Queen’s speech includes Pensions Bill and carers’ rights

The Queen’s Speech at this year’s State Opening of Parliament set out plans for the Pensions Bill and enhanced rights for carers.

The Pensions Bill includes plans for the implementation of personal accounts into which individuals will be automatically enrolled with the right to opt out, and is due to come into effect in 2012.

In the first Queen’s speech of Gordon Brown’s premiership, which set out the government’s programme for reform, the Queen said: “A Bill will place a duty on every employer to contribute to good quality workplace pensions for their employees.”

The Bill is intended to make it easier for people to save for retirement through automatic enrolment into a qualifying workplace scheme or personal accounts.

Charles Cotton, reward adviser at the Chartered Institute of Personnel Development (CIPD), said: “For the proposals contained within the Pensions Bill to be successfully implemented, the Government and the Delivery Authority must listen to HR professionals.The danger is that too much attention is given to the design and not enough to the implementation. Communicating pensions effectively to the workforce, and therefore engaging employees is crucial.

“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.”

Parents and carers, meanwhile, will be the focus of proposals which include plans to allow fathers the right to take up 26 weeks additional paternity leave before their child’s first birthday to allow mothers to return to work earlier. These proposals also include the possible extension of flexible working rights.

Mike Emmott, CIPD employee relations adviser at the CIPD, said: “The light-touch nature of the existing right to request has had a positive impact on work-life balance without causing undue difficulties for employers. An extension of the right to request to all workers would level the playing field, without compelling employers to offer flexible working where this is incompatible with business needs.”

The speech also mentioned the Bill offering new rights to training skills for adults. This will include the implementation of Lord Leitch’s skills pledge which is a promise to help every eligible employee to gain basic skills and First Full Level Two qualifications.