Responding to the Queen’s Speech (19 December), the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH), the Chartered body for safety and health professionals, has said that employment law protections under the new Conservative government need to be “far more ambitious” than has been proposed.
The new Employment Bill announced during the Queen’s Speech sets out a plan to improve workers’ rights and to promote fairness in the workplace, while a new single enforcement body will be established to offer greater protections to workers.
However, while the Bill commits to maintaining high standards, improving fairness in the workplace and protecting those in low-paid work and the ‘gig economy’, it is lacking in key areas relating to occupational health service reforms and rights to request health-related workplace modifications.
Richard Jones, IOSH Head of Policy and Regulatory Engagement, said: “Yesterday’s Queen’s Speech laid out the new government’s programme, emphasising work on Brexit and domestic reforms.
“IOSH’s focus at this time of great national change is two-fold: ensuring no erosion of health and safety standards and building a safer, healthier, more sustainable future for all. Not only must we maintain standards, but we must also energetically drive continual improvement in them.
“It is vital that the Political Declaration commitment on the future relationship between the European Union and the United Kingdom to uphold common high standards for workers’ rights and protections is fully met.
“To ensure the UK is fit for the future, the new Employment Bill needs far more ambition than currently proposed – covering occupational health service reforms and subsidies and rights to request health-based modifications and to be able to ‘switch off’ from work.
“Good work is good for individuals, businesses and the economy and good health and safety is fundamental to this.”
Earlier this month, IOSH urged the government to ‘get health and safety done’ by committing to the protection of workers’ rights and future-proofing the UK’s world-leading health and safety system following the general election.
IOSH, together with sector partners including British Safety Council, the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health and the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, are discussing ways of working together to make the case for maintaining and enhancing workers’ protections.
The Queen’s Speech also announced a new Building Safety Bill, which will put in place a new regulatory regime for building safety and construction products, while a new Fire Safety Bill will implement the relevant recommendations of the Grenfell Tower Public Inquiry Phase 1 Report.
In 2018, IOSH urged the UK Government to act swiftly to implement the recommendations made in Dame Judith Hackitt’s review into building regulations and fire safety – adding that “lives are at stake”.
- The IOSH Manifesto, Towards a safe and healthy world of work, highlights key OSH themes for UK and other Governments to help ensure a safe, healthy and sustainable future: https://www.iosh.com/media/6559/iosh-manifesto-2019.pdf
- The government’s ‘background briefing note’ on the Queen’s Speech outlines the key bills and reforms and the government’s stated purpose and intended benefits from each.