Home / The Rix & Kay Blog / Rix & Kay Employment Law Update: New Government Manifesto
Jenny Reardon

Head of GatekeeperHR - East Sussex (Uckfield)

8th July 2024

Rix & Kay Employment Law Update: New Government Manifesto

The Labour party manifesto laid out over 60 separate proposals for changes to employment law, saying they will introduce legislation within the first 100 days of taking office. Whether this is achievable, we will need to wait and see, but it is important for businesses to consider now the impact that this may have. We detail five of the key proposals below:

1. Unfair Dismissal to become a Day 1 right for workers

2. Creation of a single ‘Worker’ status

3. Changing the trigger for consultation on collective redundancies

4. Introduction of a new right for workers to disconnect outside of working hours

5. Extending the time limit for bringing Employment Tribunal claims.

Other plans under Labour’s ‘Make Work Pay’ promises – see the link to this below:

 

Unfair Dismissal to become a Day 1 right for worker

Currently employees need to have been employed by a company for two years in order to bring a claim for unfair dismissal. The proposal is to remove this qualifying period and give all employees full rights from their first day of employment. This could mean potentially that thousands of new claims are filed with the employment tribunals, adding to what is already a two-year average waiting list for a final hearing. The current rules on what is a potentially fair dismissal will not change. For example, dismissing someone for reasons of capability, conduct or redundancy, or, for ‘some other substantial reason’. Employers will still be able to dismiss employees during the probationary period which is in place to allow an employer to have a specified period of time to determine if the arrangement works for each party. Employers will need to check contracts so that probationary period clauses are clear and concise, so that employees clearly understand how they work. And ensuring managers are up to speed on this is essential.

We anticipate that removing the qualifying period is certain to generate more grievances and Tribunal claims. Clearly, in future employers will wish to be more cautious when it comes to recruitment so that they can limit the risk of a bad recruitment hire.

Remember that ‘automatic’ unfair dismissal for certain narrow prohibited reasons (for example raising a Health and Safety concern) remains a Day 1 right.

The Creation of a single employment ‘status’ of ‘Worker’:

We currently have ‘employees’, ‘workers’ and ‘self-employed’ as the three types of workers. The Labour Party argues that this is confusing for employers and the staff they engage. The new Government’s proposal is to abolish the status of ‘employees’ and to have a new single employment status of ‘worker’ to apply to everyone except those genuinely self-employed. Under this system all workers would have the same employment rights for example to sick pay, holiday pay, parental leave and protection against unfair dismissal.

Because these changes would have great ramifications, not least in regard to HMRC considerations, it’s likely that any change will not happen soon. A long period of consultation will need to take place.

Strengthening Redundancy Rights (Collective Redundancies only)

The Labour government aims to make redundancy consultations more inclusive by determining the need for consultation based on the number of redundancies across an entire business rather than at individual workplaces. This will particularly impact multi-site businesses. These businesses need to have a system in place to ensure that they keep track of proposed redundancies across the whole business. If employers get this wrong, under the proposals they will be exposed to ‘protective award’ claims of up to 90 days’ gross pay.

Introduction of a new right for workers to disconnect outside of working hours

The plan is to follow similar models to those already in place in Ireland and Belgium. It’s proposed that UK workers will have the right to disconnect from work outside of normal working hours and not to be contacted by their employers. It will be interesting to see what the new government’s consultation on this will show. For example, will workers be able to opt out? We will keep you informed

Extending the time limit for bringing Employment Tribunal claims:

This proposal is to extend the time limit for bringing employment claims from three to six months. Labour have said that this is to allow more time for ‘internal procedures’ to be completed (as well as settlement discussions), which could then result in resolving disputes so that full claims are avoided. The down side of course for employers would be that they will have the ‘threat’ and worry of an employment claim hanging over them for double the time that they have at the moment.

Other plans under Labour’s ‘Make Work Pay’ promises

Banning Zero-Hours Contracts

Labour initially intended to eliminate zero-hours contracts to combat exploitative work practices. Instead, we understand that employers will be allowed to continue to use zero hours contracts provided they are not “abused” or exploitative. We will have to wait for further details as to in what circumstances a zero hours contract will be classed as exploitative. Potentially zero-hours workers will have the right to a regular hours contract after 12 weeks and employers will be required to give reasonable notice of changes to working time for zero-hours workers.

Fair Pay and Wage Transparency

The Government’s proposal is to implement a genuine living wage, removing age-based pay bands, and require large firms to publish action plans to close gender, ethnicity and disability pay gaps. This includes ensuring outsourced workers are included in these reports. ​

Statutory Sick Pay

The Government plan to strengthen statutory sick pay (‘SSP’) by removing the waiting period so that SSP is payable from day one of an employee’s sickness absence. In addition, they propose to remove the lower earnings limit to make SSP available to all workers.

Menopause

Currently around 10% of women aged 45-55 leave their jobs due to their menopausal symptoms and the lack of support they receive at work. The Government’s plans address this by introducing a policy requiring businesses with over 250 employees to put action plans in place to support women as they experience the menopause. The action plans will necessarily have to be tailored to different workplaces, but the Government plan will issue guidance on how to create them.

Bereavement Leave for all Workers

This proposal is to widen the right to unpaid Bereavement Leave for all workers. This right is already in place for parents who suffer the death of a child, entitling them to two weeks of unpaid leave.

These changes reflect Labour’s commitment to improving job security, wage fairness, and working conditions, aiming to create a more equitable and supportive working environment for all employees.

Additional Information

The complete list of proposed changes is set out in Labour’s Plan To Make Work Pay document

Contact us

If you need HR support or advice on Labour’s proposed changes to employment legislation or wish to discuss how GatekeeperHR can ensure that your employment documentation is legally compliant, contact Jenny Reardon, a member of our GatekeeperHR team, on e. JennyReardon@rixandkay.co.uk or visit the GatekeeperHR website for more information on how we can help you.

If you need Employment Law advice to discuss how these proposed changed could affect your business, contact Elaine Abbs, a solicitor with our Employment team for more information on how legislative changes could affect your business.