Top 5 employment law changes to expect if Labour win the general election

Back To Latest News

In less than a week, millions of people across the UK will head to polling stations to vote in the General Election. As it stands, the polls currently suggest that the most likely outcome will be a Labour Government. Labour has pledged to make significant changes to employment law within 100 days of entering government, as presented in their ‘Plan to make Work Pay’.

The Top 5 employment law changes to expect if Labour wins the general election are as follows:

Creation of a “single status” of worker

At present there are three types of employment status: employees, workers and self-employed. The distinction between these is important in determining employment rights and has often been litigated in Employment Tribunals.

Labour proposals include overhauling this drastically, creating a “single status” of worker. This will result in two categories of employment status; workers and those who are genuinely self-employed. Any individual with worker status will be afforded the same basic rights and protections as currently apply only to employees, a significant change for employers to be aware of.

A DAY ONE right to unfair dismissal protection for ALL workers

Currently, for employees there is a two-year qualifying period for the right to bring a claim of unfair dismissal. Labour proposes that all workers (not just employees) will become entitled to this right from the first day of work, a major change which will bring the right to a far larger number of people. The aim of this overhaul is that it should provide two-sided flexibility and benefit the labour market generally, making it more fluid and efficient. The theory behind this being that it gives workers the security to change jobs without having to obtain two years of service in any new job to secure these rights.

Prohibition on use of dismissal and re engagement (“Fire and Rehire”) for making changes to contracts of employment

Labour is committed to ending the current practice of termination and re engagement (“Fire and Rehire”) as a lawful method for employers to change employees’ terms and conditions of employment. As part of this, the unfair dismissal and redundancy legislation would be adapted to prevent workers from being dismissed for a failure to agree to less favourable terms and conditions of employment.

Fire and Rehire will only be possible where a business can argue that it might not survive without it and there is “genuinely no alternative”. This raises the bar significantly as to when an employer may be permitted to lawfully use Fire and Rehire in the future. Labour also proposes to ensure that there are effective remedies in place against employers who fall foul of the new provisions, and it will strengthen the code of practice already in place.

Ban on use of Zero Hours contracts

Over recent years, the debate on Zero Hour contracts has attracted significant media and Trade Union attention. Labour proposes to ban the use of zero-hour contracts.
Labour would end ‘one sided’ flexibility and ensure all jobs provide a baseline level of security and predictability. This would ensure that everyone has the right to regular hours in a contract that they can rely on, based on a twelve-week reference period. Further, all workers would be entitled to get reasonable notice of any changes in shifts or working time, with compensation that is proportional to the notice given for any shifts cancelled or curtailed.

It is worth noting that these reforms do not prevent employers from offering fixed-term contracts to meet business needs, including seasonal work.

Significantly increased Trade Union rights and protections

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Labour’s proposals also include strengthening trade union rights and protections. This includes:

  • A new right for Trade Unions to access workplaces to allow union officials to meet, represent, recruit and organise members, provided they give appropriate notice and comply with reasonable requests of the employer;
  • A new duty on employers to inform all new employees of their right to join a union (and to include this in their written particulars of employment) and to remind existing staff of this right on a regular basis;
  • Enabling Trade Unions to use modern technology for calling Strike action, as opposed to the traditional postal ballots which are time consuming and expensive to organise;
  • The simplification of union recognition procedures; and
  • Repealing both the Trade Union Act 2016 and The Stikes Act 2023. Essentially, making collective bargaining and industrial action easier for unions to organise.

The overarching themes throughout these plans are that individuals will obtain more employment rights and increased security at work. Also, individuals will be more likely to seek redress and compensation from their employers. As a result, costs for businesses will increase and employment options will become more inflexible.

These changes are significant, and employers will need to prepare for them accordingly. Capital Law’s Employment & Immigration team has over 25 experienced employment lawyers and HR professionals who can advise businesses as they prepare.

If you have any questions regarding the General Election and its potential impact, please get in touch with us here.