Labour's manifesto: What HR needs to know

Labour promised to strengthen "the collective voice of workers"

The Labour Party has released its manifesto, ahead of next month’s general election, focusing on extending workers’ rights, immigration and getting people into work.

Employment law

The party declared current employment law was "not fit for the modern economy", pledging to introduce new legislation within 100 days of being elected.

Labour promised to ban zero-hours contracts and end fire-and-rehire tactics. Parental leave and protection from unfair dismissal would also be introduced as a day-one right, rather than coming into force after two years. 

Elizabeth Judson, head of client experience at employment law, HR and health and safety firm AfterAthena, which is part of Napthens Group, said that Labour's measures would increase risks when dismissing an employee with under two years’ service. 

She said: “These changes are intended to create fairer working conditions and would certainly provide employees with greater security in the first two years of employment.

“Employers, however, would need to be alert to the suggested changes, particularly in relation to ordinary unfair dismissal.

“Employers would need to actively manage concerns as they arise, from the start of the probationary period, and pay close attention to the procedures followed in relation to dismissal on the basis of conduct, capability or redundancy.”

Additionally, employees would qualify for statutory sick pay from the first day of absence, rather than the fourth.

Labour promised to strengthen "the collective voice of workers", including through trade unions, and create a single enforcement body to ensure employment rights are upheld. 

Labour's manifesto also mentioned raising the minimum wage and removing age bands.

Read more: Conservatives' manifesto: What HR needs to know


Labour promised to reform the points-based immigration system to make it "fair and properly managed". The party also promised to end long-term reliance on overseas workers in some parts of the economy by bringing in workforce and training plans for sectors such as health and social care, and construction. 

The party's spokespeople vowed to crack down on employers or recruitment agencies abusing the visa system, and breaching employment law. 

Jonathan Beech, managing director of recruitment platform, Immpact, said that those plans have long-term potential but it is unclear how they would be enforced.

Speaking to HR magazine, he said: “It looks like Labour is not falling into the trap of setting definitive plans of reducing numbers. It is more a plan on restricting reliance. This is a long-term strategy that has been talked about before. 

“It would be interesting to see how the increased emphasis on compliance and enforcement would work in practice, to ensure ethical and legal hiring.”


Pay gap reporting

Labour promised to introduce mandatory disability and ethnicity pay gap reporting for large employers. 

Mandatory reporting is a positive step but employers should also be obligated to take action, said Melissa Blissett, pay gap analytics lead at professional services consultancy Barnett Waddingham.

Speaking to HR magazine, she said: “Disability and ethnicity pay gap reporting for large employers has already been proved to bring value, with organisations that are voluntarily reporting conveying a clear message of fair pay, fair progression and reward, for everyone in the workplace.

"However, lessons also need to be learnt from gender pay gap reporting; reporting itself is not enough to change the dial.”

Read more: Liberal Democrats' manifesto: What HR needs to know

Supporting people into work 

Labour pledged to strengthen and localise resources for job seekers, to help people get into work. The party also promised a guarantee of access to training, an apprenticeship, or support to find work for all 18-to-21-year-olds.

The manifesto stated that Labour would work with local areas to create plans to support more disabled people into work, as well as tackling the backlog of Access to Work claims

Labour would also reform the apprenticeships levy, instead creating a flexible growth and skills levy, with Skills England consulting on eligible courses to ensure qualifications offer value for money.

Kate Shoesmith, REC deputy chief executive, said that the measures could help reduce high levels of economic inactivity and skills shortages.

She said: “Tackling economic inactivity by investing in supporting people into work is important. We welcome more opportunities for young people to train flexibly and hope a flexible skills levy provides the training funding that can also be accessed by temporary workers.

“Plans to bring Jobcentre Plus and the National Careers Service together could help tackle skills shortages – but only if they are funded sufficiently and can draw upon the information and insights our members have at their fingertips.”