Unions have reacted with fury at reports the long-awaited Employment Bill will not be announced during the Queen’s Speech in May.
According to a report in the Financial Times this weekend, a government official responded when asked whether the Bill would be included: “No. Not everything we want to do can we find space for in one season, we can’t do everything we want to do immediately.”
The government pledged a series of employment reforms including a day-one right to flexible working and more stable contracts of employment for gig workers in December 2019, in response to recommendations made by Matthew Taylor in the Good Work Plan.
Other proposed protections include family-friendly rights such as carer’s leave and enhanced protection from dismissal for employees returning from maternity leave. Both of these have been promised “when parliamentary time allows”, but no timeline has been confirmed yet.
There was already anger when the Employment Bill failed to appear in last year’s Queen’s Speech, prompting the TUC to call this further omission a “betrayal” of workers.
General secretary Frances O’Grady said the prime minister had “broken his word yet again”, pointing to the recent sackings at P&O Ferries as an example of employers’ ability to abuse workers’ rights.
“Make no mistake – this would be a betrayal of working people. What happened at P&O should have marked a turning point for workers’ rights, but by abandoning the employment bill, the government is sending a message that it is happy for rogue employers to treat staff like dirt,” she said.
“We need action now to boost worker protections and stop exploitation like fire and rehire and zero-hours contracts. Tinkering around the edges with feeble statutory codes won’t have bad bosses quaking in their boots.”
Labour’s deputy Leader Angela Rayner agreed, tweeting: “The Employment Bill was proposed in the Queen’s speech THREE years ago after outrage over working conditions in UK factories and warehouses. After the scandal of P&O it’s even more urgent.”
The employment bill was proposed in the Queen’s Speech THREE years ago after outrage over working conditions in UK factories and warehouses.
After the scandal of P&O it’s even more urgent.
Instead the Government are breaking another promise.
You can’t trust a word they say. https://t.co/2pRXgDGPAo
— Angela Rayner (@AngelaRayner) April 1, 2022
A second reading for the Bill is scheduled for 6 May. A government spokesperson said: “We are committed to building a high skilled, high productivity, high wage economy that delivers on our ambition to make the UK the best place in the world to work.This includes ensuring workers’ rights are robustly protected while also fostering a dynamic and flexible labour market.”
The spokesperson added that the government had already progressed legislation on closing a loophole where agency workers can be employed on cheaper rates than permanent workers, increasing fines for employers who treat workers badly, giving workers a statement of rights from day one, key information documents for temporary workers and Jack’s Law, which gives statutory leave for parents who suffer the loss of a child.
Ranjit Dhindsa, Head of Employment at Fieldfisher said the government had raised expectations and failed to deliver. “Key examples of this are the delay of the Employment Bill as well as its failure to make ethnicity pay gap reporting mandatory. Therefore businesses shouldn’t be waiting for the government to mandate a change. Corporations must start taking their own steps to improve inclusion and diversity, by introducing policies and practices that go beyond the current law.”