General Election Manifestos: what do they mean to employers?

Posted on: May 19th, 2017

With the election campaign now into full swing, the final manifestos for each of the main parties have been announced. For those of you who haven’t yet had a chance to read the lengthy documents (don’t let the size put you off, there are lots of pictures), we have set out a summary of the key implications for employment law from each of the manifestos below.

Of course, the devil is in the (missing) detail and election manifestos are notoriously lacking in specifics – it remains to be seen which of these proposals will make the cut post-election and how they will actually operate in practice.

Conservatives

The Conservative Party’s manifesto, ‘Forward, Together: Our Plan for a Stronger Britain and a Prosperous Future’, is the shortest of the lot at a mere 88 pages. Here’s what the Conservatives have in store for employment law:

  • New protections for ‘gig’ economy workers (unfortunately, what this means in practice is unclear at this stage);
  • A ‘one year holiday’ on Employer National Insurance Contributions for firms employing:
    • Service personnel after they leave service;
    • Former wards of the care system;
    • Someone with a disability;
    • Those with chronic mental health problems;
    • Those who have committed a crime but who have ‘repaid their debt to society’; and
    • Those who have been unemployed for over a year;
  • Doubling the Immigration Skills Charge levied on companies employing migrant workers to £2,000 a year by the end of the parliament;
  • Requiring employers to provide appropriate first aid training and needs assessment for mental health and extending the Equality Act to protect against discrimination to mental health conditions that are episodic and fluctuating;
  • A new statutory right to leave to care for a family member and right to child bereavement leave; and
  • A new statutory right to request leave for training purposes for all employees.
Labour Labour’s manifesto contains a 20-point plan for ‘security and equality at work’, as well as a number of proposals for ‘clamping down on bogus self-employment’. Here are some of the key proposals:

  • The creation of a Ministry of Labour to deliver investment in enforcing workers’ rights;
  • Giving all workers equal rights from day one, whether part-time or full-time, temporary or permanent (unfortunately, what rights this is referring to and what this means in practice is unclear at this stage);
  • Banning zero hours contracts, so that each worker gets a guaranteed number of hours each week;
  • Introducing four new public holidays to mark patron saints’ days;
  • Bringing the national minimum wage in line with the living wage, which is expected to be at least £10 by 2020;
  • Banning unpaid internships;
  • Scrap employment tribunal fees;
  • Giving all workers the right to receive trade union representation;
  • Doubling paternity leave to four weeks and increasing paternity pay;
  • Extending the rights of employees to all workers, including shared parental pay (again, what specific rights this is referring to is not clear); and
  • Shifting the burden of proof, so that the law assumes an individual is an employee unless the employer can prove the individual is self-employed.
Liberal Democrats

The Liberal Democrats’ manifesto places a lot less focus on employment rights than the other parties’ manifestos. The Liberal Democrats intend to:

  • Stamp out abuse of zero-hours contracts, including creating a formal right to request a fixed contract;
  • Scrap employment tribunal fees;
  • Modernise employment rights to make them fit for the age of the ‘gig’ economy (the modernisation they are proposing has not been made clear);
  • Create a ‘good employer’ kitemark covering areas such as paying a living wage, avoiding unpaid internships and using name-blind recruitment;
  • Establish an independent review to consult on how to set a genuine living wage across all sectors;
  • Guarantee the freedom to wear religious or cultural dress;
  • Make flexible working, paternity leave and shared parental leave (SPL) “day one” rights;
  • Give staff in listed companies with more than 250 employees a right to request shares, to be held in trust for the benefit of employees; and
  • Strengthen worker participation in decision-making, including staff representation on remuneration committees, and the right for employees of a listed company to be represented on the board.

 

At the time of writing, UKIP and the Green Party have not released their full manifestos, but these are expected shortly.

Like the BBC, we are neutral but I have heard of employment lawyers considering a vote for Labour purely on the removal of tribunal fees!

You can also see some of our comments on the party commitments which have been reported on here: