The General Election will take place on 12 December and with the campaign in full swing the major UK parties have announced their manifestos. Whilst the major issues in the campaign thus far have been around Brexit, the NHS and national infrastructure, all the parties have made various pledges when it comes to the world of employment law.
In a series of blogs, we'll take a look at what each of the major UK parties have promised to deliver in their manifesto in relation to employment law. This is our second blog, focusing on the Liberal Democrats manifesto.
Please see our first blog where we look at the Brexit Party, Green Party and the Scottish National Party.
The Liberal Democrats manifesto contains plan and proposals that will affect employment law. However, many of these have been suggested by the Taylor Review and Good Work Plan so could not be classed as new proposals. However, their lengthy lists of proposals include:
- Establish an independent review to consult on how to set a genuine Living Wage across all sectors.
- Establish a powerful new Worker Protection Enforcement Authority to protect those in precarious work.
- Change the law so that flexible working is open to all from day one in the job, with employers required to advertise jobs accordingly, unless there are significant business reasons why that is not possible.
- Establishing a new ‘dependent contractor’ employment status in between employment and self-employment, with entitlements to basic rights such as minimum earnings levels, sick pay and holiday entitlement.
- Reviewing the tax and National Insurance status of employees, dependent contractors and freelancers to ensure fair and comparable treatment.
- Setting a 20% higher minimum wage for people on zero-hour contracts at times of normal demand to compensate them for the uncertainty of fluctuating hours of work.
- Giving a right to request a fixed-hours contract after 12 months for ‘zero hours’ and agency workers, not to be unreasonably refused.
- Reviewing rules concerning pensions so that those in the gig economy don’t lose out, and portability between roles is protected.
- Shifting the burden of proof in employment tribunals regarding employment status from individual to employer.
- Strengthen the ability of unions to represent workers effectively in the modern economy, including a right of access to workplaces.
- Encourage employers to promote employee ownership by giving staff in listed companies with more than 250 employees a right to request shares, to be held in trust for the benefit of employees.
- Develop a scheme to reward employers who invest in the mental wellbeing of their employees, piloting reduced business rates for employers who support employees’ mental wellbeing and provide mental health first aid training to staff.
As mentioned above, many of these proposals were first suggested as part of the Taylor Review and were taken forward as part of the Good Work Plan, including the plans for a new Worker Protection Enforcement Agency, the right to request a fixed hours contract after working on a zero hours contract and the shifting of the burden of proof to employers in employment status cases.
The introduction of a new 'dependent contractor' employment status between employee and self-employed is another Taylor Review recommendation and whilst it may seem, at first glance, novel, it may be more of a re-branding of the familiar 'worker' status, which already exists in between employee and self-employed status.
The flexible working theme continues with a proposal to normalise flexible working and allow it from day one instead of the current position where employees need 26 weeks' service to request it. An increase to the Living Wage would seem to be on the table, although this would depend on the outcome of the proposed independent commission looking at it. Additionally, those working on zero hours contracts would benefit from the proposals with a 20% uplift of pay in times of normal demand. There is no detail of how this would be implemented and how, for example, normal demand would be assessed.
The more interesting proposals are perhaps around requirements to give employees a right to request shares and how such a scheme might be implemented in reality, given its potential impact on corporate governance and structure. Also interesting to note are plans to give employers rewards for those who invest in the mental wellbeing of staff through reduced business rates, given the ongoing focus in mental health of individuals in the workplace.
Our next blog, out shortly, will focus on the Labour manifesto.
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If your organisation has any questions in relation to employment law, please contact a member of our team.