General Election – Employment Law Manifesto Pledges

With the General Election only a matter of weeks away now, a brief summary of the key Employment related proposals being put forward by the main political parties (listed alphabetically) is provided below. 

CONSERVATIVES

  • National Living Wage – Maintain the National Living Wage in each year of the next Parliament at two-thirds of median earnings. On current forecasts, that would mean it rising to around £13 per hour.
  • Sick Notes – Overhaul the Fit Note process so that people are not being signed off sick as a default. Currently, 94% of fit notes are being signed off as ‘not fit for work’. A new system to be designed which moves the responsibility for issuing fit notes away from GPs and towards specialist work and health professionals who have specific expertise in occupational health and work capabilities.
  • Employee National Insurance – Cut employee national insurance to 6% by 2027.
  • Employment Laws – Continue with the review and removal of EU employment laws.
  • Protected characteristics / discrimination – Provision of greater clarity in relation to “protected characteristics” (ie age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex and sexual orientation) under the Equality Act and that sex means biological sex.

Potential changes previously announced but not specifically in the manifesto:

  • Tribunal fees – Proposal to introduce a £55 charge to employees wishing to take an employer to a tribunal (currently no charge).
  • TUPE consultation reforms and simplification – Expected Date: 1st July 2024 
  • Fire and Rehire under new terms – Expected Date: July 2024 – ACAS guidance and a new statutory code regarding dismissing employees who will not agree to new contractual terms, but then re-hiring them under new terms.
  • Allocation of Tips Act 2024 – To improve fairness for workers by ensuring that the tips consumers leave in recognition of good service and hard work are going to the workers as intended – Expected Date: 1st October 2024
  • Worker Protection ActSexual Harassment – Placing a duty on employers to take reasonable steps to prevent sexual harassment of employees in the course of their employment – Expected Date: October 2024.
  • Workers Predictable Terms and Conditions – An Act to give workers and agency workers the right to request more predictable terms and conditions of work. Expected Date: Autumn 2024 
  • Non Disclosure Agreements (NDAs) – Restrictions on their content and enforceability.
  • Non-compete Clauses – Introduction of a statutory cap of three months on non-compete clauses.
  • Neonatal leave and pay – An Act to make provision for leave and pay for employees with responsibility for children receiving neonatal care.

LABOUR

  • Minimum Wage – Changes to the Low Pay Commission’s remit so that alongside median wages and economic conditions, the minimum wage will for the first time reflect the need for pay to take into account the cost of living and remove age bands, so that all adults are entitled to the same minimum wage.
  • Sick Pay enhancements – Strengthening statutory sick pay by removing the lower earnings limit to make it available to all workers and also to remove the 3-day waiting period.
  • Day 1 right to claim unfair / constructive dismissal claims – Removal of the 2 year qualifying period for employees to submit an unfair dismissal or constructive dismissal claim. The proposal is that probationary periods could still be used to dismiss employees for “fair” reasons following a set of fair and transparent rules and processes.
  • Tribunal claims deadline – The deadline for bringing an employment tribunal claim will be increased from three  to six months.
  • Day 1 right – Flexible Working – A day one right for all workers to request changes to their contracted days, hours, place of work / request to work from home etc (Note: this day 1 right was introduced by the Conservatives in April 2024) however further changes to include opportunities for flexi-time contracts and hours that better accommodate school terms.
  • Day 1 right – Parental Leave – To become a day one right, rather than the current one year qualifying period.
  • Paid Carers Leave –  While Unpaid Carer’s leave was introduced in April 2024, the proposals are to examine the benefits of introducing paid carers leave, while being mindful of the impact of any changes on small employers. 
  • Right to disconnect – The introduction of a Code of Practice giving employees permission to disengage from work outside of their normal contracted hours.  
  • Ban on fire and rehire – A strengthening of the proposed ACAS Code of Practice (planned to be introduced by the current government in July 2024) and only allowing this practice in more restricted circumstances.
  • Pregnant Workers Protection – A strengthening of protections for pregnant women by making it unlawful to dismiss them within six months of their return from maternity leave, except in specific circumstances.
  • Banning Zero Hours Contracts – Banning “exploitative” zero hours contracts and a right for employees to have a contract which reflects the hours they regularly work, based on a twelve-week reference period.
  • Employment Status – A new framework for employment status under which individuals are classified either as workers (encompassing those who are currently classed as employees) or self-employed. This would extend many workplace / employment rights to a far larger class of workers.
  • Right to Join a Trade Union –  A requirement for the written statement of employment particulars issued to all new starters to inform  them of their right to join a Trade Union.
  • Unpaid Bereavement Leave – Introducing a right to 2 weeks unpaid bereavement leave (currently only available following the death of a child).

LIB DEMS

  • Minimum Wage – Increase minimum wage by 20% for people on zero-hour contracts at times of normal demand to compensate them for the uncertainty of fluctuating hours.
  • Sick Pay – Removing the lower earrings qualifying limit, aligning the rate with the National Minimum Wage and making payments available from the first day of missing work rather than the fourth.
  • Day 1 Right – Family Leave – Make it a day one right, increase eligibility and introduce new rights to paid leave, including Parental Leave. 
  • Statutory Maternity and Paternity Pay – Doubling pay to £350 per week. Introducing a ‘use it or lose it’ month for fathers and partners, paid at 90% of salary.
  • Equality Act – Update the list of protected characteristics (which can be used to make a discrimination claim) under the Equality Act, by adding ‘caring’ and ‘care experience’ to the current list of: age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex and sexual orientation. 
  • Reasonable adjustments – Make it easier to get reasonable adjustments put in place when moving between jobs by introducing ‘Adjustment Passports’ to record the adjustments, modifications and equipment a disabled person has received, and ensure that Access to Work support and equipment stays with the person if they change jobs.
  • Employment Status – Establish a new ‘dependent contractor’ employment status in between employment and self-employment, with entitlements to basic employment rights such as minimum wage / earnings levels, sick pay and holiday entitlement. 
  • Tribunals – Burden of Proof – Change the burden of proof in employment tribunals so that the employer has to disprove employment status for the purposes of employment rights claims, rather than the employee having to prove it.

REFORM UK

  • EU Regulations and Employment Laws – A general pledge to ‘’scrap thousands of laws that hold back British business and damage productivity, including employment laws that make it riskier to hire people’’.
  • Recruitment – Two-strike rule for jobseekers – The rule would require all jobseekers and those fit for work to find employment within four months or accept a job after two offers.
  • National Insurance – Raise the rate from 13.8% to 20% for foreign workers to “incentivise businesses to employ British citizens”. Essential health and care workers would be exempt from this tax raise, as well as businesses with five or less employees. 
  • Income Tax – Lift the starting point to £20,000 per year. 
  • Equality Act – Replace current legislation, scrap diversity, equality and inclusion rules.