Along with guaranteeing all protections which are currently granted by EU law, May revealed measures to include new rights for those who leave work to care for family members, a commitment to continue increasing the National Living Wage and new protections for gig economy workers.
The PM also said the party’s wider reforms to corporate governance would include representation for workers on company boards. The measures include ensuring listed companies either create stakeholder advisory panels, designate an existing non-executive director as employee representative or directly appoint a worker representative to the board.
May’s climbdown from an initial promise last year to tackle “runaway” corporate salaries by offering workers’ representation on boards was welcomed by the Institute of Directors (IoD).
Edwin Morgan, deputy director of policy at the IoD, said the plan to give companies options on how to increase the voice of employees is a “very laudable aim”, but the group added: “While it might be right for one business to have an elected worker representative, that might not work for every firm.”
May’s plan also promises to give workers the statutory right to request leave for training purposes as well as to care for family members.
Businesses are worried about the prospect of costly or bureaucratic new obligations from the government, no matter how well-intentioned, said Dr Adam Marshall, director general of the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC). The BCC said it will be watching closely as more details emerge on the proposals.
Mike Cherry, national chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses, said small firms in particular would be hit by the new regulations.
Cherry said: “Simply adding a new set of statutory employment regulations is not enough; they must be backed up with proper support for smaller businesses. Small firms with only two or three employees, for example, would find it harder to cope.”
May said the plans are the greatest expansion in workers’ rights by any Conservative government in history. “There is only one leader at this election who will put rights and opportunities for ordinary working families first,” she said while visiting a training facility in the south of England.
The proposals address a number of important issues, but the specifics will matter the most in reassuring firms, said Josh Hardie, deputy director general of the Confederation of British Industry. “Implementation must be proportionate and practical," Hardie said.