It’s that party political time of conference season when politicians offer comments on how they would see laws developing if they won the next election. Between the political rhetoric of Ed Miliband’s speech there were strong hints, which we understand are called “policy flavours” (i.e. the big picture and not the detail) of changes Labour would make that could impact on employers.
The first goal relates to an increase in the National Minimum Wage (NMW) to £8 per hour by 2020. Such a rise is modest as the average annual increase in NMW since 2010 has been 3% and even the usual rises would make NMW at about £8 by 2021. If the increase were to happen earlier in a Labour Government this change could be significant and put the NMW on a par with the living wage.
What is also key is that it suggests the work of the Low Pay Commission who set the NMW rate to take into account factors such as job protection will now be subject to political interference.
Suddenly whichever way the election “Swingometer” goes this indicates that political influences may have a stronger impact on NMW rates than has historically been the case.
The second goal relates to what Miliband calls “good jobs” (undefined) and the expansion of rights to those who are not employees. Although no detail has been provided on what “equal rights for the self employed” might mean in practice, we note that Section 23 of the Employment Relations Act 1999 could be used to extend employment type protections to self employed workers without new primary legislation. How this would work could be very troubling; unfair dismissal rights given to the self employed? The expansion of pension contribution obligations to individuals outside of current arrangements? Equal treatment of workers and employees when it comes to benefits?
Miliband’s third goal relates to apprenticeships. Making the use of apprenticeships for those seeking to do business with the public sector compulsory, compelling organisations who take workers from outside the EU to use apprenticeships for those roles in the UK and regulating the content and quality of those apprenticeship arrangements. This would have many organisations having to come to terms with the requirements of regulation of apprentices for the first time, at the same time as those regulations and standards change.
We expect more details on these employment-law goals to be provided in due course.