After only a slight delay, the much anticipated Queen’s speech went ahead on Wednesday 21 June 2017. The government has announced that there will not be a Queen’s speech in 2018 and so the details of the legislation set out cover the next two years. The main employment law implications are as follows:
The Repeal Bill
Unsurprisingly the bill to repeal the European Communities Act made the headlines. The Queen confirmed the Repeal Bill will be implemented to provide as much certainty as possible for individuals and businesses. The Repeal Bill will convert EU law into UK law ensuring the same rules apply post-Brexit wherever practical.
The Queen’s speech briefing paper confirms “there will be an Immigration Bill that gives us control of the number of people coming here from Europe while allowing us to continue attracting the brightest and the best.” The Bill will allow for the repeal of EU law on immigration (primarily free movement) and make the migration of EU nationals and their families subject to relevant UK law.
Theresa May has announced plans to allow EU citizens who have lived in the UK for five years to have “settled status” (which is in fact a restatement of the position at present). This is basically permanent residence and would allow EU citizens to stay in the UK after the UK’s exit (expected on 30 March 2019).
Ms May has also promised to streamline the application system. Reference has been made to a two year “grace period” for people who have moved to the UK in the lead up to Brexit. However when such a grace period will commence, and the specific detail as to how this will work in practice has not been provided.
The announcement has been met with much scepticism from EU citizens living in the UK and from UK citizens living in the EU. The outline deal from Ms May has been made on the basis of a reciprocal arrangement from the EU, full details of which are not yet known.
More information is expected on Monday, we will keep you updated.
National living wage (NLW)
As set out in the Conservative party manifesto the speech referenced increasing the NLW. The briefing paper provided the detail that the NLW will increase to 60% of median earnings by 2020, meaning that the wages of the lowest paid will increase faster than average in order to get there. After 2020 the NLW will continue to increase in line with the average worker’s pay.
Another key feature of the Queen’s speech was the announcement of a new Data Protection Bill to fulfil the manifesto commitment that the UK has data protection fit for the 21st century. The government has promised the new law “will ensure that the United Kingdom retains its world-class regime protecting personal data”. The Bill includes: the right to be forgotten, a data protection regime fit for the digital age and the implementation of the General Data Protection Regime.
Modern employment practices
Modern employment practices and worker rights were included in the Conservative manifesto and have predictably featured in the Queen’s speech. The speech makes reference to enhancing rights and protection in the modern workplace. The background briefing refers to the Taylor Review being “an important step towards us ensuring fairness for everyone in work”. For further information on the Taylor Review and employment status please visit our employment status – the barometer hub. The report is due shortly.
The Conservative party manifesto pledged a number of new family rights, however the detail has not found its way into the Queen’s speech. Pledges such as the new right to child bereavement leave and time off for caring do not feature in the speech. There is a generic reference to tackle discrimination on the basis of race, faith, gender, disability and sexual orientation.
Gender pay gap
The Queen’s speech refers to making further progress to tackle the gender pay gap. It will be interesting to see whether this includes enforcement powers for the Equality Act 2010 (Gender Pay Gap Information) Regulations 2017 introduced in April this year. The briefing paper restates existing steps already taken but gives little indication of any new legislation.
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