Richard Nicolle: What does the Conservative victory mean for UK Employment Law over next 5 years?

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With the General Election results in we have a result which very few people anticipated; a Conservative government with a narrow overall majority. This means that the legislative proposals contained in the Conservative Manifesto now have heightened significance and, for all intents and purposes, the proposals contained in the Manifestos of the other parties can be disregarded.

This will be significant in many areas to include employment law. There is, of course, the additional uncertainty as to the outcome of the almost inevitable European Referendum in 2017 and how this would impact on UK employment law in the event that the UK should leave the European Union.

As a reminder the key employment law proposals within the Conservative Manifesto are as follows:-

Trade unions and industrial action

Introduce a requirement for industrial action in health, education, fire and transport to have support of at least 40 percent of all those entitled to take part in strike ballots, as well as a majority of those who vote.

Equality

Require companies with more than 250 employees to publish the difference between the average pay of their male and female employees.

Increase the proportion of public appointments going to women in the next Parliament, as well as the number of female MPs.

Aim to halve the disability employment gap: transforming policy, practice and public attitudes, so that hundreds of thousands more disabled people can find employment.

Human Rights

Introduce a British Bill of Rights to replace the Human Rights Act 1998. Supreme Court to be the ultimate arbiter of human rights matters in the UK rather than European Court of Human Rights.

Zero-hours contracts

Eradicate exclusivity clauses.

National Minimum Wage (NMW) and Living Wage

Increase NMW to £6.70 by autumn 2015 with a view to increasing it to over £8 per hour by the end of 2020.

Continue to encourage businesses to pay Living Wage if they can afford it.

Personal Allowance

Increase to £12,500 by 2020.

Work and families

Increase entitlement to free childcare to 30 hours per week for 3-4 year olds with working parents.

As a general point, the Conservative Manifesto prioritises deregulation of the economy over additional statutory employment protection. We consider it unlikely that any significant review of Employment Tribunal fees is now likely to occur as the main driver in terms of the potential unfairness of the Employment Tribunal fee regime came from Vince Cable and the Liberal Democrats. The Conservative Manifesto is silent on this topic.

It can be considered probable that the measures set out above will be introduced by the Government. Whether the unexpected outcome of a majority Conservative Government will see pressure for more far-reaching reforms of UK employment law is possible but we would not consider this to be a high priority issue and the minority on the right of the Conservative party who may potentially call for such changes are likely to be outweighed by David Cameron and the majority calling for “One Nation Conservativism”.

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About Richard Nicolle

Richard Nicolle is a Partner in the Employment Law Group at Stewarts Law LLP.

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