With close to a twenty point lead in many opinion polls, the prospect of a Labour government is very real. It is, therefore, a good time for lawyers, HR specialists and other interested people to familiarise themselves with the changes proposed and to assess their impact.

If elected, within 100 days of entering government, Labour plans to introduce new legislation through a combination of a new Employment Rights Bill and statutory regulations. It follows that at least some of the new changes may be in place within the next six months.

Among the more noteworthy proposals is the introduction of the right to unfair dismissal, parental leave and sick pay from the outset of employment, with the removal of the current two-year continuous employment requirement. Protection for pregnant women is to be expanded by making it unlawful to dismiss a woman for six months after her return to work, except in specific circumstances.

The removal of age bands will extend access to the minimum wage, so that all adult workers will benefit, and the way it is calculated is to be altered so that the minimum wage reflects the need for pay to take account of the cost of living.

Building on the increased flexibility experienced in many workplaces since the pandemic, it is proposed to make flexible working the default position for all workers, except where it is ‘not reasonably feasible’. Certain wholly new rights are also to be brought in, including the ‘right to switch off’ when working from home and Bereavement leave.

Further measures include: the removal of Zero hour contracts; a reduction in the continuing gender pay gap; a simpler framework for differentiating workers from the self-employed and a review of the parental leave system.

It is clear that if implemented, Labour’s New Deal will bring about substantial, and from a worker’s point of view, positive change to the employment rights landscape. The rights are, however, to be brought in alongside an increase in the time limit for bringing Employment Tribunal claims from three to six months. The impact on a Tribunal system still emerging from a back-log of cases may not be so positive as a result, at least in the short-term.