General Election 2019: Possible employment law reform

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General Election 2019: Possible employment law reform

Published 11 diciembre 2019

With the UK general election fast approaching, we have summarised the key employment law policies put forward by the Conservatives and Labour parties in their manifestos and as part of their election campaigns.

CONSERVATIVES

Key policies on workers’ rights, atypical working and self-employment include:

  • creating a single enforcement body for the protection of employment rights and taking a tough approach on any employer deemed to be abusing employment law;
  • ensuring workers have the right to request a more predictable contract;
  • encouraging flexible working and consulting on making it the default position unless employers have good reason not to; and
  • reviewing the introduction of IR35 in the private sector.

Key policies on family, equality and diversity include:

  • introducing legislation to allow parents to take extended leave for neonatal care;
  • making it easier for fathers to take paternity leave;
  • extending entitlement to leave for unpaid carers, who are mostly women, to one week;
  • reforming redundancy law to prevent employers discriminating against women immediately after returning from maternity leave; and
  • reducing the disability employment gap.

LABOUR

Key policies on workers’ rights, atypical working and self-employment include:

  • reviewing the plans for IR35 to be introduced in the private sector;
  • creating a single status of “worker” for everyone apart from the genuinely self-employed;
  • banning zero-hour contracts and allowing those who work regular hours for more than 12 weeks to have a right to a regular contract to reflect those hours;
  • banning overseas-only recruitment practices;
  • ensuring all workers have full rights from day one of their job and giving all workers the right to flexible working;
  • requiring rest breaks and cancelled shifts to be paid;
  • introducing a statutory Real Living Wage of at least £10 per hour for all workers aged 16 or over;
  • establishing a Ministry for Employment Rights and a Workers’ Protection Agency to enforce workplace rights;
  • introducing sectoral collective bargaining to agree legal minimum standards on a variety of employment issues for particular sectors;
  • introducing the legal right to collective consultation on the implementation of new technology in workplaces;
  • strengthening trade union rights, including their right to enter workplaces, strengthening protection of trade union representatives against unfair dismissal and making strike ballots easier;
  • strengthening protection for whistleblowers and rights against unfair dismissal for all workers. There will be extra protections for pregnant women, those going through menopause and terminally ill workers;
  • increasing protection against redundancy;
  • defending workers’ ability to cover legal representation costs from employers deemed to be negligent; and
  • extending the powers of employment tribunals and introducing Labour Courts with a stronger role for people with industrial experience on the panel.

Key policies on working hours include:

  • reducing the average full-time weekly working hours to 32, with no loss of pay;
  • ending the opt-out provision for the 48-hour working limit in the EU Working Time Directive;
  • setting up an independent Working Time Commission to advise on raising minimum holiday entitlements and reducing maximum weekly working time;
  • reviewing unpaid overtime; and
  • introducing four new bank holidays.

Key policies on corporate governance include:

  • requiring large companies to set up “Inclusive Ownership Funds” (IOFs). These would give employees collectively a stake of up to 10% ownership of the company; and
  • requiring one-third of boards to be made up of worker-directors elected directly from the workforce.

Key policies on family, equality and diversity include:

  • introducing statutory bereavement leave and 10 days of paid leave for survivors of domestic abuse;
  • focusing on balancing work and family life by increasing statutory maternity pay from nine to 12 months, doubling paternity leave from two to four weeks as well as increasing statutory pay, and reviewing “family-friendly” rights such as the right to respond to family emergencies;
  • banning the dismissal of pregnant women without prior approval of the inspectorate;
  • enabling positive action in recruitment where greater diversity can be justified;
  • introducing policies to support disabled workers such as disability leave that is recorded separately from sick leave, and recommending that the Equality and Human Rights Commission prepares a specific code of practice on reasonable adjustments;
  • requiring all employers to devise and implement plans to eradicate the pay gap underpinned by race, gender and disability – with the possibility of fines. All employers with over 250 employees will be required to obtain gender equality certification from the government, and this threshold will be lowered to workplaces with 50 employees by the end of 2020;
  • requiring employers to maintain workplaces free of harassment, including harassment by third parties; and
  • requiring all large employers to have flexible working, including a menopause policy, and consider changes to sickness and absence policies aimed at supporting women.

What does this mean for employers?

The consequences of these pledges for employers will not become clear until after the general election. These potential policies have no timetable for implementation, and whether they come into force is dependent on the progression of the domestic agenda.

Authors

Ceri Fuller

Ceri Fuller

London - Walbrook

+44 (0)20 7894 6583

Zoë Wigan

Zoë Wigan

London - Walbrook

+44 (0)20 7894 6564

Hilary Larter

Hilary Larter

Leeds

+44 (0)113 251 4710

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