Employment law and the Queen’s Speech 2017
The Queen’s Speech 2017, delivered on 21 June, set out details of the legislation that the Government intends to introduce in the 2017-19 Parliamentary session.
From an employment law point of view, the key points of the Queen’s Speech 2017 include:
- Repeal Bill (formerly the Great Repeal Bill): The Repeal Bill will convert existing EU law into domestic law “wherever practical and appropriate”; preserve all laws made in the UK to implement EU obligations; and provide that historic European Court of Justice case law be given the same status in UK courts as decisions of the Supreme Court to provide for continuity in the interpretation of EU-derived law after Brexit. The result of the Repeal Bill is that as a general rule, the same rules and laws will apply after Brexit as they did before, which means that we are unlikely to see significant changes in Employment law in the short term at least.
- National Living Wage: The National Living Wage will increase to 60% of median earnings by 2020. After 2020 it will continue to rise in line with average earnings.
- Immigration: The Immigration Bill will establish a new national policy on immigration, including new powers concerning the immigration status of European Economic Area nationals. The migration of EU nationals and their family members will be made subject to relevant UK law after Brexit.
- Data Protection: The Data Protection Bill will implement the EU General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) giving individuals more control over their data, including the right to be forgotten. It will replace the Data Protection Act 1998. There will be tougher enforcement penalties, with potential fines for non compliance of up to 20 million euros or 4% of an organisations’ global annual turnover, whichever is higher. Employers will see stricter and more detailed conditions in relation to obtaining consent from employees to the processing of personal data and more detailed information will need to be supplied to employees about data and their rights.
- Taylor Review: The Taylor Review is still in progress and the Government states that it “looks forward” to publication of the report shortly. It is reported that 15% of people working in the UK’s labour market are now self-employed, with increased numbers carrying out casual work or working in the “gig economy”. Matthew Taylor, Chief Executive of the Royal Society of Arts, is leading the Independent Review of Employment Practices in the Modern Economy. The review is considering the implications of new models of working on the rights and responsibilities of workers, as well as on employer freedoms and obligations. Employment status has featured heavily in the news recently with an increasing number of cases progressing through the Employment Tribunal system.
- Gender Pay Gap and Discrimination: The Government stated that it intends to make further progress in tackling the gender pay gap and reducing discrimination on all grounds, but did not announce new measures. The Government referenced the review carried out by Baroness McGregor-Smith, “Race in the workplace”, which included a recommendation that businesses with more than 50 employees should publish “aspirational targets” to increase diversity and inclusion throughout organisations. The review also found that GDP could increase by up to 1.3% if workers from Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) backgrounds progressed at the same rate as their white colleagues. The Conservatives had pledged to introduce ethnicity pay gap reporting in their election manifesto.
A number of promises that had been included in the Conservative Manifesto before the election were not mentioned in the Queen’s Speech 2017 and it is perhaps not surprising that the emphasis was on Brexit, with the stated priority of achieving “the best possible deal as the country leaves the European Union”. As always when it comes to new legislation, the devil will be in the detail and we will continue to keep you up to date on developments as they happen.
30 June 2017
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