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30th May 2017

General Election 2017 Employment Law Implications

The Conservative Party, the Labour Party and the Liberal Democrats have each released their manifestos ahead of the general election 2017 and set out their policy statements and pledges. Each has made promises which will have implications for both employers and employees.

The Conservative Party

The Conservative manifesto confirms that the Party would maintain the increase of the National Living Wage in line with the current target which is for the rate to reach 60% of median earnings by 2020.

The independent review under modern employment practices will continue and, after the review has been concluded, the Conservatives state that they will ensure that the interests of employees on traditional employment contracts, the self employed and those working in the ‘gig’ economy are protected.

If re-elected the Conservatives have stated they would introduce a new statutory right to request unpaid time off for training for all employees. Currently, the statutory right to request time off for training is only applicable to employers with 250 or more employees.

The Conservatives would introduce a new statutory right to unpaid time off to those with family members requiring full time care. It is thought that the right will be for between 13 and 52 weeks off whilst retaining employment rights and a right to return to the same job. Currently the right only allows employees to take a short period of time off to deal with emergencies.

A right to child bereavement leave would also be introduced; however, the manifesto does not provide details on how much leave would be provided. The manifesto also proposes measures to help women and carers acquire skills and experience required to return to work after taking time out to care for children or an elderly relative. No specific details are provided.

In respect of discrimination legislation, the Equality Act 2010 would be extended to include discrimination against those suffering from “episodic and fluctuating” mental health conditions. The party would also amend health and safety regulations so that employers would be required to provide first aid training and needs-assessment for mental health as well as physical health. The manifesto suggests that employers would be provided with incentives (one year’s relief from employer’s National Insurance contributions) to employ certain vulnerable workers.

The Labour Party

The Labour Party has confirmed that they would ban zero hours contracts to ensure that each worker receives a guaranteed number of hours per week. Labour would also plan to put in place legislation against short hours contracts to ensure that those who work regular hours for more than 12 weeks would have the opportunity to switch to a regular contract. If elected, they would give all ‘workers’ the employment rights which are currently only afforded to employees.

Labour has proposed to increase the national minimum wage for workers over 18 years old to the National Living Wage. Labour has pledged to ‘crack down’ on employers refusing to pay the national minimum wage by increasing the number of prosecutions.

Labour would support working families by expanding the provision of free childcare to include all two year olds. They would also issue subsidies in addition to the free hour entitlements to ensure that everyone can access the free childcare irrespective of working pattern. A consultation on childcare for one year olds is also proposed.

A proposed measure which attracted much media attention was the pledge of an additional four bank holidays per year which would be added on to the statutory holiday entitlement for UK workers.

Labour has pledged to work with the Health and Safety Executive Committee to introduce mandatory workplace risk assessments for pregnant women and review the support offered to women in work who have suffered miscarriages.

Further, Labour has pledged to increase the rate of paternity pay and double paid paternity leave to four weeks and also to extend maternity pay to 12 months. Labour has also pledged to introduce legislation on statutory bereavement leave.

Under Labour, there would be no employment tribunal fees and the time to lodge a maternity discrimination claim would be increased from three to six months.

The party emphasises the importance of apprenticeships and various measures are proposed, including introducing new targets to make apprenticeships more accessible including to those with disabilities, veterans and women.

If elected, Labour would enhance the Equality Act 2010 to make it easier for disabled workers to challenge discrimination at work and would strengthen protection for women against unfair redundancy.

Liberal Democrats

The Liberal Democrats are committed to driving for boardroom diversity, guaranteeing the freedom to wear religious or cultural dress, extending discrimination law to protect gender identity and expression (and not just gender reassignment) and outlawing caste discrimination.

The Liberal Democrats have pledged to make flexible working, paternity leave and shared parental leave rights acquired on ‘day one’. They would introduce an additional one month period of shared parental leave for fathers to encourage greater uptake amongst men.

The party has pledged to extend the 15 hours per week free childcare provision to all two year olds and the children of all working families from the end of maternity/ paternity/ shared parental leave.

In the manifesto, the Liberal Democrats have promised to eliminate abuse of zero hours contracts and introduce a right for workers to request a fixed-term contract. The party would consult on introducing a right to make regular patterns of work contractual after a period of time.

The Liberal Democrats would also make employment rights “fit for the age of the gig economy”.

The party would encourage the creation of a “good employer” kite mark and would put in place an independent review into how a living wage should be set.

In respect of tribunal fees, the Liberal Democrats would abolish the fees and would bring together relevant enforcement agencies to strengthen enforcement of existing employment contracts.

Source: Chadwick Lawrence

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