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Insights // 28 May 2024

Labour's Employment Rights Green Paper - 'A New Deal for Working People'

Aoife McGrath and Georgie Bright, in our Employment Law team, look back at The Labour Party’s Employment Rights Green Paper and consider what Employment Law related changes we might expect to see under a potential Labour Government.

What is Labour’s Green Paper?

The Labour Party’s Employment Rights Green Paper – ‘A New Deal for Working People’ was published in September 2021 by Angela Reynar, then Shadow Secretary of State for the Future of Work, at the Labour Party conference of the same year. In the following months it was drawn up as a Green Paper by Andy McDonald MP in association with Labour’s affiliated trade unions. Now, following on from Labour’s success in the recent council elections, it is worth refreshing our minds on the Green Paper’s key points to explore how a Labour Government might change the Employment Law landscape.

What do Labour propose to change?

The Labour Party has proposed numerous changes in their Green Paper ranging from increases in wages and Statutory Sick Pay to expanding trade union rights. Below are some of the key proposals Labour seeks to introduce.

  • Removing the two-year qualification period for employees to bring a claim of unfair dismissal against their employers, making it a ’day one’ right
    • This change would have a resounding impact on employers across the UK as they would have to reconsider both their approach to dismissals as well as their recruitment process. This could increase recruitment costs and make employers more reluctant to hire new staff. For employees it offers greater protection from day one of their employment. Additionally, they will extend the limitation period on bringing a claim for unfair dismissal from three months to six months.
  • Creating a single ‘worker’ status for everyone except the genuinely self-employed
    • UK law recognises three types of employment status; employees, workers and self-employed contractors. Although employees benefit from a wide scope of employment rights, workers are an intermediate category who only benefit from some of those rights and the genuinely self-employed do not benefit from any of the statutory protections afforded to employees and workers.
    • The Labour Party plans to launch a consultation on creating a single ‘worker’ status to encompass everyone, apart from those who are genuinely self-employed. This would remove any ambiguity between the definitions of an employee and a worker and offer more protections to those who currently fall within those categories.
    • This merging of the two categories would extend the unfair dismissal rights to workers as well as other protections such as sick pay, holiday pay and parental leave.
  • Banning zero hours contracts 
    • The Labour Party plans to ban all zero hours contracts as well as any contracts without a minimum number of guaranteed hours. Additionally, they plan to ensure that anyone who works regular hours for more than twelve weeks has the right to a regular contract. As well as this, employers will have to give their workers reasonable notice of the cancellation of any shifts or working time and where reasonable notice is not given, pay their workers the wage they would have received had the shift/ work not been cancelled. This proposal is regarded as rather extreme as there are many circumstances where zero hours contracts work well in the workplace. However, it could prevent situation where zero hours contracts are being used in a one-sided way.
  • Flexible working
    • Workers will have a day one right to flexible working, which extends the current  right for employees to request flexible working.

  • Strengthening family friendly rights
    • The Labour Party plan to increase statutory maternity and paternity leave as well as introducing a right to bereavement leave. They will also make it unlawful to dismiss a woman who is pregnant for six months after her return to work. It is currently unlawful to dismiss a woman by reason of redundancy within six months after her return from maternity leave so it remains to be seen if the Labour Party will extend this protection to other reasons for dismissal.

There are many more proposals in the Labour Party’s Green Paper which aim to increase the employment rights and protections offered to employees and workers.

When could it take effect?

Labour aims to introduce draft legislation containing some or all of the proposals outlined in the Green Paper - 'A New Deal for Working People' within 100 days of Labour winning the general election. Therefore, as the next general election has been announced for 4 July 2024, if Labour are successful, we could see new employment legislation by Autumn 2024.  However, it is yet to be seen if Labour will in fact win the next election, but if they do there will undoubtedly be a large shift in the Employment Law landscape.

Our specialist Employment Law team can advise employees and employers on the full range of Employment Law matters.

For further information or legal advice, please contact or call 0118 951 6800. 

This article is intended for the use of clients and other interested parties. The information contained in it is believed to be correct at the date of publication, but it is necessarily of a brief and general nature and should not be relied upon as a substitute for specific professional advice.

Aoife McGrath

Aoife McGrath

Solicitor, Employment Law

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Georgie Bright

Georgie Bright

Trainee Solicitor

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