What do the new government Bills mean for human resources?

The government delivered a package of 29 Bills in the ann­ual Queen’s Speech last week.

It was a day of few surprises as many of the reforms had already been announced in Gordon Brown’s ‘pre-Queen’s Speech’ statement in July.

Not mentioned in the speech but released by the government was the Employment Bill, which will repeal the statutory dispute resolution procedures and toughen penalties for rogue employers. But one notable omission was the Single Equality Bill. It aims to put all equality, sex, race and religious discrimination laws in one place, but was pulled after consultation.

Jo Swinson, Liberal Democrat women and equality spokeswoman, said: “Instead of acting to ensure equality, the government has dragged its heels. We will now not see the Single Equality Bill in its final form for at least another 12 months.”

How will the Bills affect your daily working lives?

Education and Skills Bill

HR impact rating 6/10

What it means

Will raise the school leaving age to 18 by 2015. Employers will have a duty to release young people for the equivalent of one day’s training a week, while parents and local authorities have a duty to make sure young people participate.

How it was received

John McGurk, skills adviser at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), said compulsion was a high-risk strategy. “You cannot compel young people to learn – learning requires the active engagement of the learner,” he said. Forcing employers to release young people for training for one day a week runs the risk of turning employers into ‘corporate policemen’ for the government’s skills agenda, he said.

Apprenticeships (draft) Bill

HR impact rating 5/10

What it means

Will apply only in England, and aims to give 16- to 18-year-olds an entitlement to an apprenticeship. It is designed to reduce the number of young people who are not in education, training or employment.

How it was received

Brendan Barber, TUC general secretary, said more should be done to encourage employers to take on more young black and Asian people, and that “greater efforts are needed to support women into apprenticeships in areas that are still dominated by the boys”. He also said the Low Pay Commission should review the current minimum wage exemptions that apply to apprentices.

Employment Bill

HR impact rating 9/10

What it means

Will introduce greater enforcement of employment law and bring in measures to resolve disputes more quickly. It will also extend flexible working to parents of older children.

How it was received

Richard Linskell, employment partner at Dawsons Solicitors, said: “The government must be congratulated for recognising the failure of its earlier policy by adopting the recommendations of the Gibbons Review to scrap the statutory dismissal and grievance procedures introduced in 2004. This reversal will undoubtedly reduce the burden of red tape for businesses.”

Pensions Bill

HR impact rating 7/10

What it means

Employers will be required to auto-enrol all employees into either an existing occupational pension or a personal account, which will have a minimum employer contribution of 3% of an employee’s wage.

How it was received

Charles Cotton, reward adviser at the CIPD, said successful implementation of proposals within the Pensions Bill would require government to listen to the HR community. “HR professionals have the knowledge, experience and day-to-day contact with employees to make a success of these proposals. A failure to engage properly with employers will leave these proposals dead in the water,” he said.

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