The general election in December last year produced a decisive win for the Conservatives, led by Boris Johnson. What has the party pledged in terms of employment law and what changes can we expect?
Whilst getting Brexit done is the main priority, and this in itself brings a big change to the legal scene, we can also expect the Conservative government to follow through with several reforms already in motion. However, if a deal is reached, most EU law will continue to apply, and no drastic changes are envisioned.
The Conservative Manifesto pledged to build on the existing employment law with measures to protect those in low paid work and gig economy:
- Raise the national living wage to £10.50 per hour by 2024 (representing two thirds of median earnings) and also reduce the age so this rate applies for anyone aged 21 or over (currently 25)
- Ensure that workers have the right to request a more predictable contract and other reasonable protections
- Introduce a new right to neonatal leave for parents of premature or sick babies
- Extend the period of redundancy protection from the point the employee informs their employer of her pregnancy, until six months after her return from maternity leave
- Encourage flexible working and consult on making it the default, unless employers have good reasons not to
- Provide carers with a week’s leave
In the longer term, there may be some scope for reform to the legislation which was imposed on the UK by the EU and is considered unduly burdensome for employers. This is extremely unlikely to result in diminishing any of the employee rights but will prove useful in removing or amending some legislation which has been frustrating employers for a long time. The most commonly referred to topics that might see legislation amendments once the dust has settled are:
- A compensation cap to be introduced on discrimination cases (currently there is no cap, but there is a cap on other types of cases such as unfair dismissal)
- Positive discrimination to be allowed to help under-represented groups (currently outlawed by EU law)
- Reducing or removing the right to have holiday allowance carried over when on long-term sick leave (currently an 18 months accrual period applies)
- Removing the cap on working hours (currently capped at 48 hours per week)
- Holiday pay to be watered down to only include basic salary (currently overtime, bonuses and commission payment all have to be included in holiday pay)
While there are a lot of areas to keep our eye on, no drastic changes are expected immediately. Nevertheless, an indication has been given in the Queen’s Speech that our judges will be free to depart from the decisions of the European Court of Justice which will, in time, open the doors for major changes in all areas of law.
Please do contact Andreja Okamgba for an initial free consultation if you are an individual wishing to discuss your circumstances following the UK’s departure from the EU at the end of this month, or if you are a business wishing to discuss your current processes in these challenging times.