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24th April 2015

Significant Employment Law Provisions Receive Royal Assent Prior to the Dissolution of Parliament.

The formal end of the current Parliamentary session was announced on 26th March 2015, with Parliament formally being dissolved on 30th March 2015.  Significant pieces of legislation with employment law implications which received Royal Assent immediately prior to the dissolution of Parliament included The Modern Slavery Act 2015, the Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Act 2015 and the Deregulation Act 2015.

The Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Bill received Royal Assent on 26 March but no commencement order has yet been made in relation to almost all of the employment provisions. Section 153, which provides for exclusivity clauses in zero hours contracts to be unenforceable, is not yet in force, despite statements in the press by various politicians suggesting the contrary. It is not known when the implementation date for the employment provisions is likely to be, although this will almost certainly be at some point during the next Parliament.

Section 3 of the Deregulation Act 2015 provides for English apprenticeships to replace apprenticeships under the Apprenticeships, Skills, Children and Learning Act 2009. An approved English apprenticeship will take place under an “approved English apprenticeship agreement” or will be an “alternative English apprenticeship” and, in each case, must satisfy conditions to be specified in regulations to be published by the Secretary of State. 

In addition to the above, Section 2 of the Deregulation Act 2015 provides for section 124 of the Equality Act 2010 to be amended, to remove the powers of employment tribunals to make wider recommendations in successful discrimination cases.  However, this provision will not come into force until 1 October 2015.

Section 1 of the Deregulation Act 2015 amends section 3 of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 to narrow the duty which is imposed on self-employed persons, with regard to the health and safety of third parties.

The Modern Slavery Act 2015 received Royal Assent on 26 March 2015. The Act consolidates and simplifies existing slavery and trafficking offences. Under section 1 of the Act, it is an offence to hold another person in slavery or servitude, or to require them to perform forced or compulsory labour. Offences may be committed even if the victim consents to slavery, servitude or forced or compulsory labour. All relevant circumstances are taken into account, including the vulnerability of the victims.

The Act also introduces protections for victims of abuse who are on an overseas domestic workers visa. In particular, the Act provides for immigration rules to be made which grant victims of human trafficking or slavery leave to remain in the UK for at least six months as domestic workers, with the right to change employer.

In addition to the above, the Modern Slavery Act 2015 also:

  • Increases the maximum sentence available from 14 years to life imprisonment.
  • Introduces civil orders to restrict the activity of those who pose a risk and those convicted of slavery and trafficking offences.
  • Creates a new Anti-slavery Commissioner, who will combine efforts to tackle modern day slavery.
  • Establishes a legal duty on public authorities to report potential victims of trafficking to the National Crime Agency.

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