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Why the employment bill was left out of the Queen’s Speech

Why the employment bill was left out of the Queen’s Speech
Prince Charles delivers the Queen's Speech at the House of Lords. (Ben Stansall – WPA Pool/Getty Images)

The decision to omit mention of the employment bill from the Queen’s Speech last week has been hit with heavy criticism. Workers will now likely have to wait at least another year until the bill can be introduced.

The bill, set to lay out measures to improve workers’ rights, was absent from yesterday’s speech, sparking uproar from trade unions and criticism from HR bosses.

The employment bill has been a source of much discussion in recent months and was set to introduce more stable contracts for gig workers, right to request flexible working, statutory carer’s leave, enhanced protection for employees returning from maternity leave, and more.

Many will be disappointed that the long-awaited employment bill was not included in the Queen’s Speech and will be delayed once again. However, this does not mean that there will be no changes for employers to consider.

The speech mentioned several times the government’s focus on sustainability, therefore businesses may also want to review their environmental, social and governance strategies and ensure they are meeting public expectations with regards to 'green' practices.

Additionally, the Brexit freedoms bill and data reform bill could, in time, cause significant disruption to businesses.

Any changes to such legislation will require employers to complete a thorough review of their current policies and procedures and ensure these are updated and communicated with the wider workforce.

As the cost of living crisis continues, and in the wake of the recent P&O Ferries sacking of 800 employees without notice, it is clear that workers’ rights remain in flux and that further legal protection is needed.

The introduction of the bill could have lent a helping hand to working parents, balancing family with professional commitments.

Single enforcement body

In the past couple of years, people have grown to feel that their jobs are less secure, although unemployment numbers have improved in recent months.

Now that the bill, which would have had built-in redundancy protections against maternity and pregnancy discrimination, has been delayed, this period of instability for workers’ rights will only continue.

What may come as the biggest disappointment to workers worried about their rights is that there will not be a single enforcement body to protect their interests, which the bill would have promised.

While there are several trade unions and bodies across the country, a single centralised authority would have been a godsend for employees concerned that their employers take them for granted.

Such a body would have been able to lobby the government for more effective protections with a unified vision, rather than disparate groups without a coherent strategy for workers’ justice.

Not all bad news

These are just some of the frustrations employees may have after hearing the speech.

But it was not all bad news as several of the bills are significant, including the procurement bill, which would help small businesses by giving them better opportunities to bid for public sector contracts and the Brexit freedoms bill, which would make it easier to amend EU laws.