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Employment Legislation

Volume 709: debated on Tuesday 22 February 2022

8. What stakeholder engagement his Department has undertaken on the Government’s forthcoming Employment Bill. (905673)

We have engaged extensively with stakeholders, both formally and informally, on a range of reforms to our employment framework, and will continue to do so in order to ensure that they deliver on our plan to build a high-skill, high-productivity, high-wage economy.

May I first express my thanks, Mr Speaker, to you for your kindness to my partner and me when our son was born last month?

This week the Northern Ireland Assembly gave a commitment to legislate for miscarriage leave, and the Scottish Government have given a commitment to introduce three days’ paid leave in the public sector. Will this Government give a commitment to introducing paid miscarriage leave in the Employment Bill?

I congratulate the hon. Member and her partner on their fantastic news. It was a pleasure to meet her to discuss her private Member’s Bill on the subject that she has raised. We recognise that losing a baby at any stage is incredibly difficult, and we encourage employers to be compassionate. There is no statutory entitlement to leave for women who lose a baby before 24 completed weeks of pregnancy, but those who are unable to return to work may be entitled to statutory sick pay, and women are protected against workplace discrimination due to any pregnancy-related illness, including illness caused by miscarriage. That protection extends to two weeks after the end of the pregnancy.

The Government have already taken important steps to stop the abuse of non-disclosure agreements in universities. Will my hon. Friend look at how he can take this forward in his Employment Bill by talking to organisations such as Can’t Buy My Silence, which are doing important work on ensuring that non-disclosure agreements are not misused in the workplace to cover up criminal allegations?

I congratulate my right hon. Friend on her work in this and many other areas. I would happily meet her and that organisation to continue our conversation on NDAs.

I wonder if the Minister has done any stakeholder engagement with the new Minister for Brexit Opportunities and Government Efficiency, the right hon. Member for North East Somerset (Mr Rees-Mogg). I ask that question because in The Times at the weekend the new Minister said:

“Sometimes the employer would think they need more protection from the employee.”

That view is wrong. Too many people are in precarious employment and do not have strong workplace rights, and the Employment Bill is a chance to begin to address that. Does the Minister agree with us that it is employees who need more protection, or does he agree with his colleague that it is the employers who need more help?

We will bring forward changes to the employment framework in due course. While we are working on that, and when parliamentary time allows, we are working on employment. That is why we have record numbers of people on payroll—men and women and people from all backgrounds, abilities and situations.