Lack of Employment Bill ‘risks levelling up agenda’

Experts have expressed concern about the dropping of the Employment Bill from the Queen’s Speech.

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Employment experts have expressed concern that the Employment Bill has been dropped from today’s Queen’s Speech when they say a focus on rights and protections is crucial to ‘levelling up’.

The Bill, announced in the 2019 Queen’s Speech, has not yet been published and was not mentioned in today’s Speech. Based on the Government’s 2018 Good Work Plan, it covers everything from the introduction of a single labour market enforcement body to ensure that vulnerable workers are better informed of their rights and a new right to request a more predictable and stable contract after 26 weeks’ service to the extension of redundancy protection for pregnant employees and rights to neonatal leave and unpaid carers’ leave.

Tony Wilson, Director of the Institute for Employment Studies, said: “Despite billing this as a Queen’s speech to ‘support jobs and improve regulation’, the Government has today abandoned its planned Employment Bill and so any hope of delivering on its promises to reform workplace protections.

“No Employment Bill means no overhaul of our enforcement bodies, no right to request a predictable contract, no extension of redundancy protections to pregnant women, and no reforms to protect working carers.  It seems very unlikely that government will find space or have competence to include any of these measures in other bills announced today.  Our research has shown clearly that good enforcement and regulation is better for firms, workers and society.  Far from ‘levelling up’, this Queen’s speech risks levelling down on jobs.”

Catherine McKinnell MP, Chair of the Petitions Committee, said: “The Government’s failure to deliver on its commitment to introduce neonatal leave and pay, and to extend existing redundancy protections following parental leave, is deeply disappointing.

“Last year our report on the impact of Covid-19 on maternity and parental leave highlighted the urgent need for enhanced employment rights and protections for new and expectant mothers, a group already vulnerable to discrimination.

“One year on, the Government has failed to make any progress. The Petitions Committee will be seeking answers from Ministers on when and how it will bring forward the changes it has long promised to make.”

There was also concern about the lack of detail about any plans to reform adult social care and vague statements in the Speech about early years. In her speech, the Queen stated: “Measures will be brought forward to ensure that children have the best start in life, prioritising their early years. My ministers will address lost learning during the pandemic and ensure every child has a high quality education and is able to fulfil their potential.”

Early Years Alliance chief executive, Neil Leitch, commented: While we warmly welcome the reference to new early years measures in today’s Queen’s Speech, it remains to be seen what these will look like in practical terms.

“The Government has made clear its intention to provide greater support to new parents and children in the first 1,001 days, but if we are ever to close the disadvantage gap and ensure that all children are given the best possible start in life, ministers must also commit to ensuring that early education providers are given the funding they need to deliver affordable, sustainable, high-quality care and education over the long term.”

The Speech covered areas such as lifelong learning, through the ‘lifetime skills guarantee’, as well as legislation around NHS reform, so-called culture wars in universities, policing and the introduction of measures to restrict voting to those who have photo ID.



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