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Labour manifesto pledges on employment

Posted on 18 June 2024

Labour's manifesto commits to implementing in full the proposals set out in its policy document 'Labour's Plan To Make Work Pay: Delivering A New Deal For Working People'. This contains a number of potentially significant policies relating to employees and workforce relations. The plan includes:

  • Legislation within 100 days: Labour pledges to introduce an Employment Rights Bill within the first 100 days of Government. This will include a number of provisions, including the introduction of a single enforcement body. This has been long discussed by the current administration, but little has been done to implement it. Labour hopes that by introducing an effective regulatory body with responsibility for overseeing compliance for matters such as minimum wage, health and safety, and working time, this will reduce the need for individuals to enforce their rights.
  • Day one rights: Perhaps one of the most significant measures will be to grant all workers basic rights from their first day, including protection against unfair dismissal and access to parental leave and sick pay. It remains to be seen how probationary periods will operate in circumstances where employees may claim unfair dismissal protection from day one.  However, it would appear that an earlier proposal to remove the cap on compensation in unfair dismissal cases has been dropped.
  • Banning zero-hour contracts: The party proposes to ban exploitative zero-hour contracts and ensure contracts reflect regular hours worked. It is not clear whether 'exploitative' refers to certain types of zero-hours contract (leaving some flexibility for workers and employers to agree their terms) or if it sees all zero-hours contracts as exploitative.
  • Ending 'fire and rehire': Labour intends to outlaw the practice of 'fire and rehire', protecting workers from being forced into reduced terms and conditions save in circumstances where the business can demonstrate that there is genuinely no alternative and that it has followed a proper consultation process.
  • Single worker status: Labour plans to simplify employment status by moving towards a single 'worker' status, thereby removing the distinction between 'worker' and 'employee'. It remains to be seen who will therefore continue to fall into the category of 'worker' – it may, for instance, mean that some LLP members (found to have been workers for the purposes of whistleblowing protection, for example) will become workers and, presumably, thereby also obtain unfair dismissal protection. Alternatively, it may be the case that anyone qualifying as self employed for tax purposes ceases to have 'worker' protection.
  • Strengthening redundancy rights: The party will enhance redundancy rights and protections, including consultation rights and TUPE processes. It is not clear at this point what these measures will entail.   
  • Worker voice and trade union rights: Labour will update trade union legislation, remove restrictions on union activities and promote good faith negotiation and bargaining. This will include making it easier for unions to gain statutory recognition, the simplification of the balloting system, the introduction of rights for trade unions to access workplaces for recruitment and organising purposes and the strengthening of protections for union representatives. Labour has also indicated that it will introduce a mechanism by which employees may raise collective grievances against their employer.
  • Enforcement: Time limits will be increased to allow longer for people to bring claims.  Labour hopes that by the use of regulatory enforcement rather than individual enforcement, and by further digitising the process, the long waiting times in the Employment Tribunal will reduce. 
  • Family-friendly rights and flexibility, including:
    • Flexible working: Labour will make flexible working the default from day one, adapting to technological advancements and promoting work-life balance. This is likely to continue the current model of giving workers the right to request flexible working but may encourage Tribunals to more closely scrutinise those employers who refuse to grant the right. This could become a point of contention as many businesses are beginning to insist on more in-office working.  The pledge also extends to giving workers the right to 'switch off', so that they do not feel like their homes become 24/7 offices, and limiting the extent to which potentially invasive surveillance may be used to monitor employees.
    • Parental rights: The parental leave system will be reviewed to better support working families and will make parental leave (by which we believe they mean all types of family friendly leave, rather than unpaid parental leave) a day one right.
    • Carers' and bereavement leave: Labour will review policies on carers' leave, including considering making it paid leave right, and will introduce the right to bereavement leave for all workers.
  • Pay and conditions: these include:
    • "Genuine" living wage: Labour will task the Low Pay Commission with setting a minimum wage that reflects the cost of living, removing age bands to benefit all adult workers.
    • Sick pay: The party will strengthen statutory sick pay, making it available to all workers and removing the waiting period.
  • Equality and discrimination: Labour has committed to bolstering equality rights, both in relation to the public and private sectors:
    • Equal pay: Labour has committed to ending pay discrimination and will implement measures to ensure equal pay, including by preventing employers from using outsourcing models to avoid paying equal pay. 
    • Pay gap reporting: The party will require large firms to publish action plans to close gender pay gaps (in addition to the current system of reporting what their pay gaps are) and will also make ethnicity and disability pay gap reporting mandatory.

As with all manifesto pledges, it remains to be seen how some of the above far reaching policies will be implemented in practice, and the extent to which consultation will take place with employers and other stakeholders in advance of that implementation. However, it appears likely that the landscape of employment law will change dramatically over the coming years if Labour win the election.

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