What have the parties been saying on employment issues in their General Election campaigns?

Written on 16 Apr 2015

The general election campaign is in full swing. With three weeks to go the parties are gearing up to make their proposals as attractive as possible to the voting population. Whilst employment related developments seemed to get knocked to side earlier this week with proposals on non-dom status, tax reforms and education dominating the headlines, we are now seeing employment back in the spotlight with the parties issuing their manifestos and further press announcements on employment related issues.

So what are we now seeing from the parties?

We identified here some of the key themes coming from the parties’ proposals including zero hours contracts, workers’ wages, making life easier for working families and reforms to our Employment Tribunals and strike laws. Further proposals now include:

Family friendly

  • On top of Labour’s existing promises to double paid paternity leave from two to four weeks and increase statutory paternity pay from £140 to £260 a week, Labour has announced a new proposal – “grandparental leave”. This appears to be the right for working grandparents to share a working parent’s existing statutory entitlement of 18 weeks’ unpaid parental leave available up to a child’s eighteenth birthday (with a maximum of 4 weeks being taken in any one year). Whilst the right has been relatively unattractive to parents being unpaid, it may well find favour with grandparents who would otherwise give up work to enable them to take some responsibility for their grandchildren’s care.
  • The Conservatives are proposing 30 hours free child care a week for working parents, 5 hours more than the earlier Labour promise of 25 hours free childcare for 3 and 4 year olds.
  • The Liberal Democrats have promised to ultimately roll out 20 hours of free childcare for children aged 2 – 4, with a view to widening this for working parents with children aged from 9 months – 4 years.
  • The Liberal Democrats would like parental leave to be a “day one” right. This would see the removal of the requirement for employees to have 26 weeks’ service in order to qualify.

Voluntary work

  • The Conservatives have announced that they would make businesses with over 250 staff give employees three days paid leave for voluntary work.

Access to work

  • The Conservatives have also stated in their manifesto that they will “aim to halve the disability employment gap: we will transform policy, practice and public attitudes, so that hundreds of thousands more disabled people who can and want to be in work find employment”.

Pay

  • With some parties pressing for specific increases to the National Minimum Wage, the Conservative manifesto has indicated that it would look to increase the National Minimum Wage on the recommendation of the Low Pay Commission and for it to become “tax free” by pushing up the income tax personal allowance.
  • The Conservatives have pledged to abolish employers’ NIC’s for young apprentices under 25.
  • The Liberal Democrats have promised to strengthen oversight of executive pay by requiring employers to consult staff on executive pay. Similarly, Labour has pledged to require employee representation on remuneration committees.

Employment Tribunal fees

  • In its manifesto Labour has confirmed its proposal to “abolish the Government’s employment tribunal fee system as part of reforms to make sure that workers have proper access to justice”. Whether or not this means that fees will be abolished completely or replaced by an alternative system still unfortunately remains unclear. Labour has indicted that it will “ask ACAS to oversee a process led by the CBI and TUC to agree reforms to the system”.

 Shares for rights

  • Labour has also confirmed that it would abolish the existing “share for rights” scheme introduced by the Government whereby an employee would essentially waive their statutory right to unfair dismissal in return for shares and favourable tax treatment on them.

As the press has indicated, given the uncertainty as to whether or not any party will have sufficient support to take power in its own right, any coalition agreement between one or more parties to form a Government may mean some of these proposals will still remain very much that. However, they do give us a good indication of what the parties will be pressing for should they be the lucky ones to form part of the new Government.

We will continue to keep a track of the parties’ proposals. If you would like any further information please do not hesitate to contact your usual OC Contact.