How will Liz Truss change employment law?

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Reports in the weekend before Liz Truss’s appointment predicted a “bonfire of workers’ rights,” if she became Prime Minister. Is this really going to be the case?

Truss is avowedly right-wing–but her plans may amount to little more than tinkering.

What does Truss plan to do?

The Times has reported that Truss is likely to change the Working Time Regulations, which currently protect workers from discrimination if they refuse to opt out of the 48-hour working week limit. However, this seems unlikely to happen.

Firstly, the UK’s employment law system is one of the best in the world. While the UK does have productivity issues, employment law is not the problem, and Truss is probably aware that changing it isn’t the solution.

Secondly, the issues that will dominate her premiership, such as taxes and energy shortages, have nothing to do with employment law. The biggest single change that would affect employers would be a reduction in National Insurance contributions, recently introduced by Rishi Sunak, which Truss has pledged to reverse.

Areas where we may see tinkering include:

● Some changes to the Working Time Regulations, such as simplification of holiday pay, but not a wholesale repeal.
● Some changes to TUPE rights. Again, these are likely to be minor.
● The Agency Workers Regulations may be repealed.
● Some cuts in the right to strike. The unions will fight back on this, so again, such changes will probably be minor.

But the main pillars of employment law will remain: the two- year qualifying period for unfair dismissal, the 2010 Equality Act and anti-discrimination legislation (most of which originates from EU directives).

The job market in numbers

Stats from the week of 22-28 August revealed:

● There were 2.08 million job adverts in the UK, a new record high for 2022. This means jobs are taking longer to fill.
● There were 269,000 new job postings – the second highest figure on record
● All occupations in the UK, except dancers, actors and entertainers, recorded notable increases in job adverts
● All regions in the UK recorded an increase in job adverts
● Four out of the UK’s top ten hiring hotspots were in the West Midlands
● Active job adverts hit a new high for 2022 of 2.08 million.

Neil Carberry, Chief Executive of the REC, said:

“A surge in new postings in late August is the result of recruitment restarting as people return from holidays, combined with preparation for the Christmas peak in manufacturing and logistics. It is still a good time to be looking for a job – the number of active job vacancies reflects a shortage of candidates for many key roles. That is why businesses who want to hire need to think carefully about their approach.”

“The incoming Prime Minister and their Cabinet should prioritise the economy. That means addressing shortages by working with business to develop a workforce strategy that can support growth. There are some quick wins that could help – reforming the Apprenticeship Levy to enable more people to train, focussing on more effective support into work for those who are currently inactive, and increased numbers and longer work visas for key sectors. Effectively protecting small businesses from enormous increases in the uncapped price of energy is also vital.”

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