New employment laws on the way under NI Legislative Agenda

Jenni Barkley

February 12 2020

The New Decade, New Approach deal (the Deal) recently ended three years of political stagnation in Northern Ireland. In an effort to consign the last three years of legislative inactivity to the past, the deal contains deadlines for legislation and commitments for action that effectively act as a Programme for Government.

So, what does the Deal entail?

Short-term and long-term objectives

The Deal includes an overview of what we might expect in terms of developments in employment rights in Northern Ireland. As employment law is a devolved matter in Northern Ireland, any new laws governing employment relations are enacted in Stormont. The Deal, therefore, includes information outlining employment law priorities for the next three months, twelve months and the longer term. 

Equality pledges by April

The Stormont Executive has pledged to confirm a comprehensive timetable by April this year. This is to deliver on a commitment to develop 14 separate strategies with five of these focusing on equality to include:

  • Racial equality strategy
  • Disability strategy
  • Gender strategy
  • Sexual orientation strategy
  • Active-aging strategy

Year one commitments

Among the commitments to be achieved within the next twelve months are:

  • The Stormont Executive to become a living wage employer.
  • The introduction of a ban on zero-hour contracts.
  • Make minimum wage rates a devolved matter.
  • An age, goods and facilities and services bill being brought forward to the Executive. This will ensure no one is discriminated against on grounds of their age.

Long-term commitments

The longer-term focus of the Executive centres on creating good quality jobs and protecting workers’ rights. We saw recent evidence of the commitment to improve employee rights by Minister for the Economy, Diane Dodds. She confirmed the intention to bring parental bereavement leave rights in Northern Ireland into line with Great Britain. It’s now a statutory legal right that employees enjoy in GB.

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