What happens now that labour has won?

July 5th, 2024

Yesterday, Labour won a landslide victory with a massive majority. But will a wholesale change in government also significantly change the employment law landscape? Most likely – the short answer is yes, if Labour fulfils the pledges listed in their Plan to Make Work Pay: Delivering a New Deal for Working People  and repeated in their Election Manifesto

During the Conservative government, we saw the contraction of employee rights, such as the introduction of employment tribunal fees (which were subsequently declared unlawful) and the length of qualifying service for unfair dismissal claims increasing from one to two years. 

To counter this, below is a summary of Labour’s pledges that it has committed to implementing within its first 100 days of government – they will be busy!

  • Making it a day 1 right to sick pay, parental leave and most significantly unfair dismissal. This is a significant change for employers and is sure to lead to an increase in employment tribunal claims. 
  • Setting up a single enforcement body to enforce workers’ rights. 
  • Consulting on moving away from the three different types of employment status: ‘employees’, ‘workers’ and ‘self-employed’ where employees have extensive statutory rights, workers have some statutory rights such as the right to have holiday pay and the self-employed have no statutory rights.  Labour wants to have a single status of ‘worker’ where all qualifying will have the same statutory employment rights and which will incorporate all but the genuinely self-employed.
  • Stopping the abuse of ‘one-sided flexibility’ and ‘exploitative’ zero hours contracts – this however does not mean a blanket ban on zero hour contracts and we will have to wait and see what meets the criteria of being one sided or an exploitative zero hours contract.
  • Ending fire and rehire practices adopted by employers to change terms and conditions of employment by enhancing stronger remedies to stem abuse of this practice and a new statutory code to provide guidance on what are acceptable practices.  It however does not ban them outright, recognising that businesses sometimes need to make changes to remain viable.
  • Strengthening redundancy rights and protections, for example, making collective redundancy consultation requirements where there is a proposal to dismiss 20 or more employees dependent on the number of redundancies across the whole business rather than the number at each ‘establishment’.
  • Making it unlawful to dismiss a woman who is pregnant for six months after her return except in very specific circumstances. It is unclear though if this protection is limited to the period after a woman returns from maternity leave or whether it also extends to pregnancy and maternity leave.
  • An extension of tribunal time limits for bringing all claims from three months to six months, which will allow a longer period for workers to consider and prepare their potential tribunal claims and to see if they can be resolved without litigation.
  • Placing new duties on employers with more than 250 employees to produce ethnicity and disability pay gap reports, as well as to develop, publish and implement action plans to close their gender pay gap and ensure that outsourced workers are included in their reporting.
  • Altering the criteria for determining national minimum wage to include consideration of cost of living and removing age bands, so all adults are entitled to the same minimum wage.
  • A right for employees to have a contract which reflects the hours they regularly work, based on a twelve-week reference period.
  • A requirement for employers with more than 250 employees to have a menopause action plan.
  • Introducing a right to unpaid bereavement leave (currently only available following the death of a child)
  • Introducing a right to switch off (or, at the very least, the right to discuss switching off with your employer).
  • Making flexible working a default right unless employers have a good reason to refuse it.
  • Increased powers for trade unions including:
    • a requirement for the statement of terms and conditions which should be issued to all new employees to inform staff of their right to join a trade union.
    • Reversing changes made under the Trade Union Act 2016 (which increased required turnout for ballots, added more required information for ballot papers, limited strike mandates to six months and required two weeks‘ notice to be given of a ballot for industrial action rather than one).
    • removing the requirement for fully postal ballots for industrial action.
    • making it easier for unions to gain recognition by removing the requirement that 40% of those entitled to vote on recognition need to vote in a ballot for it to be valid for recognition.
    • a right for trade unions to access workplaces for recruitment and organising purposes.
    • abolishing the Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Act 2023.

This blog was written by Anita Vadgama, Partner at didlaw.

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