It is difficult to imagine two more different prime ministers than Tony Blair and Gordon Brown and so it will be interesting to see what changes in policy surface over the next few years.

Current challenges

In the world of employment Mr Brown already faces a number of challenges including:

GMB UNION CALL FOR FULL EMPLOYMENT RIGHTS FROM DAY ONE

The GMB are putting increased pressure on the government to give workers full employment rights from the start of their employment. In essence they are arguing for the 12 month service requirement to bring an unfair dismissal claim to be abolished.

The GMB have faced strong opposition from the CBI who claim that there is enough employment protection for workers as soon as they apply for a job with discrimination law and national minimum wage rights. It will be interesting to see the government’s response to this latest employment rights battle.

FAWCETT SOCIETY CALLS FOR THE GENDER PAY GAP TO BE CLOSED

The Fawcett Society has requested that the government adopt gender equality as a specific target and set dates for closing the pay gap. As the Wimbledon Championships have for the first time agreed the same prize money for men and women, the society has taken the opportunity to challenge Gordon Brown to be the first prime minister to ensure women and men in the UK are equally rewarded for their work. With women who work full-time earning on average 17% less than full-time men, the society has asked the prime minister to close the differential within 15 years.

A SUMMER OF INDUSTRIAL ACTION

There has already been strike action at the Post Office over the transfer of services to WH Smith stores. It is also facing further industrial action over levels of pay and job losses. As well as the postal strikes there has also been threatened legal action by local government workers over pay.

It therefore looks likely that Gordon Brown may face a difficult summer, as there is already talk of various unions co-ordinating strikes for the civil service, teachers and the NHS.

What’s new? NO MORE DTI

A significant change is the formation of the snappily titled ‘Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform’ (DBERR). The DTI is no more and DBERR will take over the policy responsibility for employment regulation. According to government sources, the department will promote productivity and enterprise across government and within the EU.

Sir Digby Jones has been appointed to the cabinet as minister for trade promotion and will work in the newly created department. This is a controversial appointment for the former CBI director-general (who only a few weeks ago was allegedly looking for support from David Cameron to be the Tory Candidate for Mayor of London). We wait with baited breath to find out exactly what additional powers and responsibilities this new department will have.

BROWN PROMISES JOBS FOR THE BRITISH

Mr Brown has told the GMB that “It is time to train British workers for the British jobs that will be available over the coming few years and to make sure that people who are inactive and unemployed are able to get the new jobs on offer in our country”. With the dramatic increase in immigrant workers there has been a call for an increased focus on ensuring British people are trained for and given jobs where available. Partnerships are being established with businesses in retail, hotels, hospitality and security sectors and with the Olympic Delivery Authority to help reduce unemployment.

FAMILY FRIENDLY RIGHTS

Provision has been made under the Work and Families Act 2006 to allow the government to introduce further family friendly rights including: 

  • The period during which a woman is entitled to receive statutory maternity pay /maternity allowance is due to be extended from 39 weeks to 12 months before the end of this parliament. 
  • There will be additional paternity leave and pay. The new right will allow fathers to take up to 26 weeks additional paternity leave, some of which could be paid, if the mother returns to work. The government is currently consulting on how additional paternity leave and pay should be administered in practice.

We will have to wait and see the new prime minister’s approach to employment policy and we will keep you posted as the challenges are met and the new policies unfold.