What will a new Prime Minister mean for HR?

Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak are in the home stretch of their campaigns to be the next Prime Minister, following Boris Johnson’s resignation in July 2022. Both candidates have different priorities, agendas and proposals for what they will do if they are elected. The HR and employment law landscape will, therefore, be very different depending on who takes the top seat. The results of the Tory leadership contest will be announced on Monday 5 September 2022. In the meantime, it’s useful to prepare for what changes might be seen in the coming weeks and months.

Liz Truss plans to introduce legislation which requires minimum staffing levels for strike action during her first 30 days. The threshold will be set individually for each industry, including for transport, education, healthcare, postal workers and energy. As strikes continue to impact daily activities, reforming the industrial action process will help ensure business operations don’t suffer. Whilst this will be a welcomed change for employers, it’s likely there will be significant push back from trade unions, which organisations may need to manage.

Truss also wants to remove standalone diversity and inclusion (D&I) jobs in the Civil Service and reduce their holiday entitlement from 27 days to 25 days per year (plus bank holidays). There have been conflicting views over the efficacy of D&I roles, with critics arguing that it should be the responsibility of all line managers to ensure the workplace is diverse, equal and inclusive for all. Supporters believe standalone positions helps to drive D&I strategies and ensures it remains a priority within organisation, so doesn’t get forgotten about when day-day duties take over managers working time.

She further proposes to remove the National Insurance increase that was put in place this year to fund health and social care. This deduction has to be listed separately on payslips so, if removed, could impact HR and payroll teams.

Rishi Sunak’s proposals include scrapping the current Apprenticeship Levy and instead creating new incentives for business to invest in training and upskilling. Many have criticised the Levy with it being viewed as a tax that must be paid rather than an initiative to support unexperienced and unskilled workers. Opening up the scope of it to be a wider training levy would likely see more people utilise it and gain benefit from it.

Sunak also plans to publish a “manifesto for women’s rights.” It’s unclear exactly what will be included within this. However, Parliament has recently introduced a number of initiatives to better support women in the workplace, including through the work done by the Women and Equalities Committee and creation of the UK Menopause Taskforce. Employers should recognise that this remains a focus of government, so follow their guidance and introduce measures to effectively support women in the workplace.

Finally, he wants to fine NHS patients for each second or subsequent appointment they miss. As such, if an employer cancelled or refused an employee’s time off to attend a medical appointment, they might be liable for paying this fee.

It will be interesting to see the result on 5 September and the policies which are introduced by the next Prime Minister in the following months. For now, employers should keep an eye on their proposals and prepare to implement changes.

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