Scrase Law Employment Solicitors

Labour’s commitments on workers’ rights

On 13 June 2024, Labour published its manifesto for the 2024 General Election, ‘Change’.   In our separate posts, we have summarised some of the key proposals and set out Labour’s commitments on trade unions and on equality.

With just under two weeks to go until the General Election on 4 July 2024, Labour are still reportedly taking a lead in the polls. Labour’s manifesto contains far ranging proposals to change employment law if elected. In this post, we look at the key proposals on workers’ rights.

Ending ‘one sided flexibility’ – Labour would:

Make unfair dismissal protection a day one right.  The qualifying service needed by an employee to issue a claim of unfair dismissal in the Employment Tribunal has changed a number of times since it was introduced, but has never been a day one right.  This will be a significant change for employers.  Employers will be able to operate probationary periods with fair and transparent rules to assess new hires, but will not be able to dismiss new hires ‘without reason or cause’.  There is no detail on whether a limit will be imposed on the length of probationary periods.

Ban “exploitative” zero hours contracts and ensure everyone has the right to have a contract that reflects the number of hours they regularly work, based on a 12-week reference period.  This ‘will not prevent employers from offering fixed-term contracts including seasonal work’.

End ‘the scourge’ of fire and rehire.  This will include providing effective remedies against abuse, and replacing the current statutory code of practice which is due to come into force on 18 July 2024.  Fire and rehire is sometimes used by employers wishing to change employees’ terms and conditions, where there is no contractual right to do so and where the employees do not agree to the change.  Although Labour’s Plan to Make Work Pay refers to ending fire and rehire, it also states that it is ‘important that businesses can restructure to remain viable, preserve their workforce and the company when there is genuinely no alternative, but this must follow a proper process based on dialogue’

Move towards a single status of worker.  Currently, individuals may be self-employed, a worker or an employee.  The rights of the individual depend on their status.  Importantly, only employees have the right to claim unfair dismissal.  Labour’s proposal will develop a framework that differentiates between workers and the genuinely self-employed, moving to a two-tier system. 

Strengthen redundancy rights and protections.  This will include ensuring redundancy consultation is determined by the number of people impacted across the business rather than in one workplace.  This will potentially have a significant impact for multi-site employers and may increase the number of situations where collective consultation obligations will apply.

Strengthen rights for workers subject to TUPE.  There is no further detail on this proposal.

Strengthen protection for whistleblowers, including updating protection for women who report sexual harassment at work.

Pay – Labour would:

Ensure that the National Minimum Wage takes into account the cost of living, and will remove the age bands from National Minimum Wage rates.

Strengthen Statutory Sick Pay.  This will include removing the lower earnings limit and removing the waiting period, so that SSP is payable from day one of absence.

Rights at work – Labour would:

Create a single enforcement body to enforce workers’ rights, which will include trade union representation.  The body will have strong powers to inspect workplaces and take action against exploitation.

Increase the time limit within which employees can issue a claim in the Employment Tribunal.  Currently, the time limit for most claims in the Employment Tribunal is three months.   This will increase to six months.  It is not clear whether this will increase the number of Tribunal claims.  The additional time limit may give parties further opportunity to reach agreement via ACAS to settle potential claims before they are issued.

Enable employees to collectively raise grievances about conduct in their work to ACAS.  It is not clear what Labour is proposing here, as grievances are presently raised with employers, not with ACAS.  Further detail on this proposal would be welcomed.

26 June 2024

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