Employment law bulletin: which bills will survive the general election?

Raconteur’s resident employment law expert Jo Mackie explores which legislation is likely to be impacted by the general election announcement

With a general election looming, the UK has officially entered a state of purdah, where restrictions are placed on the civil service to ensure its political impartiality. During this period, all bills that have not successfully made it through the parliamentary process are scrapped and no new legislation can be enacted.

But prior to the dissolution of parliament, there is a short period of wash-up where any bills that are part way through the legislative process are pushed through. Several employment laws were left in limbo following the general election announcement and only some of them have made it through wash-up. Here are the main changes still on the cards that employers should be aware of.

Fire and rehire 

A new statutory code of practice around dismissal and re-engagement will come into force on 18 July. The code increases the consultation requirements for employers who wish to change their staff’s terms and conditions of employment and are part of a crackdown on the practice of fire and rehire.

The new code is made under the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992. Failure to follow it will leave an employer liable to an uplift in damages payable to staff who succeed in a claim against an employer. The code says that fire and rehire, while not unlawful in itself, must only be used as a last resort. Employers must be transparent that a failure to agree changes may result in dismissals. It robustly states that “a threat of dismissal should never be used only as a negotiating tactic in circumstances where the employer is not, in fact, contemplating dismissal as a means of achieving its objectives”.

However, the rules around fire and rehire may change again should Labour win the general election. The party has pledged to ban the practice completely within its first 100 days of government.

Paternity leave changes

The Paternity Leave (Bereavement) Act 2024 was also saved during the wash-up period. Once in force, it is likely to provide leave of up to 52 weeks for partners and fathers, where the mother of their child has died in the first year of birth or adoption of that child.

The 2024 Act has significant support across parties, so there is little doubt it will come into force in the next parliament, regardless of who governs.

Workers (Predictable Terms and Conditions) Act 2023

This legislation will allow some workers to ask their employer for a predictable working pattern, including the right to ask for a fixed number of hours per week or particular days per week. The right will apply to short-contract workers – those engaged on fixed-term contracts of less than 12 months.

Employers can turn down a request if there is a legitimate business reason for doing so, in the same way that they can for flexible working requests.

All washed up

It’s also interesting to see what employment legislation didn’t make it through wash-up. The proposed Unpaid Trial Work Period (Prohibition) Bill, the Fertility Treatment (Employment Rights) Bill and the Bullying and Respect at Work Bill all fell by the wayside.

However, I predict that the consultations over an extension to the minimum service strike laws for the education sector will continue into the new parliament. The consultation on this was launched in November 2023 but has still to be completed.

A proposed reintroduction of employment tribunal fees is still under consideration too. Consultation closed in March but no firm response or decision has been put in place. Given the significant delays faced by employment tribunal claimants across England and Wales, it’s worth betting that a fee of some sort will be reintroduced.

This is unlikely to be costly as any indication of denying access to justice will inevitably bring a challenge, so expect the order of fees to be around £100 to £200 per claim issued.

Jo Mackie is partner and director of employment at Burlingtons Legal LLP