General election 2017

Tory party pledges ‘greatest expansion’ of workers’ rights

By Georgina Townshend, Claire Churchard

- Last updated on GMT

'Greatest expansion': Theresa May will unveil 11 pledges as part of the Conservative manifesto
'Greatest expansion': Theresa May will unveil 11 pledges as part of the Conservative manifesto

Related tags National living wage Minimum wage Employment

The Conservative Government has pledged to initiate “the greatest expansion of workers’ rights” by any Tory leadership in history if the party wins next month’s general election, affecting pub employers large and small.

Prime Minister Theresa May will unveil 11 pledges to enhance workers’ rights today (Monday 15 May) as part of the Conservative manifesto. 

These will include new rights for self-employed and temporary employees who are part of the “gig economy”, which refers to insecure jobs with short-term contracts or freelance work, as opposed to permanent jobs, affecting pubs who employ causal or temporary staff.

Under the plans, May will abandon Conservative pledges to increase the national living wage to £9 per hour by 2020, and will instead promise to increase minimum wages by median earnings in every year of the next parliament.

Research out today from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development shows that wages will continue to be squeezed this year, suggesting that the minimum pay increases are likely to be lower than the living wage would have been.

Workers’ rights pledges

Other pledges in the manifesto, which has not been released yet, will include a statutory right for employees to take a year’s unpaid leave to care for a relative.

The move, announced by May as a result of rising social care concerns, will mean that employees’ jobs are guaranteed for the year they take out unpaid to care for their loved ones.

Conservatives will also promise to keep all workers’ rights currently guaranteed by EU law if the party stays in power.

And the manifesto will include the right to statutory leave for parents whose child has died, a statutory right to training, and measures to protect workers’ pensions.

Harder to cope

In response Mike Cherry, national chairman at the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), said: "Small firms consistently say they find employment regulations the toughest to deal with.

“Simply adding a new set of statutory employment regulations is not enough; they must be backed up with proper support for smaller businesses.

“Small firms with only two or three employees, for example, would find it harder to cope."

Brigid Simmonds, chief executive of the British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA), said: “Employees and skills are hugely important to the brewing and pub sector and their welfare and work life balance is important to employers too.” 

However, she added: “We need to be mindful of the increased costs the industry is facing, from business rates, the apprenticeship levy, beer duty and rising inflation. These will all have an impact on small businesses like pubs and their ability to survive a consumer downturn as customers have less money to spend. Something else needs to give, if we are to face greater costs of employment in the future.”

Simmonds said the BBPA would engage with the new Government to highlight the importance of retaining rights for existing overseas workers when the UK leaves the EU. She also said that any future immigration system must support the staffing levels needed in the pub sector. “I would certainly welcome a proposal to guarantee existing employment rights currently guaranteed under EU law,” she added.  

Welcome stability

ALMR CEO Kate Nicholls said steps to protect and provide opportunities for workers and provide clarity for employers will provide "welcome stability" as businesses plan their investment over the next five years.

“It is essential that any increases to the rate of national living wage and national minimum wage reflect changes in average earnings and that policy in this area is evidence based," she said.

“We want to reward our employees and ensure that hardworking and valuable staff members get paid properly, but that can only be sustainable if employers given an opportunity to plan their growth and investment".

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