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Queen’s Speech mysteriously silent on new employment laws

Posted
May 13, 2022
Employment Law

HR professionals and employment lawyers were all interested to see what the recent Queen’s Speech might have to say about the future of UK employment laws. So what did we hear?

‘Deafening silence’

In the aftermath of the Brexit referendum, in some corners, there were concerns about the prospect of a ‘bonfire’ of employment laws and employment protections, leaving the rights of UK workers’ severely weakened. The government appeared keen to allay these fears, reassuring interested parties that this was not their plan. Quite the opposite, they were apparently looking to bolster workers rights and provide greater clarity to some of the more troublesome areas of employment law, including the thorny issue of employment status. 

Back in 2019, the Queen’s Speech announced the Government’s intention to publish a new Employment Bill, aimed at enshrining into law these new employment rights. Yet over two years have passed since then, without any hint of this Employment Bill seeing the light of day.  Now, having listened carefully to the most recent speech delivered to Parliament by Prince Charles, we find no mention of an Employment Bill whatsoever.

All of this suggests that the Government’s previously stated ambition to improve, extend and clarify our employment laws may have fallen by the wayside.

What does this mean for employers and for workers?

Interestingly, both sides of the industrial divide have expressed disappointment at the lack of legislative progress. Commentators have remarked on the frustration employers may feel at the ongoing confusion regarding employment status. At the same time, trades unions see this as a serious failure to seize a crucial opportunity to strengthen and update our employment laws for the 21st century.

In response to (or possibly even in anticipation of) this reaction, the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy has published an article called ‘How the government is supporting workers’.  You can read it here:

https://www.gov.uk/government/news/how-the-government-is-supporting-workers

We will let you be the judge as to whether this is enough to allay people’s fears. Can the government claim to have championed the cause of workers? Or do they need to go a lot further?

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