Scrase Law Employment Solicitors

The General Election – what would Labour do?

The date of the next General Election has been confirmed as 4 July 2024.  With Labour reportedly taking a lead in the polls, what could a Labour Government mean for employment law?

As part of the Party’s ‘New Deal for Working People’, it had previously committed that ‘from day one, a Labour government will strengthen workers’ rights and make Britain work for working people’.  Labour has now published their ‘Plan to Make Work Pay: Delivering A New Deal for Working People’.  What would the plan mean in practice for employers? 

The key promises include:

Moving towards a single status of ‘worker’ for all but the genuinely self-employed.  Currently, the rights of individuals depend on whether they are ‘self-employed’, a ‘worker’ or an ‘employee’.  Only employees, for example, have protection against unfair dismissal.  Under Labour proposals, all workers will be afforded the same basic rights and protections.

Scrapping qualifying periods for basic rights including unfair dismissal, sick pay and parental leave ‘giving working people .. rights at work from day one.’  Currently, only employees who have two years’ qualifying service can issue a claim for ordinary unfair dismissal.  Under Labour proposals, this will be a day one right, although there is a commitment to ‘ensure employers can operate probationary periods to assess new hires.’

Banning zero-hours contracts, to end ‘one sided’ flexibility.  Anyone working regular hours for twelve weeks or more will gain a right to a regular contract to reflect those hours normally worked. 

Ending fire and rehire, including adapting current legislation to provide remedies against abuse and replacing the current statutory code.

Strengthening redundancy rights, by ensuring the right to redundancy consultation is determined by the number of people across the business, rather than in one workplace.

Updating trade union legislation, to ‘end the Conservatives’ scorched-earth approach to industrial relations’.  The proposals include simplifying the process of union recognition, establishing a right for trade unions to access workplaces for recruitment and organising purposes, and allowing ballots via electronic means (rather than the current system of only allowing ballots by post).  Employers will also have a new duty to inform all new employees of their right to join a union, and to inform all staff of this on a regular basis.

Introducing the ‘right to switch off’, so working from home does not become homes turning into 24/7 offices.  Following similar models to those in place in Ireland or Belgium, the proposal is to give workers and employers the opportunity to have constructive conversations and work together on bespoke workplace policies or contractual terms that benefit both parties.

Extending the time period for bringing claims in the Employment Tribunal to six months.  Currently the time limit is generally three months, although this can be extended in certain circumstances.  Labour had previously proposed removing the cap on the amount of compensation that workers can receive in the event of a successful claim of ordinary unfair dismissal.  Currently, compensation for ordinary unfair dismissal is capped at 52 weeks’ gross pay or £115,115, whichever is greater. However, this proposal is not included in the Plan to Make Work Pay.

Comment

The impact of these changes, if implemented, could be significant for employers.  As ever, however, the devil will be in the detail.   Labour has committed to introduce legislation within 100 days of entering government, although this will be after they ‘consult fully with businesses, workers and civil society’ on how to put the plans into practice.  There is also an acknowledgement that some areas will take longer to review and implement, including the plan to move towards a single status of worker and a review of parental leave, with consultation being conducted within the first year of a Labour government.

24 May 2024

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©2024 SCRASE LAW LTD. THIS POST IS FOR GENERAL INFORMATION ONLY AND IS NOT ADVICE. YOU ARE RECOMMENDED TO SEEK PROFESSIONAL ADVICE BEFORE TAKING ANY ACTION ON THE BASIS OF THIS POST