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A New Deal for Working People – How might employment law look should Labour win the next Election?

February 20, 2024

I’ve got a confession to make…  I’ve never really been interested in politics and tend to ignore what those who run our country get up to.  If you were to call me an ignoramus I would have to take that on the chin as it would be true, at least with regards to politics.  With that disclaimer out of the way, I am now going to proceed to write a blog which has a political aspect. 

Whenever the next General Election might take place (my sources tell me that it must be before January 2025 and could be the latter part of 2024), the Labour Party has been quick to set out its stall regarding workers’ rights.  Labour’s New Deal for Working People is a “comprehensive plan to improve the lives of working people by strengthening individual and collective rights.”   Should an election see Labour come into power, their proposals promise to radically overhaul existing employment laws within the first 100 days of their commencing in power. 

Among the changes which are promised, the following will be of interest (and perhaps concern) for employers and businesses:-

• Banning the use of zero hours contracts.

• Making fire and re-hire unlawful (perhaps by coincidence, the current Government just yesterday announced that they were moving forward with the ACAS Code on fire and re-hire, said to “crack down” on “unscrupulous” employers who abuse this tactic).

• Making various rights “day one rights” (meaning no minimum qualifying period of employment) for all workers (i.e. not just employees), such as sick pay, holiday pay, flexible working (this becomes a day one right in April 2024, anyway) and unfair dismissal.  The reference to unfair dismissal is particularly of note (readers will be familiar that under the current system an employee must have 2 years’ continuous employment to benefit from this right). 

• Reforms to worker status with the implementation of a single status “worker” to address sham self-employment in the GIG economy.

• Removing certain restrictions on trade union activities.

• A “genuine” living wage for all adults.

• The right to “switch-off” from work. 

When I started working in employment law, the qualifying period for unfair dismissal was one year.  It was increased by the Conservative Government to the current 2 years. Historically, the qualifying period for unfair dismissal is something which has typically been reduced by Labour and increased by Conservatives whenever each respective party was in power.  Back in 1974 the qualifying period was at its lowest, being 6 months. Japan, France and Germany do not require a qualifying period of employment to claim unfair dismissal. Nova Scotia in Canada requires 10 years’ continuous employment! One can only speculate how the tribunal system would cope if all workers (wider than just employees) could claim unfair dismissal from day one. While this would be good news for the lawyers, surely not for businesses. 

There has been recent news coverage where various quarters have called upon Labour to re-think its proposals. For example, Rupert Soames, President of the Confederation for British Industry (CBI), advised the Financial Times that CBI was giving “private feedback” to Labour regarding the “unintended consequences” of the proposals spoke of a desire for the UK to avoid a “European model” of work.

Interesting times ahead.  

If you have any questions on this on any other area of Employment law, please get in touch with Blackadders Employment Team, working in Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh, Glasgow and across Scotland.

Nicola Burns

Nicola Burns

Director of Operations

Marketing Team

+44 1382 342217

The opinions expressed in this site are of the author(s) only and do not necessarily represent the opinions of Blackadders LLP.

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