Labour leadership candidates battle it out on employment law reform
12 August 2016
Labour leadership candidates Jeremy Corbyn and Owen Smith go head to head on employment law reform in a race to become, (or in Jeremy Corbyn’s case, remain) the next Labour leader. Both candidates have recently set out their pledges on employment law reform, summarised below:
- Both candidates have set out their intention to repeal the Trade Union Act 2016, which of course would mean removal of the new requirement for 50% voter turnout at ballots and the requirement of 14 days’ notice of a strike to an employer, (click here for further information). Both candidates also strive to increase the presence of unions within the workplace with Jeremy Corbyn calling for businesses with more than 250 employees to recognise a specific union for collective bargaining purposes over pay. Owen Smith says he would end the use of sweetheart unions and strengthen recognition rights where majority support is clear. He also aims to introduce wages councils in hospitality, retail and social care sectors and restore full collective bargaining in the public sector.
- Owen Smith says he intends to modernise industrial action balloting by introducing electronic balloting, a topic which was fiercely debated during the Trade Union Bill’s passage through parliament.
- The issue of zero hour contracts has come to the fore again with both candidates pledging to make them illegal. Both candidates also claim they would give workers employment rights on their first day of employment although it is unclear what rights workers would actually gain. Owen Smith went one step further and pledged that he would require employers to compensate workers for cancelled shifts and would strengthen the definition of workers to reduce sham self-employment structures.
- Both candidates pledged they would abolish tribunal fees, a move which will prove popular with members of the House of Commons Justice Committee who were critical of the government’s failure to review the fee regime since introduced, (please click here for further information).
- Both candidates pledged to increase pay with Jeremy Corbyn promising to increase the National Living Wage (“NLW”) to £10 an hour if he gets in office and Owen Smith promising to strengthen enforcement of the NLW to combat employers cutting overall remuneration packages to fund the NLW.
- Owen Smith says he will introduce new equal pay legislation in an attempt to close the gender pay gap although he does not explain what form this would take. Jeremy Corbyn is more detailed by pledging to require businesses with more than 21 workers to publish pay audits in a bid to reduce discriminatory pay practices.
- Owen Smith says he would bring back discrimination questionnaires.
Although the results of the election are yet to unfold, it is clear that both Team Corbyn and Team Smith propose a significant shake up of employment law.
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