25 March 2015

Letter to America: All change for UK employment law (or more of the same?)

The United Kingdom will elect a new government in May 2015. Employment law reform looks set to be a major battleground, with the possibility of significant changes whoever is elected.

We’ve picked out a few of the key themes and policies in employment law from each of the main political parties proposals so far. We await further details as election campaigning heats up, but it's clear that employment law reform will remain a hot topic:

In no particular order:

Conservative Party

  • Introduction of a British Bill of Rights. If elected in 2015, the Conservatives will pass a new British Bill of Rights, which they have suggested would replace the Human Rights Act 1998.
  • Changes to the rules on industrial strike action. The proposals include changes to the minimum participation for a strike ballot to be effective, minimum notification periods of the strike and the introduction of a time limit following the ballot for the strike to take place.
  • Possible extension of maternity pay to self-employed mothers

Labour Party

  • Aiming to increase the national minimum wage to £8 an hour and requiring companies to publish details of average pay.
  • Removing barriers for parents returning to work. This includes increasing to 25 hours' a week free childcare for working parents, requiring breakfast and after school clubs and extending flexible working in the public sector.
  • Providing equal rights for self-employed individuals.
  • New, tougher measures to promote equal pay between men and women.
  • Criminalisation of lower pay for migrant workers.

Liberal Democrats

  • Increase in the national minimum wage for apprentices.
  • Provision of more assistance for litigants in person, across all civil courts.
  • Creation of a new Workers' Rights Agency. This would be a 'one stop shop' and would streamline the work of four existing bodies covering minimum wage, working time, employment agencies and gangmaster licensing.
  • Anonymizing public sector recruitment. This proposal would be aimed at cutting discrimination.

UK Independence Party

  • Withdrawal from the EU. EU directives that are implemented through domestic law would  remain effective but withdrawal from the EU would allow the government a free hand in changes to the legal landscape.
  • Withdrawal from the European Court of Human Rights.
  • Repeal of the Human Rights Act. The proposal would be to replace this with a new British Bill of Rights.
  • Entitling businesses to discriminate in favour of British workers.
  • Repeal of the "Agency Workers Directive".
  • Entitling workers on zero hours contracts to a fixed hours contract after one year.

We will keep you posted.

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