Party Politics – Focus on the General Election 2015

Issues that impact on employment have formed a significant part of what the major parties have focussed on in the run up to the General Election and whichever party, or parties, form a government there are likely to be some significant changes in the future.  

The main areas where change appears likely are in relation to zero hours contracts, the National Minimum Wage, increasing the number of apprenticeships and increasing support for working families. We will report on any changes as they occur after the Election.

The Conservative Party

The Conservative Party is committed to achieving full employment in Britain by focussing on British business.  Their main manifesto commitments are to: 

  • Increase the National Minimum Wage in line with recommendations from the Low Pay Commission so that it will be £6.70 by autumn 2015 rising to over £8 by 2020.
  • Increase the number of apprenticeships by 3 million over the next 5 years.
  • Abolish exclusivity in zero hours contracts by making exclusivity clauses unenforceable. 
  • Increase free childcare to 30 hours per week for 3 and 4 year old children of working parents.
  • End six figure pay offs for highly paid public sector workers.
  • Make a number of reforms to trade unions and industrial action with a view to making the threshold higher before industrial action can be taken.
  • Halve the disability employment gap with a view to getting hundreds of thousands of disabled people into employment.
  • Promote full gender equality by requiring companies with more than 250 employees to publish the difference between average pay of male and female employees.
  • Take steps to eradicate the exploitation of migrant labour.
  • Introduce a workplace entitlement to undertake three days per year of volunteering for people working in large companies or the public sector.
  • Repeal the Human Rights Act 1998 and introduce a British Bill of Rights.

The Labour Party

The Labour Party is committed to pushing up standards and boosting productivity and has published a number manifesto documents. Their main commitments are set out below: 

  • To restrict the use of zero hours contracts so that workers who work regular hours in their first 12 weeks of employment are given regular contracts. They also intend to stop employers forcing workers to be available at all times and from cancelling shifts at short notice.
  • To bring the National Minimum Wage closer to average earnings. It is intended to increase the NMW to more than £8 per hour before 2020.
  • To encourage payment of the Living Wage by giving tax rebates to companies that commit to paying the Living Wage.
  • To abolish the employment tribunal fee system.
  • To reform the Agency Workers Regulations 2010 to remove the Swedish Derogation which means that workers who are paid between assignments are excluded from the protection of the Regulations. Labour also intend to close  a loophole which enables employers to undercut permanent staff by using agency staff on lower rates of pay.
  • To increase free child care to 25 hours for 3 and 4 year olds of working parents and to provide a guarantee that primary schools provide wraparound care from 8.00am to 6.00pm.
  • To double paid paternity leave from 2 to 4 weeks and increase paternity pay to £260 per week.
  • Labour is committed to protecting migrant workers and reducing exploitation by ensuring that jobs and conditions are no worse than they are for local employees. It has been pledged that a Home Office Investigative Unit would be set up to target the illegal exploitation of migrant workers.
  • To extend the use of apprenticeships by various measures including requiring any firm who wins a government contract to offer apprenticeships.
  • Increasing pay transparency by requiring companies to include elected representatives on remuneration committees.
  • Labour has set out plans to review a number of areas including TUPE and health and safety requirements.

The Liberal Democrats

The Liberal Democrats have set out their objective to create a more equal society by creating more jobs with higher wages and better employment rights. Their key policies are as follows: 

  • To stop the abuse of zero hours contracts and create a right for workers to request a fixed term contract.
  • To increase the National Minimum Wage and improve enforcement action.
  • To promote flexibility at work through a number of measures including by expanding shared parental leave, making paternity and shared parental leave “day one” rights and by increasing free childcare provision.
  • To review the employment tribunal fees system to ensure that it does not prohibit people from bringing claims.
  • To protect the rights of trade union members and encourage wider participation.
  • Increasing the numbers of apprenticeships.
  • Improving equality and tackling discrimination in relation to gender, race and disability.
  • Increasing pay transparency to encourage payment of the Living Wage and to consult on executive pay.

The Green Party

The Green Party wants to build a society that works for the common good and has set out the following objectives:

  • To end the use of zero hours contracts.
  • To increase the National Minimum Wage to £10 per hour by 2020.
  • To phase in a 35 hour working week.
  • To increase equality between men and women and in relation to the highest and lowest paid.
  • To reduce employment tribunal fees.
  • To revive the role of the trade unions.

UKIP

UKIP’s commitments focus on “releasing Britain from the shackles of the EU”. Their main employment related policies include:

  • Regulation of zero hours contracts by the use of a code of conduct which would include banning exclusivity.
  • Recipients of the National Minimum Wage would not be required to pay income tax.
  • A full review of childcare provision to make it easier for working parents, including a deregulation of childcare provision.
  • Allowing British business to choose to employ British citizens first.
  • That Britain should exit the EU. However it has stated that it would not undermine workers’ rights by leaving the EU and will adopt European employment rights into UK law.
  • Remove Britain from the jurisdiction of the European Court of Human Rights and repeal the Human Rights Act 1998.