In a historic address by King Charles, marking his first speech as king in 70 years, the workforce-centric perspective was notably lacking, leaving many underwhelmed.

The speech, delivered by the House of Lords, primarily delved into domestic energy security, rail reform, criminal justice, housing, and football governance regulation, neglecting key workforce concerns.

While post-16 skills and education received some attention, the absence of a comprehensive employment bill and limited progress on pension reform raised eyebrows.

The missing employment bill, a Conservative manifesto promise since 2019, continues to perplex as it leaves employers and employees in a state of uncertainty. Essential topics such as minimum wage, employment agency regulation, and worker rights remain unaddressed.

Bobby Ahmed, an employment lawyer and managing director of Neathouse Partners, voiced concerns about the lack of guidance for HR professionals and the challenges they face in strategic planning and policy development.

The oversight of employment legislation in the king’s speech represents a missed opportunity to modernise UK employment law in line with current work practices and societal expectations.

Learning and development

Skills development was a major theme, with a focus on extending the study of mathematics until the age of 18, merging A-levels and T-levels, and curbing poor-quality university degrees. However, these measures raised concerns about the potential impact on the workforce’s ability to meet the demands of businesses, especially those supporting social mobility.

Calls were made for the establishment of a labour market insights body to inform policy decisions related to skills and education. A greater emphasis on skills development was also urged, with trade deals needing provisions for recruitment and a comprehensive strategy to support industrial and green policies.

High-quality apprenticeships received praise as a means to diversify education pathways and address the ongoing skills crisis. Workforce health and well-being found limited mention, raising concerns among business leaders and HR professionals, particularly in light of the rising rates of sick leave, stress-related absences, and mental health issues.

No mention of a pensions bill

Despite plans for pension reform, there was disappointment over the absence of a pensions bill in the king’s speech. Nevertheless, there is hope that changes will be driven through secondary legislation or guidance.

In a speech focused on law and order, Kelly Dolphin, people and culture director at SBFM, urged a stronger commitment to providing opportunities for ex-offenders, emphasising their reliability, motivation, and job performance. While the justice system sees reform, faith in ex-offenders with valuable skills is essential to combat stereotypes, reduce recidivism, and offer a brighter future upon release.





Amelia Brand is the Editor for HRreview, and host of the HR in Review podcast series. With a Master’s degree in Legal and Political Theory, her particular interests within HR include employment law, DE&I, and wellbeing within the workplace. Prior to working with HRreview, Amelia was Sub-Editor of a magazine, and Editor of the Environmental Justice Project at University College London, writing and overseeing articles into UCL’s weekly newsletter. Her previous academic work has focused on philosophy, politics and law, with a special focus on how artificial intelligence will feature in the future.