As it stands, Labour are expected to win a large majority in the general election on 4 July 2024.

In its manifesto, the party has indicated that it will look to implement in full its ‘Plan to Make Work Pay: Delivering a New Deal for Working People’ published on 24 May.

Across the document there are significant changes proposed in relation to unfair dismissal, Trade Union laws, discrimination legislation and statutory rights. Some of the most interesting and significant proposals include the following:

  • On unfair dismissal it is proposed that all ‘workers’ will receive unfair dismissal rights from day 1, subject to provisions relating to probation periods. It is difficult to overstate how significant a change this would be. Currently only ‘employees’ are entitled to unfair dismissal rights and usually only after two years’ employment (there are some claims that can be brought with no service requirement). Expanding the right to workers and making it broadly a ‘day 1’ right will mean employers having to very quickly change their approach to managing and assessing all workers and employees. Determining whether someone is a ‘worker’ or genuinely self-employed will also take on even more significance.
  • An end to ‘one sided’ flexibility in relation to jobs and a ban on ‘exploitative’ zero hours contracts are proposed. No detail is given and presumably consultation will be key in relation to what is potentially a very tricky area to legislate effectively in.
  • The position in relation to Trade Unions will broadly be rolled back to a pre-2016 state of affairs. That involves the repeal of the 2016 Trade Union Act, which introduced minimum turnout requirements, and placed a six-month validity, on strike ballots and the ‘minimum service level’ legislation introduced last year. Changes to ease of Union access to the workplace and recognition are also proposed.
  • Across what might broadly be termed discrimination and family rights, Labour are proposing: making flexible working the ‘default’ position; increasing maternity discrimination protections; further bereavement leave rights; anti-avoidance provisions in relation to using outsourced  services to mask unequal pay; and some form (again detail is lacking) of protection for workers from third party harassment.
  • On statutory rights Labour are proposing a ‘single enforcement body’ to enforce these, although detail is lacking. IT is also proposed that the national minimum wage will increase, presumably to be closer to the National Living Wage Foundation’s minimum level and that all adults will be entitled to the same rate.

In total Labour are proposing around 40 specific measures which impact on employment law. Somewhat confusingly they have stated that they will introduce legislation dealing with these within 100 days of entering government, but also that they “will consult fully with businesses, workers and civil society” before legislation is passed.

Given that the new government will no doubt have a number of competing demands to deal with, it is difficult to see how all aspects of the ‘Plan to Make Work Pay’ could be implemented quickly, or even within a full 5-year term.

One area where it will be easier to make an impact quickly will be in relation to Trade Union laws, which a government with a large majority could change fairly quickly. On unfair dismissal, the qualifying period for ‘employees’ could be changed via Regulation only – although it is difficult to see how the proposals around probation periods and expanding the right to ‘workers’ could be implemented quickly.

The breadth and depth of Labour’s plans for employment law certainly indicate that employers should be expecting significant changes in this area and that they will need to be up to speed on relevant legislative changes for the foreseeable future.

For more information, please contact Phillip Vallon.

Picture of Phillip Vallon

Phillip Vallon

Employment & Immigration

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