What does the general election mean for HR managers in the UK?

We can’t predict the result of the 2024 General Election – but we can take a look at what different results could mean for HR and employment law.

Bharat Jain • 
What does the general election mean for HR managers in the UK?

With the General Election just around the corner and party political manifestos flying around the media sphere, it’s a good time to preview the potential impact of this election on employers and particularly HR Managers.

Even though the political polling forecasts point strongly one way, we don’t know who will win the election, and with what majority. Therefore, HR Managers must be prepared for a range of employment law changes and eventualities, and we have highlighted some of the more prominent ones here.

Keep in mind that we are writing this from a politically neutral standpoint – our aim is not to influence the way you vote, but rather give you an idea of what to be prepared for, from an HR perspective, across a few different scenarios.

Day one right to not be unfairly dismissed

Under current law, employees must have 2 years of service with their existing employer before they can claim unfair dismissal against them. However, Labour plans to give employees the right to not be unfairly dismissed from the first day of employment.

This has serious implications: it could make employers more hesitant about pulling the new hire trigger, putting greater emphasis on alternative recruiting sources like the gig economy or agencies. But it could also make top talent feel more comfortable making a move, which could help you with recruitment.

Changes to redundancy laws

We are seeing the biggest surge in unemployment since 2020 and this is thought to be caused at least in part by a recent increase in redundancies.

In the current climate, political manifesto references to UK redundancy law should be scrutinised. That said, Labour would reform the redundancy law which now dictates that collective consultation must occur if redundancies reach a defined number (20 within 90 days) within each site/workplace. Under a Labour government, this law would be reformed so collective consultations would be triggered if 20 redundancies were planned across the business in 90 days. This is more in line with EU law, making it more likely that employers will have to engage in collective consultation.

Zero-hours contract reform

The Labour and the Lib Dems manifestos have proactive policies on zero-hours contracts. The changes are designed to give employees more predictability and security around their income.

The Lib Dems would, if elected, introduce a 20% higher minimum wage as compensation for the uncertainty in hours of available work. Zero-hours workers would also acquire the right to request fixed-hour contracts after 12 months.

Labour plans to introduce a new right to a contract that reflects hours that are regularly worked, (based on a 12-week reference period). It’s called an ‘average hours’ contract. There is not much detail on how this will work in practice.

Flexible working day one right

Lib Dems and Labour have proposed to strengthen the existing legislation which made flexible working a day one right from the 6th April this year.

Again, there is not much detail from Lib Dems or Labour on how the policy would be fortified, but experts suggest it could involve limiting the ability to refuse a request. There is some potential fine-tuning of this policy, which HR managers should be aware of.

Employment status simplification or complication?

Both Labour and the Lib Dems have policies around reforming employment status. Labour wants to simplify the three-tier system of employees, workers, and self-employed, down to just workers and selfemployed. Lib Dems want to add a new employment status of a ‘dependent contractor’ existing between employment and self-employment which gives holders entitlements to basic employment rights.

There is a cross-party appetite for reform here, as Labour also want to enhance employment rights for gig workers. However, it will require consultation, legal assent and implementation and is unlikely to be an overnight reform, so HR Managers should factor this possibility into medium term planning.

Both the Conservatives and Lib Dems have significant pro-apprenticeship policies so this cross-party support could lead to an increasingly apprentice-friendly industrial environment. This, again, should be food for strategic HR thought.

Statutory Sick Pay reforms

The Conservatives, Labour and Lib Dems all have plans to reform SSP. Labour and Lib Dems want to remove the waiting period for sick pay and remove the lower earnings limit. Lib Dems want to raise SSP levels to the National Minimum Wage. Conservatives want specialist occupational health professionals to be responsible for fit notes rather than GPs.

With so much cross-party support for reform in this area, HR Managers and employers should be thinking proactively about the implications of this.

Of course, none of these changes are guaranteed to occur and are completely dependent on the new government of the day. But, if we focus on polling predictions and policy reforms that have cross-party support we can gain credible foresight into the most likely post-election HR reforms.