The general election is approaching and no doubt you’ve all decided which way you are going to vote, but if you haven’t and are inclined to vote dependant on key employment aspects (some of you may be sad enough to do so!) then see below in respect of the three main political parties:
- Pay and bonuses – all three parties support the gender pay gap reporting requirement for large employers with 250 or more employees (this is due to come into force by March 2016). Labour want to put an employee representative on remuneration committees and further boost pay transparency (including a duty to disclose the ratio of top pay compared to the average). The Conservatives want to cap public sector redundancy payments at £95,000. The Lib Dems want to consult on a requirement that companies publish full equal pay reviews and consult staff on executive pay and further boost pay transparency (including a duty to disclose the ratio of top pay compared to the average).
- National minimum wage/living wage – Labour want to increase the NMW to more than £8 per hour by 2019, introduce tax/procurement incentives for employers to pay the living wage, require listed companies to disclose whether they pay the living wage and increase NMW fines and enforcement. The Conservatives approve an above-inflation rise in the NMW if this is approved by the Low Pay Commission (LPC) and want to take further steps to eradicate non-payment of the NMW. The Lib Dems want to instruct the LPC to consider ways to increase the NMW (including increasing the NMW rate for apprentices during their first year of apprenticeship), by 2020 require large companies to disclose employee numbers receiving less than the living wage and improve NMW enforcement.
- Employment tribunal reform – Labour has pledged to abolish the current employment tribunal fees system (but this seems to mean reforming the current system rather than abolishing fees entirely) and also to ask the TUC and CBI to agree tribunal reforms. The Conservatives have not proposed any reform in this area. The Lib Dems are saying they will review fees to ensure they are not a barrier to justice.
- Discrimination – Labour propose to strengthen the law against maternity discrimination, in particular protection from dismissal, and implement the dual discrimination provisions in the Equality Act 2010. The Conservatives support greater female representation on boards and ensuring disabled people find employment. The Lib Dems support greater female, black, Asian and minority ethnic representation on boards, want to outlaw caste discrimination and introduce ‘name blank’ job applications in the initial stages for public sector jobs.
- Zero hours contracts –Labour has announced a new policy on zero hours contracts (ZHCs). Its new policy promises a change in the law to entitle ZHC employees to a fixed hours contract where they have, in practice, been working regular hours on a ZHC for 12 weeks (although it is reported that a ZHC worker would have the choice to remain on a ZHC contract). Previously, Labour had proposed an automatic right to a fixed hours contract after 12 months of regular working – so reducing this period to 12 weeks is a major change. It is not clear how this proposed new right would apply, for example the announcement refers to ‘employees’ not ‘workers’ – many staff on ZHCs are workers and do not have full employment status. In addition, depending how the change in the law is drafted, there is a risk that some employers may simply offer contracts with minimal fixed hours to limit its impact. Labour also supports the forthcoming exclusivity ban (which now requires implementation by the next Government) and proposes a new right for ZHC workers to be financially compensated if shifts are cancelled at short notice and a stop to employers requiring ZHC workers to be available ‘at all hours’ on the off chance they will be needed. In addition, they support the introduction of a new ACAS Code of Practice. The Conservatives support an exclusivity ban and they propose enhanced information and guidance to improve transparency over ZHC terms and rights. The Lib Dems want to ban exclusivity, enhance information and guidance, create a right to request a fixed hours contract and consult on introducing an entitlement to such a contract after a period of regular working.
- EU referendum – Labour and the Lib Dems do not support a referendum unless there are proposals to transfer further powers from the UK to the EU. Labour also wish to renegotiate the UK’s position in the EU. The Conservatives want to renegotiate EU membership (including a repatriation of powers relating to some aspects of employment and social policy to the UK) and then hold a referendum by the end of 2017.
- European Convention on Human Rights – Labour and the Lib Dems are committed to the Human Rights Act, but the Conservatives want to repeal it, introduce a British Bill of Rights and turn the European Court of Human Rights into an advisory body only.
- Work and families – Labour propose an extension in paternity leave to four weeks and an increase in paternity pay, they want to consult on allowing grandparents to shared unpaid parental leave and consider possible ‘adjustment leave’ to help families cope with short-term crises. The Conservatives have made no proposals in this area. The Lib Dems want to extend paternity leave to six weeks and introduce a right to paid leave for carers who qualify for Carer’s Allowance.
- Strike law and industrial relations – Labour propose to set up a full public inquiry to examine blacklisting in the construction industry, review how workplace information and consultation can be more widespread and meaningful and support union facility time. The Conservatives have made a number of proposals including that 50% or more must vote in all ballots, in essential or core public services 40% of eligible voters must vote in favour of strikes (not just a simple majority of those voting), an end to the ban on using agency staff to cover for essential striking workers and a time limit of three months on the mandate of each strike ballot. They have also proposed some changes to picketing law. The Lib Dems want to change the law to allow online electronic e-ballots for strikes and union leadership elections.
- Agency workers – Labour propose to abolish the ‘Swedish derogation’ and introduce measures to tackle rogue employment agencies. The Conservatives want to repeal the statutory ban on agency workers providing essential cover during official strike action. The Lib Dems want to set up a new Workers’ Rights Agency to take on and improve the work of existing employment bodies including responsibility for employment agency standards.
- Other – Labourpropose to review the TUPE regulations, in particular how they apply to outsourcing, scrap employee shareholder agreements and support employee buy-outs when businesses are being sold. The Conservatives want to require public sector employers and companies with more than 250 employees to give staff up to three paid days off per year to do voluntary work and require every public sector worker operating in a customer-facing role to speak fluent English. The Lib Dems propose to prevent employers depriving workers of employment rights by wrongly classifying them as self-employed or workers.
Obviously, if there is a coalition Government after the General Election, some degree of compromise on the proposals by the political parties in power is inevitable.