How will the employment law landscape change under a Labour government?

The Prime Minister has announced that a general election will be held on 4 July 2024. Labour, who have been consistently ahead in the polls since 2022, have ambitious plans for the reform of employment rights if they gain power. Below we summarise some of the key changes set out in their May 2024 ‘‘New Deal for Working People’ paper.

National Living Wage

The National Living Wage (“NLW”) is available for those aged 21 and over and currently stands at £11.44 per hour. The national minimum wage is currently £8.60 per hour for 18-20 year olds and £6.40 per hour for under 18s and for apprentices. Labour propose to explicitly link the future rate of NLW with the cost of living, as well as making it available to everyone aged 18 or over.

Day One Rights

Day one rights has been a consistent theme of Labour’s employment law policy. Under New Deal proposals, Labour would introduce, from day one of employment, the right not to be unfairly dismissed (which currently only accrues following two years’ continuous employment), as well as a day-one right to parental leave (for which there is currently a one-year qualifying period).

Fire and Rehire

Under a Labour government, dismissal and reengagement of workers on new terms – also known as ‘fire and rehire’ – would only be permitted as part of a business restructure and only where it is necessary in order for the business to remain viable and where there is no genuine alternative available. The new code of practice on fire and rehire, which will otherwise come into force on 19 July 2024, would be replaced with a more stringent code.

Zero Hours Contracts

Despite some vacillation on the issue recently, Labour have confirmed that they will ensure that all jobs provide a baseline level of security and predictability, by banning ‘exploitative zero hours contracts’. Under a Labour government, all workers will have a right to a contract which reflects the number of hours regularly worked, based on a 12-week reference period. It is unclear whether Labour will ban all zero-hours contracts or only those that are ‘exploitative’, and how the two will be distinguished.

Flexible Working

Labour’s proposal is to further strengthen the law around flexible working. They would do this by making flexible working the default for workers from day one of employment (if requested) unless it is not reasonably feasible for the employer to accommodate. This will reduce employers’ scope to refuse a flexible working request and increase the scope for employment tribunals to scrutinise employers’ decisions.

Single Status of Worker

Labour has committed, in the long-term, to streamlining the three-tier system for employment status (which distinguishes between employees, workers and the self-employed) to a two-tier system which classifies people as either workers or self-employed. However, it remains unclear how such significant structural change would impact on such rights as sick pay and parental leave in highly flexible work models. There also remain questions around how a single status of worker would be taxed given the current distinction between workers, who are taxed as self-employed, and employees.

Employment Tribunal Reform

A Labour government would increase the time limit for the presentation of claims in the employment tribunals from 3 to 6 months. This would likely result in an increase in the number of tribunal claims although it is not clear how the increased resourcing that this will necessitate would be funded.


In addition to those laws outlined above, Labour have committed to further reform across a range of other employment laws, although limited detail has been provided at this stage as to the nature and extent of those changes. It is very likely that any changes will be drawn out over several parliamentary sessions rather than introduced in one go. The Conservatives have yet to set out their employment law proposals in the event of successful re-election.

Saira Ramadan is a partner in our employment law team. If you have questions or concerns regarding anything in this article, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.





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