The Queen’s Speech has confirmed government plans to bring in more flexible parental leave, reform employment tribunals and pensions, and cut red tape for businesses.
Although light on details, her majesty’s speech at the State Opening of Parliament today outlined two key bills of particular importance for employers: the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill (ERR) which will include tribunal reform, and the Children and Families Bill, which will contain a new system for transferable parental leave.
“Legislation will be introduced to reduce burdens on business by repealing unnecessary legislation and to limit state inspection of businesses,” said the Queen.
“Measures will be proposed to make parental leave more flexible so both parents may share patenting responsibly and balance work and family commitments.”
On tribunal reform, she added: “The courts and tribunals will be reformed to increase efficiency, transparency and judicial diversity.”
Ben Willmott, senior policy advisor at the CIPD, welcomed plans to encourage greater sharing of care responsibilities between parents.
“This will enable parents to share leave in a way that gives them more choice in how to manage care and responsibilities in a way that suits them and the particular circumstances that they are in,” he said.
“At the time of the Modern Workplaces consultation last year we recognised that the details had to be right. We support the direction of travel but we will work with the Department of Business to ensure that the proposals are workable and deliver the intended benefit for both employers and employees without creating undue burdens.”
However, John Longworth, director-general of the British Chambers of Commerce, criticised the shared parental leave plans as “unwieldy, difficult to understand, and fraught with potential complications”.
“Businesses may now be exposed to endless appeals, legal challenges and grievances,” he said.
Denise Keating, chief executive at the Employers Network for Equality and Inclusion, said: “Progressive employers will welcome the government’s intention to propose measures to make parental leave more flexible. But this was only one part of the Modern Workplaces consultation.
"There was nothing in the Queen’s Speech on extending the right to request flexible working to all employees and this was a notable omission. We will be disappointed if the proposal is kicked into the long grass because it is seen as being too great a burden on business and we are awaiting the government’s response to the consultation where it will announce its policy proposals."
There was no explicit mention of a proposal to extend the right to request flexible working to all employees, a policy which the CIPD also argued in favour of this week.
The government’s response to the Modern Workplaces consultation, due out next week, should reveal whether it will form part of the government’s agenda or whether it has been shelved.
The Department for Business Innovation and Skills (BIS) gave more details on the ERR Bill and said it will “overhaul the employment tribunal system and transform the dispute resolution landscape”.
BIS also highlighted its plans to strengthen the framework for setting directors’ pay by introducing binding votes for shareholders.
But John Cridland, CBI director-general, warned: “Shareholder power is now being felt in the boardroom, and the government should be careful that new legislation supports accountability to shareholders but does not try to turn them into micro-managers.
“To be workable, the threshold for forward-looking binding votes should be a simple, straight majority and the plans to introduce binding votes on exit payments should be dropped.”
The latest pension reforms will see a single-tier state pension instituted to allow for simpler retirement planning.
Joanne Segars, the National Association of Pension Funds’ chief executive, said: “The pension reforms are another big step towards a simpler, more generous state pension that no longer penalises people for saving. A new system will take millions out of means-tested benefits and will encourage people to take control of their own age by saving towards it.”