How soon can Labour implement its new employment law policies?

Now that it is in power with a commanding majority, our new Labour Government is in a position to implement its ambitious Plan to Make Work Pay. In this blog we explain what we already know about the likely implementation timetable.

See our earlier blog here for a summary of the key policy commitments.

King’s speech

The first step will be the King’s speech on 17 July. We anticipate that an Employment Bill will be on the list of planned primary legislation. Although we are unlikely to be given much detail on what the Bill will contain at this stage, we will be able to see how it fits into the Government’s overall plan for new legislation.

Employment Bill

Labour have promised to publish an Employment Bill within 100 days of being elected – ie by mid-October. That will give us a much better idea of how its pre-election promises will be translated into legislation.

Although it is eager to make swift progress on delivering its manifesto commitments, it seems unlikely that there will be sufficient time to introduce an Employment Bill to Parliament much before mid-October, allowing for the summer recess and the party conference season.

As well as its commitment to publish an Employment Bill, Labour also promised to “consult fully with businesses, workers, and civil society on how to put our plans into practice before legislation is passed”. It is therefore possible that a draft Bill will be published before the Autumn, with a view to completing at least some of the consultation process before it is introduced to Parliament.

Secondary legislation

Some manifesto commitments can be implemented without primary legislation – notably the promise to remove the two-year qualifying period for unfair dismissal, subject to exceptions for a probationary period.

One option the Government could take would be to implement some “quick wins” in advance of the Employment Bill being published, but that seems unlikely for two main reasons, one practical and one political.

On the practical side, making a workable exception for a probationary period would be difficult to achieve without primary legislation, although this would not be required for reducing the qualifying period to, say, six months as an interim measure.

Politically, Labour has been keen to emphasise its pro-business credentials, which makes it more likely that it will engage with employers and other stakeholders about its whole package of proposals before making any changes.

Longer term versus shorter term

Many of Labour’s core employment policy commitments could be implemented within a year, including some of its more prominent proposals. These include further restricting the use of zero-hours contracts, introducing the right to disconnect, and strengthening protections against the abuse of fire and re-hire. The same is true of its promise to repeal the trade union legislation introduced by the outgoing Conservative administration.

Some of its proposals will however take considerably longer to implement. These include the establishment of a single authority to strengthen enforcement of workers’ rights, the introduction of sector-based collective bargaining and simplifying the rules on worker status.

It will be interesting to observe how our new Government decides on its priorities in the coming months. That will give employers a much better idea of what to expect and when.

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Every piece of content we create is correct on the date it’s published but please don’t rely on it as legal advice. If you’d like to speak to us about your own legal requirements, please contact one of our expert lawyers.

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