Monday 27-04-2015 - 13:25
Want tto keep on track of what’s been said by the political parties about work and what it means for students?
We've analysed the political parties' General Election manifestos to you don't have to. This handy cheat sheet focuses on the policies relating to work, looking at some of the main promises made so far…
Zero hours contracts
All the main parties mention flexible working practices, with specific mention to zero hours contracts. The Conservatives make a commitment to eradicating exclusivity in zero hours contracts, meaning that students' unions and other employers would not be allowed to require workers on such contracts to only work for them. Whilst the Green Party suggest that they will ban all zero hours contracts, both the Liberal Democrats and Labour have a hybrid approach, albeit from different standpoints. Labour have announced that anyone working for 12 weeks or more will have the right to a regular contract. This would have implications for students’ unions as employers, depending on whether they employ staff on temporary, term based contracts or permanent or year-long ones. It also suggests that students can opt out of having a regular contract and maintain a zero hours one if they so wish. The Lib Dems will not end zero hours contracts but will create a formal right to request a fixed contract and will also consult on introducing a right to make regular patterns of work contractual after a period of time. This suggests that they will work to transfer risk from employees to employers however it is uncertain to what extent requests for regular working hours will be enforced or regulated.
Whilst the Conservative manifesto makes no reference to either paid or unpaid internships, they are mentioned within the Labour, Lib Dem and Green manifestos. The Lib Dems will improve enforcement action and clamp down on abuses by employers seeking to avoid paying the minimum wage, which technically should include unpaid internships. However they also mention that they will undertake the above commitment by reviewing such practices as unpaid internships, suggesting that they may subsequently seek to redefine the term internship if the practice of not paying interns is deemed to be exploitative.
Both Labour and the Greens have committed to undertaking the latter; the Greens ensuring no unpaid full-time internship lasts more than four weeks and Labour promising to redefine the role of an intern as a worker, therefore entitled to the national minimum wage, after four weeks. This could technically result in less employers offering meaningful internship roles of four weeks or more in order to avoid paying their interns as workers, however polling by Intern Aware suggests that this would not be the case with 62 per cent of businesses saying it would make no difference to the number of interns they recruit. An important final point to highlight is the fact that no party would change the current law exempting charities from recruiting volunteers. This means that students wanting to pursue a career in the third sector and undertaking internships in charity HQs may technically be doing the role of a worker and entitled to minimum wage, however there will be no four week rule regulating those not paid in the same way as for interns in other sectors.
Want to learn more about how the main manifesto promises relating to work, community and liberation? Download our bumper General Election party manifesto cheat sheet now!