In the light of the Conservatives Party’s success at the general election, based on the Party’s pre-election manifesto and recent announcements, the following changes are anticipated in the field of employment law.
The Conservative Government shall continue to support the National Minimum Wage and have accepted the recommendation of the Low Pay Commission that the National Minimum Wage should rise to £6.70 by this autumn, with a view to gradually increasing to £8 by the end of the decade.
The Conservatives shall continue to support the Living Wage but have not committed to any actions other than to encourage businesses that can afford to pay their employees a Living Wage to do so.
Zero Hours Contract
The Conservative Government has pledged to eradicate exclusivity in zero hours contracts. Section 153 of the Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Act (SBEEA 2015) makes exclusivity clauses in zero hours contracts unenforceable. The SBEEA 2015 has already received royal assent, but at the next siting of Parliament a commencement order will be required to bring this provision into force.
- The Conservative Government has pledged to prevent ‘disruptive and undemocratic strike action’ by introducing measures that:
- set a limit on how long after a ballot, strike action can be called;
- in addition to a majority vote, require a minimum turnout of 40% for a ballot on strike action by essential services employees to be effective;
- repeal restrictions preventing the use of agency employees to cover striking employees; and
- tackle intimidation of non-striking workers.
Childcare and Maternity
In the last Parliament, the Conservatives introduced a Tax-Free Childcare Scheme, worth up to £2,000 per child per year, which will come into effect from September 2015. In addition, the Conservatives have also pledged to increase the entitlement of free childcare for 3 to 4 year olds from 15 hours to 20 hours.
The Employer Supported Childcare scheme will continue but from August 2015 will no longer be open to new members. Existing participants of the scheme can transfer onto the new scheme but will then no longer be able to take advantage of the old scheme.
In December 2014, there was some speculation that the Conservatives would look to enhance the maternity allowance that can be claimed by self-employed mothers, however, this has not been mentioned in the manifesto and it remains to be seen if this is something the Conservatives would look to implement in the future.
Paid volunteering leave
In their manifesto, the Conservatives pledged to make volunteering a work place entitlement for those working in the public sector or for large companies. On 10 April 2015, they announced plans to introduce three days paid volunteering leave each year for all public sector employees and for those in the private sector working for an employer with at least 250 employees.
The Conservatives are also planning to:
- Increase support for people suffering from mental health problems that prevent them from working and for people suffering from treatable conditions who may be able to return to work;
- Limit ‘enhanced redundancy payments’ in the Public Sector;
- Introduce tougher regulations and take tougher action in relation to the non-payment of minimum wage and illegal working and exploitation;
- Introduce a British Bill of Rights to replace the Human Rights Act 1998; and
- Create 3 million more apprenticeships over the next 5 years