The Queen’s Speech 2022

The Queen’s Speech 2022

The start of a new UK Parliamentary year is marked by the State Opening, part of which includes the Queen’s Speech.  From the Throne in the House of Lords, Her Majesty reads the speech which has been written for Her by the UK Government.  This details the UK Government’s policies and the proposed legislative agenda for the new Parliamentary session.   As She leaves, the Parliamentary session starts and it is back to work.

Yet, in 2022, Her Majesty could not attend.  In accordance with the Regency Acts 1937 to 1953, The Queen passed this onto two of her Counsellor of State, namely Prince Charles and Prince William following the issue of Letters Patent issued by Her Majesty.

There are 4 ‘types’ of Bill:

Carry-over Bills

When the previous Parliamentary session ended, all legislation in progress fell away if it had not passed through the necessary process.  Unless, of course, these are specifically carried forward into the new Parliamentary session via a ‘carry-over motion’.

There were 5 such Bills:

  1. Product Security and Telecommunications Infrastructure Bill
  2. Online Safety Bill
  3. Animal Welfare (Kept Animals) Bill
  4. Higher Education (Freedom of Speech) Bill
  5. High Speed Rail (Crewe – Manchester) Bill (carried forward for 2 years rather than 1)

Bills not introduced (but announced in May 2021)

There are some Bills that were promised in the Queen’s 2021 Speech, however, were not introduced in the last Parliamentary session.

There were 9 such Bills:

  1. Animals Abroad Bill
  2. Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions Bill
  3. Counter-State Threats Bill
  4. Employment Bill (actually announced in 2019)
  5. Legacy Bill
  6. Planning Bill
  7. Procurement Bill
  8. Renters’ Reform Bill (also announced in 2019)
  9. Victims Bill

Just because a Bill was announced and not introduced is no guarantee that it will ever be introduced.

‘Foreshadowed’ Bills

These are Bills that have been the subject of recent reports, government publications and press

Speculation.  For example, the Prime Minister’s and a Brexit Freedoms Bill which will make it easier to amend ‘retained’ European Union law.

New Bills

These are, essentially, Bills that have not been carried over, aren’t ones that haven’t been introduced as indicated and have not been foreshadowed.  They are new ones.

 

The Bills

A total of 38 Bills were detailed in 4 ‘sections’ in Gov.UK guidance:

  1. Growing the Economy to Address the Cost of Living
  2. Making the Streets Safer
  3. Funding the NHS to Clear the Covid Backlogs, and
  4. Providing the Leadership Needed in Challenging Times

These are very political headings, underlining how the Speech is written by the UK Government.

In alphabetical order, there are 38 Bills that will be introduced:

  1. Animal Welfare (Kept Animals) Bill
  2. Draft Audit Reform Bill
  3. Bill of Rights
  4. Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions Bill
  5. Brexit Freedoms Bill
  6. Conversion Therapy Bill
  7. Data Reform Bill
  8. Draft Digital Markets, Competition and Consumer Bill
  9. Economic Crime and Corporate Transparency Bill
  10. Electronic Trade Documents Bill
  11. Energy Security Bill
  12. Financial Services and Markets Bill
  13. Genetic Technology (Precision Breeding) Bill
  14. Harbours (Seafarers’ Remuneration) Bill
  15. High Speed Rail (Crewe – Manchester) Bill
  16. Higher Education Bill
  17. Higher Education (Freedom of Speech) Bill
  18. Identity and Language (Northern Ireland) Bill
  19. Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill
  20. Media Bill
  21. Draft Mental Health Act Reform Bill
  22. Modern Slavery Bill
  23. National Security Bill
  24. Non-Domestic Rating Bill
  25. Northern Ireland Troubles (Legacy and Reconciliation) Bill
  26. Online Safety Bill
  27. Procurement Bill
  28. Product Security and Telecommunications Infrastructure Bill
  29. Draft Protect Duty Bill
  30. Public Order Bill
  31. Renters Reform Bill
  32. Schools Bill
  33. Social Housing Regulation Bill
  34. Social Security (Special Rules for End of Life) Bill
  35. Trade (Australia and New Zealand) Bill
  36. Transport Bill
  37. UK Infrastructure Bank Bill
  38. Draft Victims Bill

For Payroll and Reward

Missing!

The glaring omission was the mention of any Employment Bill, first mentioned in the Queen’s Speech in 2019.  This would have seen things such as default flexible working, fair tips allocation and protection from pregnancy discrimination in Great Britain.  These strengthening of employee rights seems to have been ‘parked’ for yet another Parliamentary year.

Although, the UK Government did say, via Prince Charles, that ‘other measures will be laid before you’ which, basically, gives Ministers the flexibility to introduce legislation that is not contained in the Speech.  Following the Speech, on 12 May 2022, the UK Government announced a ‘Future of Work Review’ and issued Terms of Reference.  These indicated that the review, led by Matt Warman MP would focus on ‘a few selected areas of policy within the broader ambit of the key strategic issues regarding the future of work in this country’.  This is a long-term look and will consider UK Government commitments, including those made in the 2018 response to Mathew Taylor’s ‘Good Work’ review.

Professionals should keep an eye out for the report which will be conducted this year, including recommendations.

———–

With a General Election in, probably, 2024, the 2022 Queen’s Speech is, possibly, the last legislative opportunity for the current UK Government to deliver on their 2019 Manifesto commitments.  In respect of the plans for payroll and reward, the following are of interest:

Data Reform Bill

Between 10 September and 19 November 2021, the UK Government consulted on reforms to the UK General Data Protection Regulation (UK GDPR), enshrined in the Data Protection Act 2018.  The ‘Data: A new direction’ consultation stated that, having left the European Union, there was ‘freedom to create a bold new data regime’.  However, this would not compromise the existing protection of personal data.  At the time of writing, the UK Government had not responded.

Yet, the Data Reform Bill, led by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport will ‘give consumers and small businesses more control of their data and how it is used by taking powers to increase industry participation in Smart Data schemes’.

In the briefing notes released after the Speech, the Data Reform Bill (page 57) will:

  • Create a data protection framework focused on privacy outcomes ‘rather than box-ticking’
  • Create a clearer regulatory environment, and
  • Modernise the Information Commissioner’s Office, ensuring people have more clarity on their rights and that they have powers to take ‘appropriate actions’ where there are data rights breaches

The UK GDPR is pivotal to the way that payroll and reward professionals work and incorporated into workplace practices and procedures.  Any changes will impact employers.

Plus, on a broader scale, any changes will have to conform to the existing UK Data Adequacy Agreement adopted by the European Commission.  This Agreement means that the UK can continue to transfer data, meaning no changes to the data protection situation that applied when the UK was a Member State.  Another thing to watch out for, as failing to meet the standards required will result in data sharing complications and barriers.

Higher Education Bill

Whilst this Bill will extend to England and Wales in the main, it will set minimum qualifications requirements for a person in England to be eligible for a Student Loan.  In effect, this will restrict access to funding.

It will also create the Lifelong Loan Entitlement (LLE) with a sum equal to four years’ worth of post-18 education (£37,000 based on current fees, i.e. £9,250 * 4). The LLE can be used over the individual’s lifetime, bringing into scope funding for a wider range of studies.

The payroll and reward sector will have to watch closing for the scope of this Bill.  Although it says England and Wales, with some provisions extending UK-wide, the very mention of £9,250 suggests this is England-only, as this is the tuition fee for studying in England.  The fee for students studying in Wales is £9,000 per annum.

Brexit Freedoms Bill

The briefing notes make mention of the ‘freedoms’ afforded by Brexit more than once.  Simply, the Brexit Freedoms Bill will allow the UK Government to reform legislation that was inherited as part of being an EU Member State, retained and written into UK domestic legislation.

The UK Government is obviously keen to make the most of the opportunities it sees from being independent from the EU and not bound to introduce legislation that it does not see make sense for the UK.  What the Bill will do is allow changes without the need for primary legislation.  It will allow changes to the retained legislation but also give powers downgrade the retained EU law’s status.  This is important as, currently, EU law takes precedence

Much employment law is derived from EU legislation or Directives – maternity, holiday leave etc.  This significantly impacts the payroll and reward function and any changes to this will have knock-on effects to employers.  Whilst it is unclear what laws will change and how the powers will be used, a document ‘The Benefits of Brexit’ indicates how the UK could ‘take advantage of leaving the EU’.  This does not mention employment rights but does mention how Brexit allows ‘cutting red tape and minimising burdens’.

The future use of the powers in this Bill will be worth watching.

Procurement Bill

Announced at the Queen’s Speech in 2021, this is a Bill that was not introduced in the last Parliamentary session.  However, on 13 May 2022, it was introduced in the House of Lords where it starts its Parliamentary passage in this term.

Effective for public sector procurement in England, Wales and Northern Ireland (not Scotland), the Bill will replace EU transposed requirements on the UK to make a ‘simpler and more transparent system’ when bidding for public sector contracts.  The Bill builds on the UK Government’s consultation response from 2021 and, significantly, changes the procurement model from MEAT (Most Economically Advantageous Tender) to MAT (Most Advantageous Tender).  Removing the word economically means that, for example, a tender can be submitted and considered on other advantages such as social and environmental values.

How does this impact the payroll and reward sector?  Simply, it will be easier for small and medium-sized businesses to bid for public sector contracts meaning, potentially, these contracts are not necessarily awarded to the larger employer.

Harbours (Seafarers’ Remuneration) Bill

This Bill must fall in the category of being one that was foreshadowed.  In the light of the mass sacking of workers at P&O Ferries, Grant Shapps, Secretary of State at the Department for Transport said on 30 March 2022 that access to UK ports would be refused for operators of ferry services who fail to pay at the National Minimum Wage.

A Gov.UK announcement after the Queen’s Speech referred to Mr Shapps’ comments to the UK Parliament, announcing a consultation on The Harbours (Seafarers’ Remuneration) Bill.  This outlines the proposed changes was announced, ‘when Parliamentary time allows’.

The legislation will not amend the underpinning National Minimum Wage (NMW) legislation (the 1998 Act and 2015 Regulations).  These define that seafarers who work on international routes to or from UK ports are not entitled to be paid at the NMW if they are not ordinarily resident in the UK, do not work at least to some extent in the UK or work on non-UK flagged ships.  Instead, the legislation will impose a requirement that ships regularly using UK ports whilst in UK waters must pay a National Minimum Wage Equivalent (NMWe) and the consultation seeks to define how this will be calculated.

So, it’s not quite NMW but NMWe and there is a difference.  Enforcement will not be via HMRC but will be some other body, as per the consultation, for example, the Statutory Harbour Authorities (SHAs).  These seafarers will not be workers and eligible for auto-enrolment.  They will be workers eligible for payment at the NMWe.

An interesting one to keep an eye out on though.

 

Exclusivity Clauses

This announcement was not part of the Queen’s Speech.

On 09 May 2022, a press release issued by the Department for Business, Enterprise and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) announced UK Government plans to widen the current restrictions on zero-hour contracts.  On the same day, the UK Government published its Exclusivity Clauses Responses document outlining the measures to be taken as a result of a 04 December 2020 consultation looking at extending the ban on exclusivity clauses in contracts of employment.

The current restrictions are imposed by Part 2A of the Employment Rights Act 1996, inserted by the Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Act 2015:

  • Section 27A deals with exclusivity clauses in zero-hour contracts. These are unenforceable in law if such a clause prohibits a worker from doing work or performing services under another contract or under any other arrangement, or prohibits the worker from doing so without the employer’s consent
  • Section 27B allows for further provisions and protections for zero-hour workers. The Exclusivity Terms in Zero Hours Contracts (Redress) Regulations 2015 enforce that the dismissal of a zero-hour contract employee is automatically unfair if 27A is breached by the employer.  27B allows for the employee to make a claim to an Employment Tribunal

The Responses document details how the UK Government will extend the current zero-hour contract protections to other workers.  Legislation will amend the Employment Rights Act 1996 to ensure that employees with guaranteed earnings at or below the Lower Earnings Limit (LEL) for National Insurance Contributions will be protected from having an exclusivity clause in their contract.

The mention of the word ‘guaranteed’ differentiates this from the ban on exclusivity clauses that is already in place.  This legislation will ensure that exclusivity clauses are banned where the employee is:

  • On a zero-hour contract, OR
  • Has guaranteed earnings that are equal to or less than the LEL

Note that this legislation will apply to contracts issued under the Employment Rights Act 1996 in Great Britain.  It will not apply to contracts issued under the Employment Rights (Northern Ireland) Order 1996, as employment law is devolved.

 

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