General Election Could See Major Changes to Employment Law in the UK

May 28, 2024

By Owen John

With a General Election on 4 July 2024, our award-winning employment team looks at the major changes to employment law that the Labour Party has promised if it comes to power.

Based on Labour’s proposals, a change of UK Government could see some of the biggest changes to employment law in 40 years. If elected, Labour has signalled its intention to introduce many of these changes within its first 100 days in power. We look at these changes and what they could mean for employers.

More employment rights from day 1

Currently, an employee must be employed for 2 years before they have protection from unfair dismissal. This generally makes it easier for employers to dismiss employees with less than 2 years’ service (as long as there are no discrimination or whistleblowing risks in doing so).

Labour is proposing to give all employees the right not to be unfairly dismissed from their very first day in employment – although the party has clarified that this won’t stop employers from being able to dismiss employees who are still within a contractual probationary period.

Top Tip: Make sure you have a contract in place for all new employees, and tighten up the wording of the probationary period clause in your employment contracts. Get in touch with us if you need help with this.

Ban on zero-hour contracts

Having initially said that it would ban zero-hours contracts outright, Labour has shifted its position slightly on this issue, by now saying that zero-hours contracts will be outlawed unless an individual specifically requests one. The proposal is to introduce a right to a contract which guarantees a minimum number of hours of work, based on the average hours a worker works over a 12-week reference period.

Top Tip: Review your current use of zero-hours contracts and consider, at this stage, what alternative arrangements could work for you. Get in touch if you want to discuss your options.

Removal of “worker” status

Currently, UK employment law recognises three types of employment status: (i) employee, (ii) worker and (iii) self-employed. However, Labour says it intends to reduce this down to two: (i) employee and (ii) self-employed, with ‘workers’ gaining greater employment law rights and essentially moving into the ‘employee’ category.

Top Tip: Carry out an audit of your current staff – who, legally, would be classed as employed, who would be classed as a worker, and who would be classed as self-employed? Then plan ahead. It’s important to take both employment law and tax advice on the issue of employment status.

Ban on “fire and re-hire”

The party would end the practice of dismissal and re-engagement, commonly known as “fire and re-hire”, by employers looking to make changes to their employees’ pay, hours or other terms of employment. However, little detail has so far been given on how this would work. Stay tuned for further information.

More time to bring Employment Tribunal claims

Currently, in most cases, individuals have 3 months from the date of their dismissal (or from the date of an alleged act of discrimination, whistleblowing or other employment law breach) to bring claims in the Employment Tribunal. Labour is proposing to increase this limitation period, suggesting it could be increased to 6 months. This is likely to increase the number of Employment Tribunal claims being brought.

Top Tip: Have you considered taking out insurance to cover you against the risk and cost of Employment Tribunal claims? Read more here about how we could help on this front.

Right to disconnect

We’ve already covered this proposal in a recent article here.

Top Tip: Tighten up the drafting of your hours of work clause in employment contracts and consider how you would implement a policy on the right to disconnect.

Pay gap reporting

Currently, employers with over 250 employees must report their gender pay gap annually (i.e. the difference between what male and female employees earn). Labour is proposing to increase this duty to cover reporting on ethnicity pay gaps and disability pay gaps.

Top Tip: If you are caught by the current gender pay gap reporting requirements, get ahead of the game by crunching the data on your ethnicity and disability pay gaps. Get in touch if you need help with this.

Trade union rights

The Labour Party has also proposed to reform the laws governing trade unions, potentially making it easier for unions to obtain recognition from employers and encouraging the use of collective bargaining. These proposals are likely to involve a detailed consultation process with unions before being implemented, but employers should be alive to the likelihood of changes in this area.

Will employment law change if there is no change in Government?

Our recent article set out the changes the UK Government is already implementing or proposing to implement in 2024. If re-elected, the Conservative Party is expected to continue with these changes as well as also now consulting on further changes to TUPE. Either way, therefore, we are likely to see some big changes to employment law in 2024-25.

If you require advice or assistance on these anticipated changes or any HR support from our experts, contact Owen John on or 029 2082 9100 for a free initial chat to see how we can help you.

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