Brain Food: Workplace rights - Poll position

The next election may be a mere twinkle in Tony's eye, but machinations over his third-term manifesto are already well under way. In particular, union barons appear to have secured major concessions on employment rights. Plans include boosting protection for staff on strike and giving workers extra paid leave by stopping employers from counting bank holidays towards their statutory four-week entitlement. The Government has also reportedly dropped its opposition to a controversial EU proposal granting temporary agency workers the right to claim the same pay and conditions as their permanent counterparts. Trade and Industry Secretary Patricia Hewitt followed this up by signalling a new wave of family-friendly reforms. These are likely to include higher statutory paternity pay, longer paid maternity leave and extending flexible working rights to employees caring for elderly or disabled relatives, as well as to parents of young children. But the introduction of age discrimination laws, scheduled for autumn '06, will dwarf all these in significance. The Blair government is keen to sport its business-friendly credentials, but there are few signs of the employment law bandwagon (or gravy train) slowing down if Labour is re-elected.

by Michael Burd and James Davies, Lewis Silkin solicitors, e-mail:

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