completely and to scrap tribunal fees.
The requirement to pay a fee to enter the tribunal system is viewed by some as the biggest bar to justice for individuals. Critics have commented that there is little value in enhancing employment rights, if ultimately they cannot afford to enforce these rights.
For more information on workers’ rights or any other employment law matter, please contact our Employment Law & HR team on 0161 475 7676.