UK General Election 2024/25: Employment Law Pledges by Main Parties

This article provides a bullet point overview of the anticipated employment law policy statements and pledges by the two main political parties in the lead-up to the general election that must take place by 28 January 2025.

Conservative’s vision

The Conservative Party has not yet announced its employment policies if it remains in power after the general election. If it forms the next government, it is expected that the current legislative agenda regarding employment law would continue and could include bringing into force previous manifesto commitments if they remain outstanding at the time of the election.

The issues relating to employment law that appear to be a government priority for 2024/2025, and which may feature in a Conservative Party manifesto, include:

Continue reforming industrial action laws: Implement minimum service levels under the Strikes Act 2023, despite facing a judicial review challenging the act by the PCS union which argues that the Strikes Act contravenes the right to strike under Article 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Agency Workers and Strikes: Repeal regulation 7 of the Conduct of Employment Agencies and Employment Businesses Regulations 2003, allowing employment businesses to supply agency workers to cover striking workers, following a High Court ruling against a previous attempt to repeal it.

Back to Work Plan:

·       Support for people with long-term health conditions or disabilities to return to work.

·       Reform the fit note process with consultations expected later in the year.

·       Improve occupational health access and uptake with a new framework expected in summer 2024.

Umbrella Companies: Addressing the scale of non-compliance in the umbrella company market, with HMRC guidance expected later in 2024.

Discrimination Law: Continue the National Disability Strategy, as well as addressing the definition of “sex” in the Equality Act 2010 (EqA 2010) and access to single-sex spaces.

Employment Tribunal Fees: Re-introduce fees for employment tribunal claims and appeals, proposing a modest £55 fee for most claims and appeals.

Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDAs): Legislate to ensure NDAs cannot prevent victims from reporting crimes, and possibly regulate NDAs more widely.

Reform of post-termination non-compete clauses: Introduce a statutory cap of three months on non-compete clauses in employment contracts, with guidance on their use.

Whistleblowing: Review and improve the current whistleblowing framework, with evidence gathering concluded by the end of 2023. 

Labour’s vision

In October 2022, the Labour Party published its Employment Rights Green Paper, “A New Deal for Working People” (the “New Deal”), setting out its vision for employment law and labour market regulation. The New Deal green paper sets out a significant number of proposed wide-ranging reforms to employment law pledging to “strengthen workers’ rights and make Britain work for working for people”. 

At the TUC annual conference in September 2023, Labour pledged to introduce an Employment Rights Bill within their first 100 days in office. They clarified that this means beginning the legislative process within that period, specifically by publishing draft legislative proposals. Consequently, any actual changes may take longer than initially implied.

Unfair Dismissal and Redundancy Rights: Remove the qualifying period for claiming unfair dismissal and redundancy pay, making these rights available from day one, subject to probationary periods.

Tribunal Limitation Periods: Extend the time limit for bringing employment tribunal claims beyond the current three months.

Statutory Sick Pay (SSP): Make SSP available from the first day of sickness absence and remove the lower earnings eligibility threshold.

Employment Status: Simplify the framework for classifying employment status, differentiating between ‘worker,’ ‘employee,’ and ‘self-employed’ categories.

Predictable Working Patterns: End contracts without guaranteed hours. Ensure workers receive reasonable notice of shift changes and compensation for cancellations.

Flexible Working Rights: Make flexible working the default from day one of employment, allowing employers to decline requests only in reasonable circumstances.

Fire and Rehire Ban: Consider a complete ban on the practice of firing and rehiring on inferior terms, though recent indications suggest that Labour may take a more business friendly stance moving forward.

Trade Union Support: Strengthen rights and protections for trade unions, including easier recognition processes and electronic ballots. Introduce new duties on employers to inform employees of their right to join a union.

Additional Proposals:

·       Fair Pay Agreements, focusing on collective bargaining in sectors like adult social care.

·       Right to disconnect from work outside of working hours, potentially through an Acas Code of Practice.

·       Measures to tackle gender, ethnicity, and disability pay gaps.

·       A single enforcement body for workers’ rights.

·       Mental health parity with physical health in the workplace.

·       Ban on unpaid internships.

·       Review of the shared parental leave system.

·       New laws to protect interns and volunteers from sexual harassment.

Notably, though, some of the plans Labour outlined in its New Deal have already been implemented, at least in part, by the current Government (for example, changes to paternity leave  and increased redundancy protections for pregnant workers). 

It remains to be seen of course whether the Labour Party will take office and, if so, how many of these proposals will be brought into force. It is worth remembering too that public consultation is likely to be needed before many of these proposals can take effect.

Both parties’ proposals, if implemented, could bring significant changes to the UK employment law landscape. So, we can only conclude by saying “watch this space” and we will keep you updated. Our expert team of employment lawyers are always available to answer your employment law and employee relations questions.


Posted on 05/20/2024 by Ortolan

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