When Gordon Brown announced his draft legislative programme for the forthcoming year an outline was given to an Employment Simplification Bill. The purpose of the Bill is to “simplify, clarify and build a stronger enforcement regime for key aspects of employment law”.
The main elements of the Bill are:
- Implementation of the outcome of the Gibbons review of workplace dispute resolution, including repeal of the statutory dispute resolution procedures and implementation of a package of replacement measures to encourage early/informal resolution (though the contents of such a package have not been identified) and changes to the Employment Tribunal system;
- Clarification and strengthening of the enforcement framework for the National Minimum Wage, specifically through the introduction of a straightforward penalty that can be levied against all non compliant businesses and a fairer method of calculating arrears;
- Strengthening the employment agency standards enforcement regime by making offences under the Employment Agencies Act each way offences and clarifying investigative powers; and
- An amendment to the trade union membership law in light of the European Court of Human Right’s judgement in Aslef v UK (such that trade unions can expel members on the basis of their membership of a political party).
The Government said that it might also be necessary to use the Bill to clarify provisions in the National Minimum Wage Act related to voluntary workers, depending on the outcome of the current consultation, which closes on 4 September 2007.
The Government states that the main benefits of the Bill will be significant administrative savings for businesses, specifically through legislation to implement the Gibbons review of workplace dispute resolution, with an estimated benefit of businesses up to £180m per year. They also claim that there will be further cost and time savings for businesses, trade unions, individuals and public sector bodies and a greater clarity for employer, trade unions and employees.