Election 2015: What's In Store for Employment Law?
Author: David Seals
With less than a week until polling day, we consider what the main political parties have planned for employment law should they be elected.
The Tories will make it compulsory for employers with 250 or more staff to publish information regarding their gender pay gap, introduce penalties in respect of unpaid employment tribunal awards and settlements and ban exclusivity clauses in zero hours contracts (“ZHCs”). All of these provisions are already included in the Small Business Enterprise and Employment Act 2015 which was passed in March although the provisions are yet to come in to force.
The Human Rights Act 1998 would be replaced with a Bill of Rights and the Supreme Court (formerly the House of Lords) would have the final say on human rights issues.
Three days paid volunteering leave per year would be introduced for employers with 250 staff or more. Curbs would be introduced on public sector termination pay outs above £100,000.
Labour goes further on the regulation of ZHCs and will ban clauses making zero hours workers available at all times or allowing employers to cancel shifts at short notice without compensation. Zero hours workers doing regular hours in their first 12 weeks will have a right to a regular contract. Exactly how this would work in practice is unclear.
On work and families, Labour would double maternity leave to 4 weeks and increase paternity pay to at least £260 per week. The employment tribunal fee system would be scrapped but it is unclear from the manifesto what it would be replaced with. So tribunal fees (albeit at a lower level) may well stay under Labour.
The employee shareholder worker status would be scrapped and the Government’s removal of employer liability for third party harassment introduced 2 years ago would be reversed. The TUPE Regulations (updated just 18 months ago) would be reviewed again.
In what sounds like a radical plan, Labour is considering introducing compulsory profit- sharing laws for employers with 50 or more staff.
Interestingly, there is no mention of changing the qualifying period for unfair dismissal back to one year (from the current 2 years). Labour Governments normally do this.
The Lib Dems have a similar plan to Labour for giving ZHC workers regular contracts after they have been employed for a period of time although they plan to consult on this before making firm plans.
On work and families, they would extend the shared parental leave scheme to give fathers an extra month’s paternity leave but this portion of leave would not be transferrable to the mother. Paternity leave and shared parental leave would become ‘day 1’ rights. Employment tribunal fees would be reduced perhaps to a nominal amount.
On equality, the Lib Dems have ambitious plans. Although firm proposals are not given, they would encourage Boards to have at least 30% female members and one person from an ethnic minority. Employers would also be encouraged to shortlist any qualified disabled candidates when recruiting. In the public sector they would move towards ‘name blank’ recruitment with this to be voluntary in the private sector.
UKIP say that, although under them we would exit from the EU, European laws that protect workers would be retained. This would mean having to pass legislation to replace regulations, e.g. TUPE, that implement EU Directives.
In relation to human rights law, UKIP propose much the same as the Tories, with a Bill of Rights and severing ties with the European Court of Human Rights.
On ZHCs, UKIP would make employers with 50 or more staff give their zero hours workers a regular contract after 1 year. They would ban exclusivity clauses and the use of ZHCs in home care. Zero hours workers would be entitled to at least 12 hours notice of work and to be paid for it even if the work offer is subsequently withdrawn.
Interestingly, there is no mention in UKIP’s manifesto about race discrimination law despite Nigel Farage’s statement in a Channel 4 documentary last Autumn that he would “axe much of race discrimination law”.
The Green Party would end the exploitation of ZHCs and introduce a 35 hour week for all. A 10:1 maximum pay ratio would apply to all organisations by which the highest paid employee could not earn more than 10 times the lowest paid employee. Employment tribunal fees would be reduced and employees in medium and large companies would be entitled to elect directors on to company Boards.
If you have any queries about this article or on any employment law-related issue, please contact David Seals on 01306 502218 or firstname.lastname@example.org or your usual contact in the Employment Team.