The main political parties have promised a number of improvements to employment rights in order to influence workers and elicit support in the General Election. While the detail of the proposals in the manifestos is scant, it appears that there will be a number of changes to employment law in the near future, whoever wins. We set out some of the key proposals of interest to employers in the manifestos of the three main parties.
Conservative Party proposals
In what Theresa May describes as "the greatest expansion in workers' rights by any Conservative government in history", the Conservative manifesto promises "a new deal for ordinary, working people giving them a decent living wage and new rights and protections in the workplace". The main proposals include:
- maintaining existing employment rights post-Brexit
- an increase in the National Living Wage to 60% of median earnings by 2020 and thereafter an increase at the rate of median earnings
- 'proper protection' for people working in the gig economy. There are no details of what this protection will be other than mentioning that the report from Matthew Taylor into modern employment practices is awaited (and is expected in June)
- extending gender pay gap reporting to cover ethnicity
- extending the Equality Act protection against discrimination to include mental health conditions that are episodic and fluctuating
- an employers' National Insurance contributions holiday of one year for employers who employ certain vulnerable workers, including those with a disability or chronic mental health problems
- introducing a new statutory right to carers' leave to care for a relative and a right to child bereavement leave
- steps to improve the take up of shared parental leave and support for those who return to work after taking family leave
- an obligation on listed companies to publish pay ratios and ensure employees’ interests are represented at board level.
Labour Party proposals
The Labour Party manifesto promises a 20-point plan for security and equality at work. The main proposals include:
- preserving existing employment rights post-Brexit
- an increase in the National Minimum Wage to the level of the National Living Wage (expected to be at least £10 per hour by 2020) for all workers aged 18 and over
- giving all workers equal rights from day one, whether part-time or full-time, temporary or permanent
- a legal assumption that all workers are employees unless the employer can prove otherwise
- a ban on zero hours contracts and those who work regular hours for more than 12 weeks will have a right to a contract reflecting those hours
- extending maternity pay to 12 months, doubling the length of paternity leave to four weeks and increasing paternity pay
- enhancing the Equality Act, making terminal illness a protected characteristic, and strengthening protections for women against unfair redundancy
- introducing four new public holidays in addition to the current statutory holiday entitlement
- abolishing employment tribunal fees and introducing a new Ministry of Labour to ensure employment rights are enforced
- repealing the Trade Union Act and giving trade unions new rights in the workplace
- introducing measures to tackle pay inequality, including an excessive pay levy for companies with staff on very high pay above £330,000 and an introduction of a maximum pay ratio of 20:1 in the public sector and for companies tendering for public sector contracts.
Liberal Democrats proposals
The Liberal Democrats main proposals include:
- requiring larger employers to publish data on the number of workers earning less than the Living Wage and the ratio between the top and median pay
- introducing pay gap reporting in relation to gender, race and sexual orientation and introducing name-blind recruitment in the public sector
- doubling paternity leave to four weeks and making flexible working, paternity leave and shared parental leave rights from day one
- addressing the “abuse of zero hours contracts”
- abolishing employment tribunal fees.
We will have to wait and see how the proposals develop after the General Election on 8 June 2017, however the focus on improving employment rights gives an indication of the direction that employment law will take in the future.