Ahead of the Queen’s Speech at the State Opening of Parliament on 10th May, it was hoped that the employment bill would be prioritised, shining a light on employment rights reforms such as safeguards for zero-hours workers. However, the bill was side-lined, with the speech instead focusing on the economy and cost of living.

The employment bill was first promised in December 2019 as a way to improve UK worker’s rights after Brexit. However, this is the second year running that employment rights reforms have been left out of the Queen’s Speech. Had the bill been prioritised, it would have introduced protections against pregnancy discrimination, included a default right to flexible working patterns, ensured restaurants handed over all service charges and tips to staff, and created new safeguards for gig economy and zero-hours workers. The bill also aimed to create a single enforcement body for employment rights to make sure that abuses of worker rights do not get missed by different regulators.

Currently, thousands of workers are employed in the ‘gig economy’, working on zero-hours contracts for companies such Deliveroo and Just Eat. Had the bill been passed, these workers could have expected more predictable contracts. It would have also safeguarded workers against the practice of ‘fire and rehire’, and ensured workers received the minimum wage, access to sick pay, holidays, and other employment rights.

Restaurant staff have been waiting 5 years for the proposed changes to take hold in the hospitality industry. These changes included a plan to put a stop to restaurants keeping waiters and kitchen staff tips.

The failure to omit the employment reform bill from the Queen’s speech has seen the government accused of betraying workers.

What impact will this have on HR teams?

CIPD head of public policy Ben Willmott told HR magazine: “A decision to shelve the Employment Bill would suggest the government is no longer interested in meeting its commitment to protect and enhance workers’ rights and make the UK the best place in the world to work.

“Key measures in the bill to support the provision and uptake of flexible working and improve the enforcement of employment rights have never been more important as the UK recovers from the pandemic and in order to level up opportunities across the country.”

With HR teams in organisations around the UK struggling to fill vacancies amidst a recruitment crisis, any legislation that could help with attracting people to the work place would be welcomed. Flexible working and better employee rights can play a major part in a potential employee’s decision to join a company.

Chameleon People Solutions CEO Martin Tiplady said “This is a very strange decision… especially as it will be the second time the bill has been delayed. The P&O situation highlighted how vulnerable lower paid staff can be and how employers can feel minded to act.” This refers to when ferry company P&O fired 800 staff with immediate effect on 17 March and reportedly decided to replace fired staff with agency workers, ignoring fundamental employee legislation. The P&O situation highlighted how vulnerable lower paid workers are, and without the employee bill being addressed, there is still this element of vulnerability for thousands of UK workers.

Even without the bill being passed, organisations and HR teams would be wise to take on board the proposals set out within the bill and extend workers’ rights, regardless of whether or not it is the law. Organisations that offer better employee rights and working practices will be far more attractive to employees, and in the long-term should reduce staff turnover and the costs associated with this.

If you need advice on how your organisation can be more supportive to workers, Phase 3 can help. We are a professional HR software consultancy who can advise on the best systems to put in place to ensure your HR department operates as efficiently and effectively as possible, leaving you time to concentrate on the most important element of your business: your staff. For a no-obligation chat, please contact us today.