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Time for Change?

Howells Solicitors

24 Mar, 2015

How will the outcome of the general election on May 7th effect UK employment law?

The past five years under the coalition have seen radical changes to UK employment law. Gone are the days of the Tribunal being free to access with fees of up to £1200 deterring many from issuing claims. As the numbers of claims have plummeted the government has been forced to react to criticism that it’s gone too far.  The Government has also sought to reduce the burden on employers by restricting the amount which can be claimed in unfair dismissal cases and limiting the right to bring a claim to those with more than two years service.  Parties are also now required to conciliate via ACAS before issuing a claim in an aim to keep disputes out of the tribunal. Most recently, the Shared Parental leave regime came into force on the 5th April allowing partners to share ‘maternity’ leave after a child is born. As the election draws near what might the next five year’s hold for UK employment law- depending on who wins power on the 7th May?

The Conservative manifesto promises to restrict trade union activity which it sees as disruptive to UK business and the general public. They state that only strikes which gain the support of a minimum of 50% of a union’s members will be legal and further to this that strikes must take place within three months of the ballot and 14 days notice must be given. The Conservatives whilst in government have also indicated they would move to restrict the use of zero hours contracts, but have released scant details of this at present.

Labour are also on board with restricting the use of zero hours contracts to genuine ‘casual working’ relationships and not for employees who in effect work regular hours. They also indicate that they will aim to increase free childcare for 3 and 4 year olds from the current 15 to 25 hours per week. In addition to this they have indicated that they would require schools to provide breakfast and after school clubs to increase childcare options for parents. Less clear is Labour’s view of the current Tribunal fee system. In opposition they have criticised the fees and have indicated they would abolish the current system, but have stopped short of any promise to replace this with a system without fees or means testing.

The Liberal Democrats state that if in government they would aim to increase the National Minimum wage for apprentices by £1 an hour and also ask the Low Pay Commission to consider if the minimum wage could be increased and a ‘living wage’ paid to all central and government agency employees.  However, again there is no firm commitment to make this happen.  They have also indicated that they would aim to reduce discrimination in recruitment by making public sector employers consider employment applications on a ‘name blank’ basis initially. They’ve also indicated a commitment to equal pay between the sexes stating that they would require employers of over 250 employees to publish pay figures for male and female pay.

With UKIP and the Green Party also making several proposals that would impact employers and workers it’s clear from the above that policy affecting employment law is key to all parties desire to attract voters, whether seeking to appeal to business, employees or working families. There’s every reason to believe the next five years might be as eventful for employment law as the last have been.

Rachel Clayton
Howells Employment Solicitor

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