Queen’s Speech: Exclusivity contracts for low-paid workers to be banned

A ban on exclusivity clauses for low-paid workers and changes to data protection rules are likely to feature in this year’s Queen’s Speech, which will be delivered tomorrow (10 May) to parliament.

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy has today announced plans to widen the ban on exclusivity clauses to workers below the lower-earnings limit of £123 a week.

This means around 1.5 million workers will be able to work for multiple employers to top up their weekly income. The government claims it will give workers more flexibility over when and where they work and to plan jobs around childcare or study.

It will also help employers to widen their pool of job applicants at a point when vacancies are at an all time high.

“While not everyone will want a second job, the reforms will remove red tape that prevents those who want to do so – for example, gig economy workers, younger people, or those from disadvantaged backgrounds facing barriers to entering the labour market,” the government said.

While it has been widely reported that tomorrow’s Queen’s Speech will not feature the much-anticipated Employment Bill, the exclusivity ban is among a number of pieces of legislation that could affect employers.

A key feature of the speech is likely to be the Brexit Freedoms Bill, which will make it easier to amend or remove retained EU law, which refers to any legislation kept on the statute book after Brexit as a bridging measure. The government claims this will save £1 billion in red tape.

It’s also thought the government will announce a data reform bill that would allow the UK to deviate from EU privacy legislation. While the bill is still in draft, it could mean changes to obligations around how employee records are stored and processed if businesses are no longer covered by the General Data Protection Regulation.

Exclusivity clauses were banned for workers on zero-hours contracts in May 2015, but the new legislation will cover any worker on or below £123 a week.

Commenting on the reform, business minister Paul Scully said: “We are creating a high skilled, high productivity labour market that supports workers by removing unnecessary red tape, helping the British people boost their incomes and keep more of what they earn.

“By extending the ban on exclusivity clauses, we are putting more control into the hands of the lowest paid, giving them the freedom to decide who they work for and how often, including the option to top up their pay packet if they wish.”

The announcement coincides with a new report by the TUC which finds that insecure, low-paid work costs the Treasury almost £10 billion a year in lost taxes.

“Britain’s insecure work epidemic isn’t just punishing workers – it’s starving the public finances too,” said general secretary Frances O’Grady.

“The government’s failure to clamp down on shady employment practices is costing the Treasury a fortune every year. And that means less funding for our cash-strapped hospitals, care homes and schools.”

The TUC wants the government to push through the Employment Bill to ensure all types of workers enjoy the same “floor of rights” as permanent employees and to ban exploitative zero-hours contracts.

O’Grady added: “Ministers must stick to their word and deliver the long overdue Employment Bill.

“Leaving insecure work to flourish unchecked would be an act of betrayal. And it would send a green light to bad bosses to carry on cheating their workers and the taxman.”

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