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Labour's manifesto - An analysis of the new, old and 'borrowed' employment law pledges

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Labour’s manifesto – An analysis of the new, old and ‘borrowed’ employment law pledges

Labour became the first of the main parties to unveil its manifesto this week. The imposition of a new tax-rate for those earning over £80,000.00 has taken most of the headlines, but it is the 20 employment-law pledges (although Diane Abbott was rumoured to have counted only 12) that took our interest. Some of these pledges are new, some regurgitated from Labour’s 2015 manifesto, and some ‘borrowed’ from the 2015 manifestos of other parties. We have picked out some of the main points:

1. Ban zero hours contracts – Consistent with Labour manifesto 2015

In 2015, most of the parties saw that zero-hours contracts were an unpopular phenomenon and, therefore, a potential vote-winner. The main parties pledged to remove any requirement for a worker to agree to work exclusively for a company under the zero-hours contracts, something that the Conservative government has since implemented. Labour has been consistent in calling for their complete ban, requiring companies to guarantee minimum working hours to their employees.

2. Legislate to ensure that any employer wishing to recruit labour from abroad does not undercut workers at home – Similarities with UKIP, 2015

The Brexit vote highlighted that immigration was an important consideration for many voters. Labour’s new policy acknowledges those voter concerns, seeking to prevent cheaper labour from abroad being recruited at the expense of workers in the UK. The UKIP manifesto in 2015 pledged to, “Allow British businesses the right to choose to employ British citizens first over other nationalities”. It is not clear whether Labour intends its policy to apply to the recruitment of workers outside of the UK, or only outside of the EU (free movement of workers, anyone?) and this writer suspects that this will not be something that they will be in a rush to clarify any time soon.

3. Propose four new public holidays for Saints George, David, Andrew and Patrick – Again, similar to UKIP 2015

The four new public holidays will be a popular vote winner for many, increasing the total number of public and bank holidays from eight to twelve. Again, this is an idea that was borrowed from UKIP in 2015, albeit they only proposed two new holidays for St. George and St. David; there was no explanation at the time as to why St. Andrew, as a fully-fledged UK Saint, was not included in the UKIP policy.

4. Raise the Minimum Wage to the level of the Living Wage (expected to be at least £10 per hour by 2020) for all workers aged 18 or over – The Green Party pledged exactly this in 2015

The 2015 Labour Manifesto pledged to increase the National Minimum Wage to “more than” £8.00 per hour by October 2019. The 2017 manifesto goes further, following the Green party’s policy of 2015 that the, “National Minimum Wage would be increased to the Living Wage of £10.00 per hour by 2020”.

5. Abolish employment tribunal fees – Consistent with Labour’s 2015 manifesto

The coalition government implemented employment tribunal fees in July 2013, resulting in a 70% drop in claims since then. The Labour party has consistently pledged to abolish these fees to remove any barriers to access to justice.

6. Double paid paternity leave from two to four weeks – A new policy, perhaps inspired by the Liberal Democrats in 2015

Currently, employees can take up to two weeks paternity leave for the purpose of caring for a child or supporting the child's mother/adopter. This is paid at the statutory rate of £140.98 a week or 90% of average weekly earnings (whichever is lower). Labour’s policy seeks to increase leave to four weeks, although they have not specified the proposed increase in pay. In 2015, the Liberal Democrats proposed increasing paternity leave from 2 to 6 weeks, In this writer’s experience, many eligible employees may not take the opportunity to take their full allocation of leave as, statistically speaking, they are often the higher earner of the couple.

7. Reinstate third party harassment – A new policy

This was a right which was repealed by the coalition government on 1st October 2013. The old legislation confirmed that an employer could be found guilty of harassment if the employee is harassed on three separate occasions by another third party, even if the employer had already taken steps to prevent that from happening. The Labour party intends to reinstate this right.

In the lead up to the general election on 8th June 2017, we will be analysing the manifestos of the main parties as and when they are published, as well as a ‘Facebook Live’ broadcast in the coming weeks.