What the Parliamentary Speech Means For Employment Law

The Queen’s parliamentary speech of May 2015 revealed a host of changes that the new Conservative government plan to put into action later this year under the guidance of Sajid Javid, the new Secretary of State for Business.

Here is a low-down of the most significant proposed changes to be made to employment law.

Strike action laws

Striking actions are expected to soon require the approval of at least 50% of staff members who are eligible to protest over the issue being opposed.

Where a strike will affect the running of a public service, a number of additional challenges may also be implemented to prevent major disruption to both citizens’ lives and the country’s economy.

This will include public services like the health, transport, education and emergency service industries. Each of these industries will also require striking approval from at least 40% of its eligible union members.

A ban on agency workers?

Plans are also underway to put an end to the ban on employers hiring agency workers to fill the void in the workplace left when employees go on strike. This controversial decision has been defended by the new government with claims that it will supposedly “tackle the intimidation” felt by many workers who either choose not to strike or get cajoled into doing so by their peers.

There are also plans from the new government to reduce the amount of paid leave given to union representatives when undertaking union duties outside of working hours.

Zero hours contracts

Zero hours contracts have come under particular scrutiny, with the emphasis being placed on whether employees should be allowed to employ workers for exclusive employment with the business and without the possibility of contracted employment elsewhere. Bringing an end to the legislation allowing this was originally suggested in 2014 by the outgoing coalition government as part of the Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Act 2015, which came into force on 2nd June 2015.

Altering zero hours contracts in this way has been welcomed by many workers, business owners and politicians, but has also been criticised by some legal representatives due to the an ill-defined criteria over what such a change will include.

This is due to a lack of clear legislation on how to prevent employers from deciding to reduce employee hours once they become aware a worker has a second job. There are also no set rules preventing an employer from then reducing or ending further working hours for that employee at their company.

Concern has also been expressed by some organisations over this lack of Zero Hour contract rules. The Unite union has expressed its worry that when workers are employed in more than one zero-hours position there will be no way to ensure that they can be sure of having at least one of their positions safe.

Furthermore, this new legislation will not guarantee a minimum number of working hours per week for employees, and that the generally negotiable nature of a zero-hours contract will be seized upon by employers hoping to adjust employment opportunities for workers.

Leave for paid volunteering

Another new area of legislation concerning employees of public sector businesses is that they will soon have the right to embark upon three days of paid volunteering work per year at the expense of their regular job should they wish to do so .

The chance to undertake voluntary work with a trade union is not allowed as part of this new right, but the opportunity to perform voluntary work for a political organisation is still being considered.

Gender pay law

One area of employment legislation that has finally been passed is that employers with a staff of 250 or more must now disclose the difference in pay between their male and female workers. The Conservatives refuted this idea when initially suggested by The Labour Party in 2010, but the Liberal Democrats finally granted it in what was ultimately one of their final acts as part of the coalition government earlier this year.