UK: The Potential Employment Law Landscape After 7 May 2015

Last Updated: 5 May 2015
Article by Richard Isham

We are now in the final stretch before the General Election. The manifestos are published and the parties are hot on the campaign trail. Whilst the major focus is on the deficit and public spending, each party has published some key proposals in respect of employment law should they get into power, one way or the other!

Conservatives:

  • Apprenticeships – boost apprenticeships by 3 million over the next five years;
  • National Insurance - abolish National Insurance Contributions for the under 25s; introduce an "employment allowance" which will free smaller businesses from the first £2,000 worth of employer NICs;
  • Reduce business rates;
  • Strike action and unions - "protect you from disruptive and undemocratic strike action" in essential services by requiring the support of 40% of all those entitled to take part in strike ballots and requiring a majority of those who do actually vote, to legitimise strike action; repeal the ban on hiring agency staff to cover for striking workers; tackle intimidation of non-striking workers; legislate to ensure that unions are transparent in relation to any opt-in to pay subscriptions; reform the role of the Certification Officer;
  • Equality - increase opportunities for the disabled in the workplace and work for full gender equality, including enforcing the requirement that companies, with 250 or more employees, publish gender pay statistics;
  • Pay - accept the Low Pay Commission's recommendation to increase NMW to £6.70 per hour this autumn (currently £6:50), so as to be "on course for a minimum wage of over £8 per hour by the end of the decade"; support the living wage (2014 – London £9:15 and elsewhere £7:85) and encourage businesses to pay it, when they can afford it; take steps to eradicate abuse of workers, such as non-payment of the National Minimum Wage,
  • Casual workers – ban exclusivity provisions in zero hours contracts and exploitation of migrant workers.

Labour:

  • Pay - increase tax to 50% for those who earn more than £150,000 per annum; increase the National Minimum Wage to £8 per hour by October 2019; improve the link between executive pay and performance by "simplifying pay packages" and requiring investment and pension fund managers to disclose how they vote on pay; ensure that employees have a place on remuneration committees; provide a tax rebate to businesses that sign up to "Make Work Pay" by having contracts that commit to paying the living wage; require public companies to report on whether or not they pay the living wage;
  • Casual workers - ban "exploitative" zero hours contracts and those who work regular hours for 12 weeks, will have a right to a "regular contract";
  • Childcare - increase free child care from 15 to 25 hours per week for working parents with 3 and 4 year olds; double paternity leave from two to four weeks and increase the amount of paternity pay from £140 to "more than £260";
  • Tribunal system - abolish the "tribunal fee system" – not the fees themselves?;
  • Apprenticeships - create thousands of apprenticeships by guaranteeing every school leaver, who gets the requisite grades, an apprenticeship on leaving school.

Liberal Democrats:

  • Childcare - give fathers an additional four weeks' leave – fathers only (not to form part of any shared leave); consult in relation to introducing five days' paid leave for workers who are also fulltime carers;
  • Interns - review the use of unpaid interns;
  • Pay beef up enforcement of the National Minimum Wage by doubling the number of HMRC inspections;
  • Tribunal System - review the tribunal fee system to see if it is a deterrent to  access to justice;
  • Casual workers - stamp out the abuse of zero hours contracts by giving workers the right to require a fixed contract to be issued to them; consult on introducing a right to make patterns of work contractual after a period of time (unspecified).

UKIP:

  • Immigration - By leaving Europe and restricting immigration, by way of a points system, this will give British workers some hope "for a brighter future"; allow British employers to favour British citizens (discrimination issues to be resolved?); end the availability of EU relocation grants (currently Euro 1,000);
  • Casual workers - introduce a legally binding code of conduct that requires those employing 50 or more to give workers on zero hours contracts a full or part-time "secure contract" (undefined) after one year, if requested.

Green Party: 

  • Pay - increase the minimum wage to £10 per hour by 2020; introduce a maximum pay ratio between the highest and lowest paid person in every organisation, of 10:1;
  • Working hours  - phase in a 35 hour working week, so as to increase the number of people in work by spreading the amount of work available between more of the work force;
  • Casual workers - end exploitation of workers by the abuse of zero hours contracts (how not stated) and only allow interns to work unpaid for a maximum of 4 weeks;
  • Tribunal system - reduce employment tribunal fees; reinstate funding for the Equality and Human Rights Commission;
  • Equality - ensure effective action to prevent discrimination against people with disabilities (how not stated); enforce penalties against employers who implement unequal pay; support the Speaker of the House's proposal to set up an Equalities Committee; legislate to remedy the inequality in pension inheritance for same sex marriage and same sex civil partners; make equal pay for men and women a reality; make it a requirement that 40% of all members of public company and public sector boards are women; ensure laws that prevent discrimination against women on grounds of pregnancy and maternity are properly enforced.

So, there you have it, the future for employment laws following the election – unadulterated. That said, of course, whether anything that is set out in the manifestos will actually manifest itself in reality, who knows?  With a coalition likely, whatever a particular party wishes to achieve, it is likely to be diluted in practice.  Furthermore, the devil will be in the detail as to how these broad policy statements may be implemented through the passing of detailed legislation and regulations.  We hope that you find the "heads up" useful, but we would suggest that you do not either act on the points set out above yet, or hold your breath...

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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