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Labour confirms plans for employment law

14 September 2023

Labour’s plans for radical reform of employment law were confirmed this week in a speech at the TUC conference.

In anticipation of the next UK general election taking place in 2024, the Labour Party has been promising reforms to the employment landscape of a greater magnitude than, arguably, any time in the last 40 years. 

In a speech at the TUC conference in Liverpool on Tuesday, Labour's deputy leader Angela Rayner gave a "cast iron commitment" to bring forward an employment rights bill within the first 100 days of Labour entering office.  This is part of a promised “New Deal for Working People”.

Our team have previously considered what the employment law landscape might look like under a Keir Starmer-led Labour government by examining Labour’s wide-ranging proposals for reform, including:

The recent speech has confirmed many of these proposals.  Trade union reforms were particularly highlighted, with a “loud and clear” message that the next Labour Government will ask Parliament to repeal various “anti-trade union” laws within their first 100 days.  Other significant reforms were also listed, including day one basic rights, a ban on zero hour contracts, an end to fire and rehire, and strengthened sick pay for all workers.

As noted by Unite the union in response to this speech, the “devil is in the detail”.  Rapid change has been promised in relation to trade union rights.  For reforms to individual rights, however, the promise is only for an employment rights bill to be introduced within the first 100 days.  This does not mean that actual change will happen that quickly – particularly if detail is left to implementing regulations, as is the case with current government reforms such as extending redundancy protection for pregnancy and maternity returners, and the new right to neonatal leave and pay.

Prior to the speech, some media reports had covered a potential watering-down of some key pledges on worker rights.  The Labour Party’s policy forum had agreed in July to consult on the proposal to create a single “worker” status, and also rowed back on the plan for “day one” rights (including unfair dismissal) by saying this would not prevent “probationary periods with fair and transparent rules and processes”.  These detailed issues were not covered in the recent speech, so it remains to be seen whether some of the proposals will be quite as radical as they first appeared.

Nevertheless, if implemented, Labour’s package of proposed reforms would represent the most transformational change to UK employment law in decades.  Employers should start considering the potential implications for their operations well in advance.

To discuss any of these topics or the potential wider implications for your business with our experts, you can contact us here.

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