Last year the Labour Party outlined how it will reform employment law if it forms the next government. The New Deal for Working People set out what it wanted to achieve under two key headings: providing secure and safe work and tackling discrimination and workplace inequalities. According to LabourList those proposals have been tweaked and will be debated at the party conference in October.
Here are the highlights:
1. Ending qualifying periods for 'basic' rights
The original plan said that Labour will 'strengthen the protections afforded to all workers by ending the qualifying periods for basic rights ... including unfair dismissal, sick pay and parental leave'. Unfair dismissal is the big one. Currently employees must have at least two years' service to bring most unfair dismissal claims. When Labour was last in government, the time limit was one year.
2. Changing rules around sick pay
The New Deal committed to increasing SSP to ensure that workers don't 'have to choose between their health and financial hardship'. The new document doesn't explicitly say that it will increase the rate of SSP. Instead, it says that a Labour government would strengthen SSP, remove the waiting days, lower the qualifying earnings limit and make it available to all workers.
3. Bringing in a right to 'switch off' and work autonomously
The New Deal said that Labour would give workers a new right to disconnect from work outside of working hours and not to be contacted by their employer outside of working hours. It also said that it would introduce new rights to protect workers from remote surveillance and ensure that employers consult with trade unions or elected staff representatives before introducing new surveillance technologies.
4. Removing the legal distinction between worker and employee
Labour wants to move towards a single status of worker and transition towards a simpler two-part framework for employment status. This was one of the suggestions made in the 2017 Taylor Review of Modern Working Practices but, so far, has been put on the 'too difficult' pile.
5. Extending the time limit to bring tribunal claims
It has pledged to give claimants longer to issue employment related claims in the tribunal. Currently, most claims have to be issued within three months (although this is extended by ACAS Early Conciliation). Labour says that it will increase this to six months, in line with recommendations made by the Law Commission in April 2020.
It also says that it will allow more time for employees to complete internal processes in the expectation that this will reduce the number of claims issued.
6. Providing additional redundancy protection
A new section says that Labour will strengthen redundancy rights and protections, to protect workers’ individual and collective rights, 'for example by ensuring consultation rights are upheld for workers working in large organisations with smaller establishments of 20 or fewer staff.' It's not clear what they mean by 'with smaller establishments of 20 or fewer staff' and it's possible that it's considering reducing the threshold under which employees have to collectively consult.
7. Making it easier for unions to be recognised
The New Deal plan said that Labour will simplify the process of union recognition and will strengthen rights for trade unions to organise, represent and negotiate.
The latest one adds that Labour will also simplify the law around statutory recognition thresholds and consider whether the current thresholds are too high.
8. Giving unions greater access to members at work
The original plan said that Labour will establish a 'reasonable right of entry' for unions to organise in workplaces. New information says that it will introduce a 'transparent framework and clear rules, designed in consultation with unions and business, that allow union officials to meet, represent, recruit and organise members provided they give appropriate notice and comply with reasonable requests of the employer'. These changes will be monitored to ensure that they are working appropriately.
9. Banning 'fire and rehire'
Labour have long been critical of rules which allow employers to impose changes to the terms and conditions of staff by dismissing them and immediately offering reinstatement on new (and usually less generous) terms. It says that it will achieve this by improving information and consultation procedures to make employers consult and reach agreements about contractual changes in the workforce; adapting unfair dismissal and redundancy legislation to prevent workers from being dismissed for failing to agree to a worse contract, and to ensure that notice and ballot requirements on trade union activity 'do not inhibit defensive action to protect terms and conditions of employment'.
10. Supporting terminally ill workers
Labour will encourage employers and trade unions to sign up to the Dying To Work Charter. It also says that it will work with trade unions and others to ensure that workers diagnosed with a terminal illness are treated with respect, dignity and supported at work.
The original document also pledged to make the right to flexible working a day one right (something the current government has said it will do), enhance family friendly rights (some of the changes Labour wants are already under way via new legislation) and establish a single enforcement agency to protect workers.
All of these pledges are light on detail. That may change as we move closer to the next election.