With the general election just around the corner, Mike Smith provides an overview of the key policy statements and pledges relating to employment law being made by the main political parties. 

Conservative Party

According to its manifesto, the Party's aim is to achieve full employment in Britain, with the highest employment rate of any major economy. 

Its key policies include plans to

  • eradicate zero hours contracts
  • increase the tax-free personal allowance to £12,500
  • increase the entitlement to free childcare to 30 hours per week for all three and four year olds of working parents
  • reform trade union and industrial action legislation to prevent "disruptive and undemocratic strike action"
  • create an extra three million apprenticeships over the next five years
  • halve the disability employment gap by transforming policy, practice and public attitudes to get hundreds of thousands of disabled people into employment
  • help those suffering from long-term yet treatable conditions, such as obesity or addictions, back into  work by ensuring they receive the right medical treatment
  • provide significant support to those suffering from mental health problems which prevent them from working
  • allow three days paid volunteering leave each year for all public sector employees and those in the private sector working for employers with at least 250 employees; and
  • introduce new legislation capping public sector enhanced redundancy payments to £95,000. It is expected that the Conservatives would exercise a legislative power (which already exists) for the government to require the repayment of public sector exit payments made to 'high earners'.

Labour Party

According to its manifesto, the Party aims to improve pay and job standards in the workplace with an emphasis on reversing the "insecurity, low pay and undercutting we have seen in recent years" and putting an end to the "race to the bottom on wages and skills".

Its key policies are to:

  • restrict the "exploitative" use of zero hours contracts by ensuring that workers who work "regular hours" in their first 12 weeks of employment are given a "regular contract"
  • raise the national minimum wage to more than £8 an hour by October 2019;
  • increase free childcare from 15 to 25 hours per week for three and four year olds of working parents
  • provide a legal guarantee that primary schools will provide wraparound care from 8 am to 6 pm through the provision of before and after-school clubs and activities for primary school children
  • double paid paternity leave from two to four weeks and increase paternity pay to more than £260 a week
  • "make it illegal to use agency workers to undercut wages by closing the loopholes in the Agency Workers Regulations 2010 that mean workers who are paid between assignments are excluded from the protections of the regulations"
  • require every firm that wins a major government contract to offer apprenticeships for young people, require large firms which recruit skilled workers from outside the EU to offer apprenticeships in the UK in return, creating thousands more apprenticeships in the public sector
  • "go further in reducing discrimination against women" by requiring large companies to publish their gender pay gap information and strengthening the law against maternity discrimination
  • establish a race equality strategy to ensure that public institution  are more representative of black and ethnic minority communities and
  • address "insecurity and unfairness in the workplace", including abolishing the "employment tribunal fee system" as part of reforms to ensure "workers have proper access to justice". It is not clear whether Labour plans to eliminate fees altogether, or introduce a new system.

Liberal Democrats

According to its manifesto, its key policies on employment law are to

  • instruct the Low Pay Commission to consider ways of increasing the National Minimum Wage and improve enforcement action
  • review the level of tribunal fees with a view to lowering them
  • ban exclusivity in zero hours contracts and create a right to request a fixed hours contract and consult on introducing an entitlement to such a contract after a period of regular working
  • extend paternity leave to 6 weeks and introduce a right to paid leave for carers who qualify for Carer's Allowance
  • require companies with more than 250 employees to publish the average pay of their male and female workers and
  • introduce "name-blank" job application forms wherever possible in the public sector, to try to ensure the highest standards of fairness and equality.

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