The Queen’s Speech – what did it say for employers?

Written on 22 June 2017

The Queen has delivered a speech setting out the government’s legislative plans for the next two years. 28 new bills are proposed.

Achieving the best possible deal and attracting the brightest and the best as the UK leaves the EU

Brexit dominated, with a clear statement that the government’s priority is to secure the “best possible deal as the country leaves  the EU“, with a commitment to government ministers working with Parliament, the devolved administration, businesses and others to build the widest possible consensus on the country’s future outside the EU.

Indeed, eight of the bills proposed in the speech relate to Brexit, including the already widely reported Repeal Bill which will repeal the 1972 European Communities Act and covert EU law into UK law, providing “certainty for individuals and businesses“. This will be complemented by other legislation to ensure that the UK makes a success of Brexit.

Of particular interest for employers is a new Immigration Bill which will enable the government to end the free movement of EU nationals into the UK but which will still allow the country to attract “the brightest and the best“. EU nationals and their families will become subject to relevant UK law.

Measures reflecting the modern workplace, the skills gap, protecting pay and tackling discrimination and mental health

The Queen also announced a number of other measures of specific interest to employers including:

  • strengthening the economy to “support creation of jobs“;
  • keeping taxes low (although the government also committed separately to generating tax revenue to support public services);
  • ensuring that people have the skills needed for “high skilled high wage jobs” for the future, including a “major” reform of technical education;
  • increasing the National Living Wage so that people on lowest pay benefit from the same improvements in earnings as higher paid workers. It will be increased to 60% of median earnings by 2020;
  • seeking to enhance “rights and protections” reflecting the modern workplace anticipating the outcome of Matthew Taylor’s government backed independent review of the modern workplace (see here) and which report is due to be delivered “shortly“.
  • making further progress to tackle the gender pay gap and discrimination against people on the basis of their race, faith, gender, disability and sexual orientation;
  • reforming mental health legislation;
  • ensuring that the UK retains its world class regime protecting personal data through a new Data Protection Bill (which will include implementing the General Data Protection Regulation – see our thoughts for employers here), including proposals for a new digital charter making the UK safest place to be online; and
  • legislation to modernise the courts system.

The full briefing note published by the government is here.

Prime Minister Theresa May has promised to work with “humility and resolve” after failing to win the general election outright, while senior ministers have stated that they are “getting on with the job“. However, against the backdrop of continuing political uncertainty, we must now wait to see how these proposals develop and how smooth their journey will be.

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