The Queen’s Speech was delivered on 21 June 2017, setting out the legislation that the Government intends to introduce in the 2017-19 Parliamentary session. Given the emphasis on Brexit-related legislation, the employment law measures are minimal. This briefing highlights which of the Conservative Party's manifesto commitments on employment law will be taken forward.
What's not included?
For an overview of all of the Conservative Party manifesto commitments on employment law you can read our report here.
Surprisingly, the Queen's Speech makes no mention of some of the "flagship" employment law commitments set out in the manifesto such as:
Boardroom pay and employee representation
- Requiring listed companies to publish the ratio of executive pay to the broader UK workforce's pay.
- Extending the remit of the directors' remuneration regime by making executive pay packages subject to annual votes by shareholders.
- Requiring listed companies to take one of the following measures to improve employee representation at board level: (i) nominate a board director from the workforce; (ii) create a formal employee advisory council; or (iii) assign specific responsibility for employee representation to a designated non-executive director.
- Introducing a new right for employees to request information relating to the future direction of the company, for example about takeovers and reorganisations.
- Extending discrimination protection to those suffering from mental health conditions which are episodic and fluctuating.
New rights to leave
- Introducing a new statutory right to take unpaid time off to care for sick relatives who require full-time care.
- Introducing a new statutory right to child bereavement leave.
- Introducing a new statutory right to request unpaid time off for training for all employees.
The Government has indicated that there will be no Queen's Speech in 2018, meaning that the missing manifesto commitments will not be introduced until 2019 at the earliest.
What is included?
The Queen's Speech contained the following employment law measures:
The Conservative Party manifesto had included a commitment to "properly protect" the interests of those working the gig economy following the conclusion of the Taylor Review. The Queen's Speech offers little by the way of clarity on what that commitment might look like. Instead, it simply states that the Government considers the Taylor Review to be "an important step towards ensuring fairness" and it looks forward to its imminent publication.
The Taylor Review is due to be published by mid-July. However, press reports suggest that the Review may not deliver a particularly radical set of proposals. In a recent speech to the TUC, Mr Taylor was reported as saying that he would urge ministers to "preserve" and "enhance" ways of working where there is "two way flexibility", highlighting that many workers are happy with such arrangements. However, he is also reported to have said his review would call upon the Government to eradicate "unhealthy master / servant" relationships for workers in the gig economy and also introduce clear legal definitions of employee, worker and self-employed.
National Living Wage
The Conservative Party manifesto promised that the National Living Wage would be increased to reach 60% of median earnings by 2020 and would rise in line with average earnings thereafter. This commitment is included in the Queen's Speech. No indication is given on whether the other National Minimum Wage rates will be increased at the same time.
Gender pay gap and discrimination
The Conservative Party manifesto had promised that employers would be required to publish more data on their gender pay gap under the gender pay gap reporting legislation and that compulsory race pay gap reporting for large employers would be introduced.
It appears that these proposals have been significantly watered down. These issues are addressed under the heading “non-legislative measures”. The Government says it intends to make further progress in tackling the gender pay gap and reducing discrimination across all protected characteristics. Yet no detail is offered on how this progress is to be achieved. Instead, a summary is given of existing measures such as gender pay gap reporting, the McGregor-Smith Review into race in the workplace and the Parker Review on ethnic diversity on boards.
The Conservative Party manifesto had promised the following significant changes to our immigration system:
- Freedom of movement of EEA nationals would end and there would be a reduction of migration levels to tens of thousands via a new immigration system.
- The Immigration Skills Charge paid by companies employing migrant workers would be increased from £1,000 to £2,000 per year by 2022.
- There would be an increase to the earnings threshold for those wishing to sponsor migrants for family visas.
The Queen's Speech refers to a new UK-wide Immigration Bill which will: "allow the Government to control the number of people coming here from Europe while still allowing us to attract the brightest and the best".
The Immigration Bill will allow for the repeal of EU law on immigration (primarily free movement) and make the migration of EU nationals and their family members subject to UK law once the UK has left the EU (NB. the Briefing Notes to the Queen's Speech refers to "EU nationals", rather than "EEA nationals").