Anne-Marie Balfour: Election proposals for future employment law

Share this story
General Election 2015
Click on the icon to follow HRreview’s election coverage

In the run-up to the election, each party has something to say about employment policy.  Employment-related proposals are just too numerous for comprehensive coverage here. Below, however, is a pick of some of the proposals which, if adopted, would directly impact upon day to day HR matters.

There are some interesting ‘one off’ proposals among the manifestos, for example:

  • entitlement to three days’ paid volunteering leave per year for those working in the public sector and larger employers (Conservatives);
  • remove the ‘Swedish Derogation’ loophole from the Agency Workers Regulations 2010 (Labour);
  • reverse ‘employee shareholder’ status and introduce compulsory profit sharing for employers of more than 50 people (Labour);
  • review unpaid internships (Liberal Democrats);
  • restrict access to EURES, the EU-wide jobs portal (UKIP);
  • phase in a 35-hour working week (Green);
  • ensure no unpaid full-time internship lasts more than four weeks (Green).

There are also certain common themes on HR matters, summarised below.

Family friendly working

The recent parliament has only just introduced the statutory shared parental leave scheme.  Fortunately – from an HR admin perspective – the campaign cliché of baby (and now lamb) cuddling by candidates is consolidated by relatively few family leave proposals:

  • Labour: increase paid paternity leave from two to four weeks and increase paternity pay to over £260 a week;
  • Liberal Democrats: an additional month of paternity leave, and making paternity leave and shared parental leave ‘day 1’ rights;
  • SNP: increased paternity leave.

Equality and Pay Transparency

Equality matters provide an opportunity to target particular sections of the electorate.  This election, the self-employed glimpse protected status for the first time, and boardroom diversity also receives attention in proposals:

  • Conservatives: aim to halve the disability employment gap;
  • Labour: strengthen the law against maternity discrimination and the introduction of equal rights for self-employed individuals.
  • Liberal Democrats: encourage business to ensure that at least one board member is a BAME person. Also, shortlisting of qualified disabled candidates, and provision of advice on adapting the workplace;
  • UKIP: allow British businesses to choose to employ British citizens first;
  • SNP: take forward proposals to ensure women represent 50% on public boards in Scotland, tighten the law on maternity discrimination, and action on equal pay audits for larger companies.

Pay transparency is a recurring theme, with SNP, Labour, Conservatives, and Liberal Democrats proposing that large employers be required to publish their gender pay gaps.  Labour also proposes requiring publication of the pay of certain top earners and the ratio of highest earner pay against average employees’ pay.   Liberal Democrats propose monitoring and addressing the Black, Asian or Ethnic Minority (‘BAME’) pay gap, as well as publication by employers of numbers of employees paid below the LW and the ratio between top and median pay.

Pay

The national minimum wage (NMW) is a popular issue, with enhanced enforcement a frequent theme.  Some parties propose increasing the tax-free personal allowance to assist NMW workers. Specific NMW proposals include:

  • Conservatives: £6.70 by Autumn 2015, with a view to increasing it to £8.00 by the end of 2020;
  • Labour: more than £8.00 by 2020;
  • Liberal Democrats: ask the Low Pay Commission to consider ways of increasing the minimum wage without damaging employment opportunities;
  • Green: £8.10 (£9.40 in London) by 2015 and £10.00 by 2020;
  • SNP: £8.70 by 2020.

The living wage (LW)

  • Conservatives – will support the LW and encourage businesses to pay it if they can afford it;
  • Labour – tax rebates for payers of the LW. Require PLCs to report on whether they pay the LW.  Use government procurement to promote the LW;
  • Liberal Democrats: pay the LW in central government departments and executive agencies, and encourage other public sectors to do the same;
  • SNP: pay the LW to all staff covered by the Scottish government’s public sector pay policy, and push for the UK government to adopt this policy. Use procurement to ensure all suppliers to the Scottish government pay the LW.

Zero hours contracts

Use of zero hours contracts has been in the spotlight for some time, so it is no surprise that no manifesto appears to be complete without a policy on the matter:

  • Conservatives: eradication of exclusivity in zero hours contracts;
  • Labour: regular contracts for those on zero hours contracts who work regular hours for more than their first 12 weeks. Measures to prevent employers requiring works to be available all the time or cancelling shifts at short notice without compensation, and monitoring trends in use of short term contracts;
  • Liberal Democrats: stamp out abuse of zero hours contracts, create a right for workers to request a fixed term contract, consult on making regular patterns of work contractual after a period of time;
  • UKIP: require businesses employing 50 or more people to give zero hours workers full or part time contracts after one year, if requested. Give workers at least 12 hours’ notice of work, and pay for this work even if no work is actually given;
  • Green: end exploitative zero hours contracts;
  • SNP: support action to end unfair and exploitative zero hours contracts.

Employment Tribunal Fees

Following the introduction of employment tribunal fees in 2013, the number of claims has plummeted.  There are various proposals on this issue and, given the link between fees and volume of claims, it’s a significant one for the future of HR  workloads.

  • Labour: abolish the employment tribunal fee system. (It is unclear whether this means abolishing the fees in their entirety, or replacing the current system with another);
  • Liberal Democrats: review employment tribunal fees so they are not a barrier to enforcement of employment rights;
  • Green: reduce employment tribunal fees so that tribunals are accessible to workers;

Employment policy proposals often state an end result without explanation of how it would be implemented or achieved.  Of course, it may be that some, even all, of these proposals will never become law.  Thursday’s result should narrow down the probabilities.  After that, only time will tell.

Help Keep HRreview Free with a Small Donation





About Ann-Marie Balfour

Anne-Marie advises employers and senior executives on all aspects of employment law and manages employment litigation.

She advises on employment contracts, bonus and commission arrangements, settlement agreements, redundancy exercises, discrimination and whistleblowing and has particular experience of dealing with maternity discrimination disputes. Anne-Marie also advises on TUPE issues and the protection of confidential information and business interests.

Anne-Marie has particular expertise in employment issues with an immigration angle. She advises employers on balancing their (often conflicting) immigration and employment law obligations.

This includes advising on 'right to work' checks, immigration issues on TUPE transfers, avoiding race discrimination when dealing with immigration issues, handling immigration-related dismissals, balancing Tier 2 sponsor licence holders' restrictions with obligations under employment law and avoiding discrimination in resident labour market test advertisements.

Anne-Marie also advises recruitment sector clients on regulatory compliance, and advises landlords and agents on their new statutory obligations to check tenants' immigration status.

Anne-Marie is admitted to practise in England and Wales.

Visit Author Website
View All Posts

Post Comment