Where’s the Bill?

‘Missed Opportunity’ as Employment Bill not included in Queen’s Speech

APSCo and FCSA have been among those in the recruitment industry expressing disappointment at the exclusion of the Employment Bill in this week’s Queen’s Speech.

Chris Bryce, CEO of the Freelancer and Contractor Services Association (FCSA) says the bill could have delivered greater protection for contingency workers.

“We were anticipating an employment bill to be included within the Queen’s speech, which could have delivered greater regulation and protection for contingency workers,” said Bryce. “It’s a missed opportunity from the government that they didn’t heed the industry’s call to introduce much-needed regulation for the umbrella sector.

“We absolutely support the introduction of effective regulation in the professional employment services sector, as we believe it will further strengthen standards in the industry, ensuring businesses comply with the spirit and letter of the law and thus better protect workers.

“We believe many aspects of employment law need to be urgently addressed – so, despite the disappointing news, it’s a goal we’ll continue to work towards in the absence of wider regulation.”

Bryce believes an outright ban on the umbrella sector would simply see unscrupulous operators exploit other employment loopholes. He is in favour of regulation but calls on it to be well-funded and policed.

Meanwhile Tania Bowers, global public policy director at APSCo commented: “The Employment Bill has already been delayed and it is disappointing that it was missing from the Queen’s Speech despite multiple calls for its inclusion in recent weeks.

“The UK’s employment market is not fit for purpose in the current economic landscape and APSCo has warned that this long-awaited Bill needs to be pushed forward swiftly if the country is to recover from the impact of the pandemic and Brexit,” she continued. “While it was made clear in today’s speech that the Government’s priority is to strengthen the economy, the absence of the Employment Bill and no clarity around the Single Enforcement Body will be a limitation on achieving this.

Bowers is clear that the future of the labour market needs to be flexible, dynamic and fair, but says that current legislation is not designed to support this. She argues that recent Off Payroll case law is impacting negatively on the market and the UK is at risk of diminishing its own flexible workforce. “Self-employed status needs to be defined in legislation that differentiates highly skilled self-employed independent professionals from dependent contractors, workers, other variants of self-employment and the lower skilled, less independent elements of the gig economy,” she argues.

“As the UK economy struggles to recover post-Covid, it is crucial that we continue to build and borrow vital skills by any means necessary,” she concludes. “Only then, can we create a dynamic, flexible, and future-proof labour market with enough skilled workers to enable the country to build back better post-pandemic. This absence of the Employment Bill as many predicted, raises concerns that the skills agenda is beginning to slip down the list of priorities for the Government.”

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