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Labour Manifesto

As predicted, the country has woken to a ‘Labour Landslide’ with the largest majority they have seen in years. With this change of Government comes another shake-up of employment rights. Presenting a ‘new deal for working people,’ the Labour manifesto brings about enhanced rights for individuals in the workplace with stricter obligations for employers, aiming to encourage participation in the workforce.

This blog seeks to highlight some of the proposed changes and the impact this could have on your business’s HR policies.

Unfair Dismissal and Other Day One Rights

The introduction of a day-one right to unfair dismissal appears to be one of the most significant proposals. However, it is indicated that this will be subject to probationary periods, which suggests that a less stringent test for dismissal may be imposed during this period. It is assumed that there will be a legislative cap on probationary periods should this change take effect; however, what is deemed to be a reasonable period is yet to be seen.

We have recently seen the right to request flexible working arrangements from day one of employment (from April 2024). However, Labour has now outlined that they expect this to go even further and for it to be the default position from the first day. Similarly, new rights to sick pay and parental leave have also been tabled.

Zero Hours Contracts

Less surprisingly, Labour has announced that they would ban exploitative zero-hours contracts (rather than an outright ban on all of them), alongside a right for employees to have a contract that reflects the hours they regularly work, based on a twelve-week reference period.

Industrial Action

Several manifesto points revolve around further integration of trade unions within the workplace, with the least surprising proposal probably being the abolition of the Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Act, brought in by the Conservative Government only 12 months ago. This comes alongside a long list of changes such as:

  • Reversal of the changes made under the Trade Union Act 2016 (likely reducing the notice required to ballot for industrial action),
  • Removal of the requirement for fully postal ballots for industrial action,
  • Action to make it easier for unions to gain recognition,
  • A right for trade unions to access workplaces for recruitment and organizing purposes,
  • The creation of a ‘Fair Pay Agreement’ to allow for sectoral collective bargaining in the Adult Social Care Sector,
  • A requirement for the section 1 statement issued to all new starters to inform staff of their right to join a trade union.

Reporting Requirements for Larger Employers

A requirement for employers with more than 250 employees to have a menopause action plan and new duties on large employers to produce ethnicity and disability pay gap reports. This is likely to trickle down into smaller businesses, who should be encouraged to update their internal policies and procedures to reflect similar measures.

Family Friendly Measures and the Right to ‘Switch Off’

Family-friendly legislation would also be introduced, including strengthened rights for pregnant women, which could see a ban on dismissing pregnant women for any reason (except in exceptional circumstances) during pregnancy and up to six months after a return to work. There is also a right to bereavement leave for all workers, how far this would extend is yet to be established, and a right to ‘switch off’ when remote working, so working from home does not result in homes turning into 24/7 offices. The right to ‘switch off’ is not intended to be a day one right but rather the right to discuss switching off with employers.

Fire and Rehire

The current practice of ‘fire and rehire,’ where employees who do not accept contractual changes can be dismissed and re-engaged on new terms, is set to be made more difficult, although likely not impossible. The only justification being that the survival of the business depends on such action, however, the practicalities of how this would be evidenced by businesses are yet to be identified.

Introduction of a Race Equality Act

This would include the introduction of race equal pay claims and strengthening dual discrimination protection. How much further this legislation would go past the protections provided by the Equality Act 2010 is yet to be identified.

Collective Consultation

Changes to collective redundancies would be introduced, with the aim of triggering collective consultation more easily in circumstances where a certain number of employees are made redundant across a whole business, rather than the current ‘one workplace’ rule. This would have huge implications on larger businesses that can currently view different sites or locations as separate workplaces and avoid the additional requirements that come with collective consultations in redundancy processes.

Changes Outside of the Workplace

There are a number of proposals likely to impact the workplace and workers’ rights without directly changing working practices, such as altering the criteria for determining the national minimum wage to remove age bands, so adults are entitled to the same minimum wage going further than we have recently seen with the removal of the 23 and over banding. This also includes the creation of a single enforcement body to enforce workers’ rights and allowing employees to lodge collective grievances through Acas, providing them with another formal avenue of mediation.

Employment Status

Consultation on an eventual move towards a single status of worker, incorporating all but the genuinely self-employed, would obviously create a larger pool of individuals with additional employment rights, increasing the chances of employers dealing with litigious staff members. This proposal aims to simplify the law surrounding employment status and would give all workers the full quota of rights currently enjoyed by ‘employees’ (such as the right to claim unfair dismissal).

Time Limits for Tribunal Claims

Currently, workers have 3 months less 1 day from the date of an unlawful act to pursue a claim to the employment tribunal. Labour has proposed an extension to this time limit for bringing all claims from 3 months to 6 months. This, of course, could have serious implications on risk management for employers but has been tabled to allow claimants such as pregnant women more time to organise their claims and obtain advice during an already turbulent time in their life.

What Does This Mean for You?

While the law will not be changing in the next few days or weeks, but considering the majority won by Labour, there may be little resistance to such legislation being passed. It has been pledged that the main headlines of the manifesto would be enacted within the first 100 days of government, giving many businesses little time to update their working practices and understand their new obligations.

Stay informed on the upcoming changes by subscribing to our newsletter. For more detailed advice and support, contact us at 0333 888 1360 or [email protected].

Additionally, keep an eye out for our webinars, where we will be discussing these changes in detail and providing actionable insights for your HR strategies.

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