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Election Manifestos and Employment Law – What to Expect?

20 June 2024

As the election on 4 July nears, political parties have released their manifestos, including outlines of their proposals to employment law and work.

We have pulled together a summary of the key elements from the manifestos of the Labour Party, Conservatives and Liberal Democrats.

Labour

Labour’s election manifesto includes extensive reforms to employment law, as outlined in its “Plan to Make Work Pay: New Deal for Working People”, published on 24 May (the Plan to Make Work Pay).

The Labour manifesto commits to delivering the Plan to Make Work Pay by introducing new legislation within 100 days of taking office, with full consultation with businesses, workers, and civil society planned as part of the process.

The proposals are highly favourable to employees and present some significant changes in key areas of employment law and working practices.

Contracts and Employment Status

  • Zero-hour contracts: Labour plans to ban ‘exploitative’ zero-hour contracts, granting workers contracts that reflect the hours regularly worked, based on the last 12 weeks of employment.
  • “Fire and rehire”: Labour propose to ban dismissal and re-engagement practices and offer effective remedies against what they term to be ‘abuses’. The recently introduced Code of Practice will be replaced with a more robust version.
  • Employment status: Labour plan to replace the current employment status structure of worker – employee – self-employed with a simpler two-part system of employment status to create a single status of “worker”, extending all employment rights that employees have to workers.

Qualifying Periods and Time Limits

  • Unfair dismissal, parental leave and sick pay: Labour propose to make these day-one rights with no need to for a qualifying length of service. Employers will still be able to use “fair and transparent” probationary periods to end the employment of new hires.
  • Flexible working: Labour want to make this a day-one right for all workers (currently only employees can make a flexible working request), except where it is not reasonably feasible.
  • Time limits: Labour propose to extend the three-month time limit for bringing most employment claims to six months.

Pay

  • Minimum wage: Labour plan to review the minimum wage mechanism so that it factors in the cost of living. They also plan to remove the age bands from the living wage for workers 21 and over.
  • Statutory Sick Pay: Labour propose to remove the lower earnings limit qualifying criteria and remove the three-day waiting period.
  • Unpaid internships: Labour propose to ban unpaid internships, except when part of an education or training course.

Equality and discrimination

  • Race Equality Act: Labour want to introducing a Race Equality Act to enshrine equal pay rights for Black, Asian, and other minorities and strengthen protections against ‘dual discrimination’, allowing individuals facing prejudice due to a combination of protected characteristics to file a single discrimination claim.
  • Pay Gap Reporting: Labourpropose mandatory reporting on Ethnicity (and Disability) Pay Gap Reporting for employers with 250 or more employees. Gender Pay Gap Reporting will be strengthened with obligations on large firms to develop, implement and publish action plans.
  • Pregnant women: Labour plan to increase protections to make it unlawful to dismiss a woman in the six months following a return from maternity leave, except in specific circumstances.
  • Sexual harassment: Labour propose to make employers take “all reasonable steps” to prevent sexual harassment at work, including by third-parties.
  • Menopause: Labour will make action plans on the menopause mandatory for employers with 250 or more employees.
  • Disability support: Labour have pledged to tackle the backlog in Access to Work claims and improve access to reasonable adjustments.

Family friendly rights

  • Carer’s leave: Labour plan to review this to make it paid.
  • Bereavement leave: Labour propose a right to bereavement leave for all workers.
  • Right to “switch off”: Following existing models in Ireland and Belgium, Labour propose a ‘right to disconnect from work’ is introduced, although there are likely to be opt-outs to this.

Whistleblower protection

  • Enhanced protections: Labour say they will ‘strengthen’ whistleblower protections, including updating protection for women who report sexual harassment at work.  

Redundancy and TUPE

  • Enhanced rights: Labour plans to strengthen employee rights in redundancy and TUPE situations, such as collective redundancy consultation rights.

Enforcement

  • Single Enforcement Body: Labour propose to establish a single enforcement body to enforce employment laws and rights.

Conservatives

The Conservative’s manifesto does not set out many employment-specific proposals and largely focuses on maintaining and developing existing policies against a broader backdrop of economic growth.

They propose to:

  • Continue enforcing minimum service levels during strike action in key sectors including health, education, fire and rescue services, transport, border security and nuclear decommissioning and radioactive waste management.
  • Overhaul the “fit-note” system so that people are not signed off sick by default and moving the responsibility for issuing fit notes away from GPs to specialist work and other healthcare professionals.
  • Introduce primary legislation to redefine the protected characteristic of sex under the Equality Act 2010 as “biological sex”.
  • Reduce employees’ national insurance contributions to 6% from 2027 and abolish it for the self-employed by the end of the next Parliament.

Liberal Democrats

The Liberal Democrats’ focus on expanding rights and protections, particularly for parents and disabled employees.

Their pledges include:

Parental Leave and Pay

  • Day-one rights: The Liberal Democrats propose to make parental leave and pay a day-one right, extending it to self-employed parents as well.
  • Statutory maternity pay: The Liberal Democrats want to double statutory maternity pay and shared parental pay to £350 a week.
  • Paternity leave: The Liberal Democrats would introduce an additional month of “use-it-or-lose-it” paternity leave for fathers and partners, paid at 90% of earnings.

Equality and Diversity

  • New protected characteristics: The Liberal Democrats propose to update the Equality Act 2010 to include protected characteristics of “caring” and “care experience”, requiring reasonable adjustments for employees with caring responsibilities.
  • Diversity targets: The Liberal Democrats would mandate that ‘large’ employers publish data on gender, ethnicity, disability, and LGBT+ employment levels, pay gaps and progressions, as well as publishing five-year aspirational diversity targets.
  • Access to Work: The Liberal Democrats want to raise employer awareness of the scheme and simplify and speed up the application process.
  • “Adjustment Passports”: The Liberal Democrats propose bringing in a ‘passport’ scheme that will ensure that the support and equipment provided to disabled employees are recorded and transferred when they change jobs.

Employment Tribunals

Burden of proof: The Liberal Democratspropose shifting the burden of proofregarding establishing employment status in tribunal claims from the individual to the employer. 

Comment

Polling data at the time of writing this article suggests that Labour are likely to have a significant majority in the next Parliament and therefore they are likely to want to push through on their proposals set out in their Plan to Make Work Pay.

Those proposals suggest some significant changes to key employment legislation will be put in place by mid-October 2024, including day one unfair dismissal protection and the right to bring claims up to six-months after the event complained of.

That does not mean these measures will take effect within 100 days, and it would seem likely that any consultation on these proposals will point out the need for a lead-in time to allow employers time to put relevant systems and policies in place to meet these new obligations.

However, what seems likely is that employers will need to get to grips with a new employment environment that encourages employers to follow procedures and rules from day one, where they may be currently tempted not to do so.

How we can help

Whatever changes to the law may come under a new Government, Wrigleys’ Employment Team have long-term experience of helping clients adapt to new laws, rules and policies in the ever-changing world of employment law.

This includes drafting policies to robustly meet the challenges of new obligations and duties and updating and adapting contracts to do the same.

If your organisation needs help and advice to meet new challenges, we’d love to hear from you.

 

If you would like to discuss any aspect of this article further, please contact Michael Crowther or any of the employment team on 0113 244 6100.

You can also keep up to date by following Wrigleys employment team on X.

The information in this article is necessarily of a general nature. The law stated is correct at the date (stated above) this article was first posted to our website. Specific advice should be sought for specific situations. If you have any queries or need any legal advice please feel free to contact Wrigleys Solicitors.

 
 
 

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
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