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| 3 minutes read

Election manifestos: Employment implications

Since the announcement of the General Election, which will take place on 4 July 2024, both the Conservative and Labour parties have announced their respective manifestos. 

Both manifestos contain some interesting proposals relating to employment law, which will no doubt have ramifications for businesses, employees and the self-employed alike. The key policies relating to employment law for the main two parties are summarised below.  

Labour

The Labour Party’s manifesto for the 2024 General Election is entitled “Change”. It is evident from the contents of the manifesto that, in respect of the landscape of employment law, change is certainly something they are pushing for.

The manifesto confirms the intention to implement "Labour’s Plan to Make Work Pay: Delivering a New Deal for Working People". This plan sets out a raft of radical changes to employment law, which Labour confirm they intend to introduce within 100 days of entering government, although they also say that they will consult with businesses and unions before passing any legislation. The key proposals are as follows:

  • Day 1 employment rights and time limits
    Labour propose to afford all workers protection from unfair dismissal from day one of employment, whereas currently this protection is not available for employees until completion of two years’ service. This change would inevitably increase unfair dismissal claims against employers. However, Labour’s plan clarifies that this change would not prevent employers from having probationary periods with fair and transparent rules and processes, meaning it will be important for employers to ensure their contracts contain clear and flexible probationary periods. In addition, Labour propose to extend the time limits for bringing claims in the Employment Tribunal from the current three months, to six months.
     
  • Employment status
    Labour propose a move towards a two-tier system for defining employment status, which would comprise of “worker” and “self-employed”. All workers would be afforded the same basic rights and protections currently enjoyed by employees under the current three tier system, including sick pay, holiday pay, parental leave and protection from unfair dismissal. This would represent a significant change, as it would mean that many more people gain entitlement to additional employment rights. However, it could also have the effect of increasing the volume of claims against employers.
     
  • Zero hours contracts
    As part of Labour’s commitment to remove ‘one sided flexibility’ in employment relationships, they intend to ban “exploitative” zero hours contracts. Specifically, they intend to make changes to ensure that everyone has the right to a contract which reflects the number of hours they regularly work, according to a 12-week reference period. This could mean that zero hours contracts which do not guarantee any work, but require the employee to take any work offered, could be banned.
     
  • Fire and rehire
    The code of practice on fire and rehire is due to come into force on 18 July 2024. The Labour party say that it is inadequate and will be replaced with a strengthened code of practice with the aim of ending the practice of fire and rehire.
     
  • Right to disconnect and flexible working
    The Labour plan includes a proposal to ensure flexible working is the default position for all workers ‘except where it is not reasonably feasible’. This would be a significant departure from the current position. Furthermore, employees will be given the right to disconnect from work, to prevent the lines between home life and work life from becoming blurred. This proposal indicates that the current models already in place in Ireland and Belgium could be implemented in the UK.
     
  • Redundancy
    Labour intend to reform redundancy rights and protections. The proposal includes ensuring the collective redundancy consultation process is determined by the number of people impacted across the business, rather than in specific workplaces (which is the current position). This change would mean more employers being required to carry out collective consultation, which is typically lengthier and more complex.

Conservative

In comparison to Labour proposals, the Conservative manifesto represents a more “business as usual” approach to employment law. However, they have made some interesting pledges:

  • National Insurance
    The Conservatives plan to reduce employee National Insurance contributions by 2p. Furthermore, they propose to support the self-employed by abolishing the main rate of self-employed National Insurance entirely by the end of Parliament.
     
  • Apprenticeships
    As part of a plan to support young people in the workplace, the Conservatives intend to fund 100,000 high quality apprenticeships for young people. This proposal aims to curb poor quality university degrees that leave young people in debt without employment prospects.
     
  • National service
    One of the Conservative’s more controversial proposals is the intention to introduce mandatory National Service for all school leavers at 18, with a choice between a competitive placement in the military, or civic service roles.

In summary, both parties propose to make some interesting changes to employment law. However, Labour’s plans are more far reaching and will inevitably have dramatic consequences for both businesses and people in employment. If Labour are successful in this election, it is clear that many changes will be required to employers’ processes, policies and contractual documents.

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employment