Queen’s Speech highlights employment law reforms - Palmers Solicitors

Queen’s Speech highlights employment law reforms

Employment law reforms were a key feature of the Queen’s Speech on 4 June, which has set out the government’s planned legislative programme for the coming year.

A number of measures relevant to employers and employees were announced, including a crackdown on national minimum wage abuse, a pledge to increase the number of apprenticeships and help with childcare costs for working families. More details of some key employment-related announcements are listed below.

Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Bill

The Bill will contain measures to:

  • tackle national minimum wage abuse, with legislation to impose higher penalties on employers who fail to pay the correct rate, and to crack down on abuse related to zero hours contracts;
  • reduce “costly delays” in employment tribunals;
  • make some childcare regulations more flexible to meet the needs of working families;
  • stop highly paid public sector employees keeping redundancy payments when they come back to the same part of the public sector within a short period of time; and
  • ensure that red tape affecting small businesses is frequently reviewed to ensure regulations remain effective or are cut, and to bring that requirement into law.

Apprenticeships

The government plans to increase the number of apprenticeship starts to two million by the end of the current Parliament in 2015 – an increase of around 300,000 on the existing number.

The government said: “We are also planning to route funding for apprenticeship training through employers in the future, to give them greater control and purchasing power over apprenticeship training. Requiring genuine co-investment will ensure employers have a greater stake in guaranteeing that the training provision their apprentices receive is of high quality”.

Social Action, Responsibility and Heroism Bill

The Bill will “provide that where a person acts heroically, responsibly or for the benefit of others, this will be taken into account by the courts”.

Justice Secretary Chris Grayling said on 2 June that the Bill was designed to “slay much of the ‘elf and safety’ and jobsworth culture that holds back so much of our society”.

“All too often people who are doing the right thing in our society feel constrained by the fear that they are the ones who will end up facing a lawsuit for negligence”.

“Take the responsible employer who puts in place proper training for staff, who has sensible safety procedures, and tries to do the right thing. And then someone injures themselves doing something stupid or something that no reasonable person would ever have expected to be a risk. Common sense says that the law should not simply penalise the employer for what has gone wrong”.

Childcare Payments Bill

The Bill will introduce a new scheme that will give support equivalent to basic rate tax relief on money spent on childcare, up to a maximum of £2,000 per year for each child. It will be launched in autumn 2015 and rolled out to all eligible families with children under 12 within its first year

The move will extend existing government support for childcare costs to self-employed parents and to parents working for firms who do not currently offer employer supported childcare (ESC), a voluntary scheme operated through the tax and payroll systems and which is not available to the self-employed on those on the national minimum way. It will repeal the existing government system that currently provides financial assistance through ESC, which only five per cent of firms offer.

EU reform

The government said that among other areas in which it would promote EU reform: “We must scrap the unnecessary EU red tape which burdens the small and medium-sized firms that employ two out of every three people in the EU’s (and UK’s) workforce”.

Staying on top of regularly changes to employment law and ensuring all employer obligations are met can be a challenging task. Palmers’ employment law team can provide comprehensive employment law and HR advice to help businesses to minimise the risk of employment-related problems. For more information, please visit our website or contact Lara Murray.