There are three things I’ve learned never to discuss with people: religion, politics and the Great Pumpkin.

The quote is from Charlie Brown and The Great Pumpkin is – of course – a fictional holiday figure in the Peanuts cartoon by Charles Shultz. So we’re left with religion and politics – and presumably if you should never discuss them, you shouldn’t write a blog post about them either.

But this is my last post before what’s easily the most difficult-to-predict General Election of my lifetime.

Conservative majority? Conservative minority? Labour minority? Nicola Sturgeon flying south to make certain that the tail is wagging the dog…

When the dust has settled – and the opinion polls seem to suggest that it won’t settle for a few days after May 7th – I suspect that we’re going to see a minority government, supported by one or more of the other parties on a ‘confidence and supply’ basis, or (even more precariously) with every single bill subject to bargaining and horse-trading. I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see another election this year, or in early 2016. Britain’s last minority government – Ramsay Macdonald’s first Labour administration – only lasted from January to November of 1924.

So what does it all mean for you – and how might changes introduced by a new Government impact upon employment law and your business?

Let me nail my colours to the mast here. Castle Employment & HR is a good barometer of the economy – and right now we’re busy. The economy is undoubtedly recovering and it is far too easy to forget what a shambles the country and the economy was in 2010. I’m at one with this quote from perfume entrepreneur Jo Malone in the Telegraph:

The world is looking at us as a really strong economy again. It’s working, and people’s lives are coming back together and jobs are being created. Why would we jeopardise that?

I’ve never put my head above the parapet in politics but I feel so passionately and so strongly this time that I do have to say something. And this is my voice: I’m not representing anyone but myself and my business.

With 10 days to go and from what I’ve seen my vote is going to David Cameron – and I’m going to support them and I’m going to speak out because I believe this economy is on a very secure footing.

But while most people expect the Conservatives to be the largest party, the odds on Ed Miliband being the next Prime Minister are shortening all the time. So what might we expect from a Labour administration – and more pertinently, what might you need to prepare for? Perhaps the best guide is not the manifesto, but the proposals and pledges at the 2014 Labour party conference. All the pre-election talk has centred on zero hours contracts – but this may not be what causes employers the most headaches if we do end up with a Labour Government…

Social Background Monitoring

At the conference Shadow Minister for Women and Equalities, Gloria de Piero, expressed outrage that only 25 out of 650 new civil servants were from ‘working class backgrounds.’ She stated that a Labour Government would ‘take action’ to require public sector employers to monitor and publish the social background of their workforce. This could also be extended to private sector companies bidding for public sector contracts. More red tape? Most certainly. And quite how you define a ‘working class background’ is anyone’s guess…

Equal Pay

Ms de Piero also promised legislation requiring companies with more than 250 employees to publish the average pay of men and women at each pay grade. The reasoning behind the move is obvious: the worry for employers is that 250 becomes 100 becomes 50…

Minimum Wage

Ed Balls announced plans to increase the National Minimum Wage to £8 an hour by 2020. Allowing for modest inflation that represents a significant increase on the current minimum wage – but it is still below the ‘living wage’ that many in the Labour party favour and which left wing coalition partners would be likely to support.

There’s no evidence that £8 an hour is the highest the NMW could be without costing jobs, and the CBI has already criticised the move. Employers are certainly going to be unwilling to recruit with the uncertainty that the passage of any particular bill through parliament could become a hostage to a sudden hike in the NMW – especially if a couple of far-left MPs find that their votes have become pivotal.

Employment Tribunal Fees

Labour has so far been vague on its plans for employment tribunals, with the dashingly handsome – at least in his own opinion – Chuka Umunna stating that the system would be reformed ‘so that affordability is not a barrier to justice.’ Some have suggested that fees could be higher for the rich; others that fees will be scrapped completely – which would see employers spending most of their time in ETs. The devil will undoubtedly be in the detail but your crystal ball doesn’t need to be at full strength to see many employers becoming mired in ET proceedings.

Rights for the self-employed

Finally we come on to Ed Miliband’s speech, where he said that Labour would fight for equal rights and ‘end modern discrimination’ against the 5m people who are self-employed. Miliband seems to believe that people are forced to become self-employed as a last resort, whereas in my experience exactly the opposite is true. But radical plans to extend the rights of employees to all workers regardless of employment status could have far-reaching implications for how employers structure their workforce.

All this is before we go anywhere near the pledge to abolish zero hours contracts (oddly, Labour controlled Lancashire County Council has just advertised nine posts on zero-hours contracts…)

A Labour government – presumably propped up by the SNP – seems certain to land employers with a raft (or quite possibly several rafts) of new legislation to deal with:  and I suspect that many of the measures would come into force very quickly.

The one thing I can say with certainty is that all employers will need to make sure that their employment policies and contracts are watertight before there are any changes in legislation. None of us wants to waste time on disputes or to appear in front of an employment tribunal – but if it comes to that, at least make sure that you are defending from a position of strength. Nicky and the team in Castle HR are always ready to help – and if the swingometer moves the wrong way on May 7th she may well be cancelling her holidays on May 8th

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