Employment Law Bulletin: Election & Employment Law ‘Proposals’

Monday 3rd June 2024

We write further to confirmation that the UK will face a General Election on Thursday 4 July 2024.  Whilst we have no crystal ball to predict the winning political party, it would be wise to reflect on the Labour Party’s manifesto highlights relating to employment law, and the Party’s promise to enhance workers’ right generally.  As expected, these proposals are still very much in draft format.  We will update you as we hear more.

U-Turn on Promise to Remove Cap for Unfair Dismissal (“UD”) claims

An employee at an Employment Tribunal is entitled to an UD award which is broken down in two parts:

  • Basic Award – current maximum is £21,000; and
  • Compensatory Award – current maximum is £115,115.

Labour had originally stated that they would remove the cap, so essentially, UD claims would be treated the same as discrimination claims with regard to awards – no upper ceiling.

It appears that Labour have withdrawn this line item from their current manifesto.

Extension of Time for Individuals to Lodge Employment Tribunal (“ET”) claims

Currently, there is a strict limitation deadline of “three months less one day” for individuals to submit their claims to the ET.  Missing this deadline means that the individual will have to first convince the ET that it was not reasonable for them to have presented their claim within the stipulated time limits. Once they succeed at this stage, they are allowed to lodge their claim and follow due process. 

The “3 month time limit” places a huge amount of additional stress on someone who is likely to be overwhelmed by the prospect of just having lost their job, and having to find another one quickly, and reasonably the last thing on their mind is keeping tabs on the number of days to the deadline before they should lodge their ET claim not to be automatically time-barred.   

Labour’s pledge is to extend that limitation from 3 months, to 6 months.  This may make sense as it provides the employee with a buffer period of shock before they focus on pursuing a claim.  It also means that any employee who might have been initially planning to submit a claim but decided to concentrate on sourcing new employment, was successful in getting a new (and probably better) job and is content; therefore they will not be wasting time, money, resource and inundating the ET with claims that are likely to be withdrawn in the early stages of the litigious process. 

Collective Redundancy Consultation: relevant location will be “Across the Business” – not “Single Workplace”  

In the recent past, there had been much debate and confusion about when a redundancy situation should be deemed “collective”.  Whilst everyone was clear about the numbers required to “comprise” collective redundancy, there was considerable uncertainty about whether these numbers applied to each branch/location/office separately, or whether it was “across the business” generally.  This situation became particular baffling as employees began working remotely and were therefore able to cover more locations than previously when they were based at one particular office. 

Labour has confirmed that if they come into power, collective redundancy will mean the number of redundancies “across the business”. 

Abolishing Zero-Hour Contracts

There is a lot of perplexity as to what a zero-hour contract is.  To explain briefly, a zero-hour contractor is a “casual contractor”.  They do not get guaranteed hours or much job security from their employers, but they are entitled to holiday pay.  They do not get sick pay though.   As these workers only get paid when work is available, the employer does not incur “staff costs” when demand for that particular kind of work is not there.  Understand that these workers are expected to “jump” when the call is given for them to work, meaning that it is very difficult for them to find gainful alternative employment to fill the hours whilst they are waiting for a call from the employer for work. 

Labour promise to provide some security for this group of workers – we await update.  

Ensuring Fair Pay for gig workers

Historically, gig workers were mostly independent contractors working on a part-time basis to earn supplementary income.  They tended generally to be online platform workers, contract firm workers and on-call workers engaged for paid work on a temporary or freelance basis. The term “gig” originally came about when jazz musicians were performing gigs (a live musical performance).   

Generally, gig workers are not entitled to the National Minimum Wage (“NMW”) as their income is considered profit from a business, not wages.  These workers tend to suffer a lack of social and legal protection including (as already mentioned) the right to NMW, health and insurance benefits.  We await further clarification on this topic.

Increases to NMW, Statutory Sick Pay  – awaiting information

Improvements to Parental Leave- awaiting information

Modernise Trade Union Laws- awaiting information

Addressing the subjects of discrimination & promoting inclusion & diversity- awaiting information

Courtney Stephenson & Maria Fernandes