Since 1997, we have introduced a foundation of decent minimum standards in the workplace. People at work in Britain have benefited from:
a minimum wage a right not to work more than 48 hours a week four weeks' paid leave a discipline and grievance procedure (and to be accompanied by a Trade Union official) a right to no discrimination on grounds of religion, belief or sexual orientation a right to membership of a trade union a right to trade union recognition for collective bargaining in specified circumstances equal treatment for part-time and fixed-term employees compared with their full-time colleagues protection for public interest disclosure (whistleblowers) paternity leave, adoption leave, parental leave and time off for domestic emergencies a right to request flexible working with an obligation on employers to treat the request seriously (for parents of children up to six)
Maternity leave increased from 16 weeks' paid leave at £60 in 1997 to 26 weeks paid at £100 or more.
In addition, from April 2005 employees will gain new rights to request information and consultation.
The improvements we have made to employment rights have not adversely affected the labour market, which is performing well. We have proved that regulation, providing it is well designed and well implemented, is not an obstacle to high employment or running businesses successfully.
The Government are committed to ensuring that employment rights are effectively implemented in all workplaces, so that they benefit all workers, including the most vulnerable.
In the 2004 pre-Budget report, we pledged improvements to the arrangements for parents to take paid leave after the birth of a child and to extend rights to work flexibly. We are committed to consulting with employers and other interested parties early this year.