The Queen's speech on 3 December contained a number of legislative proposals for the coming parliamentary session. The following legislation will be of interest to employers:
- the Equality Bill, which has the aim of promoting equality, fighting discrimination and introducing transparency in the workplace to help address pay inequalities. The bill is intended to harmonise the different strands of discrimination law. Current proposals also include banning clauses which prevent employees discussing their own pay, allowing employers to discriminate positively when selecting between equally qualified candidates, replacing the public sector race, gender and disability equality duties with a unified duty covering all strands and strengthening enforcement by widening tribunals' powers to make recommendations;
- a new right to request time off for training. As reported in our bulletin of 3 October, the Government has already consulted on this right. This is expected to be implemented in 2010 and will be included in the new Children's Skills and Learning Bill, which also proposes to promote excellence in schools and to reform the apprenticeship program; and
- a Welfare Reform Bill to improve the incentives for people to move back into employment. A white paper will be published shortly containing proposals that will include the replacement of sick notes with "fit notes".
The Government has also confirmed that the right to request flexible working will be extended from April 2009 to employees with children up to the age of 16, in accordance with the recommendations of the Walsh Report.