As a large number of the significant cases and legislation passed in 2014 are still to come into effect, and future legislation will of course depend on who is elected in May, the next few years are set to be a particularly interesting time for employment law.
All four main political parties – The Conservatives, Labour, Liberal Democrats and UKIP – have either announced election manifesto pledges or have at least hinted as to what employers and employees can expect, should they be successful in May.
Over the last few months, the Conservatives have leaked several policies that may well be on the cards if they are elected. The party plan to introduce a British Bill of Rights to restate the Human Rights Act 1998, introduce a ‘Modern Slavery Bill’ in order to prevent the trafficking of workers, and end zero hours contracts.
They will also introduce a ‘Strike Ballot Minimum Threshold’. This would reduce the time-limit after a ballot that a strike can take place to three months, require 14 days’ notice before a strike takes place and make illegal picketing a criminal rather than civil offence.
Taking a different stance, Labour have pledged to increase minimum wage to £8 an hour by 2020 and provide unspecified ‘tax breaks’ to employers who comply with the ‘living wage’. The party will also allot all workers with children aged three or four 25 free hours of childcare each week and hope to pass a law requiring all companies with over 250 employers to publish the average pay of men and women at pay grade.
The Liberal Democrats, on the other hand, have said that, if elected, they will increase national minimum wage for apprentices by £1 per hour and provide as yet unparticularised assistance for litigants in person before Employment Tribunals. Interestingly, they have announced their intention to create a new ‘Workers Rights Agency’ to incorporate the National Minimum Wage Enforcement section of HMRC, the Employment Agency Standards Inspectorate and the Gangmasters Licensing Authority.
UKIP have announced plans to ‘shrink’ the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, which could have a significant impact on both employers and employees. They have also suggested initiating compulsory enrolment for individuals claiming JSA on ‘community schemes’ and ‘return to work training’. Unlike the other parties, UKIP would not increase the retirement age for receipt of the state pension, but would take all those receiving national minimum wage out of the tax bracket altogether.
As official party manifestos are not announced until six weeks to a month before the election – and anything can happen in the meantime – firmly forecasting political pledges is a difficult task. Furthermore, if the successful party has to govern as a minority, or in a coalition, policies could be renegotiated and reneged upon, come May.
One thing we can be sure of however is that, whoever wins, there will be further legal changes to grapple with in the months and years ahead.
James Baker is an associate in the Employment Team at Michelmores.
Image source: Typewriter
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