Queen's Speech 2012: Key employment law reforms

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The Queen’s Speech, delivered last week, set out the Government’s legislative programme for the 2012/2013 parliamentary session. Bills to be introduced in this session include the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill and the Children and Families Bill, both of which will implement some of the Government’s reforms to employment law that we have recently reported on. The Bills have not yet been published (although the draft Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill is expected later this week). However, an outline of their scope and purpose has been released.

Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill

The main employment law reforms to be included in this wide-ranging Bill are as follows:

Workplace dispute resolution

  • Encouraging early conciliation of employment disputes by requiring claimants to lodge their claim with ACAS
  • Renaming compromise agreements as "settlement agreements"
  • Improving the employment tribunal system by "increasing flexibility and encouraging employer compliance".

All of these proposals were contained in the Resolving Workplace Disputes Consultation undertaken last year (see our previous HR Briefing - Government responds to its consultation on resolving workplace disputes).

Regulatory reform and repeals

As part of its ongoing Red Tape Challenge, to encourage growth and reduce unnecessary regulatory burdens on business, the Government has stated that the Bill will repeal a number of pieces of primary legislation. (See previous HR Briefing - Red Tape Challenge - have your say on employment regulations)

Children and Families Bill

We understand that the Government is planning to introduce the Children and Families Bill in January 2013. This Bill will cover a range of issues, including family law reform, adoption and children with special educational needs. Of particular interest to our member companies will be measures regarding:

Flexible parental leave

Giving parents access to flexible parental leave, so mothers and fathers can share caring responsibilities.

Flexible working

Extending to all employees the right to request flexible working.

The Government consulted last year on various family friendly proposals, including extending the right to request flexible working and re-designing the maternity/paternity leave system to shorten maternity leave to 18 weeks and allow 34 weeks parental leave to be taken by the mother or the father or shared between them. EEF submitted a detailed response to this consultation (See EEF responds to Government's Modern Workplaces Consultation). We expect the delayed Government response to the consultation to be published over the coming months.

Next steps

We will of course continue to report on the progress of the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill and the Children and Families Bill. Once we have seen draft Bills, we will be able to provide more detail on the employment provisions and the timescale for their implementation.

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