Employment Law And The 2024 General Election: The Labour Party’s Plans

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Employment Law And The 2024 General Election: The Labour Party’s Plans

Author: Sam Evans

Key Contact: Claire Knowles

Following Rishi Sunak’s announcement that there would be a general election on July 4th 2024, the Labour Party published its ‘Make Work Pay’ policy paper. This article summarises the key employment components of the paper.

Labour’s “New Deal for Social Care Workers”

The paper has a particular focus on social care, in line with Labour’s mission to build an NHS fit for the future. In their paper, Labour promise to consult on implementing collective bargaining agreements across the social care sector covering pay, terms and conditions, staff benefits, and training requirements. Trade unions will also secure the right to access social care workplaces for recruitment and support purposes. There is no firm commitment at the time of writing to extend collective bargaining agreements to other sectors of the economy.

Securonomics and ‘one sided flexibility’

Another key plank of Labour’s policy paper is the so-called ‘Securnomics’ agenda and ending ‘one sided flexibility’. Two key policies of this agenda set out in the policy paper are banning ‘exploitative’ zero hours contracts and a ban on the practice of fire and rehire.

Under labour, zero-hour workers would be granted the right to a ‘predictable’ contract which reflects their regular work pattern based on a twelve-week reference period. The wording of the paper also suggests that Labour will not be banning all zero-hour contracts but will instead target those which are ‘exploitative’. What this means in reality remains to be seen.  

In addition, an employer will henceforth only have the right to resort to fire and rehire if there was no other alternative to preserve the viability of the business, or its workforce, subject to a ‘dialogue’ between workers and their employer.

“Day one” rights for employees

Further, Labour’s ‘day one’ agenda means it has committed to granting ‘basic day one rights’ to all employees. This means that there will be no qualifying service periods for unfair dismissal protection, redundancy, parental leave or sick pay. In the case of unfair dismissal, employers could still dismiss employees during their contractual probationary period, but they would need to follow “fair and transparent rules and processes”. It is unclear what limitations might be placed on contractual probationary periods and what internal processes might be required to fairly dismiss, so watch this space.

In terms of sick pay, under the proposals low earners would now qualify for statutory sick pay and the benefit would be paid on day one of incapacity rather than day four, as is the case currently.

“Right to Switch off”

Labour’s policy to implement a right to ‘switch off’ has now been revised following consultations with employers. The policy paper currently lacks detail about the implementation of the policy, but it appears to point towards employers having to consult workers on workplace policies and practices. The policy paper also cites examples of such laws in Belgium and Ireland, which reflect a softer approach to this area than other countries like France. In Ireland, some have noted that the regulations have only resulted in changes to workplace policies and workers’ email signatures.

Time limits and single enforcement body

Finally, Labour would increase the time limit to bring an employment claim from 3 to 6 months, in line with the limits to bring claims for statutory redundancy and equal pay claims. The party also proposes to set up a new enforcement body for workers’ rights to support the tribunal system given its large backlog. The body would have powers to issue penalties for non-compliance with National Minimum Wage legislation or to enforce statutory sick pay or holiday pay.

A similar proposal appeared in the Conservative Party manifesto in 2019, but was not put into effect during the previous parliament.

Following the election, we will be publishing a comprehensive summary of all the employment law changes which appear in the paper through the Subscriber Insights section of Acuity’s My Digital Lawyer. For more information, sign up here:

For advice on how the reforms could impact your business, contact the Employment team at Acuity Law.

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