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Future worker rights – what the Party Manifestos say

Nick Thorpe
19/05/2017
The manifestos are out - will the election deliver a new deal for ordinary working people or hope for the many?

The manifestos are out - will the election deliver a new deal for ordinary working people or hope for the many?  Whilst many polls might be predicting a Conservative landslide on 8 June, it is still useful to look to both the Labour and Conservative manifestos to identify where we might expect to see change from both sides of the political coin.  Of course, there may be a danger of viewing this election in a Brexit prism but what is clear is that both parties see workers' rights as a key battleground. 

Both party manifestos emphasise that strengthening workers' rights is a priority and the Conservatives go so far as promising to deliver "new rights and protections in the workplace".  Examples include the introduction of a statutory right to child bereavement leave and to request leave for training.  In addition, whilst both the Labour and Conservative manifestos appear to build on existing policy commitments, there are also some new developments that they promise to deliver. 

In particular, the Conservatives pledge to build on the current gender pay gap reporting obligations by requiring companies to report more data on their gender pay gap and to extend this obligation to require companies to publish information on their ethnicity pay gap.  Labour, on the other hand, pledges to introduce a civil enforcement system to ensure compliance with gender pay gap reporting obligations.

The Conservatives also pledge to stand by their promise of worker representation on company boards, albeit that this has been watered down since Mrs May's inaugural speech as Prime Minister outside 10 Downing Street last June.

Given the advancement of technologies in the workplace, there is also a focus on new rights for the self-employed and "gig" economy workers, including a pledge by Labour that a worker will be presumed by law to be an employee unless the employer can prove otherwise.  The Conservatives promise to make sure that such gig economy workers are properly protected, with the suggestion that this may include qualifying for holiday and sick pay.  

Whilst many may welcome such promises, even if the Conservatives were to introduce new worker rights, one fundamental issue remains - given the current Employment Tribunal fee system, will people even be able to enforce their new found worker rights?  Perhaps unsurprisingly, Labour has pledged to abolish the current system.

As for the other political parties, as many may expect, the Liberal Democrats manifesto largely mirrors Labour proposals, but they set themselves apart with the promise of a second referendum on the Brexit deal and, at the time of writing, UKIP's manifesto is yet to be published.

Whatever the outcome on 8 June, what is clear is that Brexit will not be the only item on the HR agenda.  The two main parties are promising significant changes (beyond Brexit) that could re-shape the workplace for many years to come.

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