A general election is due to take place on the 12th December 2019. Although it is not known what actual effect the next government will have on employment and employment law, it is useful to consider both the Conservative’s and Labour Party’s manifesto in relation to employment.
This is because, whichever party gains a majority and holds office until the next General Election, their employment policies are pretty much guaranteed to affect every employee, worker and self-employed individual in the UK. Whilst also majorly affecting employers who will be required to abide by new laws/policies put in place.
The Labour Party published its manifesto (entitled It’s Time for Real Change) on 21 November 2019, promising “the biggest extension of workers’ rights in history”.
The manifesto places an emphasis upon fair pay, both increasing pay for workers and closing pay gaps.
Labour pledge to rapidly introduce a ‘Real Living Wage’. This will be of at least £10 an hour and will apply to all workers aged 16 and over.
The party also plans to establish new ‘Inclusive Ownership Funds’ (IOFs) which will give employees a stake of up to 10% in the companies they work for.
Labour also looks to introduce policies which will provide for a 5% increase in wages for workers in the public sector, including yearly inflation pay rises. Whilst, requiring those earning £80,000 or more to pay a higher level of income tax and freezing National Insurance and income tax rates for everyone else.
The party further looks to implement a ban on unpaid internships.
Trade Unions and Collective Bargaining
Labour has made several proposals in their manifesto which intend to increase the security of the self-employed and short-term or casual workers.
These include giving every worker “full rights” from day one of starting a job. Whilst also creating a single status of “worker” for everyone. However, this will exclude those who self-identify as self-employed in business.
Labour further plan to ban zero-hours contracts and introduce regular contracts for anyone working over 12 regular hours in one single week. This will include enforcing payment to the worker for shifts which the employer has cancelled.
A Green Workforce
The Green New Deal is the idea of a state-led investment programme which intends to combat climate change whilst also creating jobs and reducing inequality. central to the Labour Party’s manifesto. The party has made a number of promises to support workers through the transition to a green economy.
These include the creation of one million unionised jobs in the UK as part of the Green Industrial revolution. And, launching a Climate Apprenticeship programme to encourage employers to gain the skills needed to work with ‘clean’ technology.
Equality and Diversity in the Workplace
The party manifesto discusses a large number of policies aiming to improve workplace diversity and tackle general inequalities.
Labour promises to create new Department for Women and Equalities, with a full-time Secretary of State, as well as an independent National Women’s Commission.
They also plan to extend statutory maternity pay to 12 months, in conjunction with increasing statutory paternity pay.
Tackling pay gaps is central to Labour’s intended policies on equality. They include a commitment to close the gender pay gap by 2030, to extend pay gap reporting to BAME groups and, in companies with over 250 employees, to disabled people. Furthermore, Labour plans to impose fines on companies failing to eradicate pay gaps.
Labour have further pledged in their manifesto to ensure access to Employment Tribunals is free. They will introduce new Labour Courts with a ‘stronger role’ for people with industrial experience to sit on panels.
If the UK votes to exit the EU in a second referendum (which Labour would put in place should they win the election) Labour confirms that it will:
Ensure UK workers’ rights standards keep pace across Europe as a minimum, whilst also granting EU nationals the automatic right to continue living and working in the UK.
The Conservative Party published its manifesto on 24 November 2019, in relation to employment, it’s main promise is to bolster support for working families. They also plan to reduce inequality in the workplace and to improve the rights of low-paid and casual workers. Immigration policy is central to the party’s vision for Britain and the proposed Australian-style points system is discussed.
The Conservative manifesto mentions a number of measures aimed at increasing take-home pay for lower-paid workers and reducing pay inequality.
One of their main promises in this area is to freeze the rates of income tax, National Insurance and VAT. The Conservatives also plan to increase the National Insurance threshold to £9,500 in 2020 with a further goal to ensure that the first £12,500 of a person’s earnings are completely tax-free.
Equality and diversity in the workforce
The Conservative Party manifesto discusses policies to combat workplace inequalities.
The party is looking to encourage flexible working and making this an employer’s default position.
They also plan to enable parents to take extended leave after the birth of their child. This will include making it easier for others to take paternity leave and offering further protection to women so that companies cannot discriminate against women immediately after returning from maternity leave.
Conservatives also look to extend the leave entitlement for unpaid carers, who the party recognises are mostly women. Whilst also, funding more high-quality childcare before and after school and during the holidays to support working families.
The Conservative Party places great emphasis on ending freedom of movement and the introduction of a new immigration system.
They look to introduce an Australian-style points-based immigration system, under which most people will require a clear job offer before coming to the country. This system will intend to keep track of who comes into the country, prevent the immigration of serious criminals, and treat EU and non-EU citizens equally.
In addition to this, they plan an introduction of bespoke visas for those who will make “the biggest contribution”, including an NHS visa for qualified health professionals who have an NHS job offer. Workers who meet various qualifications to enter and work in the UK will be offered: fast-track entry, reduced visa fees and support to come to the UK with their families.
Skills and training
The party makes various pledges intended to help improve the skills of those struggling to enter or re-enter the workforce.
They propose introducing a new £3 billion National Skills Fund to provide matching funding for individuals for high-quality education and training.
The Conservative Party also plans to help ex-service personnel by implementing a reduction in National Insurance contributions for employers if they employ ex-service personnel. They are also looking at introducing guaranteed job interviews for veterans for any role they apply for within the public sector.