14 Sep 2023
by APSCo United Kingdom

Labour’s ‘cast iron commitment’ - New Deal for Working People

  • Labour makes cast iron guarantee to put forward Employment Rights Bill within 100 days of forming a government.
  • Understandable concern from the recruitment sector around proposals to ban zero-hour contracts and how it will affect professional contracting
  • A number of private members' bills expanding employment rights are highly likely to pass this autumn, in any event, including right for agency workers to ask for predictable hours.

Read more below to understand the context of these policies for the recruiters and APSCo’s views:

Recruiters and business generally will have listened with interest to Labour’s Deputy Leader, Angela Rayner speech at the Trades Union Congress (TUC) earlier in the week where she declared:

the next Labour Government will build an economy that works for working people’ and set out the party’s plans for the future of workers’ rights in a ‘New Deal for Working People'.

To put this into wider context, recruiters will be aware that the Government has also been rushing to implement some of the employment rights promises made in their 2019 manifesto, which given the lack of a promised Employment Bill, has been done via private members' bills, which are not subject to the same consultation process as government Bills. These include the Employment (Predictable Terms and Conditions) Bill, the third reading of which is scheduled for tomorrow and which is highly likely to be passed before the King's Speech. This Bill gives agency workers the right to request predictable hours, but without accompanying regulation recruiters are left completely in the dark as to how this right to predictable hours will operate in practice. Without a doubt, it will lead to more administration within the professional sectors, without necessarily much impact on contractors.

Rayner’s speech outlined the Labour Party’s plans to repeal existing union laws, bring forward an Employment Rights Bill within the first 100 days of office and even saw Rayner name and shame retail giant Amazon for its lack of unionisation. Politicians of all parties are concerned about Amazon’s use of AI to monitor employee performance and ongoing employment, as I heard when they gave evidence to the Department for Business and Trade Parliamentary Select Committee in November 2022.

The key takeaways from the speech are:

  • Within Labour’s first 100 days of office, they will bring forward an Employment Rights Bill that will not only benefit working people, but the wider economy. Of note - Rayner pegged this as a "cast iron commitment".
    • This proposed bill would solidify workers’ rights and require Labour to repeal legislation Rayner pegged as "vicious anti-trade union laws", including the current requirement that half of a workforce must vote for a strike to go ahead (brought in under David Cameron) and the more recent requirement of a minimum service provision in a strike.
    • The bill would include:
      • Protections against unfair dismissals
      • Ban on zero-hour contracts
      • More flexible working
      • Ending ‘fire and rehire’
  • Given the audience the focus was on Labour working "hand in hand" with trade unions and businesses to ensure partnership is based on ‘mutual respect, cooperation and negotiation’ citing frameworks in Australia, New Zealand and the Nordic states, expanding collective bargaining rights on pay and conditions.

These New Deal policies have been around for a few years now, and in fact, APSCo UK and OutSource held a round table with Justin Madders MP, newly appointed as Shadow Minister for Employment Rights, back in December 2022 where we explained to him how the recruitment supply chain operates in professional sectors, clarified the unique status of “agency worker” and reminded him of the regulation and compliance already in place to protect their rights. We were clear that although we most certainly support a review of employment status for tax and rights, and would welcome a legal definition of professional self-employment, we nonetheless were worried about how “agency workers” would fit within the proposed single status of “worker”.

Since then, as a result of our engagement with Mr Madders and other senior Shadow Ministers, including Angela Rayner’s office, Labour has reconsidered and now intends to consult fully, should they form the next government, on their policy around employment status, before making any decisions. This is positive news for the staffing sector.

As to their other employment rights proposals, certainly our members are concerned about easing laws on unfair dismissals, although we note that clarity has been given about the retention of probation periods. As to zero-hour contracts and the right to flexible working, of course, the devil will be in the detail, as to impact on our sector but next year it is likely to give agency workers the right to request predictable hours and flexible working. 

Rayner ended the speech by declaring the “battle” for the general election was getting started, and certainly at APSCo UK and OutSource we are working on our manifesto strategy. 

If you are a member and want to be involved in policy work please contact [email protected] or if you are interested in learning more about membership then contact [email protected]


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