New Prime Minister, New Employment Rights?

Issue 84

The Conservative Party selection process has finally concluded after six weeks of campaigning to party members and Liz Truss is the new Prime Minister. During her campaign it has been reported that Ms Truss made a total of 147 separate policy pledges in all sorts of areas from tax and energy policy to the world of work and employment.

Clearly there are hugely important priority matters waiting in the new Prime Minister’s in-tray – the energy and cost of living crisis (which we have seen action on within 48 hours of her taking office), rising inflation and the war in Ukraine amongst other – so what are her views on employment rights and what changes can we expect to see and when? Key questions still remain and we await whether there will be the “bonfire” of EU employment rights which was promised by many as part of the Brexit campaign – but which did not materialise in practice under a Boris Johnson led government.

Here are the matters that we believe that employers should look out for from a Liz Truss government immediately and in the longer term:

Curtailing of the right to strike?

This is perhaps the most immediate work matter as the country faces the potential of ongoing and fresh strikes and industrial action from workers facing the cost of living squeeze. Liz Truss has pledged to make significant changes to legislation in her first month of office to reduce the threat of industrial action. This legislation could include changing balloting and voting thresholds to make it more difficult for unions to obtain the necessary mandate to strike within the legal framework. Other steps could include putting additional protection in place to prevent or restrict strike action in public services and national infrastructure such as the railways and health service. A key question is whether Liz Truss and the government will follow through with such politically charged changes and risk going “head-to-head” with the trade unions and workers? Working Time Regulations

The Working Time Regulations in the UK derive from EU law. Following Brexit, the UK is no longer bound to follow EU laws so there is the potential for the UK to make changes to these worker protections which provide minimum periods of leave and rest breaks etc. However, as the Working Time Regulations are now embedded within UK employment culture and, importantly, are also connected with health and safety at work we don’t expect to see any fundamental changes to these working time rules. There may, in due course, be some “tinkering” in terms of complex areas such as calculation of holiday pay.

Equality laws

When Liz Truss was Minister for Women and Equalities, she promoted the idea of the UK taking a different approach to dealing with equality law. Her view was noted as seeking a move away from focusing on protecting single protected characteristics which we currently have set within the Equality Act 2010 (e.g. protection on the basis of race, sex, disability etc.). Whilst in that role she had said that there should be fair treatment for all including protection based upon geographical inequality and to encourage social mobility. We don’t expect to see dramatic changes to equality legislation in the short term and indeed legislating for broader groups based on location or perceived social status may prove extremely difficult in practice.

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