Gwenan White | Trainee Solicitor

Are the new Labour Government set to transform employment law in the UK?

On 5th July 2024, the UK awoke to perhaps the least surprising news in recent UK election history: Labour had won a majority at Westminster. The party has promised substantial changes to put an end to what they have described as ‘outdated’ employment laws. So, what can we expect from the new government?

Simplification of employment status

Labour plan to remove the current classification of ‘employees’, ‘workers’ and ‘self-employed’. They aim to replace this with a single status of ‘worker’ or ‘genuinely self-employed’. This would ensure that all workers have the same basic rights and protections.

    Unfair Dismissal

    Perhaps the most radical changes proposed by the new Labour Government are in respect of the current legal framework allowing employees to claim they have been unfairly dismissed. The proposals, if introduced, will undoubtedly create a substantial shift in the way many employers think about how they manage and dismiss their staff.

    Firstly, as Labour plan to remove the distinction between employees and workers. This would result in all workers, even those engaged on flexible-type contracts, being able to bring a claim of unfair dismissal. Labour also plans to remove the current requirement for employees to have a minimum of two years’ service and make the right to claim unfair dismissal a ‘day one’ right. This would mean a greater emphasis on employer’s recruitment, and management of staff conduct and performance, from the start of their employment and make the process of dismissing all employees with short service more challenging.

    The Labour Government also plan to remove the current limit on the compensatory cap for unfair dismissal claims. This would align with discrimination and protected disclosure claims. They also want to extend the current time limit to bring a claim from three months to 6 months.

    Greater emphasis on flexible and fair working

    Other proposals by Labour are to strengthen the current right for employees to request flexible working, introduce the right to bereavement leave, and review reforms to the shared parental leave framework. Labour also plan to take note from France and introduce a right for workers to ‘switch off’ or ‘disconnect’. The would mean employees would have a right not to do any work including emails, calls and messages outside their working hours and not face being penalised for refusing to work.

    Labour have also indicated changes to health and safety rules in the workplace and trade union reform. Whether or not the changes discussed above are introduced and the practical impact on both employers’ practices and employees working lives remains to be seen.

    Our Employment Team has significant experience acting for a wide range of employers and employees and advising on the full breadth of employment law matters. If you require assistance, please contact us today.

    Gwenan White

    Gwenan White

    Employment Law Team

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