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Which way now? Employment law and the 2017 manifestos

  • United Kingdom
  • Employment law - HR E-Brief


When the 2017 General Election was announced, many expected Brexit and the economy to take centre stage. However, employment policies have also grabbed attention, with Labour announcing a 20 point plan to end the ‘rigged economy’ in work and Theresa May promising ‘the greatest extension of rights and protections for employees by any Conservative government in history’.

Set out below is a summary of HR-related manifesto pledges focusing on the two largest parties (based on the composition of the House of Commons at the end of the 2015-2017 Parliament):

What are they promising?

Labour Conservatives Other Parties [1]
Brexit • Guarantee the rights of EU workers in the UK and seek a reciprocal guarantee for UK workers in other EU countries

• Replace the Great Repeal Bill with an EU Rights and Protections Bill to preserve worker rights post Brexit
• Workers to maintain all EU-derived legal protections after Brexit • Lib Dem: Guarantee the rights of EU workers in the UK, seek to remain members of the single market, hold a referendum on the Brexit deal with the option of staying in the EU on the ballot paper
Pay and bonuses

• Set maximum pay ratios of 20:1 in the public sector and for companies bidding for public contracts

• Reduce pay inequality by introducing an Excessive Pay Levy on companies with staff on high pay

• Make executive pay packages subject to an annual shareholder vote

• Listed companies to publish the ratio of executive pay to UK workforce pay

• Examine the use of share buybacks

• Lib Dem: Larger employers to report on the number of workers paid less than the ‘living wage’ and the ratio between top and median pay

National minimum and living wage • Raise both the national min. wage and living wage to £10 an hour by 2020 • Increase national living wage to 60% of median earnings by 2020 and then by the rate of median earnings • Greens: A living wage for all
Discrimination including gender pay
gender reporting
• Introduce a ‘civil enforcement system’ to strengthen compliance with gender pay reporting

• Introduce ‘equal pay audit requirements’ on race grounds

• Give equality representative statutory time off/pay rights

• Reinstate protection against third party harassment

• Change the ‘gender reassignment’ protected characteristic under the Equality Act to ‘gender identity’

• Make terminal illness a protected characteristic
• Strengthen disability discrimination protection for people with shorter-term mental health issues described as ‘episodic and fluctuating’

• Extend the gender pay gap reporting duty to include ‘more data’ and include race as well as gender
• Lib Dem: Extend gender pay gap reporting ‘to include BAME and LGBT+ employment levels and pay gaps’; change the ‘gender reassignment’ protected characteristic under the Equality Act to include ‘gender identity and expression’; guarantee the freedom of people to wear religious or cultural dress; outlaw caste discrimination
Employment status, gig, zero hour, other contingent workers and the self-employed

• ‘Ban’ zero hour contracts and unpaid internships

• Those on short hour contracts, but working regularly in excess, to have a contractual right to longer hours

• Abolish the Swedish derogation

• A new burden of proof so that the law assumes a worker is an employee unless the employer can prove otherwise

• Extend rights such as shared parental pay to workers

• A new statutory definition of employment status

• Ban payroll (umbrella) companies

• A promise to ‘properly’ protect people working in the gig economy • Lib Dem: Reform gig worker protections further to the Taylor review; reform zero hour contracts to provide a right to request a fixed hours contract and consult on introducing a right to make regular patterns of work contractual after a period of time

• Greens: Ban zero hour contracts
Work and Family • Four weeks’ paid paternity leave and increase paternity pay

• Strengthen pregnancy and maternity-related discrimination protection
• A new statutory entitlement to carer’s leave • Lib Dem: Four weeks’ paid paternity leave and make the right to request flexible working a day one right
Strikes, industrial relations, employee engagement • Repeal the Trade Union Act (which introduced new strike ballot thresholds, picketing controls, facility time reporting and other changes)

• Review union recognition law

• Work with trade unions and industry to reintroduce sectoral collective bargaining

• No company to win a public contract unless they recognise trade unions

• Guarantee unions a right to access workplaces


• Listed companies to strengthen employee voice on their boards - via advisory panels, a non-executive director or through a directly appointed worker representative

• A right for employees to request information relating to the future direction of the company (possibly akin to information in annual reports)

• Consult on how to strengthen the corporate governance of privately owned businesses
• Lib Dem: Strengthen worker participation (e.g. staff representation on remuneration committees and worker rep on listed boards); change company law to permit a German style two-tier board structure to include employees
Takeover controls, including pensions • Amend the Takeover Code to require takeover proposals of ‘systemically important’ businesses to have a plan to protect workers and pensioners • Tighten takeover rules and give the Pensions Regulator new powers to issue fines where pension solvency in larger schemes is threatened
Immigration • End EU freedom of movement of workers and put in place a new immigration system • A promise to cut net migration to the ‘tens of thousands’ and to reduce and control numbers coming from the EU

• Double the Immigration Skills Charge (currently £1000) by 2022

• Increase the earnings thresholds for those wishing to sponsor migrants for family visas

• Support skilled migration where there are skills shortages


• Lib Dem: Retain freedom of movement of workers

• Abolish ET fees

• All ‘workers to have equal rights from day one’

• A new right to own: giving workers first refusal when their company faces a change of ownership

• Four new public holidays

• Extend directors’ duties (stronger duty to employees)

• Reverse recent changes to TUPE

• Consult on a new statutory bereavement leave

• Make it harder to make employees redundant (akin to some European jurisdictions)

• Extend the right to request leave for training to all employees

• New child bereavement leave

• Introduce a new data protection law

• Lib Dem: Abolish ET fees; a right to request shares in the employer; reform director duties to include consideration of employee welfare

• Greens: phase in a 4-day working week

[1] Where other manifestos are available at time of writing

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