This blog provides an overview of the key policy statements and pledges relating to employment law being made by political parties in the run up to the General Election on 12 December 2019.
Atypical working and self-employment
- The creation of a single enforcement body.
- Ensuring a harder line is taken when employers abuse employment law.
- Giving workers the right to request a more predictable contract.
- Launching a review to explore how the self-employed can be better supported.
Equality and diversity in the workforce
- Encouraging flexible working and consulting on making it an employer’s default position.
- Legislating to enable parents to take extended leave for neonatal care.
- Considering how to make it easier for fathers to take paternity leave.
- Extending the leave entitlement for unpaid carers.
- Funding more high-quality childcare before and after school and during the holidays to support working families.
- Publishing a National Strategy for Disabled People before the end of 2020.
- Reducing the disability employment gap.
- Protecting people from physical attack or harassment whether for their sex, sexual orientation, ethnicity, religion or disability.
Skills and training
- A new £3 billion National Skills Fund to provide matching funding for individuals and SMEs for high-quality education and training.
- Help for employers to invest in skills and consideration of how the working of the Apprenticeship Levy can be improved.
- A proposal to require significant numbers of new UK apprentices for all big new infrastructure projects.
- A reduction in National Insurance contributions for employers if they employ ex-service personnel, as well as a guaranteed job interview for veterans for any public sector role they apply for.
- The creation of two million new high-quality jobs in clean growth.
- Freeze the rates of income tax, National Insurance and VAT.
- Increase the National Insurance threshold to £9,500 in 2020, with the overall goal of ensuring that the first £12,500 of a person’s earnings are completely free of tax.
- Improve incentives to attack the problem of excessive executive pay and rewards for failure, and to ensure redundancy payments can be clawed back when high-paid public servants move between jobs.
- Rapidly introduce a Real Living Wage of at least £10 per hour for all workers aged 16 and over.
- Establish Inclusive Ownership Funds (IOFs) to give employees a stake of up to 10% in their companies.
- Ban unpaid internships.
- Establish an Agricultural Wages Board in England, so every region of the UK is covered.
- Provide a 5% increase in wages for workers in the public sector, followed by year-on-year above inflation pay rises.
- Enforce maximum pay ratios of 20:1 in the public sector.
- Require those earning £80,000 or more to pay a higher level of income tax, while freezing National Insurance and income tax rates for everyone else.
- Require one-third of seats on boards to be reserved for elected worker-directors and give them more control over executive pay.
- Halt the current government’s proposed IR35 changes due to take effect in April 2020.
Trade unions and collective bargaining
- The foundation of a new Ministry for Employment Rights.
- Starting a rollout of sectoral collective bargaining, bringing workers and employers together to agree legal minimum standards on a wide range of issues, such as pay and working hours, that every employer in the sector must follow.
- The grant of greater freedoms to trade unions, including the removal of restrictions on industrial action.
- Giving greater protection to trade union representatives in the workplace, including strengthening protection of trade union representatives against unfair dismissal and union members from intimidation, harassment, threats and blacklisting.
- A legal right to collective consultation on new technology in the workplace.
Self-employment and atypical working
- Giving every worker “full rights” from day one of a job.
- The creation of a single status of “worker” for everyone except those who self-identify as self-employed in business.
- Banning zero-hours contracts and introducing regular contracts for anyone working over 12 regular hours in the week.
- Enforcing payment for cancelled shifts as well as proper notice for changes in hours.
- Bolstering redundancy and unfair dismissal protections for all, with extra protection for whistleblowers, pregnant women, those going through the menopause and terminally ill workers.
- Developing tailored support and protections for the self-employed, including collective income protection insurance schemes and better access to mortgages and pension schemes.
A green workforce
- The creation of one million unionised jobs in the UK as part of the Green Industrial Revolution.
- Launching a Climate Apprenticeship programme to encourage employers to gain the skills needed to work with clean technology.
Equality and diversity in the workforce
- Creating a new Department for Women and Equalities, with a full-time Secretary of State, as well as a modernised, independent National Women’s Commission.
- Helping people balance work and family life, including by extending statutory maternity pay to 12 months, extending pregnancy protection, doubling paternity leave from two to four weeks and increasing statutory paternity pay, as well as a general commitment to review family-friendly rights.
- Tackling pay gaps, including a commitment to close the gender pay gap by 2030 and to widen and strengthen existing gender pay gap legislation, to extend pay gap reporting to BAME groups and, in companies with over 250 employees, to disabled people, and to impose fines for employers who do not take steps to eradicate pay gaps.
- Strengthening existing disability legislation by introducing new duties including disability leave and creating a code of practice on reasonable adjustments.
- Improving the workplace for women by requiring that all large employers have a menopause policy and flexible working, and enabling positive action for recruitment where greater diversity can be justified.
- Reduce average full-time weekly working hours to 32 across the economy within a decade, without loss of pay.
- End the opt-out provision for the 48 hour working week.
- Set up an independent Working Time Commission to advise on raising minimum holiday entitlements and reducing maximum weekly working time.
- Introduce four new bank holidays to celebrate the four patron saints’ days.
- Introducing a new, unified Workers’ Protection Agency to enforce workplace rights, including the Real Living Wage and gender pay legislation.
- Keeping employment tribunals free, extending their powers and introducing new Labour Courts with a stronger role for people with industrial experience on panels.
- Defending workers’ ability to recover legal representation costs from negligent employers and keeping the right for workers to be represented and recover their costs in cases of employer negligence leading to injury at work.
Systemic discrimination, race equality and human rights
- To launch an inquiry into name-based discrimination within the first 100 days of a Labour government. If necessary, the party will consider rolling out name-blind recruitment practices.
- To establish a Race Equality unit within the Treasury to work alongside the new, standalone Department for Women and Equalities.
- To commit the proposed new National Investment Bank to address discrimination in access to finance and take action to ensure that BAME and women business owners have access to government contracts and spending.
- To end charges for passports, visas, tests and other documentation imposed by the Home Office in excess of the real cost of processing these applications.
- To defend the Human Rights Act 1998, incorporate the International Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Racial Discrimination into British law and remain a signatory to the European Convention on Human Rights.
- Through the new Department for Women and Equalities, to develop a cross-party government strategy within the first 100 days of government to end issues of under-representation in all aspects of public life, including a plan for how to ensure increased diversity at all levels (including the judiciary and elected mayors), an urgent review into the implementation of all BAME shortlists and the introduction of unconscious bias training for members of all selection panels.
Removing barriers for disabled workers
- To start a government-backed Reasonable Adjustments Passport scheme to assist workers to move between jobs more easily.
- To ensure that the new code of practice on reasonable adjustments establishes clearer guidance on what amounts to ‘reasonable’ and includes timescales for implementation of adjustments.
- To introduce equality audits extending to all protected characteristics under the Equality Act and requiring organisations with over 250 employees to report annually on the number and proportion of disabled people they employ, not just on the disability pay gap itself.
- To collaborate with trade unions and employers to raise awareness of neurodiversity in the workplace.
- To expand and evaluate the delivery of the Access to Work support scheme.
- To increase the numbers of disabled trainees included in the Modern Apprenticeship programme and completion rates.
Modernise employment rights
- The introduction of a “dependent contractor” employment status to sit between “employment” and “self-employment”. Workers falling under this label would be entitled to national minimum wage, sick pay and holiday.
- Changing the law so that flexible working is open to all from day one in the job and requiring employers to advertise the job as such.
- Reviewing the tax and National Insurance status of employees, dependent contractors and freelancers to ensure fair and comparable treatment.
- Giving a right to request a fixed-hours contract after 12 months for zero-hours and agency workers.
- Shifting the burden of proof in employment status cases from the individual to the employer.
- Establishing a new Worker Protection Enforcement Authority to protect those in precarious work.
- Expand the rights and benefits available to those in insecure forms of employment, such as offering parental leave.
- Establish an independent review to consult on how to set a genuine living wage.
- Set the minimum wage for people on zero-hours contracts at times of normal demand 20% higher, off-setting periods of uncertain hours.
- Review the proposals to change the IR35 rules.
Diversity in the workplace
- Increase statutory paternity leave to up to six weeks.
- Require organisations to publish parental leave and pay policies.
- Aim for women to make up at least 40% of FTSE 350 board members and increase ethnic minority representation.
- Extend pay gap reporting to include BAME and LGBT+ figures and generally to develop a government-wide plan to tackle BAME inequalities.
- Review funding of the Equality and Human Rights Commission to ensure that it is adequate.
- Reform the Gender Recognition Act 2004 to remove the requirement for medical reports and formally recognise non-binary gender identities.
- Outlaw caste discrimination.
The party has proposed the introduction of a Skills Wallet, giving every adult in England £10,000 to spend on education and training. Employers will be expected to contribute funds. As well as this, the apprenticeship levy will become a wider-reaching “Skills and Training Levy”, with 25% of the funds raised going into a “Social Mobility Fund”.
Ethical use of new technologies
- The introduction of a Code of Ethics to ensure that the use of personal data and artificial intelligence is unbiased, transparent and accurate, and respects privacy.
- Convening a citizens’ assembly to determine when it is appropriate for the government to use algorithms in decision-making.
- Giving staff in listed companies with more than 250 employees a right to request shares, to be held in trust for the benefit of employees.
- Strengthening worker participation in decision-making, including staff representation on remuneration committees, and requiring all UK-listed companies and all private companies with more than 250 employees to have at least one employee representative on their boards with the same legal duties and responsibilities as other directors.
- Reforming fiduciary duty and company purpose rules to ensure that all large companies have a formal statement of corporate purpose, which will give consideration to employee welfare, environmental standards, community benefit and ethical practice, alongside benefit to shareholders, and that they report formally on the wider impact of the business on society and the environment.
- Requiring a binding and public vote of shareholders on executive pay policies.