Last week the Scottish National Party (SNP) joined the other major political parties in releasing its manifesto ahead of the general election. It was an interesting read from an employer’s perspective as it included proposals which were not dissimilar, in part, to proposals currently being put forward by Labour (which we discuss here and the Liberal Democrats which we discuss here  (alongside the Conservative pledges)). Whilst SNP representation in Westminster will always be limited, its stance on employment law (and other) issues may still prove to be influential, especially in the event of a tighter-than-expected general election result.   

Although the SNP is committed to Scottish independence, its manifesto acknowledges that until independence is secured, the party will push the UK government to devolve more powers from Westminster to the Scottish Parliament. Currently the Scottish Parliament has the power to legislate in certain areas, including most notably, healthcare and education. However, employment law is not currently devolved which means that Scottish employers are largely bound by employment legislation which stems from Westminster. The SNP's longstanding position is that this doesn't work effectively for Scotland and its manifesto calls for ‘employment rights and the minimum wage’ to be devolved. Interestingly, in its manifesto, Labour has promised to ‘strengthen Scottish democracy and devolution’. However, there is no commitment to devolve employment rights in either Labour’s manifesto nor in its Plan to Make Work Pay which contains the substance of its proposed employment law reforms.

Outside of calling for devolution of employment legislation, the SNP manifesto is proposing a range of employment law policies. Interestingly, many overlap or are similar to Labour’s. For example, like Labour, the SNP is committed to scrapping ‘exploitative’ zero-hours contracts, although, again like Labour, no explanation is provided on what would make a contract ‘exploitative'.

The SNP is also seeking to impose a blanket ban on the practice of ‘fire and rehire’. Whilst Labour certainly wants to restrict the use of ‘fire and rehire’, it has steered away from a complete ban suggesting that there may be scope to use ‘fire and rehire’ in limited circumstances. 

In line with both Labour and the Liberal Democrats, the SNP has an overhaul of employment status in its sights. It has pledged to create a single status of worker for all but the genuinely self-employed. As Labour has now acknowledged, this is a highly complex area of employment law where prior consultation will be needed before any changes are brought forward in order to avoid the risk of unintended consequences. 

Other areas where the SNP’s employment law proposals overlap with Labour’s include: 

  • a pledge to ‘end the age discrimination’ of National Minimum Wage age bands; 
  • scrapping the statutory sick pay lower earnings limit and waiting period; 
  • repealing the Trade Union Act 2016 (which could make it easier to call industrial action as that Act introduced minimum turnout requirements) and the Strikes (Minimum Services Levels) Act 2023; and
  • taking action to close the gender pay gap. 

One area where the SNP’s is taking a firm stance is on family friendly rights. The SNP manifesto commits to increasing maternity leave to one year, paid at 100% of average weekly earnings for the first 12 weeks and then at the lower of either 90% of earnings or £185 per week for the remaining 40 weeks. The manifesto also calls for the UK government to increase shared parental leave from 52 to 64 weeks, with the additional 12 weeks representing a minimum amount of leave to be taken by the father on a ‘use it or lose it’ basis. The hope is that this will encourage greater uptake of shared parental leave. The Liberal Democrats are also suggesting policies along similar lines. Labour, meanwhile, is promising a review of the ‘parental leave system’ within the first 12 months if it comes to power. 

So, the SNP has some firm views on employment law reform which overlap with both the Labour Party and the Liberal Democrats. If the polls prove right for Westminster, employers will have a lot to contend with. 

This article was co-written with James Leeman.