Just a few weeks after the General Election, the Government has already introduced the planned ban on exclusivity clauses in zero-hour contracts.(ZHCs) These are the clauses which prevent staff working elsewhere, without guaranteeing them any minimum hours or pay. As such, it was accepted by all the main political parties that such clauses are at the abusive end of the ZHC spectrum, and should be outlawed. Related anti-avoidance proposals, including the possibility of setting minimum pay requirements in such contracts, are still under review.
The Government has also announced proposals to increase the voting thresholds for lawful industrial action, but the detail has yet to be debated.
The new Business Minister, Sajid Javid, has also promised to cut through more bureaucratic red tape, and we’ll watch this space with interest over the next few months. Certainly this Government is likely to be even more pro-employer than the coalition government, with the possibility that existing employment rights will be watered down in the coming months.
That said, they have dropped one particularly controversial proposal, which the Lib-Dems had previously blocked, of compensated “no-fault” dismissals. This was an idea put forward by Alan Beecroft, under which an employer would be able to pay set compensation and dismiss without any good reason.
Finally, we have yet to see how the ongoing Unison judicial review application, in relation to the Employment Tribunal fees regime plays out. That is going to the Court of Appeal shortly, which will doubtless be looking closely at the access to justice issues around the overall reduction in claims, which has been about 70% since fees were introduced. In particular, they are likely to be concerned about the 82% drop in sex discrimination claims, a large proportion of which are thought to relate to maternity rights. Doubtless the Government will not want to cut back on the ET fees regime unless forced to do so, but these statistics may lead it to address, what at first sight, appears to be provisions which have had a disproportionate impact on female workers.