Election Manifestos: Issues for Employers


9 mins

Posted on 16 Apr 2015

Now that election manifestos have been published, we take a look at issues affecting employers.

Wages

Labour will increase the National Minimum Wage to £8 per hour by October 2019 (up from the current £6.60 per hour) and will give local authorities a role in enforcement. The Conservatives accept that the NMW is on course for £8 per hour by the end of the decade but do not commit to it. 

Labour will promote the Living Wage by:

  • providing tax rebates to businesses which sign up to pay the Living Wage in the first year of a Labour government
  • requiring public limited companies to report on whether or not they are paying the Living Wage.

The Conservatives are less forceful in their commitment to the Living Wage, saying that they will continue to encourage businesses to pay it whenever they can afford it. 

The Liberal Democrats will ask the Low Pay Commission to look at ways of increasing the National Minimum Wage and review the way the Living Wage is set, with an ambition that it should be paid in the public sector wherever possible, including in all central government departments and agencies.

At the other end of the scale, Labour will give employees a voice on executive remuneration by requiring employee representation on remuneration committees. 

Zero hours contracts

Under Labour’s proposals, workers working regular hours for more than 12 weeks will have a right to a regular contract. What will constitute regular hours giving rise to a regular contract has not been explained. 

The Conservatives on the other hand will proceed with a ban on exclusivity clauses in zero hours contracts so that those who have no guaranteed hours can also work for other employers. 

The Liberal Democrats will also look to stamp out abuse of zero hours contracts. They will create a formal right to request a fixed contract and consult on introducing a right to make regular patterns of work contractual after a period of time.

UKIP will also end the abuse of zero hours contracts by introducing a legally binding Code of Conduct. This will stipulate that:

  • businesses hiring 50 people or more must give workers on zero hours contracts either a full or part-time secure contract after one year, if the workers involved request it
  • there must be no exclusivity clauses in any zero hours contract
  • workers on zero hours contracts must be given at least twelve hours advance notice of work. Once notice has been given, they must be paid for the work, regardless of whether or not they are actually needed. 

Families

Labour will double paid paternity leave (from two to four weeks) and increase paternity pay by more than £100 per week. The current rate of statutory paternity pay is 139.58 per week. 

The Liberal Democrats will expand Shared Parental Leave, introducing an extra “use it or lose it” month for fathers to encourage them to take time off with their children. Their ambition is to see paternity leave and shared parental leave as “day one” rights. They will also consult on introducing five days' paid “care leave” for workers who are also full time carers.

Labour will expand free child care for working parents of three and four year olds from 15 to 25 hours per week (the Conservatives’ commitment is to 30 hours) and guarantee wrap around childcare for primary school children between 8am and 6pm provided thorough the school. The Liberal Democrats’ goal is 20 hours free child care for all two to four year olds and for all children of working parents from nine months. They will start by extending the current 15 hours free child care for all two year olds and then move to extending it to all working parents when their child is nine months old. UKIP will continue the current free child care provision.

The Conservatives and Liberal Democrats will proceed with their plans to provide tax free child care, worth up to £2,000 per child per year. This is also supported by UKIP which will also offer wrap around child care for every primary school-age child.

Employment tribunal fees

Labour will “abolish the employment tribunal fee system as part of wider reforms to make sure that affordability is not a barrier to workers having proper access to justice”. It is not clear whether this means that it will abolish tribunal fees, although this is certainly the implication. 

The Liberal Democrats will review employment tribunal fees to ensure they do not act as a barrier to justice. 

Agency workers 

Labour plans to abolish the Swedish derogation/Regulation 10 contracts so that employers cannot undercut permanent staff by using agency workers on lower pay. Under the Agency Workers Regulations 2010, agency workers are excluded from the right to equal pay (including holiday pay) with permanent staff if they have a permanent employment contract with the agency, under which they are paid minimum amounts between assignments when they are not working for a client. 

Jobs

Under Labour’s Compulsory Jobs Guarantee, every young person unemployed for over a year and every person over 25 and out of work for over two years will be guaranteed a job and they will have to take it or lose benefits.

The Conservatives will help businesses create 2 million new jobs in order to achieve full employment. In addition, any 18-21 year olds on benefits for six months will have to take an apprenticeship, traineeship, or daily community work for their benefits. 

Apprenticeships 

Both Labour and the Conservatives have plans for high quality apprenticeships. Labour will guarantee an apprenticeship for every school leaver with the necessary grades. It will create thousands more apprenticeships in the public sector and firms awarded government contracts and every large employer hiring skilled workers from outside the EU will have to offer apprenticeships. 

The Conservatives pledge to create 3 million new apprenticeships and will abolish employer National Insurance Contributions for young apprentices under the age of 25. 

The Liberal Democrats will double the number of employers who take on apprentices and want it to be the norm that businesses take on and train up young people as apprentices. 

Equality

A Labour government will require larger companies to publish details of their gender pay gap. The current government has already passed legislation which will mean that employers with 250 or more employees will have to publish gender pay gap details by 2016. Both the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats pledge to stick by this commitment. 

Labour says it will also strengthen laws against maternity discrimination, although no further details are given on what they have in mind. 

The Conservatives will halve the disability employment gap, but again no detail is provided on how this is to be achieved.

The Liberal Democrats will outlaw caste discrimination. 

UKIP will allow British businesses to choose to employ British workers first.

Volunteering leave

Employees working for large companies and in the public sector will be entitled to three days’ volunteering leave on full pay under a Labour Government.

Strike laws

The Conservatives will tighten strike laws. Industrial action will only be lawful if 50% of the workers actually vote in the ballot. In addition, in the health, education, fire and transport, industrial action will require the support of 40% of all those entitled to take part in the ballot, as well as a majority of those who actually vote.

The Conservatives will also repeal laws which ban employers using agency workers to provide essential cover during strikes and ensure strikes cannot be called on the basis of ballots conducted years before.

Finally the Conservatives will tackle intimidation of non-striking workers and legislate to ensure trade unions use a transparent opt in process for union subscriptions. 

Human Rights Act

The Conservatives will scrap the Human Rights Act and replace it with a British Bill of Rights protecting basic rights under the European Convention of Human Rights. 

Additional bank holidays

UKIP will make St George’s Day and St David’s Day Bank Holidays in England and Wales respectively.

Immigration

The Conservatives will keep to their ambition of delivering annual net migration in the tens of thousands, a brave ambition as recent experience in government suggests this is unachievable. It will negotiate new rules with the EU so that people have to be earning here for a number of years before they can claim benefits. They will also end the ability of EU jobseekers to claim job-seeking benefits and if they have not found a job after six months they will have to leave. The Conservatives will maintain the current 20,700 cap on skilled economic migration from outside the EU. They will also strengthen enforcement, extending its “deport first, appeal later” rule to all immigration appeals and judicial reviews, apart from asylum claims. They will also implement the requirement for all landlords to check the immigration status of tenants. 

Labour plan to retain the current cap on workers from outside the EU, ban recruitment agencies from hiring only from overseas and prevent the exploitation of migrant workers which undercuts local wages and increases demand for further low-skilled migration. They will also prevent EU migrants claiming benefits for two years. 

All parties are committed to improving border controls and preventing abuse of the student visa system. The Liberal Democrats also plan to double the number of inspections on employers to ensure they are complying with immigration laws. 

UKIP will put a five year moratorium on unskilled workers coming to the UK and introduce an Australian style points-based system to manage the number and skills of people coming into Britain – of course we already have such a system in place! A Migration Control Commission will be established to oversee this system and make recommendations on how many immigrants, with what skills, will be accepted into Britain. UKIP will also limit highly-skilled work visas to 50,000 per annum, including those from the EU. Those arriving on work visas will not be granted permanent leave to remain but will be able to apply for British citizenship after five years if they have worked and paid tax here. All new migrants to Britain will have to pay tax and national insurance contributions for five consecutive years before they can claim UK benefits or access non-urgent NHS Services. 

If UKIP obtains a vote in favour of leaving the EU, any EU citizen resident in the UK at the time of the referendum will be permitted to remain and work here and apply for UK citizenship after five years.

The articles published on this website, current at the date of publication, are for reference purposes only. They do not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. Specific legal advice about your own circumstances should always be sought separately before taking any action.