Manifesto watch: Liberal Democrat proposals for employment law


As the General Election campaign gathers pace, the parties are releasing their formal manifestos this week.  So far the Liberal Democrats have gained more coverage for zany stunts and a moving video about their leader's caring responsibilities than for their policies.   But their manifesto contains some striking proposals for employment law reform, including: 

  • Matching EU regulatory standards on employment law (raising the possibility of legislation echoing EU laws on AI and platform workers).
  •  Promoting employee ownership by giving staff in listed companies with more than 250 employees a right to request shares, to be held in trust for the benefit of employees.
  • Requiring large companies to have a formal statement of corporate purpose, including environmental and social impact.
  • Replacing the Apprenticeship Levy with a skills and training levy, and requiring apprentices to be paid the National Minimum Wage rather than the lower apprenticeship rate.
  • Regulating the gig economy by establishing “dependent contractor” status to give platform workers rights such as sick pay and paid holiday, and shifting the burden of proof in employment tribunal cases regarding employment status from individual to employer.
  • Reforming zero hours contracts by setting a higher minimum wage for zero hour workers and giving zero hours and agency workers a right to request a fixed-hours contract after 12 months, not to be unreasonably refused. 
  • Reforming family friendly rights by:
    • making maternity, paternity, shared parental and adoption leave and pay “day 1” employment rights
    • Increasing SMP and shared parental pay to £350 per week
    • Increasing statutory paternity pay to 90% of earnings, with a cap for high earners, and introducing an extra month of leave for fathers and partners, paid at 90% of earnings, with a cap for high earners.
    • Requiring large employers to publish their parental leave and pay policies.
  • Introducing paid neonatal care leave.
  • Reforming statutory sick pay by:
    • providing that workers earning below the lower earnings limit are eligible for SSP; 
    • Increasing the rate of pay to mirror the National Minimum Wage; and 
    • Making payments available from the first day of absence. 

Although the prospect of a Liberal Democrat government may seem a distant one, their manifesto may indicate some of the campaigning pressure the winning party may be under.  Employers who want to offer enhanced rights to employees may want to consider whether these proposals offer a useful model, particularly in relation to family friendly rights. 

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