· News

A hung parliament could have a major impact on UK employment legislation

A hung parliament will impact the UK's industrial action laws and increase EU influence on employment legislation in the UK.

According to Martin Warren, practice group head of Eversheds' human resources group, the make-up of any new coalition government is likely to have an impact on the UK's industrial action laws.

He said: "One of the first tasks of the new government will be to seek to reduce the UK's budget deficit through public-sector spending cuts. If this translates into widespread redundancies, there will undoubtedly be reaction from the unions.

"And if we do see significant industrial action to resist such restructuring, a Conservative government might well seek to tighten the rules on strike ballots. However, such a move is likely to be difficult for any other coalition party to support."

Commenting on EU regulations, Warren added: "Throughout the pre-election campaign the Conservatives were vocal about their intention to reduce the EU's influence on UK employment laws, but the reality is that this is a very difficult aspiration to implement for both legal and political reasons.

"If the hung parliament leads to a Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government, David Cameron's hope of changing the balance of power on employment law is a non-starter.

And Eversheds also predicts an impact on the default retirement age, resulting from a hung parliament.

Owen Warnock, partner at Eversheds, said: "It will be interesting to see how a new coalition government - or indeed a minority Conservative government - will deal with the anticipated employment law reforms around the default retirement age (DRA). Despite the fact that there is cross-party agreement that the current DRA should be abandoned, the detail has not been decided and these issues are likely to bring with them strong reactions from all quarters.

"Currently the DRA enables employers to force staff to retire at 65 and there is much debate about whether this should be raised to 70 or scrapped altogether. The timing of this reform, and whether there should be any phasing-in period, is also hotly debated.

"Most controversial of all is whether removing the current DRA should be accompanied by other legal changes: for example, should workers have a statutory right to ask to work part-time or for an easier job as they get older? Or should unfair dismissal laws be amended to assuage employers' worries about not being able to dismiss employees whose energy or ability is declining through age?

"Unions and employers are likely to lobby any government hard on this issue. How our new government reacts will be strongly affected by which party, or parties, are in power."