A Labour government would give all workers protection against unfair dismissal from their first day in employment, ban zero hours contracts, increase the national minimum wage and extend statutory sick pay to all workers.
Speaking at TUC Congress 2021, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said a government under his leadership would “strive for better prospects and dignity for all workers” by bolstering workers’ rights and by supporting industries that create “quality” jobs.
He said: “A job that you can raise a family on must offer security and certainty… Labour will provide that security, ensuring rights for all workers from their first day of the job, including holiday pay, protection against unfair dismissal and guaranteed sick pay.”
He said that if the Labour party gained power at the next general election, it would:
- immediately increase the minimum wage to at least £10 an hour, which would mean a pay rise of around £2,500 per year for those on the minimum rate
- give workers day one rights including holiday pay, protection against unfair dismissal, paid parental leave, flexible working and guaranteed sick pay
- increase statutory sick pay
- ban zero hours contracts and require employers to give staff a contract that reflects their normal working hours
- outlaw “fire and rehire” practices, where workers are dismissed and rehired on new contracts with new less favourable terms
TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said that Labour’s policies would benefit millions of workers.
Everyone deserves to be treated with dignity at work.
Great to hear @Keir_Starmer speak about Labour’s new deal for working people:
💥 Day one rights for all
💥 £10 minimum wage
💥 Decent sick pay
💥 A ban on zero-hours contracts
— Frances O'Grady (@FrancesOGrady) September 14, 2021
However, giving workers protections from unfair dismissal from their first day of employment could cripple organisations, said Elena Cooper, an employment law consultant at Discreet Law.
“Imagine the scenario where you employ someone, and on day three, they display appalling attitude to colleagues, an unwillingness to carry out their role to the correct standards, and they are late attending work and consistently take 90 minute lunch breaks. Instead of simply bringing their employment to an end, to avoid an unfair dismissal claim, you would need to go through a lengthy performance improvement plan and full disciplinary procedures. The employee can then still bring a claim against the employer,” she said.
“The situation is wholly unworkable, employers would deal with mounting legal costs and the tribunals would be overwhelmed.”
Increasing sick pay would likely encourage further periods of sickness absence and add to employers’ costs, added Cooper.
“With respect to the Labour Party, surely they should be trying to introduce policies which reward good performance rather than the reverse.”
Starmer said that fire and rehire practices “cheat workers out of the pay and conditions they have earned”. Labour has so far been unsuccessful in its campaign to get such procedures banned.
“We’ve arranged opposition day debates; we’ve put down amendments; and Labour MPs have fought to introduce the legislation in Parliament to ban fire and rehire. But neither our party, nor our movement, has yet been successful in defeating it outright,” said Starmer.
“Because the truth is until we have a Labour government, Congress, our ability to deliver the transformational change that we all know is necessary will be frustrated.”
A Labour government would also invest £30bn in creating 400,000 new green manufacturing and low carbon jobs.
“I see no conflict between tackling the climate crisis and protecting and delivering more well-paid, skilled jobs,” he said.
“Cutting our carbon emissions is an urgent necessity, and it can spark the level of job creation and training programmes that our economy needs.
“And trade unions have a key role to play in building and delivering on the national retraining strategy we need to fill those new roles.”