Following on from the announcement of the General Election to be held on 8 June, and Nicola’s article last month, we have summarised some of the key proposals relating to workers’ rights and changes to employment law put forward by the Conservatives, Labour and the Liberal Democrats now that they have published their manifestos:
1. Workers’ rights and Brexit
Both Labour and the Conservatives have said that workers’ existing rights will be protected post-Brexit.
Labour will achieve this through replacing the Conservatives’ Great Repeal Bill with the EU Rights and Protections Bill.
The Liberal Democrats, whilst offering a referendum on the final Brexit deal, have said that they will fight to ensure that entitlements based on EU law are not undermined.
2. Gig economy
The Conservatives will continue the Taylor review into employment status and have said they will protect the interests of people working in the gig economy.
Labour plan to create statutory definitions of employment status, and to introduce changes so that a worker is assumed to be an employee unless the employer can prove otherwise.
Labour has also pledged to do away with zero hours contracts and have outlined plans which would allow workers who work “regular hours” for more than 12 weeks to get the opportunity to switch to a regular contract.
The Liberal Democrats have promised to stamp out abuse of zero hours contracts and have said that they will give workers the right to request a fixed contract and will consult on a right to make a regular pattern of working hours contractual after a period of time.
3. Family friendly rights
The Liberal Democrats have said that they will introduce an additional one month of shared parental leave for fathers on a use it or lose it basis. They also plan to make flexible working, paternity and shared parental leave “day one” rights with no minimum length of service required in order to be eligible.
The Conservatives will introduce a right to take unpaid time off to care for sick relatives, under which workers retain their employment rights whilst off and are allowed to return to the same job at the end of the period. They also plan to introduce a new right to child bereavement leave (but we don’t know yet how much leave will be allowed and whether it will be paid), and support for parents and carers returning to work after long periods of absence.
Labour have pledged to increase the length of maternity pay to 12 months and to double paid paternity leave to 4 weeks. They also plan to consult on bereavement leave.
The Conservatives will extend protection from discrimination to those with mental health conditions which are “episodic and fluctuating”. At the moment for mental health conditions to meet the definition of disability, and attract protection from discrimination, they must meet criteria including that the condition has lasted or is likely to last for at least 12 months. It is as yet unclear how this will affect employers in practice, but it could mean that employers will face an increased risk of disability discrimination claims.
The Liberal Democrats have said that they will extend discrimination protection to cover gender identity and expression.
5. Pay gap reporting
All of the main parties have set out proposals in relation to pay reporting. Labour will introduce reporting requirements for the ethnicity pay gap for large employers, and will set up an independent body to oversee compliance with pay gap reporting obligations.
The Conservatives will require companies with more than 250 employees to publish more data on the gender pay gap, and will ask large employers to publish data on their ethnicity pay gap.
The Liberal Democrats have said that they will require companies with more than 250 employees to publish data on gender, race and sexual orientation.
6. National Minimum Wage
The Conservatives have pledged to continue to increase national living wage, whereas Labour have said that they will raise the national minimum wage for all workers.
The Liberal Democrats will have an independent review to consult on how to set a genuine living wage across all sectors and have said that they will encourage the creation of a ‘good employer’ kitemark which will cover, amongst other areas, paying a living wage.
7. Tribunal fees
The Liberal Democrats and Labour have both said that they will abolish Employment Tribunal fees, and Labour pledge to extend the time limit for bringing maternity discrimination claims in the Employment Tribunal from three to six months.
The Conservatives have made no proposals to abolish Tribunal Fees, which is unsurprising given the conclusion of the Ministry of Justice’s review published earlier this year that there was no conclusive evidence that the introduction of fees had prevented people from bringing claims, even if they had been discouraged from doing so.
8. Other employment rights
The Conservatives have said that they will extend the right to request unpaid time off for training for all employees (currently the right to request time off for training only applies to employers with over 250 employees).
Labour have said that they will make all existing employment rights “day one” rights, however it is not yet clear whether this means that all employees will be eligible to bring unfair dismissal claims regardless of their length of service (currently employees need 103 weeks’ service to bring claims for ordinary unfair dismissal). And, as previously reported, they propose to introduce an additional 4 bank holidays.
Whatever the outcome of the General Election, we will of course keep you up to date on the key developments in employment law.
If you would like to talk through a situation you are dealing with, or if you need advice on any aspect of employment law, please contact any member of the Pure Employment Law team (01243 836840 or [email protected]).
Please note that this update is not intended to be exhaustive or be a substitute for legal advice. The application of the law in this area will often depend upon the specific facts and you are advised to seek specific advice on any given scenario.