The Queen’s Speech opens the new session of Parliament by announcing the planned legislative agenda for the coming year. As the 2018 State Opening has been cancelled to allow more time for Brexit debates, this agenda covers the next two years and is important to allow businesses time to plan ahead for coming changes.
The speech confirmed the introduction of the Repeal Bill to take the UK out of the European Union along with new legislation to establish national policies in the place of EU law. One of the new pieces of national legislation to be introduced is the Immigration Bill which will allow the Government to control the number of EEA nationals coming in to the country. This is one of the main pieces of legislation for employers who employ a high number of EEA nationals as it has the potential to affect the availability of these workers. It may also introduce an administrative or financial burden on employers who wish to employ these workers, such as the Immigration Skills Charge that applies to non-EEA nationals currently, although there are no details on this yet.
The speech reiterated the Conservative manifesto pledge to increase the National Living Wage to increase pay for the lowest paid. It touched on other employment law issues by setting out that the government would enhance rights and protections at work, as well as taking further steps to tackle the gender pay gap and discrimination. A commitment from the last Budget was also included as the speech included the future reform of technical education to provide education leavers with required skills for high-skilled jobs.
Ben Willmott, Head of Public Policy at the CIPD, said:
“The Queen’s Speech clearly recognised the challenges facing government on Brexit, but fell short of concrete proposals to address the UK’s productivity deficit, which is key to boosting pay, living standards and the ability of UK businesses to remain competitive outside of the European Union. It’s vital these key challenges are not overlooked and are a central focus for the industrial strategy as Brexit unfolds, given that they will prove fundamental to the UK’s success outside of the European Union.”
“While plans to upgrade standards in UK technical education are welcome, it is disappointing that the Queen’s Speech did not set out any proposals to boost wider investment in skills development, particularly in adult skills and lifelong learning. This is an area that is increasingly critical to the economy as a result of the growing impact of automation on the workplace and our ageing population.
“It’s important that plans announced to develop a modern industrial strategy have a strong focus on boosting the quality of people management capability and identifying and matching skills across the economy. This will prove essential if we want to create more high-skilled jobs and boost workplace productivity and it will be important for the government to work closely with bodies like ourselves and the wider business community to achieve this.”
On corporate governance:
“It is disappointing the Government appears to have dropped plans to reform corporate governance, as evidence suggests that executive pay is still out of kilter with that of the wider workforce. Too often, a focus on narrow financial measures and short-termism means that there is a lack of investment in the long-term drivers of value – particularly the skills and well-being of the workforce.”
On modern working practices:
“We welcome moves to enhance rights and protections for those engaged in modern working practices. While the gig economy provides the flexibility that many people want, it does not work for everyone. Work must be fair and decent for all. That’s why we’re calling on the Government to introduce a ‘Know your Rights’ campaign, to ensure that workers are clear on their rights in an increasingly fragmented world of work.”
“It was promising to see the Government’s support for further progress to tackle the gender pay gap and discrimination against people on the basis of their race, faith, gender, disability or sexual orientation. We need to make much more progress on creating inclusive workplaces and providing opportunities for progression and fairer distribution of reward.”
“While the Queen’s Speech outlined plans to introduce an immigration bill, there is still a concerning lack of detail about what the future immigration system in the UK will look. Research published this week by the CIPD and NIESR clearly shows that businesses are sounding the alarm on access to talent, and are very concerned that sweeping changes to immigration will leave them unable to access the talent they need. Government needs to address those concerns by consulting much more widely with business to ensure that the future immigration system serves the needs of the economy and allows organisations to access both the skilled and unskilled talent that they need.”
Alan Price, Employment Law and HR Director of Peninsula said:
“Despite the inclusion of these areas of employment law, the government briefing avoids committing the government to introduce new legislation to enhance these rights. Instead, the briefing focuses on the awaited publishing of the Matthew Taylor review in to modern employment practices to help them understand whether modernisation is needed, the form of which is uncertain.”
The Government have also set out it’s new plans for EU workers post-Brexit.
Alan Price continues:
“The plan is important for employers who are currently uncertain about how the exit will affect their current, and future, workforce although it is only setting out the government’s stance and is likely to be amended following negotiations.
“The policy paper reiterates the idea that EU citizens are free to continue to work, and exercise their other rights, in the UK until the date of the exit. After a cut-off date, no earlier than the 29th March 2017 and no later than the exit, new statuses will be designed depending on how long the EU national has resided in the UK.
“For those with five years’ continuous residence before the cut-off date, they can apply for settled status meaning they continue to have full rights, including the right to carry out any work in the UK. Those who are already in the UK before the cut-off date, but with less than five years’ residence, can achieve temporary status whilst they build up their residence to apply for settled status. Any one entering the UK after the cut-off date, can only remain in the UK for a temporary period, subject to new immigration rules that will be announced “in due course”.
“Employers may find themselves facing requests from staff to provide documentation that can be used as evidence of their length of residence in the UK. This will usually be in the form of a signed and dated employment contract. Employers should also ensure that any EU nationals they are employing between now and the cut-off date are given the correct employment documentation. In the future, employers will have to get used to seeing residence documents as proof that EU citizens can legally work in the UK, regardless of the incoming migration controls.
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