The Tory's manifesto promises on employment law – what are they and can they be delivered?
Times are changing….
We have been through some turbulent times and, post-general election, the political (and therefore legislative) landscape is uncertain.
We still have a Conservative government - after a hung parliament - but a much weakened one. The implications of this are that the manifesto pledges set out below may be watered down by the time of the Queen’s Speech (originally scheduled for 19 June but now stated to be delayed for some days). At the time of writing, a Democratic Unionist Party-Conservative deal is due to be announced whilst the Labour party has stated itself to be a ‘government in waiting’.
In the context of employment law, it is difficult to anticipate what changes there may be in the election pledges (stated by PM Theresa May to be ‘the greatest expansion in workers’ rights by any Conservative government in history’).
The manifesto pledges as originally stated, which affect employment law are set out below. It remains to be seen which will remain and which will go.
National Living Wage
The Conservative manifesto confirms that the national living wage will continue to be increased in line with the current target, 60% of median earnings by 2020.
The manifesto states that people working in the gig economy will be ‘properly protected’. In the meantime the Taylor report on the gig economy is awaited. Matthew Taylor has said that the report will recommend a more prominent role for the Low Pay Commission and will call for the independent body to focus on a sectoral approach on pay for areas such as retail and construction. The report will also create clear, legal distinctions between employees, the self-employed and so-called ‘workers’.
The government states that it will review the application of the Modern Slavery Act to strengthen its ability to stop people working in dangerous and exploitative working conditions.
Emplaw Online published an outline guide to the Act as it relates to employment matters here
Gender Pay Gap
The manifesto states that the government will take further measures to close the gender pay gap. In March this year the Equality Act 2010 (Gender Pay Gap Information) Regulations 2017 and the Equality Act 2010 (Specific Duties and Public Authorities) Regulations 2017 were introduced but the manifesto states that a Conservative government will require companies with more than the 250 employees needed to fall within the Regulations, to publish more data on the pay gap between men and women. It will continue to work for parity in the number of public appointments going to women and it will push for an increase in the number of women sitting on boards of companies.
Emplaw Online published FAQs on the Gender Pay Gap Information Regulations here
The government will ask large employers to publish information on the pay gap for people from different ethnic backgrounds.
Mental health gap
The manifesto pledges to reform outdated laws to ensure that those with mental illness are treated fairly and employers fulfil their responsibilities effectively.
The government states that it will transform how mental health is regarded in the workplace. It will amend health and safety regulations and extend Equalities Act protections against discrimination to mental health conditions that are episodic and fluctuating. It will consider the findings of the ongoing Stevenson-Farmer review into workplace mental health support, working with employers to encourage new products and incentives to improve the mental health and wellbeing support available to their employees.
The disability gap
The manifesto makes a pledge to get 1 million more people with disabilities into employment over the next ten years. It will harness the opportunities of flexible working and the digital economy to generate jobs for disabled people. Employers will be given advice and support and the government will legislate to give unemployed disabled claimants or those with a health condition personalised and tailored employment support.
Flexible working, parental rights etc.
The manifesto states that it will take steps to improve take-up of shared parental leave and it will help companies provide more flexible work environments to help mothers and fathers share parenting.
It also states that it will address issues around returning to work after caring for a child or elderly relative and will support companies taking on parents and carers returning to work after absences.
Emplaw Online publishes guides to Maternity and Parental Rights listed here. Full content available to subscribers only.
Leave for training
The government plans to introduce a new right to request unpaid time off for training for all employees, irrespective of size of employer. (The current right is limited to businesses with over 250 employees)
Immigration Skills Charge
The immigration skills charge will be increased to £2,000 a year and the revenue raised from this will be used to invest in higher level skills training for domestic workers.
Emplaw Online published an article on the immigration skills charge here
Corporate governance- employee involvement
The government proposes to change the law to ensure that listed companies will be required to either nominate a director from the workforce, create a formal employee advisory council or assign specific responsibility for employee representation to a designated non-executive director.
The Conservatives would also introduce, for employees, a right to request information relating to the future direction of the company.
The government will also consult on how it might strengthen the corporate governance of privately-owned companies.
Corporation tax is due to fall to 17% by 2020 and the Conservatives pledges to keep to this target.
The manifesto pledges to legislate to make executive pay packages subject to strict annual votes by shareholders and listed companies will have to publish the ratio of executive pay to broader UK workforce pay. Companies will have to explain their pay policies, particularly complex incentive schemes, better. The government will commission an examination of the use of share buybacks, with a view to ensuring these cannot be used artificially to hit performance targets and inflate executive pay.
Takeovers and mergers
The Conservatives plan to ‘update’ the rules governing takeovers and mergers and to ensure that promises and undertakings made in the course of takeover bids can be legally enforced afterwards.
Leaving the European Union
The government confirms that its position is as set out in its White Paper but re-states that no deal is better than a bad deal. This hard position on Brexit is expected to be softened given the outcome of the general election.
The government also proposes the great Repeal Bill which will convert EU law into UK law at the point at which the UK leaves the EU. The bill will also create powers to ‘correct’ laws that do not operate appropriately once the UK has left the EU. Parliament will be able to pass legislation to amend, repeal or improve any piece of EU law it chooses after conversion of EU law into UK law. Doubt has since been cast upon the Conservatives’ ability to deliver this bill in its present form although even delaying the bill will slow the legislative process of converting EU law into UK statute.
The EU’s Charter of Fundamental Rights will not be brought into UK law and the government states that it will not repeal or replace the Human Rights Act while the process of Brexit is underway.
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