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The Queen’s Speech, which recently took place on 18 May, is seen as a look ahead to the laws the Government hopes to get Parliamentary approval of over the coming year. It marks the start of the Parliamentary year and often highlights the priorities of new ministers and upcoming political hot topics. For employers, it can give a hint of changes to come which may affect them, their employees, and their business.
The point of most interest for employers is the Pensions Bill, which has highlighted the need for better protection for people paying into multi-employer pension schemes called Master Trusts. Currently these are not regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority, but are supervised much less stringently by The Pensions Regulator (TPR). There have been concerns raised that if employers offering Master Trusts fold, the individuals holding pensions with them are not protected and risk losing their money, and the lack of regulation around them has resulted in some dubious claims being made by some employers.These types of schemes are popular with small businesses employing less than 30 people, and the new bill will give TPR greater authority and control over the management of these schemes, offering more protection to the savings of up to a quarter of a million people. Currently, only nine out of the 72 Master Trust schemes listed on TPR’s website qualify for their kite-mark, demonstrating the necessity to introduce quality control and stricter criteria to these schemes. Another inclusion in the Pensions Bill is a cap on early exit fees, but it has not yet been announced what this cap will be.
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Other bills which employers should take note of include the Criminal Finances Bill, which means employers will be made liable for stopping their staff facilitating tax evasion. In addition, changes to the Intellectual Property Bill could make it easier for employers to settle disputes over intellectual property out of court but this is subject to consultation and a report by the Law Commission.
Also subject to consultation is the Bill of Rights. There are plans for a British Bill of Rights to replace the Human Rights Act, but these are yet to be published. This will take into account the UK’s common law tradition, and will be based on the human rights set out in the European Convention on Human Rights.
Pam Loch, Managing Director of niche employment law practice, Loch Employment Law, HR Advise Me and Loch Training.