Last week, the government outlined its priorities for the next parliamentary term, and there was plenty for HR to sit up and take notice of.
We take a look at the legislation and what business and the unions think, and then ask whether or not the Bills will make it onto the statute book.
Corporate Manslaughter Bill ***
The Bill would make company directors liable for deaths at work due to negligence. It is unclear as yet whether it will differentiate between negligence and gross negligence and whether or not it will apply in both the private and public sector.
CBI: If the government is going to press ahead on corporate manslaughter, it must ensure the legislation is fair. The grossly negligent must be separated from genuinely responsible employers.
Personnel Today says: This has been consistently promised by the government since 1997 and has always come to nothing. A recent private members Bill failed after virtually no-one turned up to vote on it. However, draft legislation has been put out for consultation which seems to show the government’s good intentions.
Immigration and Asylum Bill ***
A new points system will be put in place to get skilled people from abroad into jobs where the UK presently is suffering skills gaps. Only highly-skilled migrants will be able to stay permanently and then only once they have passed a ‘Britishness’ test. Employers could face a £2,000 fine for every illegal worker they employ. Asylum procedures will be streamlined.
Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development: Any efforts to improve the management of the migration system must take great care to ensure the legitimate needs of employers are met. Our research shows that more than one in four employers are planning to recruit from abroad in the current quarter.
Personnel Today says: It was a flashpoint in the general election campaign, but in the past there have been major back-bench rumblings over asylum changes and, with a smaller majority, the government might struggle.
Parental Rights Bill *****
The Bill will extend paid maternity leave to nine months and give more rights to working fathers so they can take up to seven-and-a-half months of the time currently allocated to maternity leave. Business is desperate for the notice period for mother’s return to work to be extended and for the administration of maternity/paternity pay to be centralised.
British Chambers of Commerce: These proposals will add costs to businesses and increase pressure, particularly on small firms. With extended paid leave, employers will be more likely to lose key staff for longer periods of time.
Personnel Today says: As you might have noticed, the DTI is rather keen on extending flexible working and has shown good form. This seems likely to go the distance.
Pensions Bill –
The government has consistently refused to say what it plans to do next as it is awaiting the presentation of the Turner Commission review which is expected this autumn. Compulsory savings into occupational schemes are the most hotly mooted solution.
British Chambers of Commerce: Reform of the state pension system is essential if we are to provide greater incentives for individuals to save.
Personnel Today says: Don’t put your savings on this. The government has suggested it could take at least another session to get a consensus on the matter. Forget the government and get saving.
Incapacity Benefits Bill **
Incapacity benefit will be replaced by two new benefits aimed at separating claimants who are able to work from those who are unable to do so, under government plans. Incapacity benefit, currently paid to 2.6 million people, has the most costly budget of any benefit with an annual spend of £13bn a year.
Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development: At least one in three incapacity benefit claimants could be brought back into the workplace if an appropriate mix of support and pressure is applied to them. This would not only ease recruitment difficulties in a tight labour market, but also represents a compassionate response to the problem of long-term welfare dependency.
Personnel Today says: Reform has been promised since 1997, so we’re not holding our breath. It’s likely the changes would cast a shadow on the government’s much self-lauded unemployment figures, so don’t expect a sprint down the final straight.
On the books?
– Definitely won’t go the distance
** An outsider
***Could make an impact if it finds its form
**** Definitely worth a flutter, has performed well in the past
***** Almost a dead cert