Labour Government – A New Era for Employment Law

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The results of the General Election have been announced, with a Labour Government now in place what changes should employers expect?

There has been a great deal of media commentary on Labour’s employment promises over the last few months as a result many employers will be aware that a Labour Government promises a raft of changes in the employment sphere including an overhaul of the employment status system and removal of certain qualifying service requirements.

Following Labour’s update to the Deal for Working People in June, their key manifesto points in respect of employment are:

  • Reforming employment status – Labour propose to introduce a two-tier status system comprising of the genuinely self-employed and workers with employment protections being extended to workers.
  • Banning exploitative zero-hours contracts – in addition, they promise to introduce a right to request a contract reflecting regular worked hours based on a 12-week reference period.
  • Improved day one rights – this includes the promise to remove the qualifying period of service for unfair dismissal claims, subject to probationary periods, as well as those for parental leave and sick pay.
  • Protecting work/life balance this would be achieved by the introduction of a right to switch off. Following the path of Belgium and Ireland, Labour propose to encourage discussion between workers and employers about how this works for them to allow for bespoke policies to be created within the workplace.
  • Introducing new family friendly rights – including a new day one right to parental leave, and a promise review the implementation of a paid form of carers’ leave (this was a new right for 2024 but is currently unpaid).

In addition to the above, Labour have promised to improve or strengthen various existing rights and protections including:

  • The recent statutory code on the use of fire and rehire with a promise to introduce remedies for the abusive use of the same.
  • The upcoming code on sharing of tips, by promising to ensure employees have a say in how tips are allocated.
  • Strengthening Whistle-blower protection.
  • Updating collective consultation requirements in respect of redundancy to ensure that the obligation to collectively consult is triggered by the number of redundancies across a whole business rather than within distinct locations.

Labour further propose to introduce some new obligations such as:

  • a requirement for employers to consult on proposals to introduce new technology or surveillance in the workplace to protect workers’ rights to privacy and against discriminatory decision making by algorithms.
  • a requirement for large businesses (those with over 250 employees) to produce Menopause Action Plans and a promise to provide clearer guidance to small employers as to how to support those going through the menopause at work.

100-day pledge

We are all now familiar with Labour’s 100-day pledge to implement legislation to give effect to their Deal for Working People, however we are still none-the-wiser as to what pledges that promise applies to.

Numerous of the policies promised will be the subject of further consultation, consideration or review. Likewise, whilst promises are made to strengthen various existing protections, Labour has provided no indication as to what that would entail leaving us in the dark as to what exactly we can expect to happen in the immediate future.

Next Steps

With Labour now at the head of government employers will need to have a number of policies and processes under review in order to be ready for swift changes. With changes in respect of tips and the prevention of sexual harassment in the workplace expected later this year it would be sensible for employers to have these issues on their radar now.

In addition to these, we would encourage employers to consider their use of probationary periods and start ensuring they have more robust processes in place for reviewing ongoing employment before a probationary period ends. As outlined in our May update, if Labour hold to their promise of removing the qualifying period of unfair dismissal the use of probationary periods and the introduction of clear conditions for their success will become of paramount importance.

If you would like support reviewing your existing processes or would like to know more about upcoming changes to employment law, please get in touch with our Employment team.

(July 2024)