Nicola Macara: Employment law under a Labour government

Nicola Macara: Employment law under a Labour government

Nicola Macara

What are we likely to see on employment law if Labour wins the next general election? Nicola Macara lays out her predictions.

The next UK general election must be held no later than 28 January 2025. The Prime Minister’s working assumption is that it will take place in the second half of this year. Polling conducted by members of the British Polling Council so far this year has consistently indicated a majority Labour government on current voting intention. It makes sense, therefore, to think ahead to changes likely to be made by a Labour government especially, from the Scottish perspective, in areas reserved to the exclusive legislative competence of the UK Parliament. Employment law generally is one such area. In this article, I take a close look at current Labour Party commitments in this field.

In a Labour Party document published in January, Let’s get Britain’s future back the Labour Party leader commits a government led by him to deliver a genuine living wage, ban zero hours contracts and end fire and rehire. Writing in February, the Labour Party deputy leader gave a cast-iron commitment that an employment rights bill to legislate for these things would be brought forward within the first 100 days of a majority Labour government. Let’s consider these matters in more detail.

While the present government has committed to increases to the National Minimum Wage from April 2024 in the usual way, with different rates for different ages, the Labour Party has suggested that they intend the Living Wage to cover all people 18 or over, equally.

One of the more polarising commitments concerns zero hours contracts. Labour’s intention is to make unlawful all employment contracts that do not include a minimum number of guaranteed hours. In addition, anyone working regular hours for twelve weeks or more is, under Labour’s plans, to be given a right to a regular contract on those hours. Labour also intends to ensure all workers get reasonable notice of any change in shifts or working time, with wages for any shifts cancelled without appropriate notice to be paid in full.

“Fire and rehire” is the colloquial term used when an employer dismisses an employee and then re-employs them on different and sometimes less attractive terms and conditions. Labour plans to make this practice unlawful if the relevant guidance it will introduce is not followed. Labour intends to enhance requirements on the information and consultation procedures to be used by employers seeking agreement on contractual changes. Labour also plans to adapt unfair dismissal and redundancy legislation to provide redress for workers who are dismissed for failing to agree a replacement contract.

At the heart of the Labour Party’s promised reforms is the proposal that workers are given rights to sick pay and parental leave, and protection against unfair dismissal, from the first day of their employment. It is also worth noting the Labour Party’s current intention to repeal the Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Act 2023. It is this legislation that has allowed regulations to be made requiring a minimum level of service in specific sectors during industrial action.

The political parties’ manifestos, to be published when the date for the next general election is set, should be studied for information of their intentions for employment and discrimination law at that time. We will know then the role which Starmer’s desire to “level-up workers’ rights in a way that has not been attempted for decades” will play in the general election.

Nicola Macara is an associate at Clyde & Co. This article first appeared in The Scotsman.

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