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    The Liberal Democrats manifesto…

    PLEASE NOTE: Information in this article is correct at the time of publication, please contact DFA Law for current advice on older articles.

    Liberal Democrats

    Employment Law

    According to their published manifesto, the Liberal Democrats would:

    • Replace the apprenticeship levy with a broader and more flexible skills and training levy.
    • Boost the take-up of apprenticeships, including by guaranteeing they are paid at least the national minimum wage by scrapping the lower apprentice rate.
    • Introduce a legally binding regulatory framework for all forms of biometric surveillance and immediately halt the use of live facial recognition surveillance by the police and private companies (since this is most likely to wrongly identify black people and women).
    • Caring would be made a protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010 and employers would be required to make reasonable adjustments to enable employees with caring responsibilities to provide that care.
    • The Liberal Democrats would introduce paid carer’s leave and a statutory guarantee of regular respite breaks.
    • Careers in social care would be made more attractive, and experienced staff retained, through creation of:
    • Clear career pathways, linked to recommended pay scales, to bring an end to skills in the sector being undervalued;
    • A career ladder to allow flexibility to work across the NHS and social care, allowing staff to gain experience in both; and
    • A social care workforce plan and establishment of a Royal College of Care Workers to improve recognition and career progression.
    • Give staff in listed companies with more than 250 employees a right to request shares, to be held in trust for the benefit of employees.
    • Establish a new “dependent contractor” employment status, in between employment and self-employment, with entitlements to basic rights (for example, minimum earnings levels, sick pay and holiday entitlement).
    • Shift the burden of proof in employment tribunals regarding employment status from the individual to the employer.
    • They would also give “everyone” a new right to flexible working, and every disabled person the right to work from home should they wish to do so, unless there were “significant business reasons” why that was not possible.
    • Zero-hours and agency workers would be given the right, after 12 months, to request a fixed-hours contract which an employer could not unreasonably refuse.
    • The requirement for medical reports would be removed from the gender recognition process and non-binary identities would be recognised in law.
    • Improve workplace diversity by:
    • requiring large employers to monitor and publish data on gender, ethnicity, disability, and LGBT+ employment levels, pay gaps and progression, and publish five-year aspirational diversity targets;
    • extending the use of name-blind recruitment processes in the public sector and encouraging their use in the private sector; and
    • providing additional support and advice to employers on neurodiversity in the workplace (as well as developing a cross-government strategy to tackle all aspects of discrimination faced by neurodiverse children and adults).
    • Make it easier for disabled people to access public life, including the world of work, by measures including:
    • tackling the disability employment gap by implementing a targeted strategy to support disabled people into work, with specialist disability employment support;
    • raising employers’ awareness of the Access to Work scheme and simplifying and speeding up the application process; and
    • introducing “Adjustment Passports” to record the adjustments, modifications and equipment a disabled person has received, and ensuring that Access to Work support and equipment stays with them if they change jobs.
    • Introduce paid neonatal care leave.
    • Make all parental pay and leave day-one rights, including for adoptive parents and kinship carers, and extend them to self-employed parents.
    • Increase statutory maternity pay and shared parental pay to £350 a week.
    • Increase pay for paternity leave to 90% of earnings, with a cap for high earners.
    • Introduce an extra “use-it-or-lose-it” month for fathers and partners, paid at 90% of earnings, with a cap for high earners.
    • In the longer term, when the public finances allow, the party’s ambition is to give all families (including self-employed parents, adoptive parents and kinship carers):
    • Six weeks of “use-it-or-lose-it leave” for each parent, paid at 90% of earnings.
    • 46 weeks of parental leave to share between themselves as they choose, paid at double the current statutory rate.
    • Statutory sick pay would be made available to the more than one million workers earning less than £123 a week, most of whom are women.
    • The rate of SSP would be aligned with the national minimum wage.
    • SSP would be paid from the first day of missing work rather than the fourth.
    • Establish an independent review to recommend a genuine living wage across all sectors, with government departments and all other public sector employers taking a leading role in paying it. In addition, they would:
    • Review the tax and National Insurance status of employees, dependent contractors and freelancers to ensure fair and comparable treatment.
    • Set a 20% higher minimum wage for people on zero-hour contracts at times of normal demand to compensate them for the uncertainty of fluctuating hours of work.
    • Review rules concerning pensions so that those in the gig economy did not lose out, and portability between roles was protected.
    • Potentially introduce a carer’s minimum wage at £2 above the national minimum wage, and create a Royal College of Care Workers, comparable to the Royal Colleges of Nursing and Midwives.

    Business immigration

    Powers over work visas, overseas students and asylum would be transferred from the Home Office to other departments, and a new, arms-length unit would be established to process applications quickly and correctly.

    The Liberal Democrats are also proposing to:

    • Replace salary thresholds for sponsored worker visas with a more flexible merit-based system for work visas, with the relevant department working with employers in each sector to address specific needs as part of a long-term workforce strategy that also focuses on education and training to address skills gaps from within the UK.
    • Introduce an exemption from the Immigration Skills charge for Health and Care visas and reverse the ban on certain health and care workers’ dependants being eligible for dependant visas in the UK.
    • Reverse the increased income thresholds for family visas introduced in April 2024.
    • Automatically grant full Settled Status to all those with Pre-Settled Status under the EU Settlement Scheme and provide them with physical proof of their right to stay.
    • Overhaul the Immigration Rules to make them simpler, clearer and fairer, and ensure greater parliamentary scrutiny of future changes.

    Michael Nadin is a partner and employment law specialist at DFA Law.  If you have any questions about the information set out above, or employment law in general, please contact Michael on 01604 609 566 or by email here

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