"While Brexit and national security, along with healthcare, welfare, education and housing, are issues high on most voters lists, changes to employment law will also affect the lives of many."
With polling underway, Brexit and national security are sure to be high on most voters’ lists, along with the usual issues such as healthcare, welfare, education, housing and the environment. But while employment law doesn’t appear to feature too highly in the top concerns of most voters according to the final Ipsos MORI/Economist Issues Index, for those who do consider it an important issue, here is our brief guide to the key employment law issues within the main parties’ manifestos…
Theresa May has stated that her party’s manifesto would include the “greatest expansion in workers’ rights by any Conservative government in history”. So, what are the Conservatives proposing? Currently, there are no plans to repeal any workers’ rights derived from EU law following Brexit. The National Living Wage will continue to increase, aiming to reach 60% of median earnings by 2020 and then increase in line with median earnings until 2022. The review of employment practices in the modern economy will continue and its conclusions acted upon with the aim of protecting the rights of workers and employees including those working in the gig economy.
There will be a right to take leave for training purposes and a right to child bereavement leave; the proposed duration of which is yet unknown. There are also proposals to introduce extended leave to allow workers to take unpaid leave to take care of sick relatives. The manifesto also refers to Returnship programmes aimed at helping those such as women and carers to return to work. There are also proposals to introduce mandatory reporting requirements, similar to those for gender pay gap purposes, to minimise pay disparities between people from different ethnic backgrounds. Listed companies will face measures aimed at improving worker representation on boards and allow workers to request information relating to the future direction of the company employing them.
The Equality Act 2010 will be amended to provide disability protection to those suffering from mental health conditions such as stress, anxiety and bipolar disorders. There are also plans to offer incentives to employers in the form of one years’ relief on NIC’s where employing certain vulnerable workers, such as former wards of the care system, those with chronic mental health problems, or those who have committed a crime but served their sentence. Lastly, the Immigration Skills Charge levied on those businesses employing migrant workers will increase from £1000 to £2000 per year.
Labour’s “For the Many, not the Few” manifesto contains a 20 point “plan for security and equality at work”. We would see a new Ministry of Labour, strengthening of the role of unions, along with proposals to tackle pay inequality, Brexit and zero hours work.
The Ministry of Labour will enforce workers’ rights and impose fines on employers who are not “meeting their responsibilities”, with trade unions having an executive seat on the board of the Ministry. Additional Trade Union rights will include giving all workers the right to receive union representation, all unions being guaranteed access to the workplace to speak to members, only awarding public contracts to employers that recognise unions in the workplace, and launching a public inquiry into the blacklisting of union members.
Following Brexit, all rights guaranteed under EU law will be protected. There are plans to ban zero hours contracts and ensure that every worker receives a guaranteed number of hours a week. It is proposed to give all workers equal rights from day one, regardless of their employment status. There will be four additional bank holidays, too.
There will be a crackdown on employers who refuse to pay National Minimum Wage and plans to increase it to the National Living Wage (for workers aged 18 or over) which is expected to be at least £10 per hour from 2020. There will also be an increase in the scope of the current 30 hours free childcare to include all two year olds, mandatory workplace risk assessments for pregnant women, an increase to paternity pay and double paternity leave to four weeks, and an extension of maternity pay to 12 months. There are also plans to introduce a statutory right to bereavement leave.
Employment Tribunal fees will be abolished, allowing more workers access to enforce their employment rights. There are plans to introduce legislation to limit employers that have an overseas only recruitment policy and a stronger emphasis on Apprenticeships. From an equality perspective, there are plans to make it easier for disabled workers to challenge discrimination at work, to strengthen protections from women against the threat of unfair redundancy, reinstate protection against third party harassment, a civil enforcement system to ensure compliance with gender pay gap reporting, the introduction of equal pay audits on larger employers to close the ethnicity pay gap, and plans to ensure those bidding for public-sector contracts must not have a pay ratio between the highest and lowest earners which exceeds 20:1.
With regards to Brexit, there is a pledge to remain in the single market, meaning workers’ EU rights would remain unchanged. In terms of discrimination, there is an aspiration to achieve 40% female boards in FTSE 350 companies, plans to build on the existing gender pay gap rules to include the publication of data in relation to gender, ethnicity and LGBT employment levels and pay gaps, a guarantee of freedom to wear religious or cultural dress and attempts to encourage name blind recruitment processes in the private sector.
There are also proposals for flexible working for working families, paternity leave and shared parental leave day one rights, the introduction of an additional months’ “use it or lose it” period of shared parental leave for fathers and an extension of the 15 hours a week childcare to all two year olds and children of working families from the end of maternity/paternity/shared parental leave, with a long term goal of increasing children to 30 hours a week.
The manifesto also promises to ban zero hours contracts and give workers a statutory right to request a fixed term contract. There are also proposals to create a “good employer” kitemark which would be obtained by paying the National Living Wage, avoiding unpaid internships and using name blind recruitment processes. Employment Tribunal fees would also be abolished.
Whatever the outcome of the General Election, our Employment Law experts are available to help and advise you on a wide range of employment law issues. Please call 0161 832 4666 or email email@example.com if you need straightforward, professional legal advice.