Queen’s Speech: Employment Legislation

Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy – in the House of Commons on 23rd March 2021.

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Photo of Seema Malhotra Seema Malhotra Shadow Minister (Work and Pensions) (Employment)

What the timeframe is for bringing forward the legislative proposals on employment announced in the December 2019 Queen’s Speech.

Photo of Tony Lloyd Tony Lloyd Labour, Rochdale

What the timeframe is for bringing forward the legislative proposals on employment announced in the December 2019 Queen’s Speech.

Photo of Kwasi Kwarteng Kwasi Kwarteng The Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy

I am grateful for the opportunity to say here in the House that the Government do intend to bring forward the employment Bill when parliamentary time allows.

Photo of Seema Malhotra Seema Malhotra Shadow Minister (Work and Pensions) (Employment)

The TUC estimates that 3.6 million people—one worker in nine—were in insecure work ahead of the coronavirus outbreak, leaving them exposed to massive drops in income or unsafe working conditions. It was bad then, and it is worse now. The Government have driven the author of their own Taylor review to say in quite extraordinary terms that the Government have lost their “enthusiasm” for enforcing workers’ rights. With no employment Bill yet on the horizon, is that not the plain truth for all to see? Whose side are the Government on?

Photo of Kwasi Kwarteng Kwasi Kwarteng The Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy

I will take no lessons from the hon. Lady about workers’ rights and what this Government have done over many years to protect workers’ rights. The national living wage is higher than it has ever been in this country’s history. We have taken thousands of people out of tax, and I am not going to take any lectures from her.

Photo of Tony Lloyd Tony Lloyd Labour, Rochdale

If the Secretary of State will not take lessons from my hon. Friend Seema Malhotra, will he take lessons from the TUC, which estimates that fire and rehire is most likely to take place among young people and black and Asian workers, or will he take lessons from Go North West, which sacked its workforce in Greater Manchester, and offered them increased hours of work, loss of sick pay and a reduction in annual pay of £2,500? Is that what the Secretary of State wants, to make Britain the best place in the world for work?

Photo of Kwasi Kwarteng Kwasi Kwarteng The Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy

I appreciate the hon. Gentleman’s question. He will know that I take my relations and my conversations with the TUC extremely seriously. I have met a number of TUC leaders since taking up the post two months ago, and I am very conscious that fire and rehire as a negotiating tactic is completely unacceptable.

Photo of Andy McDonald Andy McDonald Shadow Secretary of State for Employment Rights

The Secretary of State says that he does not take lessons from Labour—this is from the man who described the British as

“the worst idlers in the world.”

The Supreme Court ruling that Uber drivers are workers, rejecting the company’s claim that its drivers are self-employed, sets a precedent for all gig economy workers, who will also be entitled to the minimum wage, holiday pay and sick pay, but it took Uber drivers six long years of legal action to have their rights recognised. The Government must not abandon the 3 million adults in the UK working in the gig economy to spend years fighting in the courts. So will the Secretary of State commit to introducing legislation in this Session of Parliament to ensure that all gig economy workers receive basic employment rights?

Photo of Kwasi Kwarteng Kwasi Kwarteng The Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy

As I said in response to an earlier question, we are going to introduce an employment Bill not in this Session but when parliamentary time allows. We are also of course considering the effects of this extremely important Supreme Court ruling and we are considering options to improve clarity around employment status.