The Queen has announced the legislative programme for the next parliamentary session. For the business community there were several points of interest including a Pensions Bill and the Employment Relations Act 1999. There was no provision, however, for the so called Corporate Killing Act.
The government has set a target to restore confidence in UK pensions and from 2005, employers will be forced to pay into a protection fund which will cover workers pensions if the company goes bust. The government said it would ensure “a pension promised is a pension paid,” but workers who have already lost out will not be compensated.
“The Fund will help restore faith in pensions by giving members of final salary schemes the reassurance of a pension safety net,” said Dr Deborah Cooper, Senior Research Actuary at Mercer. But she cautioned: “If the insurance levy is not allocated fairly, there will be unacceptable cross-subsidies between those contributing to the Fund. Some employers may stop providing final salary schemes rather than pay the levy.” She added: “If the levy is priced too low at the start, employers will face increasingly higher charges, especially if there is a decline in the number of employers paying the levy.”
Legislation will be introduced to implement the conclusions of the Government’s review of the Employment Relations Act 1999.
It will build on the EU Information and Consultation Directive to create a “no surprises culture”. This means that worker councils will have to be established and firms will have to consult with employees about key decisions that affect them, including employment prospects, contract changes and redundancies.
The Disability Rights Commission welcomed the draft disability bill included in the speech which complements and strengthens the Disability Discrimination Act. The Disability Rights Commission’s Chairman, Bert Massie, said: “A new Bill should deal with injustices caused to people with cancer and HIV by providing protection from discrimination.”
Legislation which would make it easier to prosecute businesses responsible for fatal accidents has been left out of the Queen’s Speech. It may be, however, that the legislation will be announced later in the year.