As Britain heads to the polling booths, DTM Legal’s Rachel Logan reflects on the effects your vote may have.
I suspect that I am not alone in my sigh of relief that the 2015 election campaign is almost over. But before you put politics aside for another five years, here is a brief overview on how your ballot box vote could impact on our business sectors.
Employment and HR
The UK employment rate currently stands at seventy-three percent which marks the highest number of people in work since the Office of National Statistics began recording data. It is not surprising then, to find that across the political spectrum, employment is at the forefront of party manifestos.
So what does this mean for employers and workers alike?
The statistics mask a complex picture of a workforce with increasing use of part time workers and zero hour contracts. The latter is under scrutiny with all parties promising to eradicate exclusivity provisions in contracts which currently limit zero hour workers to one job. The Labour Party and SNP propose to tackle low pay by raising the national minimum wage to more than £8 per hour which will bring it closer to average earnings.
One area which has seen a significant change is childcare arrangements with the recent introduction of a system of shared parental leave. It is recognised that costs of childcare can often outweigh the benefit of working and so it is welcome news that both the Labour Party and Conservatives promise to increase the entitlement to free child care from 15 hours per week to 25 hours and 30 hours respectively.
For the Conservatives, building the ‘Big Society’ is a priority and with this in mind they propose to make volunteering for three days per year a work force entitlement for those in the public sector and large organisations.
Since the introduction of Employment Tribunal fees there has been a seventy percent reduction in employment claims. Consequently, the Labour Party, the Liberal Democrats and Green Party all promise to promote greater access to justice and reform of the system. It’s said that a happy workforce is a productive workforce so it’s no shock to find that across the board, politicians hope to win your vote with progressive and positive employment policies.
Property and Infrastructure
With a population growing at a faster rate than houses are being built, it’s also no surprise to find that housing is a high priority for voters, particularly in the South East. So what can we expect from the political parties on this issue?
As first time buyers struggle to get a footing on the property ladder, Britain’s rental market is booming with more people renting privately than ever before. Some landlords may be concerned by Labour’s proposal to reform tenancies through banning above inflation rent rises and making three year tenancies standard. Landlords will also be obliged to notify prospective tenants how much previous occupants were charged. This policy is supported by the Green Party which also calls for a cap on rents.
It may be good news for the construction sector with all parties pledging to build many more homes. The Conservatives in particular promise to build 200,000 new homes for first time buyers.
One of the few areas where the main players offer very different proposals is infrastructure. The Conservatives, Labour and Liberal Democrats all promise to keep plans for HS2 high speed rail network, whilst UKIP and the Green Party would scrap them.
Unsurprisingly, the Green Party would also cancel the government’s plans to extend road building and whilst the Labour Party is not against it, they would delay the program to pay for a rail fare freeze.
There is the potential for construction opportunities in Wales with Plaid Cymru promising to introduce their ‘Build 4 Wales’ programme to borrow funding for Welsh infrastructure projects and create a centre that specialises in major infrastructure project management.
When it comes to renewable energy both the Conservatives and UKIP are against on-shore wind farms whilst the remaining parties are in support. Whichever party wins, the need to reduce carbon omissions and investment in renewable energy is likely to remain, which could present opportunities for all working in this sector.
Corporate and Commercial
It is safe to say that all of the political parties are promising to invest in small and medium enterprises to foster economic growth.
The Conservative Party pledges to cut corporation tax to twenty percent, down one percent on the current rate, for businesses making profit in excess of £300,000. This policy is supported by both the Green Party and UKIP.
Improving the supply of credit to small businesses and encouraging peer-to-peer lending is a common theme throughout the manifestos and Labour has promised to create a British Investment Bank.
Cash flow is considered the lifeblood of every business and so it is good news that late-payments are under scrutiny. The coalition launched a consultation in November proposing that listed companies publish the average time they take to pay suppliers.
Labour says this does not go far enough and should extend beyond FTSE 350 companies, whilst the SNP call for effective legal protections to ensure that small businesses are paid on time. To further increase cash flow Plaid Cymru promise to increase business rates relief in Wales from which more than 83,000 small and medium enterprises could benefit.
Arguably, one of the biggest potential changes could be to Britain’s position in Europe and the impact this could have on small and medium enterprises and international trade. When it comes to Europe there is a clear division between the parties with UKIP and the Conservatives promising an in-out referendum by 2017. Whatever the outcome, Europe is likely to dominate British politics for some time to come.
It remains to be seen which party will win the battle, but one thing is certain, the decisions that they make during the next parliamentary term will continue to influence the way in which we all do business.