Today the Queen unveiled the Government’s legislative programme for the new two-year Parliament. This included a number of employment law reforms, aside from the impact of Brexit:
- There will be a new national policy on immigration. However, there is currently very little detail about what the new policy will be. The Conservative party manifesto included an objective to reduce annual net migration to below 100,000, a commitment to double the Immigration Skills Charge levied on companies employing migrant workers to £2,000 a year by the end of the Parliament and to ask the independent Migration Advisory Committee to make recommendation about how the visa system can become better aligned with the Government’s modern industrial strategy, with a view to setting aside significant numbers of visas for workers in strategically-important sectors, such as digital technology. However, future immigration policy is an area where the DUP may seek to exert some influence and the immigration policy in respect of EU citizens is likely to evolve during the course of the Brexit negotiations.
- The National Living Wage will be increased. The manifesto committed to a rise to 60% of median earnings by 2020 and then by the rate of median earnings.
- The Government will enhance rights and protections in the modern workplace. The detail of this policy is likely to be informed by the Taylor Review on modern employment practices which is due to report imminently.
- The Government will take further action to tackle the gender pay gap and discrimination. It is not clear what this will comprise. The manifesto said that the government would require companies with more than 250 employees to publish more data on the pay gap between men and women and continue to work for parity in the number of public appointments going to women, as well as pushing for an increase in the number of women sitting on boards of companies. There were also references to helping disabled people into work.
- There will be a new law on data protection. The new European GDPR will apply to the UK from May 2018, but will need to be replaced when the UK leaves the EU. The Government will need to either bring the GDPR directly into UK law in its current form, or introduce new rules with very similar principles, in order to ensure that the UK continues to have adequate data protection rules in the eyes of the EU. This is important to avoid any barrier to personal data flowing from the EU to the UK after Brexit and should not deter organisations from continuing their preparation for GDPR.