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A new era of Worker Power – Employment law under a new Labour Government

July 03, 2024

A general election will take place in England and Wales on 4 July 2024. It is seen as almost inevitable that a Labour government will replace the current Conservative government.

In this briefing note we take a look at what a Labour government means for employers, and how profound changes may be made to the workplace. These changes will require detailed consideration by employers, the creation of new policies, and training.

What does the Labour party stand for?

The Labour party have declared that they are “pro-worker and pro-business, and we will work in partnership with trade unions and business to deliver our New Deal”.

The Labour party says that: Labour’s plan to make work pay will ensure more people stay in work, make work more family-friendly and improve living standards, putting more money in working people’s pockets to spend, boosting economic growth, resilience and conditions for innovation. Stronger trade unions and collective bargaining will be key to tackling problems of insecurity, inequality, discrimination, enforcement and low pay.

How will the Labour party change employment law?

Labour’s manifesto confirms that a Labour government would implement Labour’s Plan to Make Work Pay: Delivering a New Deal for Working People in full and that it will introduce legislation reforming employment law within 100 days of entering office.

Consultation documents for proposed changes could be published as soon as next month. It is widely expected, for example, that the Labour Party will publish an Employment Rights Bill, with the aim of creating a single enforcement body and/or removing the lower earnings limit on statutory sick pay.

Some of the most complicated aspects of the New Deal will take time to implement – such as the proposal to move towards a single status of worker. In the UK we have a three-tier system for employment status, with people classified as employees, self-employed or ‘workers.’ This has led to workers finding it difficult to get a clear picture of where they sit and what protections they are owed.

Other changes will take place in the background. For example, it is also expected that Labour would ask the Low Pay Commission to update its remit to take into account the cost of living.

Key manifesto pledges

The Labour manifesto confirms that the Labour party intend to

  • End ‘one sided’ flexibility to ensure all jobs provide a baseline level of security and predictability, by banning “exploitative” zero-hour contracts, with a plan to ensure that everyone has the right to a contract which reflects that number of hours that they regularly work over a 12-week reference period. Also to ensure that workers are given reasonable notice of any changes in shifts.
  • End fire and rehire, which is the practice of an employer making an employee redundant and then re-engaging them on reduced terms and conditions.
  • Introduce basic day one rights to:
  • Parental leave
  • Sick pay
  • protection from unfair dismissal
  • strengthening the collective voice of workers, including through their trade unions, and
  • creating a Single Enforcement Body.

 A Labour government intends to make the following key changes

  • Increase protections for pregnant women – Strengthen protections for pregnant women by making it unlawful to dismiss a woman who is pregnant for six months after her return, except in specific circumstances.
  • Help carers – Helping more carers in the workplace to modernise the world of work, ensuring that there are good jobs for carers, and a skilled workforce for employers.
  • Clarify bereavement leave – Clarify the law and entitlement, introducing the right to bereavement leave for all workers.
  • Introduce the right to switch off – Bring in the ‘right to switch off’, so working from home does not result in homes turning into 24/7 offices. Labour will follow similar models to those that are already in place in Ireland and Belgium, giving workers and employers the opportunity to have constructive conversations and work together on bespoke workplace policies or contractual terms that benefit both parties.
  • Review Surveillance – At a minimum, Labour will ensure that proposals to introduce surveillance technologies would be subject to consultation and negotiation, with a view to seeking the agreement of trade unions; or elected staff representatives where there is no trade union.
  • Ban unpaid internships – Ban unpaid internships except when they are part of an education or training course.
  • Strengthen SSP – Strengthen statutory sick pay, remove the lower earnings limit to make it available to all workers and remove the waiting period, and ensure the new system provides fair earnings replacement for people earning below the current rate of statutory sick pay.
  • Reduce gender pay gap – Take action to reduce the gender pay gap.
  • Strengthen protections from maternity and menopause discrimination and sexual harassment. Labour will require large employers with more than 250 employees to produce Menopause Action Plans, setting out how they will support employees through the menopause, much like gender pay gap action plans. In addition, we will publish guidance, including for small employers, on measures to consider relating to uniform and temperature, flexible working and recording menopause-related leave and absence.
  • Strengthen redundancy rights – Strengthen redundancy rights and protections, for example by ensuring the right to redundancy consultation is determined by the number of people impacted across the business rather than in one workplace.
  • Increase Whistleblower protections – Strengthen protections for whistleblowers including by updating protections for women who report sexual harassment at work.
  • Introduce a new Race Equality Act – Introduce a Race Equality Act to address equal pay, strengthen protections against dual discrimination and “root out other racial inequalities“.
  • Introduce ethnicity pay gap reporting – Introduce ethnicity pay gap reporting for large employers.
  • Champion Disabled people – Champion the rights of disabled people by introducing “the full right to equal pay for disabled people”, and require large employers to report on their disability pay gap.
  • Increase Trade Union recognition – Simplify the process of union recognition and the law around statutory recognition thresholds, so that working people have a meaningful right to organise through trade unions.
  • Introduce a duty to inform new employees of right to join a Union – Introduce a new duty on employers to inform all new employees of their right to join a union, and to inform all staff of this on a regular basis.
  • Introduce requirement to provide sufficient facilities for trade union reps – Labour will ensure there is sufficient facilities time for all trade union reps so that they have capacity to represent and defend workers, negotiate with employers and conduct training.
  • Ensure workers with Terminal Illnesses are treated with respect – Labour encourages employers and trade unions to negotiate signing up to the Dying To Work Charter – a charter with best practice for employing workers with terminal illness, and we will work with trade unions and others to ensure that workers diagnosed with a terminal illness are treated with respect, dignity and supported at work.
  • Introduce a new Socioeconomic duty – Labour will enact the socioeconomic duty under Section 1 of the Equality Act. The socioeconomic duty will apply to public bodies.
  • Ensure fair tips – Labour will strengthen the law to ensure hospitality workers receive their tips in full and workers decide how tips are allocated.
  • Introduce collective grievances – Labour will make it easier for workers to raise grievances about conduct at work. Labour will enable employees to collectively raise grievances about conduct in their place of work, to ACAS. This will be in line with the existing code for individual grievances.
  • Extend of Freedom of Information Act – Extend the Freedom of Information Act to apply to private companies that hold contracts to provide public services, exclusively with regard to information relevant to those contracts, to ensure any outsourced contracts are transparent and accountable for delivery.

The material contained in this article is provided for general purposes only and does not constitute legal or other professional advice. Appropriate legal advice should be sought for specific circumstances and before action is taken.

© Miller Rosenfalck LLP, July 2024