This coming general election has the potential to break the three party dominance of British politics, with a number of newer and smaller parties tipped to make significant gains. With an increase of alternatives, how will you decide how to cast your ballot? Will you be swayed by the policies, personalities or even the quality of the sausage roll provided by your local candidate?
Whilst the economy, NHS and immigration may be headline issues, in this blog post I am focusing on the employment law changes that are being proposed by the parties. In reviewing the changes that are being proposed by the next government, it is important to review the employment law changes the coalition led Government have made during its term:
- Increasing the minimum period of service (in most cases) for which an employee must be employed to gain protection from being unfairly dismissed, from one to two years;
- Introducing fees when bringing claims at an employment tribunal.
- Allowing all employees, regardless of whether they have childcare responsibilities, to request a flexible working arrangement;
- Shared parental leave - a mother or primary adopter is able to end their maternity or adoption leave, or commit to ending it at a future date, and share the untaken leave with the other parent. This will enable mothers and primary adopters to return to work before the end of their leave without sacrificing the rest of the leave that would otherwise be available to them, allowing the other parent to also receive any remaining paid leave.
- Continuing to increase the national minimum wage on a yearly basis, which currently stands at £6.50 per hour for employees aged 21 years or over.
Whilst the introduction of employment tribunal fees has perhaps been the most employer-friendly policy that was implemented, it can be seen that the Government has also brought in a number of employee-friendly policies.
What now for employment law?
Although only a handful of manifestos have so far been published, we have done the hard work for you and reviewed the employment law proposals that each party have made in the run-up to the election. In alphabetical order, with no political bias, the proposals are as follows:
- A comprehensive overhaul of apprenticeships and youth training in Northern Ireland.
2. British National Party
- No specific employment law policies. Instead, the promise is to strengthen the economy by reducing foreign imports, with the aim,
“That our manufactured goods are, wherever possible, produced in British factories, employing British workers. When this is done, unemployment in this country will be brought to an end and secure, well-paid employment will flourish”.
- Increase the personal allowance to mean that a worker working up to 30 hours a week on the minimum wage will not pay any income tax.
- Instead of being linked to inflation, “permanently link” the National Minimum Wage to the personal allowance, which they propose to raise to £12,500 by the end of the next Parliament, “on course for a minimum wage that will be over £8.00 by the end of the decade”, to “entrench in law” the principle that no worker on the National Minimum Wage should ever pay income tax.
- Fund 3 million apprenticeships, abolishing employer’s national insurance contributions for apprentices under the age of 25.
- Remove any obligations of exclusivity from zero hours (i.e. that a worker on a zero hour contract must not be banned from working for alternative employers).
- Change industrial action legislation to state that strikes may only occur if supported by 40% of all those entitled to vote. Also repealing legislation which prevents employers from employing agency staff to cover strike action.
- Employers of 250 or more employees will have to publish the difference between average pay of its male and female employees.
- Employers of 250 or more employees or who are in the public sector will have to provide their employees with three additional days’ paid leave, for the purposes of allowing them to carry out volunteer work (not outlined in the manifesto).
- No specific employment policies at present.
- Increase the National Minimum Wage to the Living Wage of £10.00 per hour by 2020. (N.B. the current UK Living Wage is £7.85 an hour, £9.15 per hour in London).
- “Restore the public sector, creating over one million good jobs that pay at least the living wage”.
- Ban "exploitative" zero-hours contracts (not outlined in its ‘mini manifesto’).
- Introduce a maximum 35-hour working week (not outlined in its ‘mini manifesto’).
- Introduce a new 10p tax threshold.
- Abolish the employment tribunal fees regime brought in by the current Government.
- Raise the National Minimum Wage to “more than” £8.00 per hour by October 2019.
- Ban "exploitative" zero-hours contracts. Workers on zero hours contracts will have the right to a ‘regular contract’ if they work regular hours for more than 12 weeks.
- Introduce “Make Work Pay” contracts, giving tax rebates to businesses who sign up to paying the Living Wage in the first year of a Labour Government. Publicly listed companies will be required to report on whether or not they pay the Living Wage.
- “Guarantee” an apprenticeship to every school leaver that “gets the grades”. Every firm getting a major government contract, and every large employer hiring skilled workers from outside the EU, will be required to offer apprenticeships.
- A requirement for there to be an employee representative on the remuneration committee when deciding pay packages for executives.
7. Liberal Democrats
- “Expanding” Shared Parental Leave, extending paternity leave from 2 to 6 weeks as a ‘use it or lose it’ month to encourage fathers to take time off with young children. An “ambition” for all employees to be entitled to this benefit from the first day of employment.
- Requiring companies with more than 250 employees to publish details of the different pay levels of men and women. By 2020, they will require those companies to also publish the number of people paid less than the Living Wage and the ratio between top and median pay.
- “Improve enforcement action and clamp down” on any employers failing to pay the National Minimum Wage by reviewing practices such as unpaid internships.
- Pay the Living Wage in all central government departments and their agencies from April 2016.
- “Reviewing” employment tribunal fees to ensure they are “not a barrier”.
- Regarding zero hours contracts, they will create a formal right to request a fixed contract and have a consultation on the introduction of a right to make regular patterns of work contractual after a “period of time”.
8. Plaid Cymru
- Increase the National Minimum Wage to the same level as the Living Wage by 2020.
- Ban "exploitative" zero-hours contracts.
- Companies with more than 500 employees to have an elected employee representative on a ‘supervisory board’.
- A “fair pay’ scheme” will be introduced to link the pay of employees within a company to, “prevent spiralling executive pay”.
- A “review” of the employment tribunal fees regime.
- No specific employment law policies at present.
- Banning “exploitative” zero hours contracts, with continued support for, “any endeavour such as this that aims to increase the security and prosperity of employees”.
11. Sinn Fein
- No specific employment policies at present, committing to economic growth across Ireland to “ensure a fair recovery for all”.
- Raise National Minimum Wage to £8.70 by 2020 and increase the number of accredited "Living Wage" employers.
- Create 125,000 modern apprenticeships.
- Allow British businesses the right to choose to employ British citizens first over other nationalities.
- Enforce the National Minimum Wage and reverse cuts in National Minimum Wage inspectors in both England and Wales.
- Amend the Working Time Directive, the contents of which, ”actively restrict the British work ethos and therefore our economy”.
- Reforms to zero-hour contracts, including a blanket ban on exclusivity clauses. Also, businesses hiring 50 people or more will have to give workers on zero-hours contracts either a full or part-time “secure contract” after one year, if the worker requests it.
- Make St George's Day in England, and St David’s Day in Wales, a Bank Holiday.
- Review all legislation and regulations from the EU and remove those hampering British competitiveness.
If you would like to discuss the above or any other employment law issue, please feel free to drop me an email or give me a call on 01908 660 966.