What next for employment law?
As dawn breaks on our new DUP supported Conservative government, we consider what employment law proposals we are likely to see in the Queen’s Speech.
The Conservative and DUP parties’ manifestos have only one aspect of employment policy in common. Both gave a commitment to continued increases to the National Living Wage, with the Conservatives undertaking to continue to increase the NLW to 60% of median earnings by 2020. The DUP have promised ‘firm action against companies who fail to pay their staff the NLW’. With Labour also supporting increases to the NLW, we can be confident that this is something that employers need to plan for.
The Conservative manifesto contains a number of further commitments:
- To provide greater rights and protections in the ‘gig’ economy, which includes jobs like delivery driving, whose work-force is regarded as self-employed, so don’t benefit from rights bestowed on employees (such as unfair dismissal) or even workers (such as the right to holiday pay). Whilst recognising that there are advantages to many people who work on this basis, the government has undertaken to ‘act to ensure that the interests of employees on traditional contracts, the self-employed and those people working in the ‘gig’ economy are all properly protected’. Quite what this means is not specified.
- To require that Boards of publicly listed companies will be required to take greater account of employees’ interests by either nominating a director from their workforce, creating a formal employee advisory council or assigning responsibility for employee representation to a non-executive director. There is also a proposal to introduce a right for employees to request information relating to the future direction of the company. Consultation is proposed on how the corporate governance of privately-owned businesses might be strengthened.
- To review the application of exploitation in the Modern Slavery
- To reform technical education such that ‘technical excellence’ is ‘valued as highly as academic success’. The government undertakes to involve employers with a view to ensuring that apprenticeships and other technical qualifications meet employers’ needs and deal with skill shortages.
- To take various measures to close the gender pay gap, including requirements to publish more data on the pay gap, pushing for parity in the number of women given public appointments and sitting on boards of companies, improving take-up of shared parental leave and helping companies to provide flexible working arrangements to support shared parenting.
- To support people with disabilities in obtaining employment through flexible working and the provision of advice and support for employers when hiring and retaining disabled workers and workers with health conditions.
As ever, at this stage the detail is unclear.
As ever, we can be confident that there will be some change to employment law over the nest few years to keep employers on their toes.
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The full Conservative and DUP manifestos can be found here – https://www.conservatives.com/manifesto