Theresa May is promising what she says would be the biggest expansion of workers’ rights by any Conservative government in history, if the party retains power.
The manifesto will unveil 11 pledges for workplace reforms, that promise to keep all workers’ rights currently guaranteed by EU law in the wake of the Brexit process, protect pensions and provide a statutory right to training.
Under the election plans, there would also be a statutory right to a year’s unpaid leave to care for elderly relatives, a provision which already exists in the Republic of Ireland.
The new measures for carers statutory leave would also apply to those parents whose child has died.
Britain’s ageing population has created unprecedented pressure on the care system.Currently in the UK there are more than six million people are acting as unpaid carers, with a third of them spending more than 50 hours a week looking after their loved ones.
Other measures would include new protections for self-employed and temporary workers in the “gig economy“, such as drivers for Uber and internet delivery firms Deliveroo and Hermes.
The Conservative party would also insist companies had representation for workers on their boards – whether on advisory panels, as a non-executive director or through a directly appointed worker representative.
May will also commit to raising wages in line with earnings, with the national living wage for workers aged 25 and over, currently £7.50 an hour, would rise in line with average earnings until 2022.
She will announce plans for “returnships” to give extra training for those going back to work after a long period of time off work.
Furthermore, staff will also be given a legal right to take time off for training, while workers’ pensions will also be given new protections from “irresponsible behaviour” by company bosses, following the BHS scandal with Sir Philip Green.
There will also be further measures taken to ensure awareness of mental health at work, with May suggesting that the equalities act will also be extended to protect the rights of those suffering from conditions such as depression and anxiety.
Commenting on the Conservative Party’s policy announcement on workers’ rights and other workplace reforms, Peter Cheese, Chief Executive of the CIPD, the professional body of HR and people development said:
“This broad package of measures acknowledges the important debate that we need to have about the future of our workplaces in this election. It’s welcome to see a specific focus on this, particularly as it highlights many of the issues that the CIPD identified in our own ‘Manifesto for Work’, released last week.
“However, the success of any of these measures will only be seen if the next government commits to working in partnership with business to see them through and ensure they work in practice.
“We welcome the commitment to the outcomes of the Taylor Review, and we’ve been engaged with Matthew Taylor on the issue of good work and employee protections in the gig economy. Giving clarity to the employment status and rights of gig economy workers is much needed, but we need to ensure we find the right balance between flexibility and security for workers and for employers as the world of work evolves. As we move beyond traditional employment frameworks it’s very important that people really understand what their employment rights are. We’re calling for the next government commit to launch a ‘Know Your Rights’ campaign to ensure that employees have better information in an increasingly fragmented world of work and we hope to see all parties supporting this.
“The right to request leave for training purposes is a welcome step, although more detail and consultation on how this will be applied is needed, especially as we have seen with flexible working that the right to request itself is not a silver bullet. The biggest obstacle facing people in developing new skills is falling employer investment in skills and workplace training, and with the growth of self-employment and contract work, and increased job mobility, how people will be supported for training and lifelong learning is a key question. This is why the CIPD has called for the piloting of revised individual learning accounts to encourage and help people to invest in their own lifelong learning. Equally, we have proposed a rethink of the apprenticeship levy to create a more flexible training levy which would benefit a greater number of employers and individuals’ needs.
“While we welcome the steps to improve employee voice in business, it is disappointing that the announcement is not bolder. Non-executive directors representing employees is unlikely to give workers enough meaningful voice in the workplace. We call on the next government to commit to a more robust package of reforms, rather than a potentially tokenistic measure which may not deliver the changes we need to see.”