The main party manifestos are now being rolled out, with both the Conservatives and Labour confirming that pre-Brexit EU employment rights will be maintained.
The Conservative Party announced some of its plans on workers' rights ahead of the formal release of its manifesto. Its key pledges are:
- Employment status – awaiting the Taylor Review final report but there will be protections for "gig" economy workers.
- Executive pay – remuneration packages to be subject to annual shareholder votes; listed companies to publish ratio of executive to UK workforce pay; more transparency on pay policies/incentive shares; examination of the use of share buybacks.
- Worker representation – listed companies will be required to appoint a worker representative to the board or, as an alternative, create a stakeholder advisory panel or designate a non-executive director as an employee representative. Employees will be given the right to request information on their company's future plans – subject to "sensible safeguards".
- Family rights – consultation on a new right to take (unpaid) time off to care for relatives who require full-time care, with a right to return; right to child bereavement leave; training "returnships" after maternity leave.
- Discrimination – companies with 250+ employees to publish more data on gender pay gap. Equality Act to be extended to cover those with fluctuating mental health conditions such as depression from the point of diagnosis. Human Rights Act to be reviewed post-Brexit.
- Other rights/benefits – new right to request leave for training – to be available to all employees (the existing right is limited to those working for employers with 250+ employees); National Living Wage to increase to 60% of median earnings by 2020.
As well as a pledge to abolish employment tribunal fees (also supported by the Lib Dems), the Labour Party manifesto contains over 30 other employment-related proposals, including: Employment status and contracts
- Full employee rights for workers from day one; presumption of employee status with the burden of proof on the employer to show otherwise.
- Zero hours contracts and unpaid internships to be banned.
- Those working regular hours for more than 12 weeks would have the right to a regular contract based on those hours.
- Abolition of the agency worker "Swedish derogation" – the exemption from equal pay where agency workers have a permanent employment contract with an employment business and are paid between assignments when they are not working for a hirer.
- National Minimum Wage to be raised to the Living Wage level for all workers aged 18+.
- Repeal the Trade Union Act 2016, which changed the law on the pre-conditions for lawful industrial action; online/workplace balloting to be allowed and trade unions guaranteed a right to access workplaces.
- Public contracts would only be awarded to companies who recognise trade unions.
- Sectoral collective bargaining would be introduced and union recognition rules reviewed.
Business transfers/collective redundancies
- Reverse the changes made to the TUPE service provision change rules in 2014.
- Consultation on bringing redundancy protection "more into line" with European regimes.
- Takeover Code to require takeovers to contain a plan to protect workers and pensioners.
Executive pay/corporate governance
- Maximum pay ratio of 20:1 in the public sector and in companies bidding for public contracts.
- Levy on companies with employees on "very high pay".
- Implement the Parker Review recommendations on boardroom ethnic diversity (the key one is that each FTSE 100 board should have at least one director of colour by 2021, with FTSE 250 boards meeting the target by 2024).
Family rights and discrimination
- Paid paternity leave doubled to four weeks; paternity pay increased.
- Limitation period for claims of maternity discrimination doubled to six months; increased redundancy protections for women; mandatory workplace risk assessments for pregnant women.
- Protection against third-party harassment reinstated.
- Race equal pay audits introduced.
- Consultation on civil enforcement system for gender pay gap reporting.
- Protected characteristic of "gender assignment" would be changed to "gender identity".
- Equalities representatives to have statutory rights.
- Terminal illness to be a new protected characteristic.
- Consultation on statutory bereavement leave.
- Four new days of public holidays.
The Lib Dems' main employment-related manifesto commitments are in corporate governance and executive pay, including proposals to:
- give staff in listed companies with over 250 employees a right to request shares, to be held in trust for employees;
- staff representation on remuneration committees and the right for employees of a listed company to be represented on the board;
- change company law to permit a German-style two-tier board structure to include employees;
- have binding and public votes of board members on executive pay policies; and
- require larger employers to publish the number of people paid less than the Living Wage and the ratio between top and median pay.
Legislation on employment status now seems inevitable, whatever the complexion of the new government, particularly given recent comments from the chair of the Taylor Review (on employment practices in the modern economy) about the health dangers of "bad work" – jobs with low levels of flexibility and autonomy. The Lib Dems also focus on this, calling for a formal right to request a fixed contract and consultation on introducing a right to make regular patterns of work contractual after a period of time. Employment status is also a key plank of the CIPD's "Manifesto for Work" which urges the government to put "good work" at the forefront, recommending increased support for flexible working and greater protections for workers on zero hours contracts. Other suggestions in the CIPD manifesto include:
- a new voluntary target for women on boards – 20% of FTSE 350 board-level executive positions by 2020;
- publicly listed companies to publish the ratio between CEO and median pay; and
- following the recommendations of the McGregor-Smith Review into race in the workplace – this called on employers to publish a breakdown of their workforce by race and pay band. The Conservative Manifesto also supports this (for large employers).
At the time of writing this newsletter, manifestos from the other parties were not available; we "pledge" to report on them next time!