By Andrew Knorpel, Partner and Head of Employment
Just a week ago, I thought that it would be useful to round up the winning political party’s employment law manifesto commitments after the general election. However, no party won the election outright and we now have a minority government. So where does this leave us?
Theresa May had promised not only that Brexit would not result in any bonfire of workers’ rights (many of which have been derived from our membership of the EU), but also the “greatest expansion in workers’ rights by any Conservative government in history”.
So what were some of the ways in which she was planning to build upon existing frameworks in the UK (none of which are required by EU law) –
Extending pay gap reporting (presently gender only) to cover the race pay gap
Redefining the rights of workers, including those in the “gig economy”
Staff representation on the board of public companies (in some form or other)
The right to time off for carers and return to work after one year’s caring for sick relatives
A national living wage increasing with median earnings from 2020 until 2022
Extending discrimination law to cover those suffering from “episodic and fluctuating” mental health conditions (perhaps by deeming them to be automatic disabilities)
Extending health and safety obligations so that employers would have to provide appropriate mental health first aid training and assessment
For those not well-versed in Northern Irish politics, employment and discrimination law are areas of responsibility which have been devolved to the presently collapsed Northern Ireland assembly. If the Conservative party is able to agree and then maintain a strong and stable “confidence and supply” arrangement with the Democratic Unionist Party, we may find that they will use the assistance of the DUP to pass new laws which will not affect Northern Ireland.
However, it is more likely that it will be rather more difficult for the government to bring forward employment legislation and, Brexit aside, we may well be entering a period of little change when it comes to tinkering with employment rights. Moving forward (slowly), it seems as though uncertainty is definitely the new certainty.