Insights 11.5.22 Author: Andreja Okamgba

Queen’s Speech: No mention of the Employment Bill, but new announcement on exclusivity clauses

Insights 11.05.2022 Author: Andreja Okamgba

There was no mention of the long-awaited Employment Bill in the Queen’s Speech delivered yesterday, 10th May 2022, by Prince Charles.

The Employment Bill was initially announced in the same speech in 2019 and has faced delays ever since, with some commentators even expressing fears it has now been shelved by the Government. However, the Government has responded to its December 2020 consultation on exclusivity clauses. The existing ban on exclusivity clauses in zero hours contracts will be extended to all contracts where a worker has a guaranteed weekly income at or below the lower earnings limit for National Insurance purposes.

The Employment Bill was not introduced as intended in the 2019-2021 parliamentary session and the proposals have now been delayed again.  When it is introduced, the Bill will be expected to:

  • Make flexible working the default
  • Introduce new rights to neonatal and carers’ leave
  • Introduce the right to request a more predictable contract for individuals without guaranteed hours of work
  • Increase protection against redundancy for pregnant employees and parents returning to work after maternity, adoption or shared parental leave
  • Introduce a duty on employers to take all reasonable steps to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace
  • Create a new single enforcement body to ensure workers’ rights are protected

Its continued delay has prompted criticism of the Government for avoiding the critical issues contained in the Bill and letting down the country’s workers, in particular women.

Exclusivity clauses

Exclusivity clauses in employment contracts restrict workers from taking on additional work with other employers. There can be good reasons why an employer may use exclusivity clauses to protect the interests of the business, but they should equally respect the right for a worker to earn a living.

Exclusivity clauses were banned for workers on zero hours contracts in 2015. This allowed workers without guaranteed hours to pick up work from another employer without having to get permission from or be restricted in doing so by the company employing them on a zero hours basis.

The consultation sought views on extending the ban on exclusivity clauses to include employment contracts where a worker’s guaranteed weekly income is less than the lower earnings limit for National Insurance purposes. The consultation closed on 26th February 2021 and the results have now been announced.

The Government will legislate on extending the ban on exclusivity clauses, making them unenforceable in employment contracts where the guaranteed weekly income is below or equivalent to the Lower Earnings Limit, currently £123 a week.

What next?

If you have any questions regarding the exclusivity clauses, or any other HR issue, please contact Andreja Okamgba.