In the Queen’s Speech on 3 December the Government set out its legislative plans for 2009:
- Right to request time off for training: Employees with more than 26 weeks’ service will have the right to request time off for relevant training from 2010. The right will be modelled on the existing right to request flexible working. Broadly speaking, employers will be able to turn down a request if there is no good business reason for agreeing to it. Employers will not be obliged to pay for the training and there will be Government funding available.
- Equality Bill: Apart from the consolidation of all discrimination legislation into one Act, the Bill includes proposals to: extend age discrimination legislation to the provision of goods, facilities and services; ban wage “secrecy clauses” in employment contracts; enable Employment Tribunals to make recommendations that will benefit the wider workforce (rather than just the individual who brought the claim) and help prevent similar types of discrimination happening again; allow the Equality and Human Rights Commission to conduct a series of inquiries in sectors where there is clear inequality. The financial services and construction industries will be looked at first - with the financial services inquiry looking at the alleged culture of sex discrimination including harassment and sexual exploitation, and the absence of diversity in the leadership of the sector. The proposals do not include a requirement for employers to carry out equal pay audits - which had been mooted at one point.
- Trade union equality representatives: There will be funding to support the development of ‘trade union equality representatives’ - who will work with both employees and employers to create a “fairer” workplace, for example, negotiating new flexible working patterns.
The extension of the right to request flexible working patterns to parents with children up to the age of 16 will also go ahead as planned in April 2009