Corbyn’s plans for a new Ministry of Employment Rights and Workers’ Protection Agency

10 September 2019

Today, Labour have announced that they are proposing to introduce a new Ministry of Employment Rights and Workers’ Protection Agency that aims to empower workers and trade unions, as well as a vast extension to workers’ right, including (but not limited to):

  • Establishing a Ministry for Employment Rights, responsible for delivering an extension of rights for workers and led by the Secretary of State for Employment Rights 
  • The introduction of a Workers’ Protection Agency to enforce the law and ensure workers are receiving the correct rights and protections to which they are entitled
  • The Workers’ Protection Agency would also be given extensive powers to inspect workplaces and bring prosecutions and civil proceedings on workers’ behalf
  • Simplify and strengthen trade union law
  • Creation of a single status of ‘worker’ for everyone apart from those genuinely self-employed
  • A statutory Real Living Wage of £10 per hour by 2020 for all workers aged 16 or over
  • Banning unpaid internships
  • Banning zero hours contracts by requiring that employers must issue a contract to all employees setting out fixed hours

The full list of proposals can be found here.

Aspire Comment

The “new” labour proposals are extremely similar to proposals that we saw in Labour’s 2017 “A Fair Deal at Work” manifesto, however they do seem to have dropped their focus on bogus self-employment.

Whilst Labour’s proposals seem to be directed towards the working population and “good employers”, if these proposals were implemented, then there could be significant impacts for good (and bad!) employers in terms of their HR processes.

Many employers rely on zero hours contracts for compliant and practical reasons, such as the fluctuations in business corresponding to seasons, therefore the banning of zero hours contracts could be costly and burdensome.

Employers who have a presence in sectors with high trade union involvement would need to be particularly ‘hot’ on compliance as trade unions could be provided with strengthened powers to help workers exercise their rights. 

Following the Supreme Court ruling in July 2017 that employment tribunal fees are unlawful and the abolishment of them with immediate effect, it is highly likely that Labour’s proposals would see more and more cases taken to the employment tribunal. This could see more employers having to spend time and money defending employment tribunal claims.

It seems strange that they are proposing to end the “so- called Swedish Derogation” when this is in hand already, with the abolishment of these contracts taking effect in April 2020.