Following on from our updates before the election, we have set out a summary of the new Conservative Government’s legislative proposals. These were outlined in the Queen’s speech last week. The main areas of interest for employers are as follows:
- EU Referendum Bill - The Government is planning to renegotiate the UK’s relationship with the European Union with the aim of reforming it to improve the UK’s position. The Government has promised an “in - out” referendum on membership of the EU before the end of 2017. This has clear implications for employment law going forwards as much of our law derives from European legislation and/or European court decisions; not to mention the fact that the outcome of the referendum is likely to have significant commercial implications for businesses. This is no doubt something which all employers will watch with interest.
- Trade Union Bill - The Government is proposing significant changes to the existing Trade Union legislation which will, in short, impose stricter requirements on the thresholds that must be met before they are able to lawfully go out on strike.
- Immigration Bill - This will introduce an even stricter regime for employers with the aim of preventing illegal working and reducing the exploitation of migrant workers. The key provisions in this bill include a specific criminal offence of illegal working (which will allow the wages paid to illegal migrants to be seized as proceeds of crime), a new enforcement agency with powers to take action against employers who exploit migrant workers and a specific provision that means it will be illegal for employment agencies to only recruit from abroad without advertising jobs in the UK first.
- Given this crackdown and the new potential for criminal liability, we strongly recommend that employers take immediate steps to make sure they are fully compliant with the requirements for checking that employees have the right to work in the UK. Our team has specialist immigration expertise and can assist with any questions on this issue for example by reviewing your existing policies/procedures or auditing the documents you hold on file for current employees.
- Other legislation includes (i) the Enterprise Bill which aims to reduce regulation for small businesses to help them create more jobs and (ii) the Full Employment and Welfare Benefits Bill which aims to create about 3 million new apprenticeships over the next 5 years. This is one of the measures proposed by the Government aimed at ultimately creating full employment.