Square Circle: Alison Welsh



A ‘Yes’ Vote – What Employers should note?

Everyone has lots of questions about the future of the United Kingdom if Scotland were to vote for independence in the forthcoming referendum. One question is “what might change in the area of employment law and immigration?” The Scottish Government has outlined some key proposals and employers should be aware of these.

Post-independence the responsibility for key employment legislation, such as that governing the national minimum wage, collective bargaining agreements and maternity and paternity rights, would transfer to Scotland. Many of the current UK laws come from EU laws and if Scotland became a member of the EU it would be restricted in its scope to make changes to existing employment legislation.

Some of the Scottish Government’s key proposals are:-

Trades Unions
The Scottish Government propose that collective bargaining will play a key role in improving conditions in the labour market and will work with employer associations, unions and employers to encourage greater trade union involvement.

Employment Protection
The Scottish Government has stated that it plans to balance the need to protect workers with the need to support the growth of the Scottish economy through encouraging companies to expand and create employment opportunities. It has stated that it would undo some of the recent changes introduced by the UK Government but has given few concrete examples of what might go. It has said, however, that it would reintroduce the 90 day consultation period for redundancies involving 100 or more workers.

Minimum Wage
On independence it is proposed that the minimum wage would rise at least in line with inflation and the Scottish Government would continue to support and encourage payment of the living wage.

Employee Representation on Company Boards
The Scottish Government has set out its intent to consult on the best form of employee representation on Company Boards and will look at the question of setting targets for the number of females on Company Boards. It has set out an intention to legislate on this if necessary to achieve better representation.

Owner-employee Contracts
These new type of employment contracts introduced in April 2013, whereby an employee gives up some of their employment rights for shares in the company they work in, would be abolished.

The Scottish Government’s white paper on this subject states that it will “do more to encourage young people to build their lives and careers within Scotland and to attract people to live in Scotland”. It plans to re-introduce the post-study work visa and reduce the minimum financial maintenance thresholds that migrants require to meet to Scottish average wage and cost of living levels. Scottish borders will remain open to EU nationals and there would be a points-based approach for non-EU nationals with new categories of skills being added and incentives to come and work in remote areas.

These are proposals at this stage and are dependent not only on a “yes” vote in September but also on the Scottish National Party being successful in the following Parliament elections. It will be an interesting few months as the debate continues.

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