With a Conservative Manifesto that promises ‘a Britain in which work pays, with a higher national living wage and proper rights and protections at work’, a Labour one which sets out a ’20-point plan on workers’ rights’, and a proposal by the Liberal Democrats to adopt a ‘good employer kitemark’, employment law features heavily in the current general election campaigns. This law-now highlights the key pledges and promises contained in the manifestos of the three main parties.

Workers’ Rights

Conservatives

  • Once the recommendations of the Taylor report are known, act to ensure that the interests of employees on traditional contracts, the self-employed and those people working in the ‘gig’ economy are properly protected. If press reports are correct, the Taylor report is likely to recommend that after a period of time, zero hours workers will have a right to request guaranteed hours.

Labour

  • Ban zero-hours contracts.
  • Create formal rights for regular patterns of work to be made contractual after a period of time.

  • New statutory definitions for ‘employees’ and ‘workers’, and a shift of the burden of proof so that the law assumes a worker is an employee unless the employer can prove otherwise.

  • Give all workers equal rights from day one, whether part-time or full-time, temporary or permanent.

Liberal Democrats

  • Modernise employment rights to make them fit for the ‘gig’ economy.
  • Create a formal right to request a fixed contract and consult on introducing a right to make regular patters of work contractual after a period of time.

Wages

Conservatives

  • Continue to increase the National Living Wage to 60 per cent of median earnings by 2020, and thereafter by the rate of median earnings.

Labour

  • Increase the National Minimum Wage to the level of the Living Wage.
  • End the public sector pay cap.

  • Roll out maximum pay rations of 20:1 in the public sector and companies bidding for public contracts.

Liberal Democrats

  • Establish an independent review to consult on how to set a genuine living wage.
  • Ensure that all central government workers are paid the Living Wage.

Equality and Discrimination

Conservatives

  • Extend the scope of data large employers are obliged to report in relation to gender pay gap reporting.
  • Take action to deal with the ethnicity pay gap.

Labour

  • Introduce equal pay audit requirements for large employers.
  • Introduce a civil enforcement system to ensure compliance with gender pay gap reporting.

  • Amend the Equality Act to make terminal illness a protected characteristic and to amend the protected characteristic of ‘gender assignment’ to ‘gender identity’.

Liberal Democrats

  • Extend the Equality Act to all large companies with more than 250 employees requiring them to monitor and publish data on gender, BAM and LGBT+.

Family-Friendly Leave and Discriminations

Conservatives

  • Introduce carers’ leave, child bereavement leave and additional wages to encourage and support parents to take shared parental leave.

Labour

  • Double paid paternity leave to four weeks.
  • Increase the level of paternity pay and extend the maternity pay period to 12 months.

  • Consult on legislation for statutory bereavement leave covering the loss of close family members.

Liberal Democrats

  • Expand shared parental leave with the addition of an extra ‘use it or lose it’ month (a policy they wanted to implement when they were in government).
  • Make paternity and shared parental leave ‘day one’ rights.

  • Introduce a ‘day one’ presumption that work can be flexible unless there is a clear reason why it cannot be.

Apprenticeships and Other Training

Conservatives

  • Continue to enforce the Apprenticeship Levy.
  • Introduce an employee right to request leave for training.

  • Introduce a national retraining scheme, under which the costs are met by the government and proceeds from the levy are available to support wage costs.

  • Double the Immigration Skills Charge levied on companies employing migrant workers, using the revenue to invest in higher levels skills training.

Labour

  • Require the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education to report on the quality of apprenticeships.
  • Aim to double the number of completed apprenticeships at NVQ level 3 by 2022.

  • Give employers more flexibility in how the Apprenticeship Levy is spent.

  • Consult on the introduction of incentives for large employers to over-train numbers of apprentices to fill skills gaps in the wider sector.

Liberal Democrats

  • Aim to double the number of businesses which hire apprentices.

Access to Civil Justice and Employment Tribunals

Labour

  • Abolish the current fee system in the Employment Tribunal.
  • Extend the time period for bringing claims relating to maternity discrimination from three to six months.

Liberal Democrats

  • Abolish the current fee system in the Employment Tribunal.

Trade Unions

Labour

  • Repeal the recently introduced Trade Union Act.
  • Introduce sectoral collective bargaining.

Comment

In the immediate aftermath of the Brexit vote last year, there was a great deal of speculation about a potential erosion in the rights of workers. Shortly afterward David Davis announced there would be no reduction in workers’ rights. It now seems clear that the three main political parties favour a strengthening of workers’ rights, particularly in the current climate of the ‘gig economy’ and the potential misuse of zero-hours contracts.