Employment Bill absent from Queen’s Speech

The government’s failure to put forward the long-promised Employment Bill in the Queen’s Speech yesterday (11 May, 2021) outlining coming legislation in the next year has prompted reactions of disappointment from trade bodies and think tanks.

Among the items mentioned in the speech with a possible impact on recruiters were:

  • Subsidy Control Bill will set out post-Brexit regulations on how the government can support private companies, now the UK has left the European Union’s ‘state aid’ regime
  • The Procurement Bill will replace EU rules on how the government buys services from the private sector
  • Tax breaks for employers based in eight freeports to be set up in England later this year will be included in a National Insurance Contributions Bill.

Highly critical of the non-appearance of the Employment Bill was Tony Wilson, director of the Institute for Employment Studies, who said: “Despite billing this as a Queen’s speech to ‘support jobs and improve regulation’, the government has abandoned its planned Employment Bill, and so any hope of delivering on its promises to reform workplace protections.”

The lack of such a bill, he said: “means no overhaul of our enforcement bodies, no right to request a predictable contract, no extension of redundancy protections to pregnant women, and no reforms to protect working carers.”

Wilson added: “It seems very unlikely that government will find space or competence to include any of these measures in other bills announced today.”

Neil Carberry, CEO of the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC) took a more optimistic tone, saying: “We hope the commitment on plans to support jobs and improve regulation will see key issues tackled in the near future. 

“A bill is long overdue. It was due to extend and protect workers’ rights and create a single enforcement body to tackle abuses in the labour market – and could also have provided further guidance on flexible working and the regulation of umbrella companies. We hope to hear more about these issues from government, as they can’t just be sidelined as the labour market recovers.”

Expressing strong displeasure at the absence of the Employment Bill was Phil Pluck, CEO of the Freelancer and Contractor Services Association (FCSA), the body representing umbrella companies. “FCSA is extremely disappointed that the government has shown no commitment to supporting this sector and its workers… It seems that the government has chosen to ignore the fact that this sector needs more targeted legislation to protect contractors from current and future exploitation,” he said.

Pluck went on to say FCSA would be contacting the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy minister, Kwasi Kwarteng, to “urge greater action”.

However, on a more positive note, Simon Winfield, managing director of Hays UK and Ireland, did highlight the inclusion in the speech of a commitment to skills training and funding. “The recruitment industry has a big part to play in the success of this… we can support young people, and all generations to inform them of what skills employers need and where they can best be applied. We must work with employers too to understand what skills will be essential for them to grow and what training routes are best to support this with new talent or their existing workforce.”

image credit | alice-photo / Shutterstock