Incoming government sets out its plans for changes to employment law

One of the Labour Party's key pledges during the election was to initiate a large-scale reform of UK employment law within the first 100 days of taking officeOne of the Labour Party’s key pledges during the election was to initiate a large-scale reform of UK employment law within the first 100 days of taking office. As a result, we can expect some changes relatively quickly, although it may take some time for many of them to become law. The proposed reforms are set out in their ‘Plan to Make Work Pay: Delivering a New Deal for Working People’ and highlight what UK employers can expect to see immediately and in the future.

Some of the proposed changes to employment law could happen quite quickly, for example, changing the remit of the Low Pay Commission in relation to the national minimum wage. However, most of the new proposals will need to be passed through and approved as primary legislation by both Houses of Parliament, which is typically a lengthy process. It may also be that secondary legislation is required to flesh out the detail of the relevant reforms, and this in turn will take time to go through Parliament.

To add to this, Labour have committed to consult with businesses before any new employment law is passed. So, despite the hype about reform within the first 100 days, we expect that employers will have plenty of time both to input into the proposals and to prepare for them. It is worth noting that many of the proposals set out in Labour’s ‘Plan to Make Work Pay’ are fairly generic at this stage and lack substantive detail. We will therefore need to wait and see how they develop, both during and after consultation with businesses and in the draft legislation.

Here are the main points of the plan:

  1. Ending Insecure Work: Labour says it will tackle the issue of insecure work by banning exploitative zero hours contracts and ending the practice of “fire and rehire.” ? They will try to ensure that all workers have the right to a contract that reflects the number of hours they regularly work. ?
  2. Basic Day One Rights: Labour says it will introduce basic individual rights from day one for all workers, including protection against unfair dismissal, parental leave, and sick pay. ?This should provide workers with immediate access to these rights instead of waiting for up to two years. ?
  3. Single Status of Worker: The UK currently has a three-tier system for employment status, which the document claims can be confusing and lead to exploitation. ?The government says it will move towards a simpler two-part framework that differentiates between workers and the genuinely self-employed. ?It claims this will provide clarity for workers and businesses and prevent the misuse of employment status. ?
  4. Family-Friendly Rights: Labour will promote flexible working and ensure that workers have the right to request flexible working arrangements from day one. ? They will also review the parental leave system to better support working families and introduce measures to support carers in the workplace. ?
  5. Fair Pay: Labour will introduce a genuine living wage that reflects the cost of living and remove what it says are discriminatory age bands. ?They plan to strengthen sick pay and ensure that all workers have access to it. Labour says it will also strengthen protections for whistleblowers and ensure fair tips for hospitality workers. ?
  6. Voice at Work: Labour says it will update trade union legislation to remove what it claims are unnecessary restrictions and ensure that workers have a ‘meaningful right’ to organise through trade unions. ?Labour will also strengthen protections for trade union representatives and introduce rights for trade unions to access workplaces for recruitment and organising purposes. ?
  7. Equality at Work: Labour says it will strengthen equal pay regulations. Labour says it will also introduce measures to support women going through menopause in the workplace and strengthen protections for terminally ill workers. ?
  8. Rights at Work: Labour will establish a single enforcement body for workers’ rights to ensure better coordination and enforcement. ?They will also improve and strengthen employment tribunals to provide ‘quicker and more effective’ resolutions. Labour says it will review health and safety regulations and guidance to ensure they reflect the modern workplace and protect workers’ wellbeing. ?
  9. Procurement: Labour will bring about what it says is the biggest wave of insourcing of public services in a generation and extend the Freedom of Information Act to apply to private companies that hold contracts to provide public services.? They also plan to ensure that social value is mandatory in contract design and consider trade union recognition and access when awarding public contracts. ?