Our Employment associate, David Sheppard, outlines the most significant employment law proposals from the Conservative and Labour manifestos

As we approach polling day in little over 3 weeks’ time, the major political parties are beginning to ramp up their policy announcements and it’s clear employment law is now a central battleground between the Conservatives and Labour, with both competing for the traditional working class vote.

The Conservatives announced their proposals for employment rights as being the “greatest expansion of workers’ rights” by any Conservative government in history, and provided an 11-point plan, which included:

guaranteeing that workers will enjoy the same rights after Brexit as they do under the EU

increase the National Living Wage in line with earnings until the end of the new parliament in 2022

Provide protection to “gig” economy workers, although no details of these protections were provided

introducing a new right to request leave for training

introducing a new right to take unpaid leave to care for sick relatives

introducing a statutory right to paid bereavement leave for parents whose child has died

The most significant promise is the guarantee of workers enjoying the same rights pre and post- Brexit. It has been a widely anticipated view that a future Conservative government (after Brexit) would be strongly tempted to reduce or dilute certain EU-based protections given its policy to cut “red tape” for businesses, including TUPE and the Agency Worker Regulations. The detail of any proposal to crystallise EU worker rights into UK law is therefore needed, and will hopefully be provided in the Conservatives’ manifesto which has yet to be published.

Not to be outdone by the Conservatives, the Labour Party has launched its 128-page manifesto which includes a 20-point plan on workers’ rights, the key proposals being as follows:

  • give all workers equal rights from day one, whether part-time or full-time, temporary or permanent
  • ban zero-hour contracts
  • introduce maximum pay ratios of 20:1 in the public sector and companies bidding for public contracts
  • ban unpaid internships
  • abolish employment tribunal fees
  • increase paid paternity leave to 4 weeks

The Manifesto also pledges to reform the law so that there is a presumption a worker is an employee and has the protections of that status, unless the employer can prove otherwise. This is a direct challenge to the “gig” economy and the growing use of self-employment.

Although no detail is provided in the Manifesto, the most significant proposal would seem to be the provision of equal rights to all workers from day one. Presumably, this would give protections which currently require 2 years’ service, namely, unfair dismissal and redundancy pay. If this was to become law, it would completely re-write employers’ recruitment processes and the management of new starters.

We intend to provide regular updates on the major parties’ proposals as and when they emerge during the election campaign, so watch this space!