As the clock ticks closer to the much-anticipated 2024 UK general election, significant shifts could be occurring, especially in the field of employment law.

But, how will the outcomes of this pivotal event shape the landscape for employers, HR professionals and businesses across the nation? Join us as we explore the complexities and potential impacts of the upcoming election on employment legislation, providing essential insights for navigating this period of transition.

This blog will guide you through the possible changes each of the main political parties will bring and their implications, equipping you with the knowledge to prepare your organisation for what’s to come.

When Is The Next UK General Election?

Millions of UK voters will head to the polls on 4th July for the general election. If you’re keen to understand what this means and how you can make your voice heard, read on.

What is a General Election and How Many MPs Are There?

A general election elects Members of Parliament (MPs) to the House of Commons. The UK is divided into 650 constituencies, each represented by one MP who is elected by local residents. Most candidates represent political parties, but there are also independent candidates.

Who Can Vote and How Do I Register?

You can vote if you’re on the electoral register and meet the following criteria:

  • You are 18 years or older on polling day.
  • You are a British citizen, a qualifying Commonwealth citizen, or a Republic of Ireland citizen with a UK address.
  • UK citizens living abroad can register to vote in the constituency where they were previously resident or on the electoral roll.
  • Students can be registered at both their home and term-time addresses but must only vote in one place.

Those who cannot vote include prisoners serving a sentence in jail and peers from the House of Lords. Unfortunately, the deadline to register to vote in the general election has already passed.

For extra insights, visit the BBC website for further information.

Major Parties and Their Platforms

The Labour Party published its new deal for working people in its ‘Plan to Make Work Pay’ which they describe as the biggest upgrade to rights at work for a generation.

Labour's Plan To Make Work Pay

The Conservative Party Manifesto focuses on the actions the Government have previously taken and emphasises their efforts to continue to create jobs in the future.

The Liberal Democrats have vowed to modernise employment rights.

Anticipated Employment Law Changes

Each of the 3 main political parties have published further details on the measures they proposed to introduce, if elected.

Labour’s detailed plans include:

  • Creating a single class of worker (as opposed to the current 3 types of employment status) for all but the genuinely self-employed.
  • Introducing the right to claim unfair dismissal from day 1 of employment (currently 2 year’s service is required) although they stress this ‘will not prevent an employer from dismissing fairly or from using probationary periods with fair and transparent rules and processes’.
  • Introducing new redundancy consultation rules by removing the concept of an ‘establishment’ so that consultation is determined by the number of people impacted across the business.
  • Replacing the recently introduced code of practice on Fire & Rehire with enhanced legislation and stronger remedies against abuse.
  • Enhancing family rights with increased protection for maternity returners, bereavement leave to be introduced for all workers, paid carer’s leave and a review of parental rights.
Son On Father's Shoulders
  • A focus on sickness, wellbeing and disability with SSP to be paid from day 1 (currently day 4) and the removal of the lower earnings cap, menopause action plans, best practice to be followed when an employee has a terminal illness, guidance in working in extreme temperatures and the creation and maintenance of harassment-free workplaces.
  • Linking the national Living Wage to the cost of living, removing the 18-21 age band, a ban on unpaid internships (except those which are a part of education and training) and a commitment to hospitality workers keeping their tips in full (the current Government announced last September that The Employment (Allocation ofTips) Act 2023 would be introduced, so this is effectively a commitment to this new legislation which is to be introduced in the Autumn anyway.
  • Extending pay gap reporting to include outsourced workers in the reporting and extending the reports beyond gender, to cover ethnicity and disability pay gaps too.
Employees Looking at the Notepad
  • Banning zero hours contracts, with a right to a guaranteed number of hours based on a 12-week reference period, a right to reasonable notice of work schedule and a right to receive wages for shifts cancelled at short notice.
  • Promoting work life balance with the right to switch off and disconnect modelled on approaches already in place in Belgium and Ireland.
  • Overhauling current trade union legislation by repealing legislation that introduced a threshold for ballots and restrictions on picketing, minimum staffing levels in certain sectors and the right to replace striking staff with agency workers. They also plan to reform the ballot system, simplify the union recognition process, create greater rights to union access in the workplace and introduce a new duty for employers to inform new starters of their right to join a trade union.
  • And finally, they have also announced their intention to reduce pressure on the overstretched Employment Tribunal system, allow quicker access to justice, create a single enforcement body for workers’ rights, extend the time limit in which a tribunal application can be made from 3 to 6 months and make it easier to raise collective grievances through ACAS.

The Conservative’s detailed plans include:

  • An overhaul of the fit note process so that people are not signed off sick ‘as a default‘. Under a new system, responsibility for issuing fit notes would be moved away from GPs to specialist work and health professionals. Integration with the new WorkWell service would be tested, to provide tailored support to help people stay in or return to work.
  • The Equality Act 2010 would be amended to clarify that the protected characteristic of sex means biological sex. Legislation would also provide that an individual can only have one sex in the eyes of the law throughout the UK.
  • Continuing to implement the Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Act 2023 and bring forward legislation to reapply the entirety of the Trade Union Act 2016 to Wales.
  • Employee National Insurance contributions will decrease by an additional 2p and the main rate of Class 4 self-employed National Insurance contributions would be abolished entirely by the end of the next Parliament.
  • The National Living Wage would be maintained at 2/3 of median earnings in each year of the next Parliament.
  • An increase to the hours of free childcare to working parents.
Person Making Clay Figures
  • Creation of 100,000 high-quality apprenticeships in England every year by the end of the next Parliament, including flexible frameworks in the film, TV, gaming and music sectors to include work on live productions.
  • A cap on the duration of non-compete clauses in employment contracts.
  • Ongoing consultation to reform TUPE legislation.

The Liberal Democrat’s’ detailed plans include:

  • Enhancing parental rights by making parental leave and pay a day 1 right, doubling SMP and SPP to £350/week, introducing a ‘use it or lose it’ entitlement of 6-weeks for fathers and partners, paid at 90% of salary and introducing paid neonatal care leave.
  • Introducing new Equality Act protected characteristics of ‘caring’ and ‘care experience’, requiring larger employers to report on gender, ethnicity, disability and LGBT+ employment levels and the introduction of a ‘name blind’ recruitment process.
  • Introducing specialist disability employment support, simplifying the Access to Work Scheme, introducing adjustment passports and improving SSP rights
  • Introducing a new ‘dependent contractor’ employment status, reviewing tax status (including IR35), introducing the right to request a fixed-hours contract, a review of pension rules for the gig economy, a change in the burden of proof in an employment tribunal, an increase to the minimum wage for zero hours contracts (by 20%), the introduction of a Worker Protection Enforcement Authority and a right to request shares.

The Potential Impact on Employers and HR Professionals

The potential impact on employers is significant, particularly if the current voting polls are an accurate indicator of the election result.  Labour have committed to introducing new legislation within 100 days of entering government, signalling their intent to ‘hit the ground running’. Of course, it remains to be seen precisely what will happen post-election, but all employers will need to be looking at:

  • Contracts of Employment (e.g. probationary periods, tips, zero hours, guaranteed hours, notice of work schedules and cancellation of shifts, trade union membership
  • Policies (e.g. probation, redundancy, parental and family, sickness, right to switch off)
  • Payroll processes (e.g. tips, SSP, national minimum wage, NI contributions)
  • Trade Union procedures and agreements

Larger employers also need to look at their statutory reporting requirements.

The role of employment law in safeguarding both employees and employers cannot be overstated. It fosters a fair and just workplace, which is essential for any thriving organisation. HR professionals play a critical role in navigating these changes proactively, supporting employees and ensuring a smooth transition during periods of legislative shifts.

To stay ahead of employment law changes, it’s essential to remain informed and proactive. Get in touch with us today to help your organisation effectively navigate these changes and stay compliant.

Stay proactive, stay informed and ensure your organisation is prepared for what lies ahead.