Labour’s first steps for change: Employment Law Highlights

Overview of the employment law and education highlights from labours manifesto

Catherine Hare
Catherine Hare

Published: June 14th, 2024

7 min read

Contained within the first steps for change is a commitment to recruit 6,500 new teachers in key subjects to set children up for life, work and the future, paid for by ending tax breaks for private schools. Clearly education will be a top priority for any future Labour Government.

The manifesto includes an aim to implement Labour’s Plan to Make Work Pay, which I have previously shared with you. This means that the manifesto is mostly as we expected however, I have picked out some points below which will be of interest.

A fair and properly managed immigration system

Labour plan to “reform the points based immigration system so that it is fair and properly managed, with appropriate restrictions on visas, and by linking immigration and skills policy. Labour will not tolerate employers or recruitment agencies abusing the visa system. And we will not stand for breaches of employment law. Employers who flout the rules will be barred from hiring workers abroad.”

“Labour will bring joined up thinking, ensuring that migration to address skills shortages triggers a plan to upskill workers and improve working conditions in the UK.” There is a proposal to “strengthen the Migration Advisory Committee, and establish a framework for joint working with skills bodies across the UK, the Industrial Strategy Council and the Department for Work and Pensions.”

Labour plan to end the long-term reliance on overseas workers in some parts of the economy and will do this by bringing in workforce and training plans for sectors such as health and social care, and construction.

Supporting people into work

Labour commit to bring Jobcentre Plus and the National Careers Service together to provide a national jobs and careers service, focused on getting people into work and helping them get on at work.

Labour will work with local areas to create plans to support more disabled people and those with health conditions into work… “We will tackle to backlog of Access to Work claims and give disabled people the confidence to start working without the fear of an immediate benefit reassessment if it does not work out.”

A youth guarantee will be established, of access to training, an apprenticeship or support to find work for all 18 to 21 year olds, “to bring down the number of young people who are not learning or earning.” There is also a guaranteed two weeks’ worth of work experience for every young person and improved careers advice in schools and colleges.

“We will work with the Scottish and Welsh Governments, and Mayors and Combined Authorities in England, to ensure all aspects of our new approach to Jobcentre Plus and employment support partner effectively with developed provision, to offer the best opportunities for people right across the country.”

Making Work Pay

Labour will “stop the chaos and turn the page” to create a partnership between business and trade unions, by implementing “Labour’s Plan to Make Work Pay: Delivering a New Deal for Working People” in full – introducing legislation within 100 days. They plan to consult fully with businesses, workers and civil society “on how to put our plans into practice” before legislation is passed.

This will include banning “exploitative” zero hours contracts; ending fire and rehire; and introducing basic rights from day one to parental leave, sick pay and protection from unfair dismissal. There will also be a commitment to “strengthen the collective voice of workers”, including through their trade unions, and creating a Single Enforcement Body to ensure employment rights are upheld.

Labour propose to change the remit of the independent Low Pay Commission so “for the first time it accounts for the cost of living.” Labour will also remove the current National Minimum Wage age bands, so all adults are entitled to the same minimum wage, “delivering a pay rise to hundreds of thousands of workers across the UK.”

Break down barriers to opportunity

Labour plan to “transform our education system so that young people get the opportunities they deserve.”

“We will expand our childcare and early-years system, drive up standards, modernise the school curriculum, reform assessment, and create higher-quality training and employment paths by empowering local communities to develop the skills people need. We also put employers at the heart of our skills system.

Best start in life

As an initial step, Labour propose to open an additional 3,000 nurseries through upgrading space in primary schools, to deliver the extension of government funded hours families are entitled to.

Labour will review the parental leave system within the first year in Government, if elected.

“Labour will raise school standards for every child.” Labour commit to ending the VAT exemption and business rates relief for private schools, and plan to use the additional funds to invest in state schools. Labour plan to recruit an additional 6,500 new expert teachers. “We will get more teachers into shortage subjects, support areas that face recruitment challenges, and tackle retention issues.”

Labour commit to updating the Early Career Framework, and ensure that any new teacher entering the classroom has, or is working towards, Qualified Teacher Status. There is also a proposal to introduce a new Teacher Training Entitlement to “ensure teachers stay up to date on best practice with continuing professional development.”

Labour pledge to reinstate the School Support Staff Negotiating Body, “which will help address the acute recruitment and retention crisis in support roles.”

In addition, there is a commitment to create a new Excellence in Leadership Programme, which would be a mentoring framework that expands the capacity of headteachers and leaders to improve their schools. Labour also plan to introduce new Regional Improvement Teams, to enhance school-to-school support and spread best practice.

Ofsted inspections will be “enhanced” by replacing a single headline grade with a new report card system telling parents clearly how schools are performing. “We will also bring Multi-Academy Trusts into the inspection system and introduce a new annual review of safeguarding, attendance and off-rolling.”

Labour plan to fund free breakfast clubs in every primary school which would be accessible to all children. There is also a commitment to bring down the cost of school by limiting the number of branded items of uniform and PE Kit that schools can require.

“Labour will guarantee training, an apprenticeship, or help to find work for all 18 – 21 year olds.”

Skills England will be established if Labour are elected, to bring together business, training providers and unions with national and local government to ensure “we have the highly trained workforce needed to deliver Labour’s Industrial Strategy.” The plan appears to be for Skills England to formally work with the Migration Advisory Committee to make sure training in England accounts for the overall needs of the labour market.

Labour will “transform” Further Education colleges into specialist Technical Excellence colleges. These colleges will work with businesses, trade unions and local government to provide young people “with better job opportunities and the highly trained workforce that local economies need.”

Labour will replace the Apprenticeship Levy with a flexible Growth and Skills Levy, with Skills England consulting on eligible courses to ensure qualifications offer value for money.

“To better integrate further and higher education and ensure high quality teaching”, Labour’s post-16 skills strategy will set out the role for different providers, and how students can move between institutions, as well as strengthening regulation. “We will act to improve access to Universities and raise teaching standards.”

Respect and equality for all

Labour will re-enact the socio-economic duty in the Equality Act 2021.

“Women’s equality will be at the heart of our missions. Our plan to Make Work Pay will transform the lives of working women, including by strengthening rights to equal pay and protections from maternity and menopause discrimination and sexual harassment. And Labour will take action to reduce the gender pay gap, building on the legacy of Barbara Castle’s Equal Pay Act.”

“Labour will introduce a landmark Race Equality Act, to enshrine in law the full right to equal pay for Black, Asian and other ethnic minority people, strengthen protections against dual discrimination and root out other racial inequalities. Labour will also reverse the Conservatives’ decision to downgrade the monitoring of anti Semitic and Islamophobic hate.

“We will introduce the full right to equal pay for disabled people.  We will introduce disability and ethnicity pay gap reporting for large employers. We will support disabled people to work by improving employment support and access to reasonable adjustments. We will also tackle the Access to Work backlog and make sure people can try out a job without fear of an immediate benefit reassessment if it does not work out.”

Labour plan to protect LGBT+ and disabled people by making all existing strands of hate crime an aggravated offence.

Labour propose to deliver a full trans-inclusive ban on conversion practices, while protecting the freedom for people to explore their sexual orientation and gender identity. “We will also modernise, simplify and reform the intrusive and outdated gender recognition law to a new process.”

“Labour is proud of our Equality Act and the rights and protections it affords women; we will continue to support the implantation of its single-sex exception.”

Social care reform

Labour propose to undertake a programme of reform to create a National Care Service, underpinned by national standards, delivering consistency of care across the country. “We will enhance partnership working across employers, workers, trade unions and government and establish a Fair Pay Agreement in adult social care. This sector collective agreement will set fair pay, terms and conditions, along with training standard. Labour will consult widely on the design of this agreement, before beginning the process and learn from countries where they operate successfully. “

For further information please contact Catherine Hare

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