Election 2017: where do the parties stand on employment issues?

Who will emerge top dog for their employment policies?Dinendra Haria/REX/Shutterstock
Who will emerge top dog for their employment policies?
Dinendra Haria/REX/Shutterstock

What will each of the political parties do to the world of employment if they were elected? The official manifestos have now been published, and we run down those policies most likely to influence the employment landscape.

Wages and holidays

  • The Conservative Party has confirmed that the national living wage will rise “in line with average earnings by 2022”. Its commitment to this rate increasing to 60% of median hourly earnings by 2020 (around £8.75) remains.
  • The Labour Party has promised to increase the national living wage to “at least” £10 per hour by 2020. Its manifesto confirms that this would apply to all workers aged 18 and over, not just those aged 25 and over, as it is for the current national living wage.
  • The Green Party would also”make the minimum wage a living wage for all”, aiming for it to be £10 an hour by 2020 and Plaid Cymru has pledged to introduce a “real, independently verified Living Wage”. The Green Party has also said it would move towards a four-day working week.
  • Labour would introduce four new public holidays – bringing England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland together to mark all four national patron saints’ days. These will be additional to statutory holiday entitlement so that “workers in Britain get the same proper breaks as in other countries”.election-2017-employment-theresa
  • Both Labour and the Liberal Democrats have pledged to end the 1% pay cap on public-sector pay and ensure these workers receive pay rises in line with inflation.
  • The Labour Party would introduce an an “excessive pay levy” on salaries above £330,000. The measure would mean that companies paying staff more than this figure will pay a 2.5% surcharge, while salaries above £500,000 will be charged at 5%.
  • Under Labour, there would also be a maximum pay ratio in public sector organisations of 20:1. This means if the lowest salary was £18,200 (£10 per hour, 35 hours per week), the highest possible salary would be £364,000. This rule would also apply to private sector companies bidding for public sector contracts.

Workers’ rights

  • May has claimed that her Party will deliver the biggest expansion of workers’ rights by any Conservative government. This includes a statutory right to a year’s unpaid leave to care for a relative, measures to protect employees’ pensions, and a guarantee that workers’ current rights will remain unchanged through the Brexit process.
  • The Prime Minister also reiterated her Budget pledge of worker representation on boards for listed companies, although there will not be a requirement for a specific worker representative on the board – this “voice” can be achieved through an advisory panel or a non-executive director whose remit it is to monitor employees’ concerns.
  • Labour’s manifesto boasts a 20-point plan which it believes will end the “rigged economy” in the workplace. This includes a pledge to scrap employment tribunal fees, giving all workers (whether permanent, temporary, full- or part-time) equal rights from day one, and a ban on zero hours contracts and unpaid internships. It has also promised to repeal the Trade Union Act 2016.
  • Labour would “extend the rights of employees to all workers”, effectively scrapping the employment status of “worker” – umbrella companies would be banned.election-2017-employment-jeremy
  • Labour has also said it would review redundancy arrangements, potentially increasing statutory redundancy pay.
  • The Liberal Democrat manifesto indicates that the Party would scrap tribunal fees, and would stop abuse of zero hours contracts, giving workers the right to ask for a fixed contract after a certain period. It suggests it would advocate a German-style, two-tier system on company boards to encourage greater representation of workers.

Immigration and Brexit

  • The Conservatives have said they will stick by pledges made in David Cameron’s 2010 manifesto to cut net migration to “tens of thousands” – latest figures from the Office for National Statistics show the current level to be 273,000.
  • The Tories would double the immigration skills charge levied on companies employing migrant workers to £2000 by 2022.
  • The Party would also enact the Great Repeal Bill, which converts EU law into UK law, meaning existing workers’ rights would continue to be available in UK law at the point at which we leave the EU.
  • UKIP wants to cut net migration levels to zero within five years, by asking skilled workers and students to get visas and banning migration into the UK for unskilled and low-skilled workers.
  • Labour has promised to legislate to ensure that employers recruiting workers from abroad do not undercut workers at home. Corbyn has said he would replace the Great Repeal Bill with a EU Rights and Protections Bill, which would safeguard workers’ rights handed down from the EU.
  • Liberal leader Tim Farron has pledged to “unilaterally guarantee the rights of EU nationals in the UK, ending their ongoing uncertainty”, as well as secure the same rights for UK citizens living in EU countries. It would also protect rights enshrined in EU law, such as 52 weeks’ shared parental leave.
  • Plaid Cymru would establish a Welsh Migration Advisory Service to allow Welsh-specific visas to plug skills gaps and protect the NHS from staff shortages.

Childcare, parental leave and employee wellbeing

  • Labour and the Liberal Democrats have both pledged to extend paid paternity to a month, to encourage greater sharing of parental responsibilities. Labour has also indicated it would increase the rate from its current level of £140.98 per week.
  • The Conservatives have pledged to give workers a statutory right to a year’s unpaid leave to care for a relative. The Party has also said it would grant a two-week period of paid leave for parents whose child has died. It claims it will improve the take-up of shared parental leave and help companies to offer more flexible working environments.
  • Labour would consult on the introduction of statutory bereavement leave.
  • Theresa May’s government plans to remove the requirement for employees to have suffered from a mental health condition for at least 12 months before they gain protection under the Equality Act.
  • The Women’s Equality Party said it would offer free childcare so it could “transform lives, increase the tax base and [have] fewer people on out-of-work benefits”.
  • The Scottish National Party will expand free childcare to cover 1,140 hours per year by 2022, which equates to around 25 hours per working week. Plaid Cymru has pledged free full-time childcare for all three-year-olds.election-2017-employment-tim
  • Under a Liberal Democrat government, flexible working and shared parental leave would become ‘day one’ rights.
  • Access to Work, the programme aimed at getting those with disabilities back into work, would also be extended under a Liberal Democrat government.

Diversity and inclusion

  • Both the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats would extend current pay gap reporting requirements if they got into power; larger employers would be obliged to publish a “race pay gap” as well as as a gender pay gap. The Liberal Democrats are also considering whether employers should publish data on sexual orientation, employment levels and the gap between the highest and lowest paid.
  • The Conservatives would aim to get one million more people with disabilities into employment over the next decade, providing employers the support needed to hire and retain those with disabilities.
  • The Conservatives would also look into ways to make civil service recruitment more diverse, in terms of gender, race and social class.
  • The Liberal Democrats have vowed to bring an extra one million women into the workforce by 2025, and to introduce name blind recruitment into the civil service.
  • Labour would introduce a civil enforcement system to ensure compliance with gender pay gap reporting.

Taxes and pensions

  • The personal income tax allowance would be increased to £12,500 under a Tory government, with the higher tax rate starting at £50,000. After abandoning proposals to increase national insurance contributions for the self-employed, Chancellor Philip Hammond has not ruled out future rises in the next Parliament.
  • Shadow chancellor John McDonnell said his Party would lower the threshold for the 45p additional rate to £80,000 from its current level of £150,000.It would also reintroduce the 50p rate of income tax on earnings above £123,000. Scotland would not be affected as it has independence over income tax rates.
  • The Liberal Democrats have proposed a 1% rise in income tax which it says would enable it to ringfence an extra £6 billion of funding per year for the NHS.
  • In Scotland, first minister Nicola Sturgeon has said she is keeping under review a policy to raise the top rate of income tax for those earning more than £150,000 from 45% to 50%.
  • Both Labour and the Liberal Democrats have vowed to protect the “triple lock” on state pensions, which will ensure that state pensions rise in line with wages, inflation, or by 2.5% – whichever is highest. Labour has also said it would amend company takeover rules to protect employees’ pensions.

Skills

  • The Tory Party wants to replace 13,000 existing technical qualifications with new qualifications, known as T-levels, in subjects including construction, creative and design, digital, engineering and manufacturing, and health and science.election-2017-employment-nicola
  • As part of its industrial strategy, unveiled in January, it will establish new institutes of technology, “backed by leading employers”, and link these to universities in every major city in England. It will stick by its promise to create 3 million new apprenticeships by 2020.
  • The Liberal Democrats have pledged to expand high-quality apprenticeships in their manifesto, and support the growth of sector-led national colleges for vocational education. It said there would also be a “national skills strategy” for key sectors.
  • Labour has said it will keep the apprenticeship levy, which came into force last month, but would ring-fence more than £400 million of the revenue from this for small businesses.

This article has been updated. Last update: 22 May 2017 at 10.20pm.

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