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IOSH responds to Queen’s Speech

On Tuesday 10 May, the Prince of Wales delivered the annual Queen’s Speech at the State Opening of Parliament. While there was no reference to the long-awaited Employment Bill, there were a number of bills mentioned which relate to occupational safety and health. Here, IOSH Policy Development Manager Dr Ivan Williams Jimenez reflects on them.

Modern Slavery Bill

IOSH welcomes the proposed improvements towards supporting victims of human trafficking and modern slavery and toughening sanctions for breaches of Slavery and Trafficking Prevention and Risk Orders.

The government appetite for introducing additional disclosure and substantive compliance requirements, together with tougher penalties for non-compliance, is the way to move forward and is consistent with the recommendations of the independent review of the Modern Slavery Act 2015.

IOSH argues that transparency and high-quality reporting are crucial to the multi-faceted response needed to help eradicate labour exploitation.

This is also aligned with IOSH’s advocacy efforts that have alerted on how poor practices of meaningful corporate disclosures should compel public policy, investors, civil society, and other key stakeholders to push for greater transparency.

IOSH expects to see a stronger emphasis being placed on the way companies are required to progressively improve their understanding and oversight of all tiers of their supply chains. This can be done by extending the regulatory proposal to responsible business practices beyond first-tier suppliers as the greatest modern slavery risks are present in outsourced sub-tiers of supply chains

Corporate Transparency Bill

It is great to see the strong focus on increased corporate transparency. A fair comparison will have to be drawn at the ongoing developments that aim at strengthening the regulatory framework on company law and corporate governance (e.g., the EU proposal on a directive on Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence) to see if the Corporate Transparency Bill is fit for purpose. Rising concern over supply chains, decent work and corporate accountability are driving forces to encourage businesses to frame decisions in terms of their social and employee impact, as well as in terms of the company’s development in the longer term. There is a potential risk that this “shortism” mindset that focuses on short-term gains can be associated to the infrastructure projects that the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill might cover.

We also recommend that corporate transparency and oversight is directed to companies with poor human rights records or performance reporting practices.

Draft Mental Health Act Reform Bill

While IOSH welcomes the expressed governmental desire to articulate legislation to update and reform the Mental Health Act as a continuum to the crucial Mental Health Recovery Action Plan, the proposal might fall short on workplace mental health and wellbeing. We want an Act that adequately addresses racial disparities, including the disproportionately high prevalence of mental health issues to vulnerable workers and those from Black, Asian and minority ethnics backgrounds.

IOSH therefore does not see a strong push for integrating psychological support initiatives into the workplace or by encouraging companies to embed workplace mental health interventions focusing on the promotion, prevention, and support of mental health at work. We are of the same opinion regarding one of the key Stevenson-Farmer recommendations that aimed at providing financial incentives for SMEs to better support occupational health and mental health at work. For any legislation to be effective, adequate funding and resources must be provided.

Human Rights

It is yet to conclude if the announced changes to the Human Rights Act – being superseded by the British Bill of Rights – will improve or weaken the protection of the public rights. What it is difficult to see is the way in which the proposed changes will lead businesses and investors for adopting stronger compliance practices and policies to prevent human rights abuse and environmental harm in global operations and value chains, at a time when the government's commitments to ‘levelling up’ and Regeneration Bill and Energy Security Bill have been expressed.

The proposed legislative reform could impact the UK Government’s international credibility as a human right leader, in particular in relation to trade and investment policies on an international level. It could also impact on the UK obligation to respect and promote safe and healthy working conditions as an international Fundamental Principle and Right at Work.

IOSH will continue to influence policymakers through advocacy and engagement in public policy initiatives on the issues affecting the safety, health and wellbeing of people at work across industry sectors.

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Marcus Boocock
PR Lead +44 (0)116 257 3139
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