News and Events

New Government, new era...

...But what’s changed in the world of employment law?

With the General Election hype now over and the Conservative Party winning an overall majority, we take a look at some of the key manifesto pledges of the new Government that are likely to have an impact in the coming months.

Zero Hours Contracts
The Conservatives intend to prohibit exclusivity in zero hour’s contracts, that is where an employee working under a zero hour’s contract (which provides for no certainty of work) for one organisation is excluded from working for another organisation at the same time. The Government has expressed an intention to achieve this by introducing section 153 of the Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Act 2015 which will make exclusivity clauses in zero hours contracts unenforceable.

Prior to the general election Labour and the Liberal Democrats had, for their parts, intended to introduce different measures to protect those on a zero hour’s contract.

Whether a ban on exclusivity will have any real impact on levelling a perceived unlevel playing field and creating a fairer deal for zero hours employees will, it seems, come out in the wash.

National Minimum Wage (NMW)
The Conservative Party has pledged to raise the NMW to £6.70p/hr by autumn 2015 (in comparison to the current rate of £6.31p/hr) and to incrementally achieve an increase to £8.00p/hr by 2020. That would represent a 26% rise on current levels over 5 years.

The impact of these changes (to the NMW) on the tax-free personal allowance are also notable, such that by 2020 anyone earning less than £12,500 will not pay income tax and at that point in time, the Conservatives have pledged to pass new Law so that the Personal Allowance will thereafter automatically rise in line with NMW.

The Conservatives have set out a clear aim to halve the disability employment gap with the admirable, if somewhat bold, intention of ”transforming policy, practice and public attitudes to get disabled people into employment”. Of course, it is not yet clear how they propose to do this!

The Conservative Party also aims to promote full gender equality and a major step on this road is to require companies with more than 250 employees to publish the difference between the average pay of their male and female employees…could this herald the beginning of the end of equal pay claims?

As part of the Conservative Party’s vision of “building the big society,” in April 2015, David Cameron also announced the introduction of three days paid volunteering leave (or to act as a School Governor) each year for all public sector employees and those in the private sector working for employers with at least 250 employees. This entitlement will be in addition to the existing 28 days paid leave under the Working Time Regulations and is expected to apply to an estimated ten million people in the private sector and five million in the public sector. It has been implied that many large organisations already make similar provision voluntarily but we haven’t seen any evidence to support that claim. Many, who find the sentiment admirable, question how it will be funded or how already creaking public services will cope.
In the private sector, we can see more administration for employers seeking to ascertain whether a particular type of volunteering is provided for or seeking evidence of genuine involvement.

Family Friendly Rights
Having implemented the incredibly complicated Shared Parental Leave Regulations 2014 and various other related changes during its last throws of coalition, the new Government has for now at least fallen silent on further changes to family friendly rights. We suspect that this is just a lull and further enhancements to existing rights can surely be expected during the course of this Government’s tenure.

However, of a related nature, changes to the taxation regime for families continue to form a key part of the Conservatives pledges, star amongst them being to increase the entitlement to free childcare from 15 to 30 hours per week for 3 – 4 years olds with working parents from 2016. Not strictly employment-law, but great news for those with little ones, so well worth a mention!

All in all, there seems to be plenty of change on the agenda, although much of it has yet to be fully fleshed out and costed.

Let’s hope that whatever further developments we see, they include clarity on the issue of holiday pay, which still hangs over the head of many an employer.

Keeping watching this space for updates as changes occur…

This overview of the impending changes for employers has been created by Brethertons’ Employment Team. The Team is here to help you make the most of your people and your business. For more information on the services the Team offers, visit the Employment area of the website.

A link to the conservative manifesto is here