Over the past few weeks, the main political parties in the UK held their last annual conferences before the General Election on 7 May 2015. Their manifestoes were laid out, policies explained and pledges made. Whilst there are many issues that the election trail will cover, surely there is no better basis on which to elect your next government than the pledges they make on employment law. We provide below a summary of the main promises made by each party to help you decide who to vote for.
With less than 7 months until the polling stations open, most parties have focused their policies on increasing the minimum wage, but there are a few other policies which will be of interest to both employees and employers.
Minimum Wage: a promise to reach their next goal of £7 per hour (currently £6.50) in the near future.
Zero Hours Contracts: exclusive zero hours contracts to be scrapped.
Human Rights: repeal of the Human Rights Act 1998 (which gave effect to the European Convention on Human Rights in the UK) and the introduction of a British Bill of Rights and Responsibilities. This will make European Court of Human Rights judgments “advisory” only, and they will not be binding on the UK Supreme Court.
Minimum Wage: to increase to £8 per hour by 2020. Labour will also introduce increased fines for employers who fail to pay the minimum wage, and a tax rebate to employers who sign up to pay the living wage in 2015. In addition, listed companies will be obliged to report on whether or not they are paying the living wage.
Atypical Workers: employees on zero hours contracts will be given new rights including a right for employees who consistently work regular hours to receive a fixed hours contract automatically. There will be a ban on exclusivity provisions, as well as requiring atypical worker availability on the off-chance that they will be needed. If shifts for such workers are cancelled at short notice, employers will be required to pay compensation.
Employment Tribunal: the current system to be abolished (or perhaps reformed) and a new system to be put in place which ensures all workers have proper access to justice.
Trade Union Rights: there will be a public enquiry into blacklisting in the construction industry.
Minimum Wage: a proposal will be made to the Low Pay Commission for a single national minimum wage for 16 to 17-year-olds in work and first year of apprentices. This will also ensure that younger workers are protected from discrimination. In addition, a national minimum wage enforcement section will be introduced to HM Revenue and Customs.
Enforcement: the Working Time Directive Section of the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) will combine with both the Employment Agency Standards inspectorate and the Gangmaster Licensing Authority to become a new “Workers’ Rights Agency”.
Working Time: Working Time Regulations to be amended to give trainee doctors, surgeons and medics the proper environment to train and practice.
Atypical Workers: the Agency Workers Directive, which gives agency workers who have been hired for 12 continuous weeks the right to equal treatment with their hirer’s employees, to be repealed, and a code of conduct (or legislation, if necessary) to be introduced requiring employers to offer fixed hours contracts to employees who have worked on zero hours terms for a year.
Discrimination and Equalities: businesses to be given the right to discriminate in favour of young British workers.
Human Rights: the UK will withdraw from the jurisdiction of the European Court of Human Rights, and repeal the Human Rights Act to be replaced with a new British Bill of Rights.
Minimum Wage: commitment to turn the national minimum wage into a genuine living wage
Public Sector Workers: measures introduced to protect the pay, conditions and status of professionals in health and education.
Pay Equality: a cap on bankers’ bonuses to be introduced and enforced, together with proposals aimed at reducing the pay gap between those at the top and those at the bottom.
Of course, these policies are likely to change or be added to over the course of the next few months. Keep checking our monthly updates for further news.
Whoever is walking into Number 10 on 8 May next year, we will keep you up to date with all the major changes in employment law. Follow our twitter account for news flashes on this and our other areas of expertise.
This article was first published as part of our Employment Law Update - October 2014. Register above to receive our updates as soon as they are published, directly to your inbox!
This article is offered for general informational purposes only, and does not constitute legal advice. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of Solomon Taylor & Shaw.