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General Election 2017 – What do the manifestos say about employment law?

BY Donald MacKinnon
Employment Law & HR
BG Purple

With only a couple of days to go before the General Election, let’s have a look at the four-main party manifestos and go through how they would change employment law in the UK should they enter Downing Street.

Before we get into the detail, you will notice that Brexit is not mentioned when discussing employment law in any of the manifestos. To clarify this, the Conservatives have said that all post Brexit EU laws would be converted to UK law through the ‘Great Repeal Bill’. As the European Court of Justice will have no authority to rule over UK law, the government will be able to repeal current EU law, including employment law. In other words, Brexit means Brexit. The Labour party, although they have very clear plans on how to amend UK employment law, are less clear what they would do regarding Brexit. They have said that they would abolish the Great Repeal Bill but introduce something similar and so far, have been silent on the ECJ. The Liberal Democrats have said they oppose Brexit and will hold a second referendum on the terms of the final deal. The SNP would attempt to keep Scotland in the Single Market and negotiate a separate deal for Scotland.

Labour Party

As they are proposing the biggest changes to employment law I will begin with Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party. Their manifesto, called ‘For the Many not the Few’, has a 20-point plan to help bring ‘security and equality to work’. Here are the headlines:

  • Give all employees equal rights from day one whether full time, part time, permanent or temporary.
  • Ban zero-hour contracts.
  • Repeal of the Trade Union Act 2016.
  • Public contracts only to companies that recognise Trade Unions.
  • Abolish tribunal fees.
  • £10 minimum wage by 2020.
  • Increase prosecutions for those who don’t pay the minimum wage.
  • Maximum pay ratio of 20:1 between highest and lowest earner.
  • Increased apprenticeships.
  • A new definition of Employee, Self Employed and Worker.
  • Double Paternity leave to 1 month and increase paternity pay.
  • Add 4 new bank holidays.

Conservative Party

Theresa May and the Conservatives are proposing less radical change. However, they have said that their proposals are the greatest expansion of workers’ rights by a Conservative Government. They say they will introduce:

  • Unpaid time off for up to 1 year to care for relatives.
  • Child bereavement leave.
  • Maintain the National Living Wage for those over 25.
  • Review the Taylor report on workers’ rights and gig economy.
  • Introduction of workers’ representation on Company Boards.
  • Commitment to reduce the gender pay gap.
  • Extend protection for those with mental health issues under the Equality Act 2010.
  • Executive Pay packages to be subject to approval by shareholders.

Liberal Democrats

The Liberal Democrats have less specific proposals but have made a commitment to ensure that people can earn a decent living. To do this they would:

  • Like Labour abolish tribunal fees and zero hours’ contracts.
  • Introduce blind recruitment to help those from minority backgrounds .
  • Push for 40% female representation on FTSE 350 boards.
  • One month paternity leave.

Scottish National Party

As with the Liberal Democrats, the SNP cannot win this election but they could go into coalition, formal or otherwise. There are many areas where they agree with Labour and if Jeremy Corbyn becomes PM expect the SNP to support Labour policies. In their manifesto the SNP say they will:

  • Abolish the Trade Union Act 2016
  • Ban zero-hours contracts and support the removal of tribunal fees south of the border
  • Argue for a ‘real’ national living wage.

I hope this gives you an idea of what each party is offering and although it is not intended to help you make up your mind how to vote I hope it gives you’re a clearer picture of what may happen in the future regardless of the outcome.

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