I am writing this blog based on an assumption that the Tories are going to win the General Election. This is not an indication of my politics, although I do think if Jeremy Corbyn were to be our next Prime Minister, UK employment law might suddenly become a lot more volatile. If Jeremy does win, just bin this blog and wait for the next one!

It seems to me that there is an inherent conflict in the Tory position. On the one hand, they claim to back small businesses which are, according to the manifesto, “the wellspring of growth”. On the other hand, they “will not only guarantee but enhance workers’ rights and protections.” It will be interesting to see how they reconcile these apparently opposing aspirations.

Key points of the Tory manifesto

Guaranteeing that workers will enjoy the same rights after Brexit as they do under the EU

This has already been confirmed by the government following its announcement that, following Brexit, the UK will enact the Great Repeal Bill. This legislation will convert EU law into UK law, allowing businesses and individuals to go about life knowing that the rules have not changed overnight. However, the Bill will also create the necessary powers to allow parliament to amend, repeal or improve any piece of EU law it chooses. Will the Tories use this new-found freedom to cut red-tape for businesses or will they introduce further rights for employees and workers?

Protections for “gig” economy workers, with a consultation on rights such as maternity leave

Those working in the so called “gig” economy in jobs such as driving, delivering and computer coding have lots of flexibility, which gives them the advantage of having the ability to retain a mixture of different roles. However, it means they are often treated as self-employed and miss-out on key employment law rights, such as sick pay, paid holiday and the National Minimum Wage. It is very likely that following a number of government funded reviews (including the Taylor Review), more employment law protection will be introduced for these types of workers to stop worker exploitation but it remains unclear how far the Tories are willing to go with introducing new rights for employees, workers and the self-employed.

Increasing the National Minimum Wage in line with earnings until the end of parliament

It was the Tory government who introduced the National Living Wage and as a result, people in the UK now receive a minimum of £7.50 per hour if they are 25 years or older. The government wishes to continue to increase the National Living Wage to 60% of average earnings by 2020 and then by the rate of average earnings. It is unclear how these additional costs will affect businesses but it seems likely that there will be an increased risk of redundancies.

Improving the take-up of shared parental leave

There is an awareness that shared parental leave is not being sufficiently utilised by working parents. The government wants to help businesses provide more flexible working environments that help mothers and fathers to share parenting. It is unclear how they propose to do this and whether new rights will need to be introduced to facilitate this take-up of shared parental leave.

New rights to request leave for training

The government is keen to encourage training and the development of new skills in the workplace. It intends to introduce a new statutory right for employees to request leave for training. It is unclear whether this will be paid or unpaid leave.

New rights to care for sick relatives full-time

The government has also recognised the need to support carers given that the majority of care is informally provided, mainly by families. A new statutory right to carer’s leave is to be given to employees, similar to that already enjoyed in some other European countries.

If the Tories do win the next General Election and if Theresa May stays on as Prime Minister (two very big ‘ifs’ at the time of writing this blog) it is likely that many of the above issues will be further debated and subjected to tight scrutiny before being introduced into UK laws. Whatever happens it will be important for employers to keep up to date with what will almost certainly become a very rapidly changing employment law environment. We are living in interesting and unpredictable times!

For further information on the impact of the Tory manifesto on SME’s or specific legal advice on any area of employment law call Henry Doswell of Doswell Law Solicitors Ltd. on 01233 722942 or email him at info@doswell-law.com

Disclaimer: Whlst every reasonable effort is made to make the information and commentary contained in this article accurate and up to date, Doswell Law Solicitors Ltd. takes no responsibility for its accuracy and correctness, or for any consequences of relying on it. The information and commentary in this article does not constitute legal advice to any person on a specific case or matter. You are strongly advised to obtain specific, personal advice from a lawyer about your case or matter.