The election was initially called to provide the Conservatives with a greater majority to ensure their mandate for negotiating Brexit was strong. The voting results have created a hung Parliament where the Conservatives are the biggest party but have no overall majority.
Each parties manifesto, produced in advance of the vote, contained details of how their prospective government would amend, adapt or strengthen employee rights and employment law. So, what does a hung Parliament mean for employment law?
One of the most concerning aspects of the election for employers is likely to be what the result means for the UK leaving the EU. Some experts are saying that it is now likely a “softer” Brexit will be carried out as the Conservatives campaigned on the basis of a “hard Brexit” and the public did not provide them with the support to carry this out.
With some Conservatives against leaving the single market, and the EU planning to commence negotiations within the coming weeks, it will be for the Conservatives to outline a plan which is capable of being approved by the newly formed House of Commons. There are calls from some, including the Federation of Small Businesses, that talks should be delayed or postponed until the government’s position is certain. Theresa May has announced she will continue with Brexit on the current timeline.
The Great Repeal Bill
The Conservatives pledged the introduction of The Great Repeal Bill which would take all current EU laws regarding worker rights and enshrine those in domestic law where possible, meaning most EU worker rights would still be in existence the day before and the day after Brexit.
In contrast, Labour pledged to create an EU Rights and Protections Bill which guaranteed all existing protections under EU law.
Although the parties have similar intentions, the form of this legislation may be one of the first concessions required from a weakened Conservative government.
Worker rights and the gig economy
The Matthew Taylor report into modern employment practices is still expected to publish its findings shortly with this likely to focus on issues such as employment status tests, gig economy workers and whether the requirement to provide an employment contract should be extended. The Conservative manifesto was silent on zero hours contracts, unlike the other parties’, however it is expected that Taylor will recommend introducing a right to request fixed hours for those on zero hours contracts.
Legislating to ensure the interests of workers are further protected and enhanced, especially for those in insecure work, is likely to be a successful pledge from the Conservatives as there is general support for improving these areas of employment law.
The Conservatives also campaigned on further changes including:
• Introducing a statutory right to time off work for carers and creating a period of child bereavement leave;
• Requiring listed companies to improve employee representation at board level;
• Providing discrimination protection for short-term mental health conditions;
• Increasing National Living Wage to 60% of median earnings by 2020.
With the Queen’s Speech and the opening of Parliament set to take place within the next few weeks, employers are likely to be avidly watching the State Opening to determine which of these manifesto pledges are outlined in the proposed legislative agenda for the next Parliament and which have been dropped.