What a change in Government could mean for UK employment law

October 2, 2023

By Fflur Jones

With opinion polls suggesting a potential change of UK government by 2025, our employment team has looked at some of the major changes this could mean to employment law.

As things stand, 2024 is expected to see a few developments in UK employment law, including potential amendments to TUPE and the Working Time Regulations arising out of the scrapping of certain EU laws, as well as changes to non-compete clauses which have already been announced by the UK Government. Stay tuned in to our newsletter for a full run-down of all the changes we expect to see in 2024 soon.

However, with most opinion polls currently suggesting a Labour party win at the next UK general election, we could also see many more sweeping changes to employment law in the UK from 2025 onwards. The “Employment Rights Bill” which Labour has indicated it would introduce to Parliament within the first 100 days of office could mean the most significant changes to employment law in the last 40 years, including:

What will change?

  • Unfair dismissal

The most significant reform announced for employees is the proposed changes to unfair dismissal. Currently, employees in the UK are protected from unfair dismissal after a qualifying period of two years in a job. If the Labour reforms are implemented, this protection would be a day one right.

Labour are also pledging to extend this protection to all workers, not just employees, and to remove the limits on unfair dismissal compensation. Time limits to bring claims in the employment tribunal are also expected to be extended. Although no more detail has been given about what this extension could look like, it is speculated that the three-month limit to bring a claim may be extended to six months.

  • Outlawing fire and re-hire

Firing and re-hiring is a practice where an employee is dismissed and offered re-engagement on different terms, usually where the employee has refused to accept changes to his or her existing terms. Labour proposes to outlaw this practice, although the detail on how they propose to do so is limited at the moment.

  • Trade unions

Labour proposes to strengthen the role of trade unions by giving them a new legal right to access workplaces to meet, represent, recruit and organise members. This is likely to make it easier for unions to reach recruitment thresholds to bring about strike action.

  • Other changes

Angela Rayner also referred to Labour’s intention to ban zero-hours contracts, support family-friendly working, strengthen sick pay, narrow the gender pay gap more quickly, and to tackle sexual harassment in the workplace. Specific details about these were not given at this time.

What might this mean for UK employers?

The reality is that if there is a change in government at the next general election, any major policy reforms will still take several months or more to be introduced, pass through Parliament and be implemented. We are therefore not likely to see any major changes until at least April 2026, giving employers more time to prepare. However, given that the proposals could mean big changes on issues such as the use of zero-hour contracts, employers are advised to keep an eye on the news in this area and carry out scenario planning accordingly.

If you require assistance with any of the above, please contact a member of our employment team, Fflur Jones, on 02920 829 117 or fjones@darwingray.com for a free initial chat to see how we can help you.

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