15 May 2015 #Employment
So, after the excitement of the General Election last week, what does the new Conservative Government have in store on the employment law front?
Changes affecting industrial action ballots and taking part in industrial action are a central manifesto commitment of the new Conservative Government. The Government plans to require a minimum turnout of 50% in strike ballots, and, in respect of essential services (health, education, fire and transport), there would need to be not only a majority in favour of strike action but also a requirement that 40% of those entitled to vote would need to vote in favour. At present, there are no minimum turnout thresholds and only a simple majority of those voting is required.
The trade unions and the will doubtless contest such new rules, in particular by raising human rights issues on the right to freedom of association and the so-called “right to strike”. Next month, we will be advising and assisting the CBI delegation at the forthcoming UN International Labour Conference in Geneva, where the “right to strike” has long been a contentious focus point.
There are also plans to put further time restrictions from the conclusion of a ballot to calling industrial action to prevent strike action being called “on the basis of ballots conducted years before”. Plus, importantly, there are plans to end to the ban on using agency staff to cover the work of striking workers.
Most controversially, the new Government plans to repeal the Human Rights Act, introduce a British Bill of Rights and limit the legal status of the European Court of Human Rights. There is already debate as to how legally this can all be achieved, going further it seems in limiting the role of the European Court of Human Rights than just turning the clock back to 2000 when the Human Rights Act came into force under the Labour Government. The SNP in Scotland opposes the Government’s proposals which raises some further interesting constitutional implications.
In employment law terms, this will fundamentally affect contested worker rights such as the right to strike and the anti discrimination laws.
Gender inequality and zero hours contracts
Following the passing of the Enterprise Act shortly before the election, the Government will need to implement the restrictions on exclusivity clauses in zero hours contracts plus honour the commitment to require companies with more than 250 employees to publish their gender gap – the difference between average pay for males and females.
The Government expects that it will increase from £6.70 per hour in the autumn to £8 by end of the decade.
The new Government has stated its focus on job creation and apprenticeships (creating 3 million new apprenticeships).
Paid Volunteering Leave
During the election campaign the Conservative Party announced that they will make volunteering for three days a year a workplace entitlement for people working in large companies (employers with at least 250 employees) and the public sector. It is estimated that this entitlement would be available to 15 million employees which would create up to an extra 360 million volunteering hours each year.