5 April 2015
A short summary of where the UK’s major parties stand on some key labour law issues.
Workplace Issues: Taking up the issues with the new government will be the first IER conference to take place after the general election, providing an excellent opportunity to assess the government’s programme of work. How will worker’s rights fair under a new regime? Which labour law topics will trade unionists need to be aware of in order to best protect their members at work? Book your place here.
Trade Union Freedoms
Labour: Will set up a public enquiry into blacklisting in the construction industry.
Greens: Will revive the role of democratic trade unions, the right to representation, the right to take industrial action including strikes. Will end blacklisting, considering the creation of a new criminal offence and will set up a full investigation into blacklisting in the construction industry.
Conservatives: Will impose a 50 percent turnout threshold in strike ballots. In essential public services, 40 percent of all those eligible to vote must vote in favour. Will repeal restrictions on employers hiring agency staff during strikes. Reduce facility time, and force trade unions to use opt-in for union subscriptions.
Liberal Democrats: Will protect the rights of trade union members to have subscriptions deducted from their salary. Encourage electronic balloting in trade union ballots.
Read the IER resource on blacklisting.
Labour: Abolish the employment tribal fee system “as part of wider reforms to make sure that affordability is not a barrier to workers having proper access to justice, employers get a quicker resolution, and the costs to the taxpayer does not rise”.
Greens: Reduce ET fees
Liberal Democrats: Review the ET system
The introduction of Employment Tribunal fees has has an incredibly detrimental affect on workers’ access to justice. Read about it here.
Zero Hours Contracts and Agency workers
Labour: Those who work regular hours for more than 12 weeks will have a right to a regular contract. Will prohibit exclusivity clauses. Compensation from employer for short notice cancellation of shifts. Ensure agency workers are properly protected, and are not exempt from equal treatment on pay, including by ending the Swedish derogation from the Agency Regulations.
Greens: “End exploitative zero hours contracts” and “end the exploitation of interns and ensure that no unpaid full-time internship lasts more than four weeks”.
Conservatives: Will take “further steps” to end exclusivity in zero hours contracts, and the exploitation of migrant workers.
Liberal Democrats: Believe zero hours contracts work well for businesses and employees, but will ‘continue’ to stamp out abuse.
UKIP: Will repeal the Agency Workers Directive (which seeks to ensure agency workers receive the same rights as direct employees), and exclusivity clauses in ZHCs.
The attention given to exclusivity clauses in ZHCs is a red herring, as the vast majority of such clauses are unenforceable in law. Read Re-regulating Zero Hours Contracts for more information.
Pay and the National Minimum Wage (NMW)
Labour: Increase NMW to £8 per hour by October 2019. Increase fines for non-payment. Introduce “Make Work Pay” contracts; a tax rebate to employers who sign up to pay the Living Wage in 2015. Will require employee representation on renumeration committees.
Greens: Have committed to “increase the minimum wage to a living wage”, pledging £10 per hour by 2020.
Will enforce a cap on bankers bonuses, and a maximum pay ratio of 10:1 between the best paid and worst paid in an organisation.
Conservatives: Support the NMW, want to see it increase to £6.70 this autumn, on course for £8 by 2025. They will ‘encourage’ businesses that can afford it to pay the NMW.
Liberal Democrats: The Low Pay Commission will be asked to look at ways of raising the NMW without damaging employment opportunities. They will clamp down on NMW non-payment, and review unpaid internships. More transparency, including the publishing of the number of people earning less than the Living Wage by 2020. Will “consult on a requirement to consult staff on executive pay”
UKIP: Reverse the government cuts to NMW inspectors.
Family & Pensions
Labour: Will increase free childcare from 15 to 25 hours for working parents of three and four-year-olds, while doubling paid paternity leave from two to four weeks and increase paternity pay to £260 per week.
“While increases in the state retirement age are necessary to keep our pensions system affordable, we will ensure that people have time to plan for changes”. Will keep the triple-lock so that the state pension increases by inflation, earnings, or 2.5 per cent, whichever is highest.
Greens: Will “build a free but voluntary universal early education and childcare service for all children from birth until compulsory education age, which we would raise to 7 years.”
Will “introduce a Citizen’s Pension, paid to all pensioners regardless of contribution record from 2016, so no pensioner will live in poverty. It will pay £180 per week to a single pensioner and £310 per week for a couple, taking all pensioners above the poverty line”.
Conservatives: Will “introduce a single tier pension”
Liberal Democrats: Extension of paternity leave to 6 weeks. Introduce a right to paid leave for carers who qualify for the Carer’s Allowance. Will “Extend free childcare to all two- year olds, and to the children of working families from the end of paid parental leave” by 2020.
UKIP: Will deregulate childcare.
Fund more pension advice services. Will “introduce a flexible state pension window, which will widen over time, so even when the state pension age increases to 69, pensioners will still be able to take a slightly lower weekly state pension from the age of 65”.
Greens: Phase in a 35-hour working week.
Liberal Democrats: –
UKIP: Amend the Working Time Directive because it “actively restricts the British work ethos and therefore the economy”.
Labour: Will create thousands more apprenticeships in the public sector, including the civil service. Every firm getting a major government contract, and every large employer hiring skilled workers from outside the EU, will be required to offer apprenticeships.
Greens: Protect pay, status and conditions of professionals in health and education.
Liberal Democrats: Will pay the Living Wage in all central government departments and agencies from April 2016, and encourage other public sector employees to do likewise.
Discrimination and Equality
Labour: Require large companies to publish their gender pay gap, and strengthen the law around maternity discrimination. “Where there is evidence more progress is needed, we will enforce the relevant provisions within the Equality Act.”. Will protect migrant workers by making it a criminal offence to undercut wages by exploitation of migrant workers and ensure migrants’ jobs and conditions are no worse than UK-born employees.
Greens: “Make equal pay a reality”.
Conservatives: Require companies of more than 250 employees to publish gender pay gap. Will “transform policy, practice and public attitudes, so that hundreds of thousands more disabled people who can and want to be in work find employment.”
Liberal Democrats: Require companies of more than 250 employees to publish gender pay gap. “Name blank” job application forms for public sector jobs.
UKIP: Allow British businesses to choose to employ British citizens first. Restrict access to EURES. End the availability of EU relocation grants.
European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR)
Labour: Will protect the Human Rights Act, and will reform rather than walk away from the European Court of Human Rights.
Conservatives: Scrap the Human Rights Act and introduce a British Bill of Rights. “This will break the formal link between British courts and the European Court of Human Rights, and make our own Supreme Court the ultimate arbiter of human rights matters in the UK”.
Liberal Democrats: “A second Freedoms Act will have embedded citizens’ rights to freedom of speech and protest. The Human Rights Act will remain, with children’s rights protected in law too.”
UKIP: Removal from the ECtHR and repeal the Human Rights Act. Introduce a UK bill of Rights.
The IER has published several articles by leading experts on what withdrawal from the ECHR would mean for employment rights and worker protections.
Article 4: Prohibition of slavery, servitude, forced and compulsory labour
Article 8: Right to respect for private and family life
Article 10: Right to freedom of expression
Article 14: Prohibition of discrimination
We are also holding a conference, Human Rights: Possibilities and Problems for Labour Law in London on 1 July 2015.
Of course, it is worth taking some manifesto pledges with a pinch of salt given how many of their 2010 manifesto pledges the Coalition have broken since coming into government:
- They promised to eliminate the deficit by 2016-17; it stands at £87bn today, more than double the £37bn George Osborne forecasted for 2015.
- They promised no rise in VAT; less than a year later VAT, effectively a tax on the poorest, went up to a record high of 20 percent.
- They promised no top-down reorganisations of the NHS; the Health and Social Care Act amounts to the most extensive and destructive reorganisation of the NHS in its history.
- They promised “smaller schools with smaller class sizes and teachers who know the children’s names”; the number of classes with more than 30 pupils has trebled to 93,300 thanks to state money being channeled into free schools opened in areas where they are not needed.
- Nick Clegg promised not to raise tuition fees; he trebled them, and students now leave university with an average debt of £44,000, discouraging all but those from the richest backgrounds from going to university.
- They promised to be the “greenest government ever”; yet have bulldozed trespass law to encourage fracking, scrapped an investment scheme for renewable energy, and given tax breaks to multinational oil companies.
- They promised two million new jobs to achieve full employment; but the jobs that have been created are insecure, bogus self-employed, and zero hours contracts.