Government reforms: Election fever – focus on the future

election-250It’s only just over two months until the election on 7 May 2015. Whoever wins there will be changes in store for employers. Indeed, the three main political parties have already given an indication of these at their party conferences in Autumn 2014 and further announcements are likely in the period leading up to the election.

We provide a summary below of some of the key proposals announced so far:

Conservatives

Bill of Rights: Introducing a new British Bill of Rights, to replace the Human Rights Act 1998.

Enhanced Redundancy Payments: Capping enhanced redundancy payments paid to public sector employees at £95,000.

Family Friendly: Potentially adding maternity pay for self-employed mothers to their election manifesto

Industrial action: Significant changes to the existing rules on industrial action, including:

  • minimum voting threshold for a lawful ballot, likely to be 40% of eligible members in the health, transport, fire and education sectors;
  • three month time limit after a ballot within which the strike action must take place;
  • minimum of 14 days’ notice of industrial action;
  • new rules to restrict picketing; and
  • removing the existing ban on the use of agency workers to cover striking employees.

Migrant Workers: Preventing the trafficking of workers through the Modern Slavery Bill.

Zero-hours contracts: Preventing the use of exclusivity clauses in zero-hours contracts, to ensure that such workers can undertake work for other employers.

Labour

Apprenticeships: Ensuring the provision of high quality apprenticeships are a pre-requisite of any bid for significant Government contracts and requiring large firms to offer apprenticeships in return for hiring workers from outside the UK.

Equal Pay: Promoting equal pay by increasing transparency and requiring companies to publish details of average pay.

Family Friendly:

  • Statutory Paternity Leave: increasing the current entitlement to statutory paternity leave from two to four weeks and increasing paternity pay to a minimum of £260 per week; and
  • Childcare: removing barriers for parents returning to work, including increasing free childcare to 25 hours for three and four year olds and increasing opportunities for flexible working in the public sector.
  • Consulting on how to improve flexible working for family carers, potentially to include a new period of ‘adjustment leave’ to deal with short-term crises such as the onset of disability of a partner, parent or child.

Harassment: Reinstating the third party harassment provisions in the Equality Act 2010 to ensure that employees are protected from harassment at work. (These provisions were repealed by the current Government with effect from 1 October 2013).

Migrant workers:

  • Taking action to prevent the exploitation of migrant workers.
  • Changing the law on employment agencies, including a ban on overseas-only recruitment and measures to tackle “rogue” agencies.

National Minimum Wage:

  • Increasing the national minimum wage to £8 per hour (with a target of 2020 to do so) and closing the loophole which means that agency workers can be paid less;
  • improving enforcement measures, including increasing the maximum fine for those who deliberately pay below the minimum wage to £50,000; and
  • establishing “make work pay” contracts through giving tax rebates to companies that pay the living wage.

Reward: Increasing transparency on reward by requiring companies to publish the ratio of pay of their top earners with the average employee, as well as the pay of the top ten earners outside the boardroom and ensure there is an employee on remuneration committees.

Tribunal Fees: Reviewing the existing system of Tribunal fees, but it has been reported that rather than abolishing Tribunal fees Labour will introduce a better means testing system.

TUPE: Review the TUPE rules.

Zero-hours contracts: Restricting the use of zero-hours contracts by:

  • introducing a new requirement for employees on zero-hours contracts who work regular hours to be offered a regular contract; and
  • giving zero-hours employees the right to be paid compensation if their shift is cancelled at short notice.

Liberal Democrats

Equal Pay: Making the disclosure of equal pay information compulsory for companies employing over 250 people (under section 78 Equality Act 2010).

National Minimum Wage:

  • Increase to the national minimum wage for apprentices;
  • Consultation on the introduction of a living wage, to be paid by all central Government departments and executive agencies from April 2016; and
  • Creation of a new ‘Workers’ Rights Agency’ for the enforcement of workers’ rights, including national minimum wage and working time.

Paternity Leave: Granting fathers an additional four weeks’ paternity leave.

Recruitment: Making recruitment in the public sector anonymous, to reduce the possibility of discrimination during the recruitment process.

UKIP

It really will be all change if UKIP are voted in. They want to:

  • Leave the EU;
  • Withdraw from the jurisdiction of the European Court of Human Rights, repealing the Human Rights Act and replace it with a new British Bill of Rights;
  • Repeal the “Agency Workers Directive”;
  • Give those employed on zero hours arrangements a right to a fixed hours contract once they have been employed for a year. This obligation would only apply to “large employers” and would be enforced through a “code of conduct” with “legislative action” if it were not observed; and
  • Give businesses the right to discriminate in favour of young British workers.

Whatever the election outcome, it will mean more change so watch this space for future developments…