Queen's speech: public sector jobs under threat?

Setting out the Government’s legislative programme for the year ahead, in her speech, the Queen said its “first priority” remains strengthening Britain’s economy and it would “continue to prioritise measures that reduce the deficit”.

In her speech earlier today, the Queen added:

“It will also work to promote a fairer society that rewards people who work hard.”

Three Bills included that are of particular interest to employment lawyers and HR managers are:

The National Insurance Contributions Bill, which will introduce an “Employment Allowance”, add a general anti-avoidance rule for NICs, restrict the use of offshore payroll companies as intermediaries and remove the presumption of self-employment for LLP members.
Also highlighted was the Deregulation Bill, which will repeal the Employment Tribunal’s power to make wider recommendations in discrimination cases and make changes to encourage the use of apprenticeships.
Thirdly, the Immigration Bill, which amongst other things threatens tougher penalties for employers who employ workers who do not have the right to work in the UK.

If the Immigration Bill is passed, it would also ensure illegal immigrants cannot get driving licences, and change the rules so private landlords have to check their tenants’ immigration status.

It would also allow foreign criminals to be deported more easily, as well as people who are in the UK illegally; while businesses caught employing illegal foreign labour would face bigger fines.

In addition, migrants’ access to the NHS would be restricted and temporary visitors would have to “make a contribution” to costs.

Other measures announced in the Queen’s Speech include:

Exempting employers from the first £2,000 of their National Insurance payments in an effort to support jobs and help small businesses
Tightening up consumer protection to make it easier to claim refunds
Millions of people caring for elderly and disabled relatives in England will be given the right to receive support from their local councils
A Pensions Bill will introduce a single-tier pension, worth around £144 a week at today’s prices, and will bring forward to 2026 the date at which the retirement age rises to 67

It was also revealed that self-employed people whose work activities pose no potential risk of harm to others will be exempted from health and safety law.

In response to the Queen’s Speech, John Cridland, the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) Director-General, said:

“Business does not need a raft of new bills at this stage of a Parliament. You cannot legislate your way to economic growth – laws are only ever one piece of the jigsaw.

“With only two years to go until the next election, business needs delivery on the ground not time-consuming new bills that will have little or no impact before 2015.

“Ministers must focus on driving up exports; getting finance to firms; cutting costs and red tape; and boosting the construction industry, through housing.”

Commenting on the Immigration Bill, he said:

“UKBA’s unacceptable delays created a lingering, poor impression of the UK as a place to do business. It’s a big step for the Home Office to take it back in-house, where it was declared ‘unfit for purpose’ only a few years ago.

“Firms are less interested in the exact structure of the new system and more in it delivering a fast, efficient and cost-effective service. We must strike the right balance between controlling immigration but still attract the skilled workers and students the economy needs, who otherwise will go to our competitors.”