Following the Conservative Party’s victory in the General Election it is perhaps too early to get any real indication of the Party’s intentions as far as employment law reform is concerned. But, if its manifesto is to be taken as read, here is a summary of what we might expect to see over the next five years:
• A ban on exclusivity clauses in zero-hour contracts and the implementation of measures designed to punish employers who try to avoid the ban (such as by using minimum hour contracts offering just one or two hours per week). Employers will no longer be able to tie employees into zero hour contracts which do not guarantee work whilst restricting them from working for other employers.
• The repeal of the Human Rights Act 1998 and the introduction of a British Bill of Rights.
• The National Minimum Wage increased to over £8 per hour by the end of 2020. The Government also states that it supports the payment of a “living wage” and will encourage employers to pay it “whenever they can afford it”.
• A focus on workplace apprenticeships. The Government’s stated plan is to introduce an extra 3 million apprenticeships over the next 5 years.
• An effort to tackle the exploitation of foreign workers by enacting some of the provisions of the “Modern Slavery Act 2015” which received Royal Assent on 26 March 2015.
• A tightening up of rules relating to industrial action. Strike action could become unlawful unless 40% of eligible union members vote for it (currently it is a simple majority of those who actually turn out to vote).
• The linking of unemployment benefit to health recommendations. Employees suffering from long-term but treatable medical conditions might face benefit sanctions if they decline a suggested treatment.
• Encouraging voluntary work in a kind of codification of “the Big Society” by giving all public sector workers and employees of large companies the right to take 3 days of volunteering leave every year.
• Promoting gender equality by requiring companies with over 250 employees to publish figures of the average male and female pay.
The Government has already taken action to implement some of these changes. For example, today (26 May) the new section in the Employment Rights Act 1996 banning exclusivity clauses in zero-hour contracts comes into force (albeit there is nothing yet on the anti-avoidance measures). Whether the other measures will be implemented remains to be seen. In some – such as in changing the voting rules for industrial action – the Government has already taken some steps to suggest they will go ahead whereas in others – such as producing a British Bill of Rights – we are very much at the initial ideas stage.
We will, of course, keep you fully up to date with all key employment law reform via our regular blogs.
For further information please contact a member of our employment team or call 01737 854 500 or email [email protected]