HR Expert: Employment law changes under the new PM
I wondered what changes to employment law there might be under the new Prime Minister? I hear Liz Truss has some plans relating to trade unions and industrial action.

That’s correct. Like any new leader, Liz Truss will no doubt cement her premiership with a raft of new policies which could affect the way you manage your staff.
Currently, there are lots of rumours about potential changes ahead. It may take time for some of these to become law, but not for others.

That’s because, within 30 days of leadership, she hopes to introduce minimum strike staffing levels. This would make strikes illegal unless a certain amount of staff remained at work. The threshold would vary depending on which industry you work in.

Truss also hopes to introduce a new law that raises the ballot threshold for industrial action.

Currently, 40% of union members need to agree on strike action for it to happen. But under proposed new rules, this could rise to 50% – meaning strikes may be more unlikely.
Under Truss, the government may also introduce a ‘cooling off’ period. This would prevent workers from taking industrial action within six months after a strike. Again, this would potentially reduce the level of trade union power.

Plus, Truss wants to remove leave entitlement for workers who carry out trade union activities.

Reports suggest that Truss is considering a radical overhaul of worker rights including the 48-hour working week. This is to “make the UK more competitive” but could see immediate challenges from unions.

As it stands, staff can’t legally work more than an average of 48 hours each week, normally calculated over a 17 week reference period. Workers can choose to opt out of this agreement if they want to work more hours that this limit allows. To do this, they need to make a written declaration that they are willing to work for longer. But they can’t be forced to agree to the higher hours and it’s unlawful to dismiss someone for refusing to agree. Employers must ensure that anyone who has opted out still receives the rest periods they are entitled to by law. Truss may be reviewing this law, along with other key workers’ rights.

These changes would likely face pushback, so it’s not a given they’ll come into effect.

This review of working rules would be triggered by Truss’ plans to undertake a wholesale review of employment laws put in place because of the UK’s previous membership of the EU. This may also include amendments to the laws on equal treatment for agency workers, the protection given to employees when the business they work for is taken over by another business.


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