So, just two days after shelving a repeatedly promised Employment Bill intended to deliver a raft of policy pledges made as long ago as February 2018, Boris Johnson has launched a new review into the future of work. Because the 2017 Taylor Review of Modern Working Practices didn’t tell us enough about “the implications of new forms of work on worker rights and responsibilities”, obviously.
The Terms of Reference for the Warman Review appear to have been written by an intern at the Cabinet Office. On their first day in the job. But that doesn’t matter because, thanks to an interview that the Prime Minister gave to the Daily Fail on Friday, we already know that the Review will conclude that working from home involves far too much making coffee and walking slowly to the fridge to hack off a piece of Beaufort d’été, and everyone should just get back to the office.
Meanwhile, some family rights groups are doing what ineffectual BEIS officials want them to do: provide some cover for ineffectual BEIS ministers by bigging up the possibility of Government-backed Private Members’ Bills designed to deliver some of the Government’s abandoned policy pledges ahead of the PMB ballot later this week (a possible ‘strategy’ first flagged by The Times on 2 May, and by yours truly on this blog).
Of course, the Employment Bill’s omission from the Queen’s Speech on 10 May does not mean that ministers cannot introduce the Bill – or one or more mini-Employment Bills – in this parliamentary session. Governments routinely introduce new legislation that wasn’t mentioned in the previous Queen’s Speech. But with three other (sizeable) Bills in the new legislative programme, it does seem unlikely that BEIS ministers will find the time and energy to pull rabbits out of hats before a general election in 2023.
In any case, the principal obstacle to progress on the outstanding promises on workers’ rights is not the Johnson Government’s lack of parliamentary time but – as Women & Equalities Committee chair Caroline Nokes MP noted on Friday – its “lack of will or care to foster a fairer and more equal society”.
Whatever, in the House of Commons on Thursday – during the Fairness at Work-themed debate on the Queen’s Speech – equalities minister Kemi Badenoch insisted both that the Government doesn’t need to have the Employment Bill that it has repeatedly promised, and that the Government is still committed to having the repeatedly promised Employment Bill that it doesn’t need.