One of Labour’s key pledges during the election was to kickstart a large-scale reform of UK employment law within the first 100 days of gaining power.

We can therefore expect to see some significant changes being proposed to the legal landscape relatively quickly, although it may take time for many of them to become law. In this article, we outline the proposed reforms as set out in both The Labour Party’s 2024 manifesto and their ‘Plan to Make Work Pay: Delivering a New Deal for Working People’ and highlight what UK employers can expect to see on the horizon in the months and years to come.


Employment Law

1. When are employment law reforms likely to take effect?

One of Labour’s key pledges has been to introduce employment legislation reflecting their ‘Plan to Make Work Pay’ within 100 days of entering government. However, it is highly unlikely that employers will see a dramatic reform of employment law within that time.

Some of the proposed changes 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 consultation with businesses before legislation 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.

2. What are the key employment law reforms being proposed?

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.

What we do know is that in terms of their key pledges for UK employment law, Labour are currently proposing that they will:

Basic rights and employment tribunals

  • introduce basic individual rights from day one for all workers, removing the qualifying period to bring a claim for parental leave, sick pay and unfair dismissal;
  • increase the time limit within which someone can bring an employment tribunal claim from 3 months to 6 months;
  • introduce a “right to switch off”, following a similar model to that already in Ireland and Belgium;
  • introduce a right for employees to make a collective grievance to Acas;
  • strengthen statutory sick pay, remove the lower earnings limit to make it available to all workers and remove the waiting period;
  • ensure that proposals to introduce surveillance technologies are subject to consultation and negotiation with a view to reaching agreement with trade unions (or elected staff representatives where there is no trade union);
  • establish a single enforcement body (as promised by the Conservatives) to inspect workplaces and take action against exploitation;
  • ban unpaid internships, except where they are part of an education or training course;
  • consult on the possibility of moving towards a single status of “worker” (rather than “employee” and “worker”);

Sexual harassment, whistleblowing, menopause, equality and discrimination

  • strengthen protections for whistleblowers, including updating protections for women who report sexual harassment at work;
  • introduce a Race Equality Act giving the right to equal pay to Black, Asian and other ethnic minority people and strengthening protections against dual discrimination;
  • introduce a new right to equal pay for disabled people;
  • introduce disability and ethnicity pay gap reporting for employers with more than 250 staff;
  • strengthen the legal duty for employers to take all reasonable steps to stop sexual harassment before it starts;
  • make it unlawful to dismiss a woman who is pregnant for six months after her return to work from maternity leave, except in specific circumstances;
  • require employers with more than 250 employees to produce a Menopause Action Plan, setting out how they will support employees through the menopause;
  • continue to support the implementation of the single-sex exceptions in the Equality Act 2010;
  • bring the socio-economic duty (relevant to public bodies) into force;
  • extend the Public Sector Equality Duty to all those exercising public functions;

Family friendly rights

  • carry out a review as to whether paid carer’s leave should be introduced;
  • ensure that parental leave is a day one right, and review the parental leave system within the first year of government;
  • introduce the right to bereavement leave for all workers;

Contracts and wages

  • introduce a flat rate minimum wage for workers of all ages and ensure that the minimum wage is a living wage that reflects the cost of living;
  • ban ‘exploitative’ zero hours contracts and ensure that everyone has the right to have a contract that reflects the number of hours they regularly work based on a 12-week reference period;
  • ensure that all workers get reasonable notice of any change in shifts or working time, with compensation that is proportionate to the notice given for any shifts cancelled or curtailed;
  • end the practice of ‘fire and rehire’, reforming the law to provide effective remedies against abuse and replacing the code being brought in by the current government with a statutory code of practice;
  • make flexible working the default from day one for all workers (including opportunities for flexi-time contracts and hours that better accommodate school terms where they are not currently available), except where it is not reasonably feasible;
  • ensure hospitality workers receive tips in full and workers decide how tips are allocated;

Trade unions and health & safety

  • introduce a new duty on employers to inform all new employees of their right to join a union (as part of the written statement of particulars) and to inform all staff of this on a regular basis;
  • update trade union legislation by removing restrictions on trade union activity;
  • allow secure and private electronic balloting;
  • simplify the process of union recognition and the law around statutory recognition thresholds, removing the rule that unions must show at least 50% of workers are likely to support their claim for recognition before the process can begin, and ensuring that a union will only need a simple majority to win the final ballot on whether or not it should be recognised;
  • modernise the law on blacklisting and introduce sufficient facilities time for trade union reps;
  • introduce the right for trade unions to access workplaces in a regulated and responsible manner, for recruitment and organising purposes and allow unions officials to meet, represent, recruit and organise members, provided they give appropriate notice and comply with reasonable requests of the employer;
  • introduce a ‘Fair Pay Agreement’ (a type of sectoral collective bargaining agreement) in the adult social care sector – they will also assess how and to what extent Fair Pay Agreements could benefit other sectors;
  • modernise health & safety legislation and guidance;

Redundancy & TUPE

  • introduce an obligation to collectively consult on large-scale redundancies when employees are at risk of redundancy across the whole of a business, rather than at one workplace or local employment unit; and
  • strengthen the existing set of rights and protections for workers subject to TUPE processes.

Interestingly, although Labour had previously pledged to remove the statutory caps on compensation awarded in the employment tribunal, this is no longer mentioned. They had also previously referred to other reforms including a personal liability on directors for breaches of employment law and to extending maternity and paternity leave, which are no longer referred to.

Business Immigration

1. When are business immigration reforms likely to take effect?

When it comes to business immigration, Labour’s proposals are also missing substantive detail at this early stage. Their key focus to reduce net migration seems to be implementing a cross-department skills strategy to reduce reliance in the UK on foreign workers. However, introducing such a strategy, effectively from scratch, will arguably take some time. 

2. What are the key business immigration reforms being proposed?

In terms of their key pledges for business immigration, Labour have said that they will: 

  • reduce net migration (no figure is specified) and reform the points-based immigration system through “appropriate restrictions on visas” with a plan to link immigration and skills policy;

  • impose new conditions on employers to draw up “skills improvement plans” to train UK-based workers in sectors applying for high numbers of skilled worker visas;

  • introduce workforce and training plans for sectors such as health & social care and construction, to end long-term reliance on overseas workers;

  • ban employers who “flout the rules” from hiring workers from abroad (for example, those who breach immigration or employment laws); and

  • strengthen the Migration Advisory Committee and establish a framework for joint working with skills bodies across the UK, the Industrial Strategy Council and the Department for Work and Pensions.

We understand that Labour have not made any comment on the review of the graduate visa route or on visa application fees. They have confirmed that there are no plans for a Youth Mobility Scheme with the EU and have stated that they will ask the Migration Advisory Committee to review the April 2024 changes to minimum salary requirements.

TLT Comment

Labour have claimed that their plans are “the biggest upgrade to rights at work for a generation”. It remains to be seen how quickly they can get their reforms passed into law. Needless to say, the employment law landscape as we currently know it is likely to be changing fairly dramatically in the relatively near future, and employers will need to prepare themselves for a number of regulatory, legal and financial changes over the coming years.

Whilst this thought may bring beads of sweat to many an HR professional’s brow, it is likely that there will be more time to prepare than the hype suggests. Given the vast number of proposals outlined above, it is likely that Labour will need to decide which changes they want to see implemented first, and it may be that others simply fall by the wayside. 

As soon as there are further developments, we will keep you updated so you know what you need to do. In the meantime, please do contact us if you have any questions or queries about how the election results might impact you as an employer.

Co-Authors: Victoria Wenn, Catherine Roylance & Hannah Eades

This publication is intended for general guidance and represents our understanding of the relevant law and practice as at 5 July 2024. Specific advice should be sought for specific cases. For more information see our terms & conditions.

For further news and updates on employment law developments as they happen, please follow our specialist Employment Law Twitter Feed @TLT_Employment and subscribe to our Employment Law Focus podcast – the latest episode, on flexible working is available here.

Date published

05 July 2024


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