Greens announced two new policies to support workers at the party’s Autumn Conference last weekend (5-7 October).
At the first conference since the election of Sian Berry and Jonathan Bartley as new Co-leaders, the pair called for paid training leave for workers. The party has stated that ‘lifelong learning’ should be at the centre of employment, with investment in training and personal development during working hours helping to decrease staff turnover and encourage career progression.
“People need to be supported to thrive and grow while they are at work,” Berry said. “Lifelong learning should be available to everyone. Yet current employment law only allows workers in companies with over 250 employees to ask for unpaid training leave.
“Greens would change all that, so no-one has to feel stuck in one job for life. All workers should be able to grow and learn throughout their careers, get trained in the things they need to know for their next job, improve how they do the one they have or learn a new skill or trade.
“Today we are promising to fight for paid training leave for every worker. With the right political will we can transform employment into more than just work.”
This announcement comes as part of a wider vision to revamp the world of work, with another policy launched at conference focusing on pay for apprentices and under-18s. Deputy Leader Amelia Womack, recently re-elected for her third consecutive term in the position, said that the Greens will be supporting a living wage for apprenticeships because “a fair workplace has to be fair for apprentices as well.”
Currently, people in apprenticeships are only entitled to the national minimum wage, limited to £3.70 per hour for apprentices under the age of 19, as well as for those 19 or over who are in their first year. The standard minimum wage for their age is offered to those 19 or over who have completed their first year, rising to the highest rate of £7.83 per hour for those aged 25 and over.
Womack continued: “Three quarters of young people polled this year have said that low pay would put them off taking up an apprenticeship.
“It is no wonder that we have a skills shortage in this country. It is time that the political class woke up to the value of investing in training and apprenticeships, to the hardships facing young people today and to the realities of pay inequality in Britain.”
Womack added that the Greens would also be supporting an equal minimum wage for under-18s, who are currently entitled to only £4.20 an hour compared to £5.90 for 18-year-olds.
The Green Party has put wellbeing in work and more generally at the centre of its new policy agenda, with another call coming from conference for a new economic measurement of wellbeing to be used instead of GDP: free time. The proposed Free Time Index would measure people’s leisure time outside of work and commuting, something that research has suggested could be a better indicator of happiness than material wealth.