What do the top five manifestos say about employment law?

As election campaigning hots up, the five leading parties have all had their say on what they would do with employment law.

While Labour may be well ahead in the polls, and most likely to form the next government, it is interesting to see what the others say. It gives some context to Labour’s plans. And should there be a shock, such as a hung parliament where compromise is more likely, the direction that compromise could go in.

What is Labour saying on employment law?

As we have covered recently, Labour has a lot to say on employment law. Their document “A plan to make work pay” promises a new deal for working people that will see them commence a torrent of legislation within the first 100 days of government.

From increasing tribunal rights to extending statutory sick pay, re-empowering the trade unions to introducing a right to switch off, it is full of initiatives which we think will be costly to SMEs. One we do agree with is the merging of employee and worker status which we think will simplify the classification of workers. You can read a summary of their plans here.

What are the Conservatives saying on employment law?

After well over a decade in power we know much of what the Conservatives are about when it comes to employment law. They have degraded the power of trade unions and overhauled the way overseas persons have a right to work in the UK post-Brexit. They have also introduced unpaid carer’s leave and shared parental leave among other things.

Should they retain power, their manifesto includes actions like shaving another 2p off national insurance with a view to abolishing it long-term; introducing mandatory national service at 18, funding 100,000 new apprentices; maintaining the current trajectory of the national living wage and overhauling the fit note process.

What are the Liberal Democrats saying about employment law?

Like Labour, the Liberal Democrats have a wide range of employment law initiatives, and indeed there is much overlap. On balance, these plans are likely to be expensive for SME business to implement in any scenario where they would come to pass. The initiatives include:

  • Giving everyone a new right to flexible working and every disabled person the right to work from home if they want to, unless there are significant business reasons why it is not possible.
  • Encouraging the use of name-blind recruitment processes in the private sector.
  • Providing additional support and advice to employers on neurodiversity in the workplace.
  • Making statutory sick pay available to people earning less than £123 and aligning it with the national minimum wage, making it available on the first day of absence.
  • Expanding parental leave and pay, and making them day one rights.
  • Establishing a “dependent contractor” employment status between employed and self-employed, with entitlements to minimum earning, sick pay and holiday.
  • Setting a 20% higher minimum wage for people on zero-hour contracts.
  • Giving a right to request a fixed-hours contract after 12 months on zero hours, not to be unreasonably refused.
  • Shifting the burden of proof in tribunals about employment status from the individual to the employer.
  • Establishing an independent review to recommend a genuine living wage across all sectors.
  • Establishing a powerful new Worker Protection Enforcement Authority unifying responsibilities currently spread across three agencies – including enforcing the minimum wage, tackling modern slavery and protecting agency workers.

What is Reform UK saying about employment law?

Most of what Reform UK’s manifesto “Our contract with you” says regarding employment law is reserved for a lower priority after the first 100 days of any power, but what is said is the most supportive of SMEs.

Recognising that SMEs account for two-thirds of all employment, they say they would abolish business rates for High Street based SME firms (with the cost offset by a 4% online delivery tax for large multi-national enterprises). They also say they would create SME enterprise zones for left-behind areas with tax breaks for job creation.

Additionally, within the first 100 days they would give more choice to stay-at-home mums and dads by front loading the child benefit system for children aged 1-4.

What is the Green Party saying about employment law?

The Green party has big plans for employment law too, much of which would come at a cost to SMEs. From a headline grabbing right to request a four-day working week (which they would work towards sector by sector) to increasing the minimum wage to £15 per hour.

Like Labour and the Liberal Democrats, they would repeal the Conservative’s trade union curbs. Their solution would be to replace it with a Charter of Workers’ Rights. They would ensure that no boss could be paid more than ten times the most junior salary in an organisation and create equal day one rights for all workers.

Here by your side

Of course, history tells us that whoever comes into power does not always get to implement all their manifesto pledges. Rest assured that we will be by your side helping guide your SME through employment law whatever comes to pass. For help planning towards the months ahead, please do not hesitate to contact us.

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