Party politics: the first 100 days (and beyond)
With just over two months until the general election, discussion of party employment policy has largely remained in the background. It might be tricky to catch and compare the finer points of employment law manifestos over the shouting about spoof docudramas, who forgot their business taskforce leader's name and which radio interview went embarrassingly badly, so here's a brief party-by-party breakdown of key employment and related tax/ business promises for the May election (listed here in the order in which they stand in today's polls).
The Labour Party's main proposals include the following:
- increasing ordinary paid paternity leave from two to four weeks;
- increasing the national minimum wage to £8 by 2020;
- giving tax breaks to companies that sign up to pay a 'living wage';
- the reintroduction of the income tax starting rate of 10p in the pound;
- a requirement for companies with more than 250 employees to publish details of average remuneration to try and promote equal pay;
- abolishing the current fees system in the Employment Tribunal and replacing it with a new system which is fair and sustainable (it is not thought that Labour will abolish fees altogether, however);
- increasing free childcare for three and four year olds to 25 hours per week and requiring breakfast and after school clubs to be provided to assist parents to return to work;
- consulting on improving flexible working for family carers, including the possible introduction of 'adjustment leave' to enable employees to deal with family crises;
- reinstating the third party harassment provisions under the Equality Act 2010;
- holding an enquiry into the blacklisting of construction industry workers;
- ensuring that zero hours workers would not be obliged to be available outside contracted hours, would be free to work for other employers, would have a right to compensation if shifts are cancelled at short notice, would have 'clarity' from their employer about their employment status, terms and conditions, would have the right to request a contract with a 'minimum amount of work' after six months with an employer and would have an automatic right to a fixed-hours contract after 12 months with an employer.
The Conservative Party's main proposals include the following:
- holding an in/ out referendum on EU membership in 2017;
- changing the rules on strike action, including a minimum voting threshold for a strike to be lawful (50% is proposed, with 40% in the health, transport, fire and education sectors), a three month time limit after any ballot for the strike action to take place, a requirement for 14 days' notice to be given before strike action takes place, the criminalisation of certain types of picketing, the current code of practice on picketing to become legally binding and removing the ban on using agency workers to cover for striking workers;
- the introduction of a British Bill of Rights, intended to replace the Human Rights Act 1998. This would sever the formal link with the European Court of Human Rights, meaning that its judgments would no longer be binding on English law;
- ending the use of exclusivity clauses in zero hours contracts;
- capping enhanced redundancy payments in the public sector to £95,000 (save for employees earning less than £27,000).
UKIP's main proposals include the following:
- complete withdrawal from the EU;
- repeal of the Human Rights Act and replacement with a new British Bill of Rights, and withdrawal from the jurisdiction of the European Court of Human Rights;
- introduction of positive discrimination in favour of young British workers;
- repeal of the Agency Workers Directive;
- conducting a skills review to better inform the education system and qualifications;
- extension of the right of appeal against HMRC action for micro businesses;
- guaranteeing those who have served in the Armed Forces for a minimum of 12 years a job in the police force, prison service or border force upon their return to civilian life.
The Liberal Democrat Party's main proposals are as follows:
- increasing the national minimum wage for apprentices (by over £1 in their first year of apprenticeship);
- providing greater assistance for litigants in person;
- the introduction of an additional four weeks' paternity leave;
- having an anonymised application process in the public sector to reduce the risk of discrimination;
- reform of zero hours contracts, including a ban on exclusivity clauses and the right to request regular hours after a certain amount of time;
- setting a living wage to be paid by all government agencies and executive agencies;
- increasing the national minimum wage; and
- requiring employers employing more than 250 people to publish equal pay information about average male and female employees' pay. This would likely include details of how many employees earn less than the living wage and a comparison of top pay against median pay.