What the Queen’s speech means for employers

After a slight delay, the Queen’s speech yesterday set out what we can expect in the way of new legislation over the next two years.  Although it was brief and high level – avoiding too much detail – we have considered the potential implications for employment law.

The speech referred to the government ensuring that people are properly equipped with the skills required for the ‘high-skilled, high-wage jobs of the future’. This is in line with the government’s commitment to apprenticeships (funded through the apprenticeship levy) and the new ‘T’ Levels announced in the last budget. The Conservative manifesto pledge relating to training leave would also appear to fit into this commitment.

As we reported here, the manifesto contained a pledge to increase the National Living Wage to 60 per cent of median earnings by 2020. Her Majesty said yesterday that “The National Living Wage will be increased so that people who are on the lowest pay benefit from the same improvements in earnings as higher paid workers”. Whether this will lead to the increases in the manifesto remains to be seen. In the meantime, though, the pledges relating to introducing greater scrutiny of executive pay packages and an obligation to publish the ratio of executive pay to workforce pay did not form part of the speech.

The speech contained a reference to enhancing rights and protections in the modern workplace. It is likely that the review currently being undertaken by Matthew Taylor will guide policy in this area, and we are expecting the Taylor Report to be published in the coming weeks. Previously, many commentators had thought that the report could be the blueprint for an overhaul of employment law. However, the government may now decide to use the report more as a roadmap when deciding on how to approach new legislation.

The manifesto hinted that the requirements to publish data relating to the gender pay gap may be widened, and also said that large employers would be required to publish information relating to the pay gap between races. The speech did not refer specifically to reporting obligations, but did say that the “government will make further progress to tackle the gender pay gap and discrimination against people on the basis of their race, faith, gender, disability or sexual orientation….  It may be that this is a hint that pay gap reporting will be broadened significantly to include four new categories, which would be a new and interesting development.

The government has already signalled that it was looking to conduct a major review of the state’s approach to mental health. This was repeated in the speech. While the manifesto’s pledge to extend the definition of disability in the Equality Act to include those with intermittent health problems was not specifically mentioned, it could well form part of this general reform.

Interestingly, the speech contained no reference to workers having representation on boards of large companies. It also did not mention carer or bereavement leave. Whether these proposals have now been dropped by the government remains to be seen.

Read our blog on what the election result could mean for employment here.