New Prime Minister: What can we expect to see in Employment Law and HR (6 September 2022)
Liz Truss has been confirmed as the Prime Minister, defeating Rishi Sunak, and started in the position on 6 September 2022.
Liz Truss wants to see ‘more graft’ from British workers. It is reported that she is planning a radical overhaul of workers’ rights, which will see a review of the 48-hour working week and other legal protections such as holiday pay and equal pay.
It appears that the new PM also wants to tackle industrial action making it more difficult for employees to strike and take other industrial actions. Many of the unions have made statements including, when TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady who has insisted that Ms Truss should ‘come clean’ about her plans for a post-Brexit restructure of ‘hard-won workers’ rights.’ It remains to be seen whether this rhetoric which persisted during her hard-fought campaign against Rishi Sunak persists, particularly given that the next general election is due by January 2025 when she will be hoping to persuade the electorate that Conservative party should remain in power..
More will emerge in the weeks and days that follow about her plans but, at this very early stage, what might we expect to see from the new Prime Minister in terms of employment law?
As stated, with the next general election due by January 2025 so her time to make changes is limited.
Some initial thoughts:
Liz Truss said that ‘in a bid to increase competitiveness’ she will ‘remove the obstacles holding our country back.’
How she does this remains to be seen, but it seems she is:
- Keen to review existing workers’ rights derived from the retained European laws. This has been widely reported in the newspapers as her wishing to have ‘a bonfire of worker’s rights.’ It is believed this will include the abolition of 48-hour working week. Although in reality the 48-hour working week causes little issues for most businesses.
- Reviewing other existing EU Worker Protections such as those derived from the Working Time Directive and Acquired Rights Directive (TUPE).
- Tackling industrial action by making it more difficult for unions to take industrial action. Earlier this year, the in GB only the government already removed the ban on agencies supplying workers to fill in for employees who are taking part in industrial action and quadrupled Unions’ potential liability for calling unlawful strikes.
- Reversing the 1.25% increase to the National Insurance Contributions for working age employees, their employers and the self-employed, which took effect in April 2022.
- Planning a Review of IR35/ the Off-Payroll Working rules.
- Seeking to abolish public sector diversity and inclusion jobs.
- Planning tax cuts for business to support business with the current cost of living difficulties.
- Planning to support a short-term expansion to the Seasonal Workers temporary work route – giving overseas workers a visa to come to the UK to work in horticulture for up to six months – to extend beyond the current expiry date in 2024 and increase the number of visas available.
As employment law is devolved in Northern Ireland, how this will impact in Northern Ireland is debatable particularly as we currently have no functioning Executive with only caretaker Ministers in place.
A further question for Northern Ireland is how far the ‘dedicated mechanism’ under Article 2 of the Protocol could be used if there was any attempt to change some of these rules here. Article 2 entails a requirement to ensure “no diminution of rights safeguards and equality of opportunity” with respect to six EU Directives listed in Annex 1 to the Protocol.