News & Views

The future of UK employment law under a Conservative Government

BY Heather Kemmett
Employment law
BG Purple

The dust is settling on one of the most controversial General Elections in UK political history. The Conservative party secured a shock victory, winning a narrow majority and leaving Labour, the Lib Dems and UKIP in leaderless disarray.

But what does all this mean for UK employment law? 

Last month we reported on the various manifesto pledges from the major parties. The Conservatives’ pledges were as follows: 

  • To remove exclusivity clauses from zero hours contracts;
  • To raise the NMW to £8 by the end of 2020;
  • To increase the tax-free personal allowance to £12,500 by the end of 2020;
  • To end six-figure payoffs for public sector workers;
  • To toughen the law around industrial action;
  • To create an extra 3 million apprenticeships over the next 5 years; and
  • To eradicate abuse of migrant workers.

Following hot on the heels of the Tory victory, the newly appointed Business Secretary Sajid Javid promised to undertake a full review of UK employment laws with a view to encouraging free enterprise, presumably on the basis of the promises above. He also confirmed that the Government will press ahead with plans to tighten laws on strikes and trade union ballots. 

The Government’s plans to repeal the Human Rights Act and hold an “in/out” referendum on EU membership will also be of keen interest to those in the employment law and HR world. Since much of UK employment law is derived from European legislation (for example, holidays, working time, TUPE and equalities) a withdrawal from the Union could have far reaching effects for employment law. It is not clear what stance the Government would take in relation to existing laws following a withdrawal, but no doubt further information will become available should the planned referendum become a reality. 

Human Rights challenges in employment claims are rare, although the Human Rights Act has certainly impacted on a number of high profile cases in the HR arena, principally in relation to religious and political freedoms. The Conservatives’ plans are based on a belief that the UK should have greater sovereignty over human rights violations, with a preference that cases be dealt with by the UK Supreme Court rather than the European Court of Human Rights.  

However, the Human Rights Act is simply UK legislation implementing the terms of the European Convention of Human Rights in national law. The UK would remain a signatory to the Convention and that is unlikely to change, given that ratification of the Convention is an absolute prerequisite for membership of the European Union. Consequently, convention rights would still be enforceable at the European Court and therefore employees with Human Rights challenges would still be able to take their claims to the Strasbourg Court if necessary.

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