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The TUC has today (Tuesday) warned that anything less than an employment bill at the Queen’s Speech would be an act of betrayal – leaving working people “conned” after the government has failed to deliver on its numerous commitments to upgrade workers’ rights. 

Reports suggest ministers have shelved the employment bill, despite first announcing the legislation well over two years ago in December 2019, and making multiple commitments to the bill since. 

The TUC says that the following policies were all promised within an employment bill, and are now risk being ditched altogether: 

  • Ensure that tips go to workers in full. 

  • Introduce a new right for all workers to request a more predictable contract. 

  • Create a new, single enforcement body, offering greater protections for workers. 

  • Extend redundancy protections to prevent pregnancy and maternity discrimination. 

  • Make flexible working the default unless employers have good reason not to. 

  • Allow parents to take extended paid leave for neonatal care. 

  • Introduce a new legal entitlement to one week’s leave for unpaid carers. 

In addition, the government consulted on reasonable notice period for shifts allocated and cancelled, and payments for cancelled shifts, which the TUC points out the government has “since gone quiet on.” 

The union body also highlights that the government promise to make employers responsible for preventing sexual harassment risks falling by the wayside without the employment bill, as the policy needs primary legislation to carry it forward.  

Insecure work  

The government promised that the employment bill would “build on existing employment law with measures that protect those in low-paid work and the gig economy”. 

The TUC is calling for the government to make good on this promise and use an employment bill to ban zero-hour contracts and clamp down on low-paid insecure work, which it says has been allowed to spiral “unchecked” under successive Conservative governments.  

New research by the union body published yesterday shows that government failure to tackle insecure work has been starving public finances of around £10bn each year, as a result of lower tax take and increased social security pay outs.  

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said:  

“This government was elected on a manifesto promise to make Britain the best place to work in the world. 

“Anything less than an employment bill today would be an act of betrayal – the government will have conned working people.  

“Without new legislation workers will be denied a host vital rights and protections ministers had promised to deliver. 

“These include fair notice for shifts and payment for cancelled shifts, flexible working rights and protection from pregnancy discrimination – plus many more. 

“Enough is enough. More than one million are on zero hour contracts, 3.6 million are in insecure work and the size of the gig economy workforce has almost tripled in the past five years. 

“Ministers have no excuse for breaking their pledge to enhance workers’ rights.” 

Editors note

-In the notes to the 2019 Queen’s Speech, the government said it would bring forward the employment bill to:  

  • Protect and enhance workers’ rights as the UK leaves the EU, making Britain the best place in the world to work.  

  • Promote fairness in the workplace, striking the right balance between the flexibility that the economy needs and the security that workers deserve.  

  • Strengthen workers’ ability to get redress for poor treatment by creating a new, single enforcement body.  

  • Offer greater protections for workers by prioritising fairness in the workplace, and introducing better support for working families.  

  • Build on existing employment law with measures that protect those in low-paid work and the gig economy. 

-In the 2019 Conservative manifesto, the following promises were made on employment rights:  

  • We will create a single enforcement body and crack down on any employer abusing employment law, whether by taking workers’ tips or refusing them sick pay.  

  • We will ensure that workers have the right to request a more predictable contract and other reasonable protections. 

  • We will encourage flexible working and consult on making it the default unless employers have good reasons not to.  

  • We have reformed redundancy law so companies cannot discriminate against women immediately after returning from maternity leave.  

  • We will legislate to allow parents to take extended leave for neonatal care, to support those new mothers and fathers who need it during the most vulnerable and stressful days of their lives.  

  • We will look at ways to make it easier for fathers to take paternity leave.  

  • We will extend the entitlement to leave for unpaid carers, the majority of whom are women, to a week. 

- About the TUC: The Trades Union Congress (TUC) exists to make the working world a better place for everyone. We bring together the 5.5 million working people who make up our 48 member unions. We support unions to grow and thrive, and we stand up for everyone who works for a living. 


TUC press office   
020 7467 1248  

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