When Theresa May announced that an election will be taking place on 8 June, many people were taken by surprise. The timing of the election and the fact that Parliament shuts down means that there are a number of ways in which planned legal changes may be delayed. If the current polls are to be believed, then the Conservatives seem likely to win a majority, in which case you might expect them still to implement their current plans, but of course recent history tells us that the polls can often be wrong!
The election means that Parliament will be dissolved on 3 May and will not reopen until after the election. Once Parliament is dissolved, no new legislation or regulations can be approved until after the election. Any proposed legislation or regulations not passed before the dissolution will lapse, and if the next Government were to decide to implement them, they would need to be re-proposed and go through the system from the beginning.
The most important proposed legislation from an employment law point of view is the Finance Bill, which deals with the Government’s proposed changes to the rules on taxation of termination payments, as covered in our previous article here. The Bill was not expected to be passed until July, with the aim of it coming into force in April 2018. We understand that the Government are planning to try and ‘fast track’ the Bill for approval as soon as possible, with little opportunity for debate. However, whether they succeed remains to be seen. As always, we will of course keep you updated on this in our future ebulletins.
At the time of writing the parties have not yet published their manifestos, and it will be interesting to see whether they deal with any employment law related points. We will update you on anything noteworthy in our next ebulletin. However, so far one relevant comment has come in a tweet, and has already attracted a lot of debate:
— Jeremy Corbyn MP (@jeremycorbyn) April 23, 2017
The plan would be for the four additional Bank Holidays to be St David’s Day, St Patrick’s Day, St George’s Day and St Andrew’s Day, the idea being that this would address the fact that the UK is currently behind many other countries in the number of public holidays given. Some people have asked whether, if this were implemented, this would mean more time off for workers in the UK. Well, the answer is: not necessarily. For example, the position may depend on how the Bank Holidays are introduced from a legal perspective.
At present there is no statutory right for any worker to take time off for Bank Holidays. The statutory minimum holiday entitlement under the Working Time Regulations is to 5.6 weeks’ leave, which for someone who works a standard 5 day week works out to 28 days, i.e. 20 days plus the usual 8 Bank Holidays. If extra Bank Holidays were declared, this would not automatically increase the statutory minimum entitlement (as was the case when an extra Bank Holiday was granted for the Royal Wedding, for example, as per my article here).
However, some employees would of course benefit from additional time off – many businesses would presumably close on the new Bank Holidays. Even in those that don’t, some employees would still benefit, provided that their contracts of employment entitle them to Bank Holidays (or time off in lieu). The wording of the contracts will be crucial – and there is a lot of variation in how holiday clauses are worded. If, for example, the contract states something like “33 days including Bank Holidays” then there would be no increase, but if it states “25 days plus Bank Holidays” then the employer would need to honour all of the new Bank Holiday dates in addition to the employee’s current entitlement.
If you need advice on any aspect of employment law, including contracts of employment, please contact any member of the Pure Employment Law team (01243 836840 or [email protected]).