APSCo calls for Employment Bill changes to be announced in Queen’s Speech

With the pandemic delaying the announcement of legislative changes under the Employment Bill, the Association of Professional Staffing Companies (APSCo) has called on the UK Government to ensure that this is announced in this year’s Queen’s Speech.

A date for the annual opening of Parliament has not yet been announced.

The complexity of today’s labour market has driven a greater need for clarity around employment supply chain compliance and appropriate legislation to support a dynamic and flexible workforce, all of which is expected in the Employment Bill, said Tania Bowers, global public policy director for APSCo.

“While the delay to the Employment Bill was understandable given the global pandemic, we’re now in a situation where legislative changes planned in the Bill are critically important to support economic growth across the UK. Covid-19 has exacerbated the complexity of the labour market and current legislation and legal guidance isn’t fit for purpose.”

Bowers urged that self-employed status be defined in legislation that “differentiates highly skilled self-employed independent professionals from dependent contractors, workers, other variants of self-employment and the lower skilled, less independent elements of the gig economy”. 

She added: “Reform is also needed to challenge current thinking around how workers and the self-employed can be financially assisted and adequately access benefits that are currently largely enjoyed by employees, including enhanced pensions, life insurance, family and dependent-related paid leave, training and development.”

Bowers also emphasised the “urgent requirement” to update the legal definition for umbrella company employment “and provide more rigorous regulation, including statutory compliance codes, to drive compliance across the supply chain. Umbrella companies have many advantages and offer workers continuous employment, however, ‘umbrella companies’ is itself a widely misunderstood term, not helped by the growth of online comparison sites suggesting the availability of different levels of ‘take home pay’.” 

Bowers further urged government to “futureproof the legislation” and consider steps such as Single Enforcement Body (SEB) licensing of the umbrella market, the mandatory use of client accounts and the introduction of statutory compliance codes.

“It is our view that the Government must prioritise adequate funding for the Single Enforcement Body to help protect workers’ rights and create an agile, productive compliant labour supply chain. HM Treasury must also ensure that the 2021 Off Payroll tax legislation is fair and ensure that everyone in the supply chain pays the right amount of tax, in accordance with HMRC’s Charter.”

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