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How the General Election could affect your employment policies

The decision is yours

As we approach another General Election, while much of the media spin is on the implications of Brexit and how it would be implemented, a key aspect for businesses to be aware of is what’s being proposed in the world of employment law by some of the political parties.

So, ahead of tomorrow’s election, I thought it would be helpful to highlight some of the proposed policies so that you can consider how they might impact on your employer/employee relations.

So, in the Blue Corner…… When the Conservative Manifesto was launched, Theresa May stated that the Manifesto would include “The greatest expansion in workers’ rights by any Conservative Government in history.”

The key policies are:

  • Workers to enjoy the same rights after Brexit as they do currently. The intention appears to be that current EU law will be converted into UK law once Brexit is complete.
  • The National Living Wage will continue to be increased in line with the aim of reaching the current target of 60% of median earnings by 2020.
  • To ensure that the interests of all employees on traditional contracts, self-employed and those working in a gig economy are all properly protected.
  • A new right to request unpaid time off for training for all employees. At the moment this only applies to employers with 250 or more employees.
  • New statutory rights on paid time off, between 13 and 52 weeks for workers whose family members require full-time care. Workers would retain their employment rights and would be allowed to return to the same job at the end of that period.
  • The right to child bereavement leave.
  • Rights for those returning to the workforce. These proposals are designed to help women and carers acquire the skills and experience needed to return to the workplace after taking time out from work, either to look after children or to support an elderly relative.

Changes to the Equality Act

  • Extending the Act to cover discrimination against those suffering from mental health conditions that are “episodic and fluctuating”. It is understood that this is aimed at individuals suffering from depression, anxiety and bipolar disorder.
  • Amending Health and safety regulations so that appropriate first aid training and needs assessment for mental health would be carried out in the same way as risk assessments are carried out for physical health.
  • Incentives, such as relief for one year from employer National Insurance Contributions, to be provided to employers to employ vulnerable workers such as those suffering from disability, including chronic mental health problems, those who have committed a crime, a certain percent of long-term unemployed and those who were taken care of by the care system.
  • Closing the gender pay gap and race gap.
  • One million more disabled people to be in employment within the next 10 years through the use of flexible working and the digital economy to generate jobs for those “whose disabilities makes traditional work difficult”.

 

In the Red Corner…….The Labour Party

  • Would ensure that on Brexit, all rights guaranteed under European Union law are protected.
  • Have a ban on zero hours contracts to ensure that every worker receives a guaranteed number of hours per week.
  • Would raise the National Minimum Wage for workers aged 18 or over to be the same level as the National Living Wage. The National Living Wage is expected to be £10 per hour by 2020 for all workers aged 18 or over.
  • In terms of family friendly policies, Labour are proposing to increase the scope of the current 30 hours of free child care to include all two-year-olds.
  • Would introduce four new bank holidays to commemorate St. George’s Day, St. David’s Day, St. Andrew’s Day and St. Patrick’s Day. These would be added on to the statutory holiday entitlement for UK workers, bringing the statutory entitlement up to 32 days.
  • Introduce mandatory workplace risk assessments for pregnant women and to review the support offered to women who have suffered miscarriages.
  • Increase the rate of paternity pay and double the period of paternity leave to four weeks to allow fathers to “spend more time with their new babies”.
  • Extend the period of statutory maternity pay to twelve months.
  • Introduce legislation on statutory bereavement leave.
  • Abolish Employment Tribunal fees, and the time period for claimant’s lodging maternity discrimination claims would be extended from three to six months.
  • All workers to have equal rights from day one and the employment rights of all employees to be extended to include workers to counter the so-called “bogus self-employment”. Labour are proposing that a statutory definition is put in place for self-employed worker and employee, with the burden of proof being placed on an employer to prove that a worker is not an employee and imposing fines on employers that are not meeting their responsibilities.
  • Labour considers apprentices are “As the most effective way of meeting our current skills gap” and aim to double the number of completed apprenticeships at NVQ level 3 by 2022.

In terms of the Equality Act:

  • To make it easier for disabled workers to challenge discrimination at work;
  • Strengthen protection for women against unfair redundancy so that they are not penalised for having children.
  • Consult on a new form of the Gender Recognition Act to protect transgender people and improve ethnic diversity of UK boards.
  • Reinstate liability on employers for third party harassment.

 

In the Yellow Corner…..Liberal Democrats

  • On Brexit, to have the rights of existing EU nationals in the UK guaranteed and for the Government to secure the same rights for UK citizens elsewhere in the EU
  • For the UK to remain part of the Single Market and Customs Union.
  • Retain freedom of movement as far as possible.
  • Defend the existing social rights and equality laws.
  • In relation to zero hours contracts and the gig economy a promise to stamp out the abuse of zero hours contracts and create a right for workers to request a fixed term contract.
  • In relation to pay and benefits – encourage the creation of good employer count mark, require large employers to publish data on the number of workers earning less than the Living Wage, encourage employee ownership in listed companies with more than 250 employees
  • The abolition of Employment Tribunal fees.

In relation to discrimination and human rights

  • Continue to push for more women and more ethnic minorities in the Boardroom
  • Build on the Gender Pay Gap Reporting Scheme.
  • Require name-blind recruitment processes in the public sector and to encourage it in the private sector.
  • Extend discrimination law to protect gender identity and expression.
  • Outlaw caste discrimination.
  • More flexible working, paternity leave and shared parental leave rights.
  • Introduce an additional one month “use it or lose it” period of shared parental leave for fathers

 

In the Blue and White Corner…. On Brexit, the SNP would:

  • Insist on a place for Scotland at the Brexit negotiating table;
  • State the case for keeping Scotland in the Single Market;
  • Hold the UK Government to account on its promise to retain employment rights after Brexit.
  • In relation to pay, the SNP would increase the Minimum Wage over the course of the next Parliament to the level of the Real Living Wage for all adults over 18.
  • In relation to Employment Tribunal fees these would be abolished.
  • In relation to zero hours contracts these would be banned and they would ensure that all workers have appropriate rights and protections including holiday pay and sick pay and this would apply to casual workers, agency workers and gig economy workers.

In relation to equality

  • Support the protection for pregnant women and new mothers against discriminatory practices including redundancies
  • Require equal pay reporting cover to include gender, race and disability.
  • Amend the Equality Act to deal with sexist dress codes.

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