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Election 2017- What each party is proposing for Employment Law

6th June 2017

With just a few days to go before the general election in the UK, we look at the policies on employment law being put forward by the parties.

Conservatives

The Conservatives have put forward an 11 point plan, which they describe as being the “greatest expansion of workers rights” by any Conservative government.

The proposals include a number of rights for time off work. As there is no mention of the proposals being for paid time off work, we assume that the time off in questions would be unpaid. These include rights to time off over the loss of a child, and to care for a looking after a sick relative, and for training. Obviously the main question here is how far such rights would be used if they are to be unpaid. In regard to the point on training the proposal is simply that an employer must look “seriously” at a request. The employer is not obliged to accept or agree with the request.

The Conservatives have also stated that they will “extend the Equalities Act for those with mental health conditions”. It is rather unclear what they mean here, as the Equality Act already covers mental health conditions. The intention appears to be that the proposal should make clearer the protection for those with mental health problems that fluctuate- such as depression, or bi-polar.

The Conservatives also promise to implement the Taylor Report- which has been examining the new ways of working, the different legal status of different groups of workers, and the “gig” economy. This could lead to a review and change in the law over employment status of many workers.

Notably the Conservatives are not proposing the ending of the fees to bring claims in the Employment Tribunals- which have resulted in a large drop in claims being heard in the Tribunals, being fees that do not in any clear way link the values of claims to the fees required.

Labour

The Labour party has put forward proposals that would mark substantial changes to the current framework of UK employment law.

Notable are the proposals to give employment law protection from day one of employment (rather than the current two- year qualifying period before being able to bring any claim for unfair dismissal).

Perhaps the biggest impact would be with the proposal that self-employed workers would be regarded as employees unless the employing organisation can show otherwise. This reverses the usual approach in most Tribunal hearings in this area. This approach does have the attraction of simplicity, but it may be rather blunt in the circumstances where individuals often see and want benefits of self-employed status, as well as the organisations that use such workers. Many self-employed people will want to keep the tax advantages of self-employed status over the theoretical protections against unfair dismissal, and rights to redundancy payments etc.

The Labour party has announced that it would ban zero-hours contracts. Again, that approach resolves some arguments over status and rights, but some people prefer to have the potential flexibility that zero-hours contracts can bring.

With regard to female workers the Labour party is proposing the increase of protection for women against “unfair redundancy”- ie the woman being told either on her return or immediately before it that her role has or is to be made redundant. Another element to this is the proposed protection by extending the time limit for bringing a claim in respect of maternity discrimination to 6 months (from the current 3 months).

Perhaps the most immediate attention- grabbing item is the proposal that there be 4 more Bank Holidays each year!

In direct contrast with the Conservative Party, the Labour party is proposing the repeal of the Tribunal fees. 

There are also proposals to repeal the recent Trade Union Act, and rolling out “sectoral” collective bargaining. It is proposed that companies that recognise unions will be the only ones awarded public contracts- rather painful for a lot of private sector businesses where union membership has dropped significantly over the years, or may in many cases be non-existent. 

Liberal Democrats

The party’s main commitment is to make available a route for the UK to remain in the EU! (do you remember a vote in June 2016 on this subject). They promise a second referendum on the terms of any deal with the EU. They make no mention of what they will do if the proposed deal is rejected in such a referendum.

The party also pledges to remain in the Single Market (again perhaps most of us thought that idea was effectively rejected in the EU referendum vote in June 2016 too).

Beyond this the manifesto promises the introduction of a “Kitemark” for good employers- ie that they pay the living wage, avoid unpaid internships, and use blind-recruitment procedures etc. They also propose that all companies employing 250 or more staff will be required to monitor and publish data on gender, ethnicity and LGBT status and pay-gaps.

They do promise to abolish the Tribunal fees.

On zero-hours contracts they propose a right to request a fixed contract for zero -hours workers.

Obviously, all depends on the outcome of the vote on the 8th June 2017.

However, the one thing clear from all three of these parties is that there will be no immediate repeal of EU law rights to UK workers, including the Working Time provisions.

If you need employment law advice or assistance do not hesitate to contact us at Hallett Employment Law Services Ltd

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