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Hung Parliament – What Does This Mean For Brexit & Our Employment Rights?

employment-lawyer-in-brighton

Theresa May’s attempt to gain a hard Brexit mandate backfired in last week’s election resulting in the Conservatives losing their majority and having to try to forge an alliance with the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP).

An alliance with the DUP raises huge concerns about what deal they might hope to strike given their stance on equality issues. Their track record on issues such as LGBT rights, gay marriage and abortion are already being raised by Conservative party members. Ruth Davidson, the openly gay leader of the Scottish Conservatives, sought personal assurances from Ms May that the Tories’ commitment to gay rights would not be influenced by its dependence on the DUP.

Meanwhile, Labour achieved their greatest increase in the share of the vote since 1945 under Clement Attlee, after a campaign by Jeremy Corbyn that is felt across all parties to have exceeded expectations. Many of his policies were reminiscent of Attlee’s aims to create a more equal society and he successfully harnessed the aspirations of younger voters.

The Labour Party’s policies includes action to secure an equal society by ensuring that the  human rights of all citizens are respected and all are protected from discrimination and prejudice. This covers tackling violence against women and girls, racism and discrimination on the basis of faith, and securing equality for LGBT and disabled people.

Labour’s manifesto also stated their intention to defend the Human Rights Act and guarantee full rights for EU citizens living and working in Britain – and to prevent these issues being used as pawns in Brexit negotiations.

There is concern as to what sort of deal Theresa May will have to strike to stay in power. There is a clear conflict between the parties’ interests in what should be sought from Brexit deal, given Irish dependence on Europe and a “soft” internal border. This is clearly at odds with a “hard” Brexit that demands an end to freedom of movement.

In contrast, Jeremy Corbyn pledged to bring in economic policies ensuring full employment for all throughout the UK and securing the rights of EU workers.

There is no doubt that his policies were extremely attractive to the young, many of whom registered to vote for the first time. They are rightly concerned about rising tuition fees and less rights in the workplace than ever before.

We must remember that this government did more to weaken employees’ bargaining power than any other government.

Since the Tories came to power in 2010, after forming a coalition government with the Liberal Democrats, we have seen a huge erosion in workers’ rights. These include:

  • Increasing the length of service required for a worker to be able to bring an unfair dismissal claim from one to two years
  • The introduction of Tribunal Fees in order to bring claims
  • A cap on compensation of one year’s gross salary
  • The rise in unpaid internships and zero hour contracts

Our employment law team have seen first-hand how these policies have negatively impacted on our clients. We have seen a dramatic increase in discrimination claims, particularly pregnancy and maternity discrimination, but this has been accompanied by a drastic 65% drop in Employment Tribunal claims due to the introduction of Tribunal fees.

The fact that a much larger electorate came out to vote, many of whom embraced a manifesto that promotes equality in the workplace and society as a whole is to be welcomed.

Having in the pre-election received feedback from a Daily Mail reader that I was an “arrogant, liberal, gay-loving Brightonite” (interview ITV Meridian News) as I opposed Brexit, these election results signal that people do want a fairer society. A hung parliament means that the government will have no choice but to consult on the terms on which we Brexit or even if we Brexit at all.

About the author

Fiona Martin

fiona-martin

I lead the employment teams in our solicitors’ offices in Brighton, Eastbourne, Shoreham, Gatwick & Crawley and Croydon. As founding Director, I am also responsible for the firm’s marketing. I provide expert opinion for the press, disseminate employment law round-ups through my employment law blog and campaign on important issues such as maternity and disability discrimination. I train employers and HR professionals to be best practice managers and I am also a CEDR accredited mediator.

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