Employment Law Changes on the Horizon: Queen’s Speech - 27 May 2015

Tue, 26 May 2015

There is always an employment law dimension in Queen’s Speeches, and this one is no different. The new Conservative Government has a mandate in respect of some key constitutional issues that will affect employment law in potentially significant ways.

EU referendum

The Queen’s Speech has confirmed the Government will introduce legislation to enable a referendum on EU membership to take place.  A Bill for the referendum is expected to be published very soon, with the referendum scheduled for the end of 2017, although some commentators believe that the timetable may in fact be shortened with the referendum taking place next year.

It’s not clear what impact an exit will have on employment law in practice, but it has potential wide-ranging consequences, the most obvious being in relation to:

·       Free movement of persons (and labour)

·       The application of TUPE

·       Working Time Regulations/Directive (i.e. paid annual leave and working time).

Immigration

Always a controversial topic, an Immigration Bill is expected to include a new offence, preventing business and recruitment agencies from recruiting abroad without advertising in the UK.

Trade Unions and Strike Ballot reform

The Conservatives have for quite some time stated that they have wanted to reform trade union strike balloting rules. The Queen’s Speech confirms that there will be proposals to change to strike and trade union laws. As a result, anticipated legislation looks set to ensure strikes should only result from a ballot in which a majority of the workforce have voted, and lay down tougher thresholds in respect of strikes by workers in essential public services, such as health, education, fire and transport.

In addition, it is expected that there would be further detailed changes to make strikes a less potent weapon of the unions.  

Red Tape Challenge and Job Creation

With its commitment to “Cutting Red Tape” and bureaucracy, there will be a new Enterprise Bill which will aim to reduce the cost of red tape by £10 billion through continuation of the last government’s "Red Tape Challenge" and "One in-Two out" rule. We can expect that at least some of these changes will have an employment law dimension, as was the case during last government.  

The Queen’s Speech also re-affirmed the Conservatives’ commitment to full employment and the creation of millions of modern apprenticeships, and so we can expect some legislative activity on that front.

And finally….

One issue that has failed to materialise today, is the Government’s commitment to repealing the Human Rights Act, and replacing it with a British Bill of Rights. Although human rights, in the strict sense, do not often feature in employment law, discrimination law is underpinned by it, and of course, all Employment Tribunals have to be compliant with Article 6 – the right to a fair trial.  

Written by Mugni Islam-Choudhury.

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