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General Election: Implications for Employers HR & Employment Law

May 28, 2024 | By: Becky Edwards

With the announcement of a general election to take place sooner than we anticipated, on 4th July 2024, the UK prepares for a potential shift in political leadership.

This article explores potential changes to employment law depending on which party comes to power, focusing on key areas such as workers' rights, wages, and employment practices.

Conservative Party

In our article in January we explored the 2024 changes on the horizon with the current Conservative Government. This included the passing of The Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Act 2023 (Retained EU Law Act), The Equality Act 2010 (Amendment) Regulations 2023, Employment Rights (Flexible Working) Act 2023, Carer’s Leave Act 2023 and the Protection from Redundancy (Pregnancy and Family Leave) Act 2023.

So far this year we have seen changes to flexible working processes and paternity leave, the introduction to unpaid carers leave, and an attempt to streamline recent cases relating to holiday accrual and pay, to name but a few.

As we move forward, if the conservatives retain power, we are likely to see a greater emphasis on a business-friendly environment, focusing on reducing regulatory burdens and fostering economic growth. Changes could include streamlining tribunal processes, increased incentives for hiring apprentices, stricter visa requirements and a reduced pool of foreign workers and more flexible employment contracts to adapt to changing economic conditions. Employers could have greater leeway in designing contracts that meet their specific needs, including zero-hours contracts and freelance arrangements, albeit with some basic protections for workers.

Labour Party: Strengthening Workers' Rights

Since its Employment Rights (A New Deal for Working People) Green Paper in 2021, Labour has been clear that it intends to shake up the current employment law landscape. The Party has already committed to making robust changes within 100 days of government. With the election brought forward, this could be as early as October 2024.

The Labour Party has historically championed workers' rights and fair employment practices. Should they come to power, employers can anticipate several significant changes:

Allowing unfair dismissal claims to be brought as a day one right: Meaning that the existing 2 year qualifying period would be abolished. This is likely to be of great significance if taken in conjunction with the abolition of worker status (see next point below).

Status and Stricter Regulation of Gig Economy Jobs: Labour has consistently criticised precarious work arrangements typical of the gig economy. They are likely to introduce stricter regulations to ensure gig economy workers receive similar protections and benefits as full-time employees, such as sick pay, holiday pay, and minimum wage guarantees. In doing so they will seek to abolish ‘worker’ status as distinct from ‘employee’ status.

The Right to disconnect: Labour is keen to replicate rules similar to those of Belgium and Ireland, providing for a Code of Practice allowing employees to disconnect from work outside of normal working hours and thus supporting the now established section of the workforce working from home.

Employment Tribunal reforms: To potentially include the extension of time periods, increases caps/ tougher penalties, and penalties against individual directors.

Enhanced Rights for Trade Unions: Labour is likely to strengthen trade unions' role in workplaces. This could include easier processes for union recognition, greater protection for striking workers, and more robust collective bargaining rights. Employers might need to engage more proactively with unions and prepare for potential increases in industrial action.

Other proposals include:

  • Ban on Zero-hour contracts.
  • Outlawing fire and rehire practices.
  • Increasing SSP, and making it available for self-employed.
  • Outlawing unpaid internships except if via education.
  • Payment for travel time.
  • Payment for sleep over hours.

Liberal Democrats: A Balanced Approach

The Liberal Democrats often advocate for a balance between protecting workers' rights and supporting business growth. They have committed to family friendly changes allowing workers and self-employed parental leave and pay as a day one right (specifically 6 weeks leave for each parent with an additional 46 weeks to share), with pay beyond the 6 weeks of £350 per week.

In addition, they will increase paternity pay to 90% of earnings.

They are yet to announce any other reforms. The potential changes to UK employment law depend heavily on the political party in power. Employers need to stay abreast of these developments to prepare adequately and ensure compliance.

We can help you get ready for any changes and advise you accordingly.

About the Author
Becky Edwards
Becky Edwards
Becky Edwards, Author at Wirehouse Employer Services

Becky started her career supporting access to the workplace for disabled applicants and employees. From there she progressed into an Employment Law role advising organisations on contentious HR issues, implementing Terms & conditions and HR policies and delivering HR training. Becky has also accrued several years’ experience defending businesses at Employment Tribunals enabling her to be able to give advice with a strong understanding of the potential legal pitfalls.

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