The Conservative Government and Employment law

It may already be a distant memory, but you will of course be aware that following the least accurate set of polling predictions in recent memory the Conservative party were returned to majority Government on May 7th 2015.

We therefore thought it appropriate to review the Conservatives’ key policy statements and pledges relating to employment law.  Is it more of the same, or are there some genuinely new proposals?

These are the main policies / proposed changes that have been set out so far:

  1. Zero hours contracts – eradicating exclusivity in zero hours contracts that do not guarantee hours of work.  This was announced back in March 2015 and became law on 26 May 2015.
  2. National Minimum Wage (NMW) – increase the NMW to £6.70 by autumn 2015 (already certain), with a view to increasing the NMW to over £8 an hour by the end of 2020.  The Living Wage will also be supported and businesses will be encouraged to pay it.
  3. Work and families – increase the entitlement to free childcare to 30 hours for all parents with three and four year olds.
  4. Public sector termination payments – ending taxpayer-funded six-figure payoffs for the best paid public sector workers.  It has been indicated that this will be achieved by introducing new legislation capping public sector enhanced redundancy payments to £95,000.
  5. Trade unions and industrial action – introduce a tougher threshold for strike action; ensure strike action cannot be called “on the basis of ballots conducted years before”; repeal the ban on employers from using agency workers to cover striking employees; tackling the intimidation of non-striking workers; introducing legislation to promote a transparent opt-in for union subscriptions by trade unions.
  6. Apprenticeships – create an extra 3 million apprenticeships over the next five years.
  7. Migrant workers – introduce new legislation to reduce the exploitation of migrant workers.
  8. The Modern Slavery Act 2015 received Royal Assent on March 26, 2015, and is aimed at protecting vulnerable people from exploitation.  It will introduce tougher market regulation to tackle illegal working and exploitation and use data from multiple agencies to identify businesses that employ illegal workers.  It will take tougher action on employers who do not pay the minimum wage by allowing inspection teams to reinvest more of the money raised by fines levied on employers.
  9. Bill of Rights – introduce a British Bill of Rights to replace the Human Rights Act 1998. The aim of this being to break the link between British courts and the European Court of Human Rights and to make the Supreme Court the ultimate arbiter of human rights matters in the UK.
  10. Fitness to work – ensure that those suffering from long-term yet treatable conditions get back into work by ensuring the right medical treatment is provided.  If the individual refuses a recommended treatment, their benefits may be reduced.
  11. Paid volunteering leave – making volunteering for three days a year a workplace entitlement for people working in large companies and the public sector.

While some of these proposals have already become or will shortly become law, many are still on the drawing board.

The Labour Party Alternative

What would Jeremy Corbyn Do?

After listing the pledges of the new Government, we should of course provide balance with a review of the Labour Party leadership election.  Voting closed on 10 September 2015 with Jeremy Corbyn coming out top for the left wing of the party.  

On 28 July 2015, Corbyn published a document entitled “Working with Women” focusing on improving the position of women in society and the workplace.  Employment law related pledges include:

  1. Abolishing employment tribunal fees
  2. Giving all workers unfair dismissal rights from day 1
  3. Extending the 3-month limitation period for sex and maternity discrimination claims
  4. Making equal pay audits mandatory for all companies, irrespective of size
  5. Strengthen trade union recognition and bargaining

These ideals are clearly aimed at strengthening the position of employees rather than employers and as such are unlikely to go down well with the business community.

For more information on any of the topics mentioned above or,  if you need help understanding and implementing them in the workplace, please call us today and book a free, 30 minute consultation with one of our specialist employment law solicitors.

The Backhouse Solicitors Team

Tel:          01245 893400
Email:    [email protected]
Web:      www.backhouse-solicitors.co.uk