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Will a new Labour Government result in Fairer Employment Laws?

Employment Law

On 4 July, the Labour party won their first parliamentary majority for 14 years.

Prior to this, Labour’s deputy leader Angela Rayner gave a “cast iron guarantee” at the annual Trades Union Congress (TUC) conference in 2023, that the party would introduce an Employment Rights Bill within 100 days of taking office.

On 24 May 2024 Labour published their “New Deal for Working People” setting out their proposals to “make work pay” if they came into office. Their Labour manifesto published on 13 June 2024 boldly declared that “Britain’s outdated employment laws are not fit for the modern economy” and reaffirmed their plan to meet their 100 day deadline. If they do what they say they will do then employment laws will provide much better rights for employees.

A key aspect of Labour’s new employment law proposals is the introduction of new ‘day one’ rights. The most important of these would be the right not to be unfairly dismissed, applying from an employee’s first day at work, rather than having to wait until they have two years’ service to be able to complain about being unfairly dismissed.

Currently, only employees bringing discrimination claims or those who have automatically unfair reasons for dismissal, such as whistleblowing or health and safety concerns are usually protected. This is not fair and often leads to employees having to argue they have been subjected to unfair treatment or dismissed due to one of their protected characteristics such as race, sex or age. This can make claims unnecessarily complicated, clogging Employment Tribunal lists as they usually result in hearings of more than three days.

Labour also propose to ensure that flexible working is a ‘genuine default’ from day one for all workers except in situations where it is not reasonably feasible.

One of the biggest changes the manifesto promises is to change the remit of the Low Pay Commission (LPC) when calculating the minimum wage. The LPC currently considers median wages and economic conditions, but the new proposal will also reflect the need to consider the cost of living. Labour also proposes to remove the current age bands which will mean that the minimum wage will apply to all adult workers.

Labour have pledged to end fire and re-hire (the practice of dismissing employees and then rehiring them under new contractual terms) with just a couple of exceptions. The existing statutory code will be replaced by a strengthened Code of Practice.

They have also pledged to ban “exploitative” zero-hours contracts with everyone having the right to a contract that reflects the number of hours they regularly work, based on a 12 week reference period.

Other proposals in Labour’s New Deal green paper that they have committed to implement in full include increasing the time limit for bringing Employment Tribunal claims from three months to six, amending the threshold for collective redundancy consultation obligations to apply to affected individuals across the entire business rather than separate locations, and the banning of unpaid internships that take place outside of an education or training course.

Labour also intend to introduce more apprenticeships through the establishment of ‘Technical Excellence Colleges’ and by transforming the apprenticeship levy.

Labour have said they will introduce a right to bereavement leave to all workers, to make it unlawful to dismiss a pregnant worker for six months after their return to work (except in specific circumstances), and impose a duty on employers to inform their staff of their right to join a trade union.

They also plan to strengthen rights to equal pay, taking action to reduce the gender pay gap and introducing a race equality act to enshrine the rights to equal pay and discrimination protections to Black, Asian and other ethnic minority groups, although it is not yet clear how these protections differ from the existing ones in the 2010 Equality Act.

Should these proposals become law, this will be the largest expansion of employee rights to take place in the past fourteen years.

Those on the right will squeal that this will be difficult for businesses but the truth is that many employers make mistakes, thinking they can behave unfairly just because someone has less than two years service, and forgetting that discrimination claims are an exception to this. Why would anyone want to behave unfairly, and what benchmark for good practice does this encourage?

More money for Acas to educate employers on their duties and obligations would also be helpful. After all, providing work for people that depend on their salaries to pay their mortgages and rent is a big responsibility, and not to be taken lightly.

As the director of a campaigning law firm which is deeply concerned about ending unfair treatment in the workplace, we welcome this step in the right direction.

Treating all employees fairly regardless of their service and using fair processes to deal with performance and conduct, especially in probationary periods of at least six months, is the way forward.

We need unity in the workplace not dispute.

For expert advice for employers and employees, contact our Employment Law Team on 01273 609911, or email

Martin Searle Solicitors, 9 Marlborough Place, Brighton, BN1 1UB
T: 01273 609 991

Martin Searle Solicitors is the trading name of ms solicitors ltd, which is authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority, and is registered in England under company number 05067303.

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