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Opposition party propose immediate increase to minimum wage and extended maternity pay.

With a motto of ‘for the many, not the few’ the Labour Party have produced a manifesto that has proposed radical changes to existing employment rights, which may result in significant adjustments to the way in which organisations manage their staff.

Minimum wage

The Labour Party have pledged to bring in an immediate increase to the national minimum wage (NMW) if they are successful in December’s General Election, ensuring all workers aged 16 and over are entitled to a minimum of £10 per hour. Whilst organisations may be concerned at the prospect of such an immediate increase, the party have confirmed their intention is to use savings from public finances to help small organisations manage the cost.

General employment rights

Labour have proposed the ‘biggest extension of workers’ rights in history’, which includes the formation of a Ministry for Employment rights that will give workers a say in the decisions made by a Labour government.

There are plans for sectoral collective bargaining to be rolled out across the country, giving workers the authority to agree legal minimums on issues, such as pay and working hours, that every organisation within that industry will then be expected to follow.

Labour intend to give workers a legal right to collective consultation on the implementation of new technologies in the workplace, whilst large organisations will be required to set up Inclusive Ownership Funds (IOFs) under which up to 10 per cent of the organisation will be owned collectively by employees.

Working Time

In recognition of the rise of workplace burnout, Labour’s manifesto looks to address working time issues by preventing employees from opting out of the 48-hour average weekly working time limit. Related pledges focus on setting up an independent Working Time Commission to advise on raising minimum holiday entitlement and investing in measures to increase productivity, thereby reducing the need for excessive overtime.

A Labour government also intends to give all workers the right to flexible working, doing away with the 26 week’ qualifying period, whilst organisations will be required to pay staff for rest breaks during the working day and any scheduled shifts that have to be cancelled. Meanwhile, there is also the intention to introduce four new bank holidays in celebration of the UK’s patron saints.

Employment status

On the issue of employment status, Labour have announced their intention to not only ban the use of zero-hour contracts, but also resolve the issue of ‘bogus self-employment’ by doing away with the current definition of ‘employee’ and creating a single status of ‘worker’ for everyone apart from the genuinely self-employed. This latter proposal could help resolve the current confusion around employment status, making things easier for organisations on the whole.

Family Friendly

To support families Labour intend to extend the period of statutory maternity pay for eligible workers from nine to twelve months, whilst paternity leave and pay will also be extended to cover a four week period. Additional pledges commit to an overall review of existing family-friendly rights, including statutory time off for dependants, whilst there will be improved protections for pregnant workers and those returning from a period or maternity leave.

The manifesto also mentions statutory bereavement leave, however it is not clear how much this will expand on the right to parental bereavement leave which has already been approved by the existing UK government.

Equality

There are plans to improve upon the existing gender pay gap reporting requirement by introducing clear fines for organisations who fail to devise and implement measures to eradicate any existing pay gap. At the same time, there are plans to lower the threshold for publishing a gender pay gap report to organisations with 50 employees or more by 2020.

Organisations will also be asked to take greater ownership in preventing harassment at work, including harassment at the hands of third parties, to coincide with tougher laws to protect public-facing workers from suffering abuse and violence. There is also a promise to introduce 10 days’ paid leave for of domestic abuse.

In efforts to address further inequality, Labour intend to factor the earnings of black, asian and minority-ethnic (BAME) employees into gender pay gap reporting ,whilst an additional requirement will see mandatory disability pay gap reporting for eligible organisations.

To further support disabled staff, the Labour Party plan to update the Equality Act 2010 to introduce new specific duties, including disability leave that is paid and recorded separately from sick leave. Meanwhile, they also intend to encourage the formation of a specific code of practice on reasonable adjustments, in order to remove many of the barriers disabled staff face at work.

Immigration

Although the Labour Party do not have a definitive approach to leaving or remaining in the EU, they have confirmed their intention to give existing EU citizens the right to remain in the UK, which means they will no longer have to apply to continue living and working in the country through the Existing EU settlement scheme. This may end the worry and uncertainty for many EU citizens living and working in Britain, as well as organisations that employ a significant number of EU nationals.

On future immigration, the Party insist they do not agree with net migration targets or a two tiered system for deciding on visa applications. However, in the event that the UK leaves the EU, Labour insist that freedom of movement will be subject to negotiations, whilst insisting that they plan to protect the rights that freedom of movement currently provides.

Training

Labour plan to introduce a new National Education Service (NES), which will allow them to provide ‘free education for everyone throughout their lives’, as well as giving workers the right to accrue paid time off for education and training. Under this scheme, UK citizens are expected to have a free life-long entitlement to training up to level 3 and six years training at levels 4-6 along with maintenance grants to support disadvantaged learners. There are also plans for organisation to be given a significant role in the design and production of qualifications, a move which should help ensure job seekers have the knowledge and skills necessary to fill key positions.

Trade Unions

There are plans for a host of changes to the powers of trade unions, including removing restrictions on industrial action and repealing so-called ‘anti-trade union legislation’, such as the Trade Union Act 2016.  Additional pledges states a commitment to simplifying the laws around union recognition, and giving union representatives adequate time off work for union duties.