Unlike their rival Parties, the Lib Dems have chosen not to set out exact targets for new national minimum wage (NMW) rates, but instead have confirmed their intention to consult on the creation of a ‘genuine living wage’. They have also announced plans to set a 20 per cent higher minimum wage for zero-hour workers and ensure these individuals are compensated for the uncertainty of fluctuating working time.
Their manifesto confirms plans to establish a new ‘dependent contractor’ employment status in between employment and self-employment, with entitlements to basic rights such as minimum earnings levels, sick pay and holiday entitlement.
There is a commitment to changing the law so that flexible working opportunities are available to all employees from day one as well as making employers advertise jobs accordingly, unless there are significant business reasons not to.
Additional plans to strengthen the rights of gig economy workers include providing the right to request a fixed-hours contract after 12 months’ service, and preventing employers from unreasonably refusing this request. A Lib Dem government will also review the rules around pensions so that those in the gig economy don’t lose out, and that portability between roles is protected.
There will be additional requirements for organisations with 250 or more employees, including giving staff the right to request shares and ensuring large organisations have at least one employee representative on their boards, who is entrusted with the same legal duties and responsibilities as other directors.
To improve the lives of working parents there are plans for free childcare for all children with parents in work up to the age of 4, meanwhile there is an additional pledge to introduce a statutory entitlement to respite breaks for unpaid carers at work.
Fathers could stand to benefit from an addition 4 weeks of paternity leave if the Lib Dems are successful, an increase from the current 2 week entitlement, whilst the Party also promise to make parental leave a day one right and demand that organisations publish their parental leave and pay policies.
Adult training opportunities feature heavily in the Lib Dems manifesto, headlined by plans to introduce a new ‘Skills Wallet’ for every adult in the UK, giving individuals £10,000 to spend on education and training courses throughout their lifetime. In order to ensure theses training opportunities are suitable for the UK economy, a Lib Dem government would intend to work with organisations to identify existing skill gaps.
Additional pledges include plans to expand the apprenticeship levy into a wider ‘Skills and Training Levy’ as well as providing more higher vocational training, such as foundation degrees, Higher National Diplomas, Higher National Certificates and Higher Apprenticeships.
As part of a commitment to ‘foster diversity’ the Party have outlined plans to extend equality law to cover gender identity and expression, as well as to outlaw caste discrimination. Employers with over 250 employees will also be required to publish data on gender, BAME, disability, and LGBT+ employment levels and pay gaps.
In terms of Gender equality, the Lib Dems plan to encourage at least 40 per cent of board members in FTSE 350 organisations to be women, and to assist with this there is a commitment to developing a free comprehensive unconscious bias training toolkit for all organisations to access.
When it comes to immigration, the proposal to revoke Article 50 and stop Brexit will ensure freedom of movement remains, giving organisations continued unfettered access to workers from the EU. As well as this, proposed reforms will see Tier 2 visas replaced with a more flexible merit based system, the creation of a new two-year visa for international students after graduation and the introduction of a ‘Training up Britain’ programme to make the most of migrants’ skills.
In acceptance of the issues facing ex-offenders in the world of employment, the Lib Dem’s manifesto proposes to reform criminal record disclosure rules so that applicants are prevented from having to declare ‘irrelevant, old and minor convictions’, as well as removing questions about criminal convictions from initial application forms for all public-sector jobs.
When it comes to the enforcement of workers’ rights the Lib Dems intend to introduce a new Worker Protection Enforcement Authority to protect those in precarious work. Meanwhile, they intend to shift the burden of proof in employment tribunals regarding employment status from the claimant to the responding organisation.