As we move towards the General Election, The main parties are making their manifestos available and so far the Conservatives, Labour and Liberal Democrats have published theirs. There is surprising consensus about the main themes to be tackled, but of course difference in approach and tone. So what are they saying about the world of work?
There’s been a lot of reference to executive pay ratios and both the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats commit to pay ratios across the board. The Conservatives state that listed companies will be required to publish pay ratios between executives and broader UK workforce pay, the Liberal Democrats point to “larger” companies having to publish the ratios between “top” and median pay.
In addition, they both also refer to binding shareholder votes on remuneration policies and executive pay.
Labour also mention pay ratios, specifically a limit of 20:1 in the public sector and for those companies bidding for public sector contracts, but perhaps surprisingly don’t reference the broader business community. There is no mention of any constraints on executive pay but instead to their “excessive pay levy” which would be paid by companies for employees earning over £330,000.
At the other end of the remuneration spectrum, all three main parties make reference to minimum wage rates – however, the content is particularly confused by the loose use of language, exceptions and omissions.
Labour commitment to increasing the “Minimum Wage” to the level of the “Living Wage” for all employees aged 18 or over.
The Conservatives plan to increase the “National Living Wage” to 60% of median earnings by 2020.
And then the Liberal Democrats commit to an independent review to set a “genuine Living Wage”.
No much clarity there then!
This is perhaps the most interesting area of discussion, with more inches dedicated to this than I can remember in any previous election.
Labour approaches this through involvement of the trade unions, with a promise to repeal the Trade Union Act, a commitment to sectoral collective bargaining and guaranteeing Trade Union rights to access all workplaces.
The Liberal Democrats refer to employee representation on remuneration committees, the “right for employees of a listed company to be represented on the board” and to “permit a German-style two-tier board structure to include employees” but they’re not quite clear on whether this is an obligation, or an encouragement.
Finally, the Conservatives will make companies either nominate a board director from the workplace, create an employee advisory council or assign specific employee responsibilities to a designated non-executive director.
Both Labour and the Liberal Democrats commit to the abolishment of tribunal fees, the Liberal Democrats also committing to merge those “enforcement agencies” that oversee employment rights.
Zero hours contracts come in for a lot of attention. Labour promise an outright “ban” whereas the Lib Dems refer to preventing the abuse and a formal right to request a fixed contract. The Conservatives make broader reference to protecting the interests of those in the “gig economy”. The Lib Dems and Conservatives also point to the forthcoming Taylor Report as a means of change.
Labour make a high profile commitment to an additional four statutory bank holidays (picked up by a lot of the national press) and a less high profile, but no less interesting pledge to ban unpaid internships.
The Conservatives make reference to a new right for employees to request information on the future direction of their company albeit, “subject to sensible safeguards”.
The Liberal Democrats present a right for employees in listed companies with over 250 employees to “request” shares in the business. They also float the idea of a kite mark for “good employers” that covers areas such as paying a living wage, using name blind recruitment and removing unpaid internships.
Overall, my sense is that we can expect to see pay ratios being widely implemented in reporting in the same way that we are seeing with the gender pay gap and increasing focus on excessive executive pay.
The output from the Taylor Report looks more and more likely to be a turning point in terms of formal consideration of changes to working practices as a result of the “gig economy”. From recent press coverage, we can hope that the recommendations will be thoughtful and considered.
And finally, the debate about employee participation and voice is going to be fascinating. How do employees get a voice at the top tables of organisations, how do we formally enshrine employees as a meaningful stakeholder and how do we ensure more transparency?
I’ve tried to remain as neutral and factual as possible, you’ll have your views as I will have mine. If inadvertently I’ve mis-portrayed a perspective, then it is entirely unintended.
I appreciate that there are other parties that will play a role in the election that aren’t included. I’ve used the information available at the point of publication.
If there are inaccuracies or omissions, please let me know and I will edit and amend as appropriate.