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Queen's Speech - Employmene tLaw Changes

: The Queen's Speech last week outlined a number of legislative proposals which are likely to have an impact on employment law in the UK. We highlight the major ones below:

1. Reform of law on industrial action

Proposals to fundamentally change the law relating to strike action were confirmed in the Queen's Speech. The details are as yet unknown, but it is likely that they will reflect the proposals that were set out in the Conservative manifesto prior to the election. If passed, it will mean that trade unions will only be able to enforce strike action if at least 50% of those entitled to vote participate in the ballot and a majority of those who actually voted are in favour of a strike. 

In relation to strike ballot actions in "essential public services" (which is usually considered to be health, education, transport and fire) a strike will only be able lawful if there is at least a 50% turnout, a majority who vote are in favour AND also if 40% of all persons entitled to vote votein favour of a strike.

It is also worthwhile bearing in mind that the Conservative manifesto also stated that measures would be implemented to remove the restrictions on employers' ability to make use of temporary agency labour to provide cover for striking employees, as well as a tightening of the time limits within which strikes can be called following a result of a ballot.

2. Consultation about repeal of the Human Rights Act

This was well publicised prior to the election as "we will get rid of the Human Rights Act". It has now been watered down to a consultation about repealing the HRA and replacing it with a British Bill of Rights.

There will be substantial constitutional issues to overcome if this measure is to be implemented, and it is also likely to face strong opposition both in the Commons and the Lords, so this certainly has a long way to run before any substantial progress is likely to be made.

3. EU referendum

So much has been said about this, that there is little that needs to be repeated. The timing of the referendum is yet to be decided, but it could be as early as May 2016. What does have to be said, however, is that if the result of the referendum is Britain's exit from the EU, this would have potentially enormous implications for employment law in the UK and impact on both employers and employees regardless of their size or market sector. Things that most employees now take for granted, such as the right to paid holiday, a maximum working week, protection on transfer of ownership of their employer's business, and rights to things such as parental leave all stem from EU law: would an "Out" vote put all of these at risk?

We will keep you posted as these matters develop but if anyone wants to know more then please contact our Head of Employment, Paul Ball on 0113 246 2312.

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