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The Queen’s Speech: changes to employment law

The Queen's Speech has been delivered on what the new Conservative Government will look to legislate on in the coming year. Unsurprisingly there wasn't too much specifically on employment law, however, the proposed legislation on strike action is likely to be very controversial.

It appears that the Conservative’s proposal for employer’s to grant their employees three volunteer days per year has either been dropped or will be included in subsequent Queen’s Speeches.

Strike action

The commitment to reform strike action was highlighted. In particular the proposals to ensure strike action in important public services are subject to more stringent requirements in order for them to be legal strikes.

Currently the plans include:

  • A 50% turnout threshold for ballots on industrial action. At present balloting rules do not require any specific level of participation by union members.
  • 40% of those eligible to vote must support the action for strikes in core public services (Health, Education, Transport & Fire Services). Ballots currently only require a simple majority to back action.
  • Removal of restrictions on using temporary workers to cover for striking staff. This ban has been in place since 1973 and is frequently the most difficult of obstacles for employers to mitigate against in dealing with strike action.
  • Tightening rules on ballot mandates. This would prevent unions undertaking action based on historic strike ballots.
  • Tackling the intimidation of non-striking workers

This has already generated a lot of commentary. Unsurprisingly the TUC has claimed that the proposals will make strike action “almost impossible”. It is interesting to note that none of the major strikes during the last government would have met the new requirements which the government plan to put in place.


Ministers will be required to report annually on job creation and apprenticeships. This goes towards the Conservatives goal of creating 3 million apprenticeships in the next three years.

Small Business’

Small Business’ will benefit from reduced red tape to help them create jobs. It has been pledged that red tape will be cut by £10 million in the next 5 years; the Enterprise Bill has been created for this purpose. It has not been detailed where this red tape will be cut, but there is the possibility that it might relate to employment law. The CBI has received the announcement in relation to a reduction to red tape with caution and has said that it needs to know more detail whether this will have any positive impact or not.


Those working 30 hours a week on minimum wage will not be required to pay any tax. Furthermore it has been committed that there will be a freeze on income tax rates, VAT and national insurance for the next five years.

For further information, please do not hesitate to get in touch with Stuart Craig.

Please note that this briefing is designed to be informative, not advisory and represents our understanding of English law and practice as at the date indicated. We would always recommend that you should seek specific guidance on any particular legal issue.

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