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General Election – potential impact on employers

Print publication

01/04/2015

The General Election is less than two months away and the political parties have set out their stalls on how they would change or reform existing UK employment law. It is fair to say that since the coalition came to power in 2010, there has been a fairly seismic shift in the balance between employee and employer interests. Against that background, current manifesto pledges relating to HR and employment law are less significant. Of course, what is currently proposed may never actually come to pass but it is, nevertheless, worth being aware of the changes that may be on the horizon post May 2015. It is also possible to draw out common themes (for example, zero hours contracts and gender pay reporting) where a general ‘direction of travel’ can be identified.

We summarise the key proposals of the main parties below:

Conservatives

  • Unions and industrial action

– A 40% minimum voting threshold for a strike to be lawful in the transport, health, fire and education sectors.
– A 3 month time limit after a ballot for strike action to take place.
– A requirement for 14 days’ notice before unions take industrial action.
– The current code of practice on picketing to become legally binding.

  • A new British Bill of Rights. David Cameron has suggested that this would replace the Human Rights Act 1998.
  • Zero hours contracts. End the use of exclusivity clauses.

Labour

  • National Minimum Wage. A target of increasing the national minimum wage to £8 an hour by the end of the next Parliament in 2020.
  • Equal pay. Require companies to publish details of average pay with the aim of promoting equal pay.
  • Childcare. Increase free childcare for working parents to 25 hours’ a week.
  • Zero hours contracts. Introduce a law so that employees on zero hours contracts who are working regular hours are entitled to regular contracts. Employees on zero hours contracts will also have the right to refuse requests to be available outside their contracted hours and will receive compensation when shifts are cancelled on short notice.
  • Employment agencies. Tackle “rogue” employment agencies and remove the “Swedish derogation” from the Agency Workers Regulations 2010, banning overseas-only recruitment and introduce further measures on which the party will consult.
  • Reforming employment tribunal fees. The Shadow Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, Chuka Umunna MP, has suggested that the introduction of employment tribunal fees has curtailed individuals’ access to justice and is both “unfair” and “unsustainable”. He stated that Labour would “abolish the current system, reform the employment tribunals and put in place a new system”. It is not clear how this would be done but it may involve some form of means testing.
  • Paid paternity leave. Increase the current right to paid paternity leave from 2 to 4 weeks and increase statutory paternity pay from £120 per week to £260 per week

Liberal Democrats

  • A new Workers’ Rights Agency. This would streamline the work of four existing bodies: the national minimum wage enforcement section at HMRC, the Working Time Directive section at the Health and Safety Executive, the Employment Agency Standards inspectorate and the Gangmasters Licensing Authority.
  • Anonymizing public sector recruitment. A ‘name-blank’ application form in the public sector in an attempt to cut discrimination.
  • Equal pay information disclosure. Invoke a power under the Equality Act 2010 to require companies which employ more than 250 people to publish the average pay of their male and female workers.
    Paid paternity leave. Increase the current right to paid paternity leave from 2 to 4 weeks and increase statutory paternity pay from £120 per week to £260 per week
  • National Minimum Wage. Instruct the Low Pay Commission to consider ways of increasing the National Minimum Wage and improving enforcement action.

UKIP

  • Human Rights. Withdraw from the jurisdiction of the European Court of Human Rights.
  • Repeal the Human Rights Act 1998 and replace it with a British Bill of Rights.
  • British workers. Permit employers to discriminate in favour of young British workers.
  • Zero hours contracts. Give zero hours workers the right to a fixed hours contract after one year.

Contacts