Employment changes on the radar following manifesto publication

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28 November, 2019

With a raft of issues ripe for discussion in the lead up to the General Election, there is no rest for the main political parties vying for support. The law surrounding employment and the workplace has always been a critical area of debate. But given the particularly wide gulf between ideological stances of the parties at the current time, and the popular debate surrounding employment issues (such as worker status) the debate is a crucial element of current campaigns.

Now all three of the main political parties have published their manifestos, it is possible to summarise the varying possible implications for employment law depending on which party, or possibly coalition, gains power following the election on 12 December.

Each party's main pledges relating to the workplace and employment law are summarised below:

Labour - described as the 'biggest extension of workers' rights in history'

  • Real Living Wage of at least £10 per hour for all workers aged 16 and over
  • Public finances to help small businesses manage the extra cost of the Real Living Wage
  • Large Companies to set up Inclusive Ownership Funds whereby up to 10% of the company will be owned collectively by employees
  • Introduction of variety of benefits for the self-employed such as free childcare, collective income protection schemes, and measures to address late payment
  • Introduction of Ministry for Employment Rights to give working people a voice at the cabinet table
  • Full employment rights from day one
  • Strengthened protection for whistleblowers and rights against unfair dismissal for all workers, with extra protections for pregnant women, those going through the menopause and terminally ill workers
  • Banning zero hours contracts and strengthening the law so that those who work regular hours for more than 12 weeks will have a right to a regular contract
  • Requiring breaks during shifts to be paid
  • Requiring cancelled shifts to be paid
  • All workers given the right to flexible working
  • Extending statutory maternity pay from nine to 12 months
  • Increasing paternity leave from two to four weeks and increasing statutory paternity pay
  • Introducing statutory bereavement leave
  • Introducing four new bank holidays celebrating patron saint days
  • Requiring employers to devise and implement plans to eradicate the gender pay gap, and inequalities underpinned by race and/or disability or face fines
  • Banning unpaid internships
  • Variety of measures aimed at strengthening trade unions
  • Bring legislation currently in breach of international obligations in line with International Labour Organisation standards
  • Reduce average weekly working time to 32 hours
  • Keep Employment Tribunals free and introduce Labour Courts

Liberal Democrats - described as 'a plan for 21st century work: a plan that will give employees protection and a voice at work while enabling innovative business models to flourish in the modern economy'

  • Establishing an independent review to consult on how to set a genuine Living Wage across all sectors
  • Establishing a powerful new Worker Protection Enforcement Authority to protect those in precarious work
  • Changing the law so that flexible working is open to all from day one in the job, with employers required to advertise jobs accordingly, unless there are significant business reasons why that is not possible
  • Modernising employment rights to make them fit for the age of the 'gig economy', including establishing a new 'dependent contractor' employment status in between employment and self-employment, with entitlements to basic rights such as minimum earnings levels, sick pay and holiday entitlement
  • Reviewing the tax and National Insurance status of employees, dependent contractors and freelancers to ensure fair and comparable treatment
  • Setting a 20 per cent higher minimum wage for people on zero-hour contracts at times of normal demand to compensate them for the uncertainty of fluctuating hours of work
  • Giving a right to request a fixed-hours contract after 12 months for 'zero hours' and agency workers, not to be unreasonably refused
  • Reviewing rules concerning pensions so that those in the gig economy don't lose out, and portability between roles is protected
  • Shifting the burden of proof in employment tribunals regarding employment status from individual to employer
  • Strengthening the ability of unions to represent workers effectively in the modern economy, including a right of access to workplaces
  • Introducing new Skills Wallets for every adult in England, giving them £10,000 to spend on education and training throughout their lives
  • Expanding the apprenticeship levy into a wider 'Skills and Training Levy'

Conservative - described as a vision for the labour market which is 'not one where the state does everything for you. It is one where the state does everything it can to help you help yourself.'

  • Prioritising the principle of fairness in the workplace, whether in the job application process, ensuring equal pay for equal work, or working conditions
  • Building on existing employment law with measures that protect those in low paid work and the gig economy for example
  • Creating a single enforcement body and crack down on any employer abusing employment law
  • Ensuring workers have the right to request a more predictable contract
  • Looking at more radical ways to support working families
  • Introducing a raft of measures that balance the needs of employees and employers
  • Encouraging flexible working and consulting on making it the default unless employers have good reasons not to
  • Legislating to allow parents to take extended leave for neonatal care
  • Looking at ways to make it easier for fathers to take paternity leave
  • Extending the entitlement to leave for unpaid carers
  • Funding more high-quality childcare before and after school and during the holidays

For more information contact Rosalind Leahy in our Employment & HR department via email or phone on 01772 220185. Alternatively send any question through to Forbes Solicitors via our online Contact Form.

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