Last week, Boris Johnson’s to-do list was presented in a 28-bill Queen’s Speech, with a heavy focus on law and order.
The speech, delivered in the Chamber of the House of Lords, detailed the various legislation that the government plans to introduce in the forthcoming Parliamentary session, or carry over from the previous session.
On the agenda were a number of proposals that, if able to pass through a minority government and withstand a general election, may have significant implications for employment law and immigration.
Here are some of the changes that employers could expect to see over the coming period.
A shake-up of immigration rules
The 65th Queen’s Speech featured proposals for an Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill, which would end free movement after Brexit and “lay the foundation for a fair, modern and global immigration system”.
This would mimic Australia’s points-based immigration system, placing both EU and non-EU citizens on an even keel by making determinations based on an individual’s skills and contributions to the UK. It will also clarify the immigration status of Irish citizens once free movement comes to an end.
Echoing the home secretary’s recent comments that EU citizens “will play a key role in cementing Britain’s status as an outward-looking, global leader after Brexit”, the government also reaffirmed its commitment to ensuring EU citizens and their families have the right to remain in the UK post-Brexit. With two million people having already applied to the government’s EU settlement scheme, the speech outlined proposals for a new Bill to confirm the deadline for applications, as well as give EU citizens the right to appeal against decisions made.
Full steam ahead with the Good Work Plan
The government also took the opportunity to restate its commitment to the Good Work Plan.
While no new legislation has been added into the mix, the government affirmed that it will continue to deliver on the legislative and policy changes laid out in the plan, which include more stable contracts, a review of employment status, and extending the period used to calculate holiday pay from 12 to 52 weeks.
However, progress has so far been slow in this regard, with the government’s consultation on employment status closing over a year ago and still no sign of a Bill to put these changes into motion. In essence, the speech didn’t tell us anything we didn’t already know, leaving employers without the clarity they urgently need on key issues such as a statutory legal definition of self-employment.
An overhaul of employers’ tipping policies
Of significance for those in the hospitality sector, the speech confirmed plans for a new Bill which will force employers to hand over 100% of tips received to their workers. The Bill, which stands to benefit one million restaurant, pub and hotel workers, is intended to “make work fairer, introducing measures that will support those working hard”. This will be achieved through a statutory Code of Practice that establishes principles for fair and transparent distribution.
The Bill has been hailed by many as a great step forward, as in some sectors, tips, gratuities and service charges contribute significantly to an employee’s income. Changes to tipping policy have been a long time coming, prompted a consultation on tips and service charges back in 2016, which revealed that around two-thirds of employers were withholding a percentage of tips from staff, with some deducting as much as 10%. To date, major restaurant chains, including Bella Italia and Café Rouge, still do not pass on all tips in full, which continues to spark debate between outraged diners who want to know where their money is going and hospitality executives who maintain that deductions are necessary to cover bank charges for processing payments. It is hoped that introducing a statutory requirement that applies to all businesses will put employers, staff and customers on the same page.
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Given we have a minority government, and the possibility of a general election once any Brexit extension has been granted, it’s difficult to see how any of these proposals will end up in legislation any time soon. Of particular concern for employers will be the proposals for a points-based immigration system for EU workers. Something similar already exists for non-EU migrant workers and is not particularly popular. The system is complex and unwieldy. Rather than cutting back on red tape – one of the selling points of Brexit – this is likely to add to it significantly. As always, our Employment Law specialists are on hand to help you make sense of any developments to ensure business as usual.
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