Legal advice: What a Labour Government will mean for Employment Law

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Signing a contract. Image: Edar/Pixabay
Signing a contract. Image: Edar/Pixabay

If one is to believe the opinion polls, it seems likely that the Labour Party will form the next Government of the UK following the General Election on 4 July 2024. In this article, we examine what that would mean for Employment Law.

On 13 June, the Labour Party published their election manifesto. In that manifesto, it says that they will implement “Labour’s Plan to Make Work Pay: Delivering a New Deal for Working People” by introducing legislation within 100 days.

The manifesto states that before legislation is passed, the Government will consult fully with businesses, workers and civil society. At the risk of sounding cynical, one wonders how “full” the consultation will be, if legislation is to be introduced within 100 days, when the Government may have other equally pressing priorities.

What are the Employment Law proposals contained in the Plan?

It’s a lengthy document – 24 pages – but it is well worth a read. These are some of the proposals:

  • A ban on “exploitative” zero-hours contracts – Workers will have an entitlement to a contract reflecting the hours they regularly work based on a 12-week reference period.
  • A ban on fire and rehire and fire and replace – the practice of an Employer making Workers “redundant” and either offering those Workers re-employment on new terms, or employing new Workers. The Plan recognises that it is necessary that businesses can restructure to remain viable “when there is genuinely no alternative” – but this will be by dialogue and common understanding between the parties.
  • A day one right to statutory sick pay (at the moment the first three days of sickness are generally unpaid under the statutory sick pay scheme).
  • A day one right to bring unfair dismissal claims. At the moment, Employees usually need to have two years of continuous service in order to prosecute a claim for unfair dismissal.

    The Plan recognises that Employers still need to be able to dismiss on the grounds of “capability, conduct or redundancy” and a probationary period with “fair and transparent rules and processes” will be permissible to assess new hires.
  • Abolishing distinctions between Workers and Employees. At the moment we have a three-tier system for engaging help in the Workplace: Employees, Workers and Self-Employed people. It is certainly the case that the dividing line between Employees and Workers can be opaque – and clarity would be useful.

    It is unclear though how this will operate; will Agency Workers have the same rights as other (more longstanding) members of staff?
  • Flexible working to be a “genuine default” to include flexi-time contracts and hours that accommodate school terms except where it is not reasonably feasible.
  • A right to “switch off” – ie turn off phones etc at home.
  • Surveillance technologies will be subject to a process of consultation and negotiation. The government will work with Workers, Unions and Employer to promote best practice in safeguarding against “invasion of privacy through surveillance technology, spyware, and discriminatory algorithmic decision making”.
  • A “genuine” living wage for every adult Worker which removes the existing age bands.
  • A six-month time limit to bring Employment Tribunal claims (as opposed to three months currently).

Prudent Employers reading may wish to consider:

  • Dealing with problematic members of staff sooner rather than later.
  • Reviewing how they rely upon casual (zero hours) members of staff.
  • Reviewing the financial viability of existing contractual arrangements with members of staff – and taking action sooner rather than later.
  • Ensuring that they are confident that a new Worker is the right fit for their business – or at a minimum having much more detailed probationary period provisions in their standard contract of employment, before hiring new staff.
  • Reviewing their contracts of employment generally.
  • Ensuring that they have proper employment support in place.

    If you have any questions about this article, please feel free to contact our Employment team at T

by Andrew Buckley
Woodfines Solicitorrs