Although ideas and proposals seem to have been appearing for weeks, the official Labour Party general election manifesto has only just been published and it promises what Jeremy Corbyn describes as “real change” in numerous areas, including employment.
At just over 100 pages long, the Manifesto can be found at https://labour.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/Real-Change-Labour-Manifesto-2019.pdf.
Among other commitments it includes plans to: introduce a “real living wage” of at least £10 an hour; clarify worker status; review the retirement age for people in hard manual jobs; re-introduce employers’ liability for harassment by third parties; and to give everyone full employment rights from day one on the job.
For comments on other key changes and what these mean for employers, please see below.
Comment by Andrew Willis, Head of Legal at employment law consultancy, Croner
Many employers may be concerned about how a 32-hour week would work in practice for their organisation. However, I would caution them not to get too nervous just yet.
The Manifesto outlines that this would be introduced gradually over a decade; it is not something that will happen overnight. Some companies have seen success in adopting a four-day working week. However, it remains to be seen if this would feasibly work across all industries or if it has limitations in certain areas.
What is arguably more significant news for employers are the plans to prevent workers from opting out of the 48-hour working week.
If introduced, this would cause issues for companies whose staff do work these additional hours, although we should remember that this would be unlikely to apply across all sectors.
Indeed, many industries, such as the police, currently have separate provisions on working time
Workers Protection Agency
The establishment of a Workers Protection Agency is not “new news” and is something that Labour has been talking of for some time.
It remains to be seen how such a body would operate in practice; however, what is certain is that employers will face increased accountability as a result. It will, therefore, be all the more important for them to make sure they are familiar with the legal expectations placed upon them.
The provision of ownership funds, we are told, will only apply to larger companies and therefore, many smaller businesses will not necessarily need to be concerned about this.
However, firms who are eligible will need to restructure how they distribute pay in line with this new requirement.
It is also not surprising that Labour is going ahead with promises to ban zero-hours contracts. Again, if introduced, this will have significant implications for companies that make use of this arrangement, and they will need to provide stable hours going forward.
Remember that even a Labour victory does not mean that we would necessarily see all of these pledges happen in the space of a week.
Overall, while this Manifesto certainly gives us a lot to think about, employers will have some time to prepare for it. Should Labour win in December, employers would be wise to keep up to date on all legal developments going forward.
Last reviewed 22 November 2019