Reform ‘Long Overdue’ As Two Year Wait For Employment Bill Goes On
Lawyers at Irwin Mitchell say the lack of any mention of the employment bill in the Queen’s Speech today means the wait for ‘long overdue’ reform continues, almost two years after they were proposed.
The long trialled Bill was announced by the government back in December 2019 and despite assurances, the promised legislation protecting workers rights has yet to materialise and remains off the forthcoming agenda for parliamentary business.
Following reports that the government was planning to ‘rip up’ worker protection enshrined in EU law, Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said there was ‘no government plan to reduce workers’ rights’. This was followed on 5 May by Liz Truss, calling for flexible working to be ‘normalised’.
Extending redundancy protection was expected to be part of a package of measures in the Bill, together with proposals aimed at preventing pregnancy and maternity discrimination while also allowing parents to take extended leave for neonatal care.
In the wake of COVID-19, a ‘right to disconnect’ from home working was also mooted, while it was anticipated that an entitlement to one week’s leave for carers could feature and in line with moves by many employers in the post-pandemic world, make flexible working the default position.
Expert Opinion“Given the view that the government would move to improve UK workers’ rights post-Brexit, it is disappointing that almost two years on, we have yet to see the long expected Employment Bill.
“There was no mention in the Queen’s Speech today of these changes that I and others had hoped to hear about and government pledges to enhance worker rights are promises that now look unlikely to be met in this parliament.
“In addition to measures on redundancy protection and discrimination, it was expected the government could take action on firing and rehiring, but that seems to have been kicked into the long grass along with the Bill itself.
“While the wait goes on, employers are already moving forward without them. Some employees are already seeing flexible working, plus many of the benefits the Bill was expected to make law, but this will be cold comfort to those left behind, particularly working mothers who are those most likely worst affected by the impact of COVID lockdowns.
“The Bill could have been a vital tool in helping the economy bounce back from what has been an unprecedented year by establishing employment ground rules for the vital months and years ahead.” Danielle Parsons - Partner