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Status of Workers Bill [HL]

Volume 818: debated on Friday 28 January 2022

Third Reading

Clause 1: Amendments to the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992


Moved by

: Clause 1, page 2, line 44, at end insert “and any such regulations must be made by statutory instrument which is subject to annulment in pursuance of a resolution of either House of Parliament.”

Member’s explanatory statement

This is a technical amendment to ensure (in order to comply with the recommendation of the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee in HL Paper 101, 18 November 2021) that the Bill, which inserts identical provisions regulating the status of workers into the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992 and the Employment Rights Act 1996, provides identical mechanisms to allow the Secretary of State to exercise the additional powers given by the Bill to expand the categories of “worker” and “employer” (Clauses 1(6) and 2(6)). Currently, the 1996 Act requires such powers to be exercised by Statutory Instrument subject to the negative procedure but the 1992 Act does not. The proposed amendment would amend the 1992 Act so as to ensure consistency under both Acts.

My Lords, this amendment is in my name and on a sheet marked HL Bill 14—TR(a). It is a technical amendment, so perhaps I can remind your Lordships of the context of the Bill and the purpose of the amendment. The context is that the Bill seeks to amend the two major Acts of Parliament regulating employment in the United Kingdom: the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992 and the Employment Rights Act 1996. It provides amended definitions of the concepts of worker, employee and employer.

In the Bill, the Secretary of State is given power to make regulations to deal with anomalous cases. The problem is that the 1996 Act provides a mechanism for the Secretary of State to do that by way of statutory instrument, subject to the negative procedure. However, the 1992 Act does not provide such a mechanism. Therefore, this amendment is designed to give effect to the democratic purpose by providing an equivalent power to the Secretary of State to exercise his regulatory power by statutory instrument, subject to the negative procedure. It is entirely technical and makes the provisions of both Acts, should the Bill be passed, equal.

I was not aware of this defect when drafting the Bill, which may be thought surprising, given that I spent almost my entire career arguing over bits of both pieces of legislation. However, the anomaly was drawn to my attention by the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee’s report, which was published after that committee dealt with my Bill. I am sorry to say that I am a member of that committee, so it was particularly shameful to be rapped over the knuckles by it for my omission. I hope now to put the matter right. I beg to move.

Amendment agreed.


Moved by

My Lords, I speak in place of my noble friend Lord Bassam, who cannot be here today.

We on these Benches support my noble friend Lord Hendy and his Bill, which will create a single status of worker. I express my thanks to my noble friend for introducing the Bill and for his amendment, along with his great honesty about the need for it.

The Bill elegantly replaces existing employment categories, thereby removing qualifying periods for basic rights and protections. It gives workers rights in the job from day one, so all workers would receive rights and protections, such as statutory sick pay, national minimum wage entitlement, holiday pay, paid parental leave and protection against unfair dismissal, while the genuinely self-employed would retain their status. It is of course a shame that parliamentary time limits mean that the Bill may be going no further. I therefore hope to see it as a government Bill before too long.

My Lords, I have made this speech on a number of occasions. There are roughly 6 million trade unionists in Britain, and a third of them—2 million—vote for the party on these Benches. I am pleased, on their behalf, to welcome the Bill. It is a good step forward, because we always need to keep in mind the balance between the rights of the workers and those of the employers. This is a good Bill that rights an anomaly, and I hope that it will go further. I know that is difficult, but it is certainly in the right place and it has my personal full support.

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Hendy, for moving his technical amendment in order to comply, as he said, with the recommendation of the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee. While the Government are not convinced that the Bill is the right course of action, we agree with the importance of legislative scrutiny and consistency. The Government therefore welcome the amendment, which would ensure consistency under the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992 and the Employment Rights Act 1996—although, as I said, we cannot support the Bill.

I congratulate the noble Lord on bringing the Bill to the House and on enabling this debate on an important subject. I thank all noble Lords for their contributions during Second Reading, which allowed for what I thought was an insightful and important debate on this topic. I also thank the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee for its expert contribution and the noble Lord, Lord Hendy, for tabling his amendment.

As I said at the start, the Government are not convinced that the Bill is the right solution to give greater protection to those in insecure work. We will continue to take steps to protect vulnerable workers, delivering on our ambition to make the UK the best place in the world to work and grow a business.

My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for his speech. I am grateful, too, for the other speeches made today and those which were made on Second Reading. I am particularly grateful that the Bill has enjoyed wide support across the House, on all sides. I of course understand the position of the Minister in being unable to support it, but he stands alone in this. If the Bill is passed it will, as the noble Lord, Lord Balfe, said, render great justice to hundreds of thousands of workers who are wrongly classified, and thereby deprived of the statutory rights which Parliament has bestowed on working people. It will also provide, in accordance with the Government’s policy, a levelling-up process by which all employers will stand on a level playing field in the engagement of their workforce.

Bill passed and sent to the Commons.