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HR expert offers perspective on key points from Queen’s Speech

Kate Palmer, HR Advice and Consultancy Director - Peninsula

Brexit Freedoms Bill
The aim of this bill is to make it easier to amend EU laws. Several key pieces of employment legislation are based on EU Directives, including the Working Time Regulations, TUPE and discrimination protections and family-friendly rights.

This new Bill will give the UK Government more flexibility to amend existing employment laws which – depending on the changes made – could work out more favourably or less favourably for employers. We will have to wait and see which way the wind blow.

It’s important to note that it will take time to pass this new Bill and further consultation will be needed before any changes to existing laws are confirmed.

Procurement Bill
The introduction of the Procurement Bill will be most beneficial for SMEs, as it will provide them with greater opportunities to bid for public sector contracts. Where an organisation successfully tenders for an available contract, employers should keep in mind their obligations with regards to TUPE processes and protections.

It’s highly likely that the workers who currently fulfil the contract will be eligible to transfer to the organisation who takes it over, maintaining their existing terms and conditions of employment. The outgoing employer will have to complete a full consultation process with affected staff members and ensure all necessary information is shared with the incoming employer.

Data Reform
Any amendments to data protection rules will have a significant impact on employers. As such, businesses must be prepared to enact changes and update their related policies and procedures.

Where a breach of data protection occurs, employers can face severe penalties and charges. Therefore, it’s imperative that they and their teams know the correct way to process personal and sensitive information.

Harbours (Seafarers’ remuneration)
Following the mass scale public redundancies of P&O Ferries workers, industry leaders have been calling for better protection of seafarers’ rights. This new reform will require ferry operators who regularly call at UK ports to pay their workers the equivalent of the UK National Minimum Wage.

Currently such workers are subject to pay rates set by the International Labour Organisation where the minimum recommended rate for an Ordinary Seaman is only $1.99USD per hour. Affected employers will need to review their workers’ contracts and calculate their average pay, to ensure this meets the required NMW rates.

Many will be disappointed that the long-awaited Employment Bill was not included in the Queen’s Speech and will be delayed once again. However, this does not mean that there will be no changes for employers to consider.

The Speech mentioned several times the Government’s focus on sustainability; therefore businesses may also want to review their ESG strategies and ensure they are meeting public expectations with regards to “green” practices.

Additionally, the Brexit Freedom Bill and Data Reform could, in time, cause significant disruption to businesses. Any changes to such legislation will require employers to complete a thorough review of their current policies and procedures and ensure these are updated and communicated with the wider workforce.

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