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25 October 2023

Might we see a new Employment Rights Bill in the near future?

If the wind continues to blow in the direction of Labour, then we very might well.  Oliver Stacey in the Employment team at Payne Hicks Beach breaks down what was said, by who at the Labour Party Conference, and what that might mean for employees and employers in the future.

Labour Party Conference 8-11 October 2023

During the conference, the Labour party presented its vision for Britain. Amidst the introduction of new policy ideas designed to turn the heads of voters, Labour announced a raft of measures designed to improve the employment rights of workers.

Who announced the policies?

The new policies were announced by three key members of the shadow cabinet: Angela Rayner, The Shadow Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, Anneliese Dodds, The Shadow Secretary of State for Women and Equalities and the Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves. Angela Rayner opened the conference with a speech that in part focussed on employment issues and detailed Labour’s proposed plans to tackle the issues.

What are the policies?

Angela Rayner announced that she would personally table a new Employment Rights Bill within 100 days of entering Parliament which would enact Labour’s “New Deal”. The ‘New Deal for Working People’ is a pledge to strengthen workers’ rights and make Britain fairer for working people. The proposed Bill will, according to Angela Rayner, give ‘workers basic rights from day one’. One aspect of this is removing the need for qualifying periods of service to be able to claim basic protections such as the right to not be unfairly dismissed, the right to claim sick pay and the right to claim parental leave.

It will also include new rules to end the practice of firing and rehiring as well as banning zero-hours contracts. They further commit in this proposed bill to banning the practice of blacklisting. Strike laws introduced by the Conservative Party since 2016 are also in their sights with Labour signalling they will be repealed as part of this proposed bill. Labour have produced a green paper (the best policy a party can propose without firmly committing to its implementation) setting forward these plans in addition to these speeches at the conference.

What does this mean for the future?

Labour still have to get over the hurdle of winning the next election, but, if this comes to pass, we should expect a series of rapid changes to employment law. The banning of zero hours contracts will have the most widespread ramification due to their prevalence, especially amongst the hospitality and healthcare industries.

In addition, the proposed speed of change will mean that employers will have to react with alacrity. The Bill will be proposed within 100 days. Its passage through parliament is always an uncertain thing to estimate, but given its central role in the Labour party’s policies, one may expect it to be given a quick passage. This means that employers will need to have strategies in place to comply with these proposed changes should Labour come to power next year.

All of this remains hypothetical given the fact that the Labour party are not in power yet, but with the polls currently indicating that Labour are on track to return to power for the first time in 14 years, now may be the time to start planning to accommodate a new Employment Rights Bill.

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Oliver Stacey
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