Can these Private Members’ bills tackle Employment Bill issues?
In a previous article we discussed the absence of the ever-elusive Employment Bill from the Queen’s Speech. This Bill, when first announced in 2019, was tipped to include a raft of employee-friendly provisions. Since then however, progress on the Bill by the UK Government has been largely overlooked, much to the dismay of various employment rights groups. It was therefore interesting to see, on 15 June 2022, MPs from across the political spectrum introducing a number of Private Members’ bills seeking to address issues that the Employment Bill was supposed to.
What was presented?
Eight new Private Members’ bills relating to employment law were introduced on 15 June, five of which directly address proposals within the Employment Bill:
- Protection from Redundancy (Pregnancy and Family Leave) Bill
- Neonatal Care (Leave and Pay) Bill
- Carer’s Leave Bill
- Employment Relations (Flexible Working) Bill
- Employment (Allocation of Tips) Bill
- Employment and Trade Union Rights (Dismissal and Re-engagement) Bill
- Terminal Illness (Support and Rights) Bill
- Worker Protection (Amendment of Equality Act) Bill
Each of these bills has been allocated a second reading later in the year. While we have the titles of the bills, full details of their intended provisions are not yet available. From their long titles (a brief description of what the bill does) it would be reasonable to assume they are targeted towards the same aims as their equivalent provisions in the purported Employment Bill.
Are these Private Members’ bills likely to be passed?
A Private Member’s bill is a public bill, introduced by MPs and Lords who, as the name suggests, are not government ministers. As with a public bill, the intention is to change the law as it applies to the general population.
According to Parliament’s own website, only a minority of Private Members’ bills become law. The key reason for this is the restricted amount of time allocated to a Private Members’ bill compared to a government bill. The reduction in time means it is less likely the bill will make it through all of the many stages required to make it law. It is suggested that ‘ballot bills’ have the best chance of becoming law, as they get priority for the limited amount of debating time available. All five of the bills which reflect the Employment Bill are ballot bills, but it remains to be seen whether this will enhance their chances of becoming legislation.
What does this mean for the Employment Bill?
If these bills do become law, this may negate the need for the formal Employment Bill, at least in its suggested form. As we have noted however, there are considerable hurdles before this can be achieved.
Despite the difficulty in getting to the stage of becoming law, the publicity generated by introducing a Private Member’s bill may indirectly influence legislation. As yet, there has not been widespread comment on the tabling of these bills. However, their concurrent introduction may indicate a level of impatience with the UK Government’s movement (or lack thereof) on their own proposed bill.
If the bills fail to become law, there will likely remain a sustained, or potentially increased level of pressure from stakeholder groups on the UK Government to begin to make progress with the Employment Bill.
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