What does the General Election mean for employers? Our analysis of the employment policies in the main party Manifestos

19th June 2024

Photo of London General Election

As an employment lawyer, a General Election brings much excitement and interest; what new policies are being proposed, what current legislation could be changed by a new Government, and how might that impact employers and employees alike? We discuss the key employment policies that appear in the Manifestos below:

Conservative and Unionist Party Manifesto

The Conservative Government has implemented a number of employment-law changes during the past five years and has proposed others (for example, limiting the maximum period of a non-competition clause to 3 months). The additional changes outlined in their Manifesto, relating to employees and employers are:

  • The overhaul of the ‘fit note’ system, to move responsibility for signing these from GPs to other healthcare professionals. The motivation behind such a policy is a record high of 2.8m people out of work as of February 2024 and a stated desire to, “change the sick note culture”. In a speech in April 2024, Rishi Sunak said that those who were still out of work after 12 months after support from a work coach will have, “their benefits removed entirely” – this same commitment does not appear in the Manifesto
  • Cut employee’s national insurance from 8% to 6% from 2027
  • Continue with the plan to impose minimum service levels during strike action, to assist employers in being able to continue to operate during these periods
  • Abolish national insurance for self-employed people by the end of the next parliament (currently either 2% or 6%, depending upon earnings)
  • Funding for 100,000 new apprenticeships to replace “rip-off” university degrees. These apprenticeships would include flexible frameworks in the film, TV, gaming and music sectors
  • Maintaining the National Living Wage in each year of the next Parliament at two-third of median earnings (currently £682.00 full-time, £241.00 part-time)
  • Amending the Equality Act to clarify that the protected characteristic of sex means biological sex.

Read the Conservative and Unionist party’s full Manifesto.

Labour Party Manifesto

It’s fair to say that a change in Government will usually bring about changes to employment law. Here are Labour’s employment law pledges that we found most interesting:

  • Increasing the minimum wage into a, “genuine living wage”, to take account the cost of living. A similar pledge appeared in the 2019 Labour Manifesto. This pledge also discussing removing the age bands, meaning that all adults would be entitled to the same wage (with the current National Living Wage only payable to those 21 years and older)
  • Ending fire and rehire to prevent workers from being victims of “bullying threats”. A statutory code of practice was issued on Fire and Hire procedure (the act of terminating an employee’s contract and simultaneously reengaging them on altered terms) in February 2024, but this new pledge seeks to end that practice altogether
  • Banning of, “exploitative”, zero-hour contracts. An outright ban on these contracts was proposed in the 2019, 2017 and 2015 Labour manifestos, but the language in 2024 appears to suggest that some zero-hours contracts will still be allowed
  • Updating trade union legislation to remove unnecessary restrictions and emphasise good faith negotiations. This includes making it simpler for a Union to become recognised and for Unions to access workplaces. Similar pledges appeared in the 2019 Manifesto
  • Large employers – those with over 250 employees – will need to produce ‘Menopause Action Plans’ to outline how they will support employees experiencing menopause. The Equality and Human Rights Commission published guidance in February 2024 to advise that the Menopause can be considered to be a ‘disability’ under the Equality Act 2010
  • Making it unlawful to dismiss a pregnant woman for six months after her return, except in specific circumstances. The Protection from Redundancy (Pregnancy and Family Leave) Act 2023 already protects employees from being dismissed for redundancy for 18 months after their expected week of childbirth, but this proposal appears to go even further by protecting employees from any dismissal
  • Increase the time window for employees to bring a claim to Tribunal to six months (currently 3 months for most claims, 6 months for claims of redundancy payments)
  • Day one rights for protection against unfair dismissal (this is currently 2 years in most cases, although there are exceptions) and an entitlement to parental leave from the first day of employment (currently an employee has to have worked for 1 year)
  • A move away from the three categories of worker (employee, worker and self-employed) and a move towards a single status of worker and a two-part framework for employment status to differentiate between workers and people who are self-employed
  • Strengthened protection against redundancy e.g., introducing legislation that the right to consultation would be determined by the number of people impacted across the business rather than in one workplace
  • Increasing protection for whistleblowers, including updated protection for women who report sexual harassment at work.

The 2019 Labour Manifesto had a significant number of employment law policies (a number of which have been implemented by the current Government), but this Manifesto runs it close with the amount of pledges made. These new policies seem focused on giving workers and employees enhanced rights in the workplace.

Read Labour’s full Workers’ Rights Manifesto.

Liberal Democrats Party Manifesto

The Liberal Democrats 2024 Manifesto proposes a number of changes to employment law and worker’s rights:

  • Raising the minimum wage for people on zero hour contracts and introducing the right to request a fixed-hours contract after 12 months of zero hours (such request not to be unreasonably refused)
  • All parental leave and pay would be a day one right. This is the same as the Labour pledge
  • Introduction of paid neonatal care. The Neonatal Care (Leave and Pay) Bill has already been backed by the current Government, giving up to 12 weeks of paid leave, but this has not made its way into law as yet
  • Employers must publish their parental leave/pay policies. It is not clear where they must be published, as most employers would already have these available to be viewed in a staff handbook, but there may be an obligation to share them more widely
  • Paternity leave would be extended into a “use it or lose it” month for fathers and partners. There would also be six weeks of “use or it lose it” leave for each parent paid at 90% and 46 weeks of shared parental leave, paid at double the statutory rate. Paternity Leave was changed in April 2024 to allow employees to take two separate one week blocks of leave, but this would be a significant increase
  • “Caring” and “care experience” would be introduced as protected characteristics. Employers will be required to make reasonable adjustments for employees who have care responsibilities. The Carers Leave Act 2023 was introduced by the current Government and gave unpaid leave to carers from 6th April 2024, but treating employees less favourably because of caring responsibilities would give rise to a discrimination claim under this Manifesto pledge
  • Scrapping the lower apprentice rate (currently £6.40 per hour) and requiring apprenticeships to pay at least the National Minimum Wage (currently £11.40 for those 21 and older)
  • Establishing an independent review to recommend a genuine living wage
  • Establishing a new Worker Protection Enforcement Authority to unify responsibilities including enforcing the minimum wage, tackling modern slavery and protecting agency workers
  • Establishing a new “dependant contractor” employment status in between employment and self-employment. This would include basic rights such as minimum earning levels, sick pay and holiday entitlement. This is a similar idea to that in the Labour Manifesto.

This Manifesto appears focused on winning the votes of those workers who perhaps have less job security, are prospective parents, or those who are on lower wages.

Read the Liberal Democrats full Manifesto.

Contact our Employment and Immigration team if you’d like to discuss how any of the above could affect your staff.

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