Louise Mason: Employment legislation still on horizon despite bill absence in Queen’s Speech

The Queen’s Speech was delivered on 10 May and, as expected, there was no mention of the employment bill. The purpose of the Queen’s Speech is to set the legislative agenda for the next parliamentary session so the absence of the bill suggests no employment legislation will be forthcoming for the next couple of years.

Since 2018, the government has committed to introducing the following legislation, all of which remains outstanding: a right to one week’s unpaid leave for employees with caring responsibilities, a right to up to 12 weeks’ pay and leave for employees whose babies spend an extended time in neonatal care, and changes to the existing flexible-working regime, including expanding the scope of the right to request flexible working, potentially removing the 26-week service requirement for making a request and requiring employers to suggest alternatives to an employee’s proposed arrangement before rejecting a request.

Also outstanding are the establishment of a single labour market enforcement agency responsible for enforcing basic rights for vulnerable workers, including payment of national minimum wage, holiday pay and statutory sick pay, a requirement for employers to pass on tips and service charges without deductions to workers with a code of practice on how to ensure tips are distributed fairly and transparently, and an extension to the period of redundancy protection for pregnant workers and new mothers to six months after the end of their maternity leave.

Much of the legislation was committed to prior to the Covid-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic and it is possible that with altered priorities, as well as a changing economic outlook, the legislation may have been abandoned. Recent reports have indicated that legislation allowing workers to keep tips had been dropped.

However, despite today’s disappointment, there is hope that some employment legislation will see the light of day before the end of 2022. In its response to the consultation on banning exclusivity clauses for low income workers, the government indicated that the legislation would be made later this year.

Louise Mason is a senior associate in the Linklaters’ employment practice