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Parliament has voted to allow an early general election to take place on 8th June 2017, three years before the current government’s fixed term was up. The election will be fought on important areas such as Brexit, the economy and social care, but a key issue for any election is what the political parties intend to do with employment law and workers’ rights.
Each party will set out their aims for a future government in their manifestos. These form a “moral contract” between MPs and the voters as a commitment that the party will follow. We have already seen some announcements from the leading parties about how they will tackle employment law in the future. The Brexit White Paper contained a pledge from the Conservative government that they would “protect and enhance” workers’ rights throughout the Brexit plan whilst Jeremy Corbyn recently announced that Labour would increase the minimum wage for all to a minimum of £10 an hour by 2020 to ensure everyone receives the ‘living wage’. Further information on specific amendments, increases or weakening of employment rights is awaited from the parties as they begin their campaign trial.
Employers are currently awaiting the results of a number of reviews, including the government-commissioned Taylor review in to modern employment practices. The Taylor Review, scheduled to report in summer, was looking at issues such as ‘the gig economy’, employment rights for workers and employment status tests. It will be interesting to see how these issues are addressed by the election, for example, will the manifestoes contain a pledge on removing zero hours’ contracts or will it wait until the review’s recommendations are published. Taylor himself has announced that he is seeking clarity on what the early general election means for his review.
General elections inevitably mean that politics becomes increasingly talked about in the workplace. Unfortunately, this is hard for employers to ban completely as this is an issue that employees become personally involved and interested in. Employers should remind staff what can, and can’t, be said in workplace discussions to ensure talking about politics does not end up in claims for bullying and harassment.
Prime Minister Theresa May announced she would be calling the election to guarantee certainty and stability in the future. However, in the short term, businesses are going to be hit by political uncertainty on the basis of the election and, in the coming years, over Brexit.
*Alan Price is Employment Law and HR Director of HR, Employment Law and Health Safety experts Peninsula. Picture credit: Wikipedia.