HM Insights

General Election 2017 – what will the outcome of the vote mean for employment law rights in the UK?

The main political parties have vowed to make a number of improvements to employment rights in order to elicit support in the General Election. With the election looming tomorrow, we have set out some of the key proposals of interest of employers and employees in the manifestos of the three main political parties. It is worth remembering that employment law is a reserved matter for the UK Parliament at Westminster and is not devolved to the Scottish Parliament.

Vote Election General Scotland Employment Law Lawyer Employee Rights Labour Conservative Lib Dem Eu

Impact of Brexit

One of the major issues that faces employees and employers is the impact of Brexit. All three political parties have addressed this and promised to preserve the current employee protections derived from EU law at the point at which the UK leaves the EU.

Employment Tribunal Fees

Since the introduction of tribunal fees, there has been a 70% drop in claims. Therefore it is unsurprising that Labour and the Lib Dems have both proposed to scrap employment tribunal fees.

Worker status

Given the recent high profile case law on the issue of employment status in the gig economy, all three parties have addressed their stance on it. Labour has promised to clamp down on bogus self-employment aimed at denying workers their rights. They have proposed to introduce a legal presumption that all those engaged in employment will be an employee, unless the employer can prove otherwise.

Both the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats have instead proposed to wait for the outcome of the Taylor Review and then, based on the proposals in this, provide protection for gig economy workers.

Furthermore, Labour has proposed an outright ban on zero-hour contracts. The Lib Dems have taken a similar but not as radical approach, and promise to ban employers abusing zero-hour contracts.

Pay and pay reporting

The Conservatives proposed increasing the National Living Wage to 60% of median earnings by 2020. Labour has promised to raise The National Minimum Wage to the level of the National Living Wage (due to be at least £10 an hour by 2020) for all workers aged 18 and over.

The Lib Dems have promised to establish an independent review to consult on how to set a genuine living wage across all sectors. On the other side of the spectrum, only the Labour manifesto touches on the issue of maximum pay. They propose to bring in an Excessive Pay Levy on companies who pay employees more than £330,000.

Also, building on the Equal Pay legislation that was brought in earlier this year, the Lib Dems have promised to require all organisations with over 250 employees to report on the number of black, Asian and ethnic minority employees, as well as LGBT employees.

The Conservative manifesto states that larger employers will be required to publish further data on the gender pay gap, and Labour has promised a new civil enforcement regime to strengthen compliance with gender pay gap reporting. To some, these proposals may be seen as welcome transparency however it does raise questions of employee confidentiality and data protection issues.

Equality

With the flurry of case law from Europe regarding headscarf ban rulings, the Lib Dems have guaranteed the freedom of people to wear religious or cultural dress. They will also create a "good employer" kite mark which will cover areas such as paying the living wage and avoiding unpaid internships. Furthermore, they propose extending the protected characteristic of "gender reassignment" to cover gender identity and expression.

The Conservatives have pledged to support one million more people with disabilities into employment over the next ten years. Employers will be given advice and support to hire and retain disabled people and those with health conditions.

Labour proposes several changes relating to employment law surrounding woman in the workplace. This includes introducing mandatory workplace risk assessments for pregnant women, and reviewing the support offered to women who have suffered miscarriages. Also, the limitation period for tribunal claims of maternity discrimination will be increased from three to six months and women will have greater protection against unfair redundancy. Further to this, Labour has promised to change the protected characteristic of "gender reassignment" to "gender identity" and to bring in a new protected characteristic of terminal illness.

Public Sector workers

Given the pressures facing public sector workers, Labour and the Lib Dems have chosen to abolish the public sector pay cap, which limits pay rises for workers to 1% per year until 2020. Labour will also introduce maximum pay ratios of 20:1 in the public sector and in companies bidding for public contract.

The Lib Dems will extend the use of name-blind recruitment processes in the public sector and encouraging their use in the private sector. 

Comment

All three political parties have set out wide-ranging employment law promises in their manifestos which address the majority of the hot topics in employment law.

Whatever the outcome on 8 June, perhaps the only thing that is certain is that the UK will continue to see significant changes that could re-shape the workplace for years to come.

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If you would like to find out more about the issues discussed in this article please get in touch with a member of our team.