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Deborah Hartung

Personify Change

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The new Labour landscape: Nine UK employment changes to prepare for

With the Labour party now leading the UK, employers will need to brace themselves for changes ahead. Here, we outline nine potential employment law reforms and how to prepare for them.
Keir Starmer Labour party leader

With the Labour Party’s recent victory, the UK is on the brink of significant employment law reforms. These changes, part of Labour’s New Deal for Working People, are set to transform the employment landscape. As HR managers and business leaders, staying ahead of these changes is crucial for maintaining compliance and fostering a positive work environment.

Here’s an overview of what to expect and how to prepare.

 1. Day one right to unfair dismissal protection

Labour plans to extend unfair dismissal protections to employees from their first day of employment. This shift from the previous six-month requirement means employers must adopt fair and transparent processes right from the start.

Actionable tip: Revise your onboarding and probation processes to ensure they are robust, fair, and transparent. Provide training for managers on effective performance reviews and fair dismissal practices.

2. Clamp down on fire and rehire practices

The Labour government aims to restrict the practice of firing and rehiring employees on new terms. This is with a view to prevent employers from dismissing workers and then shortly afterwards offering re-employment on different (and often less beneficial) terms and conditions. The practice will only be allowed if it’s essential for business viability and survival.

Actionable tip: Evaluate current employment contracts and consider alternative strategies for workforce restructuring. Engage with employees early in the process to explore mutually beneficial solutions.

 3. Predictable work schedules

Labour intends to ban exploitative zero-hours contracts and ensure employees receive reasonable notice of work schedules and compensation for last-minute cancellations. In its ‘Plan to Make Work Pay’, Labour said it aims to ensure all workers have the right to a contract that accurately reflects regular hours worked over a 12-week reference period.

Actionable tip: Audit your organisation’s current use of zero hour contracts. Implement more predictable scheduling practices and establish clear communication channels for shift changes. Use scheduling software to manage rosters efficiently and fairly.

 4. New single status of worker

Labour proposes a simplified employment status framework, categorising individuals as either workers or self-employed, abolishing the ’employee’ status. With this two-tier system, the party aims to address the current complexities in employment status that have resulted in a number of high-profile litigation cases.

Actionable tip: Stay informed about these changes and consult with legal experts to understand their implications. Review current employment contracts and ensure they align with the new status definitions.

 5. Enhancing trade union rights

Labour plans to strengthen trade union rights, including easier access to workplaces to enable unions to recruit members and organise plans. The party also plans to simplify the process of statutory union recognition, whereby a simple majority of votes in a statutory ballot will allow a union to secure recognition.

Additionally, Labour also pledged to reform the Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Act 2023 to ease restrictions on industrial action and introduce electronic balloting.

Actionable tip: Foster positive relationships with trade unions. Engage in regular dialogue to address employee concerns and ensure compliance with new regulations. Consider the benefits of having a cooperative relationship with unions.

 6. Improving diversity and pay gap reporting

Labour pledged to introduce compulsory ethnicity and disability pay gap reporting for employers with 250+ employees, alongside existing gender pay gap reporting. As part of this plan, a new Race Equality Act would be enshrined in law to give black, Asian and ethnic minority people, as well as disabled people, the full right to equal pay. The party said it would take a phased approach to this to give employers time to adjust.

Actionable tip: Conduct an internal audit to understand your current pay gaps. Develop action plans to address disparities and ensure transparency in reporting. Use this as an opportunity to strengthen your commitment to diversity and inclusion.

 7. Strengthening family rights

Labour plans to prevent the dismissal of maternity returners for six months post-return, and to review the shared parental leave framework within its first year in office. The party also aims to introduce statutory bereavement leave for all workers, and to review the unpaid carers leave legislation that was introduced in April 2024, considering the benefits of introducing paid carers’ leave.

Actionable tip: Update your family leave policies to reflect these changes. Train managers on the importance of supporting employees returning from maternity leave and during bereavement. Create a supportive culture that values employee well-being.

 8. Menopause action plans

Employers with 250+ employees will be required to publish menopause action plans, supporting workers experiencing menopause.

Actionable tip: Develop comprehensive menopause support policies. Provide training to managers and staff on how to support colleagues going through menopause. Promote awareness and understanding within the workplace.

 9. Apprenticeship and youth training reforms

Labour will reform the apprenticeship levy and guarantee access to training, apprenticeships, or work support for all 18-21-year-olds. The party said it would give businesses more flexibility in how they spend their apprenticeship levy, allowing businesses to use up to 50% of the budget to fund apprenticeships or training for existing staff, labelling it a ‘growth and skills levy’.

Actionable tip: Evaluate your current apprenticeship and training programmes. Consider how the reforms can enhance your talent pipeline and contribute to business growth. Engage with local training providers to maximise the benefits of these initiatives.

Embracing change with confidence

The proposed changes by the Labour government represent a significant shift in UK employment law. While these reforms may seem daunting, they also offer an opportunity to create fairer, more inclusive, and supportive workplaces. By staying informed and proactive, HR managers and business leaders can navigate this new landscape effectively.

Remember, preparation is key. Review your policies, engage with employees and trade unions, and seek expert advice where necessary. By embracing these changes, you can ensure your organisation remains compliant, competitive, and a great place to work.

Interested in this topic? Read: Upcoming employment law changes: Your need-to-know guide

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Deborah Hartung

SPARKFluencer: Sparking Ideas Influencing Change

Read more from Deborah Hartung