A general election was called on a soggy afternoon in May, which took many by surprise, including members of the Prime Minister’s own cabinet. With Labour consistently topping the polls, many believe it’s a foregone conclusion that Sir Keir Starmer will be taking the keys to No. 10 in July. If he does, what does it mean for UK employers?

Throughout this article, I will discuss what’s included in Labour’s manifesto ahead of the general election and how HR teams can prepare for a change in government.

What’s included in Labour’s manifesto?

To understand how employers will be affected, it’s important to first understand what Labour is promising workers.

The party’s headline pledge is to ‘make work pay’ by providing greater in-work security, better pay, and more autonomy in the workplace to improve the lives of working people. Labour also references Britain’s outdated employment laws that are no longer fit to support a modern economy.

In practice, this means banning zero-hours contracts, putting an end to fire and rehire practices, and ensuring that employees have access to parental leave, sick pay, and protection from unfair dismissal from day one of their employment.

Labour also pledges to ensure the minimum wage is a ‘genuine living wage’ which will be upheld by the independent Low Pay Commission and will account for the rising cost of living (for the first time ever). Secondary to this, the current age bands which limit entitlement to the full living wage will be scrapped. This policy will deliver an automatic pay rise to the nation’s youngest workers aged under 21.

Keir Starmer described the Labour manifesto as “pro-business and pro-worker” during his speech to release the document publicly, but these policies may ignite fear in HR teams that are unprepared.

How can HR professionals prepare?

Whilst I’ve witnessed HR teams beginning to prepare for a change in government for months, some as early as January of this year, it has been difficult to do so without knowing the contents of Labour’s policies. Now that the party’s pledges have been made clear, the HR function can understand how changes to minimum wage, parental leave, sick pay etc could affect their business. They should be able to build a picture of additional costs and wider policy changes that need to be made.

The other thing to remember is that increased minimum wages and general pay improvements for employees are only the cornerstone. HR plays a critical role in the wider wellbeing of employees and will be essential for ensuring businesses have robust support systems in place. This includes access to mental health resources, which is also referenced in the Labour manifesto. Whilst this has been at the top of HR’s agenda for many years, it has never been as prevalent as it has been today – nor has it been the focus of a political manifesto. This shift should empower HRs to support their wider teams and anyone who is specifically struggling.

In practice, this could come in the form of reviewing your current Employee Assistance Programme provider to ensure it offers holistic support for all aspects of your employees’ lives, to offering additional benefits to go the extra mile as an employer. Financial wellbeing is another aspect that should be considered, particularly as money worries can be a trigger for mental health issues including insomnia, difficulty concentrating, anxiety and depression. Often, whilst a pay rise is good to have, investing in meaningful financial tools and support can be better for employees in the long run.

There are also remote and flexible workers to consider. With 72% of employers now offering workplace flexibility in the UK, staying connected to your people is easier said than done. Disconnection is one of the top challenges faced by remote workers and companies that implement recognition programmes which extend to their remote employees report better inclusivity and reduced feelings of isolation.

If a change in Government brings sudden changes to worker policies, which Labour has committed to implementing within its first 100 days in office, staying connected to your people will be a priority as they will need to understand what the changes are and how it will affect them. But this doesn’t just fall on the shoulders of HR teams. Middle management and line managers also play a critical role in employee engagement as these are the people ‘on the ground’, so to speak, interacting and working alongside employees every day. These roles will only help to elevate HR’s impact in engaging with and reassuring employees.

Final thoughts

The unexpected July general election has introduced a wave of uncertainty and anticipation among UK employers and HR professionals. Labour’s lead in the polls and its comprehensive manifesto, aimed at enhancing worker rights and pay, suggest significant changes are on the horizon.

The proposed policies on minimum wage, zero-hours contracts, and in-work security will likely require employers to adapt quickly to new regulations. HR leaders must remain proactive, ensuring they are well-prepared to support their employees through these transitions. By focusing on comprehensive employee engagement and robust wellbeing support, HR can navigate these changes effectively.

The key to success will be maintaining open communication and fostering a supportive environment for all employees, whether on-site or remote, ensuring everyone understands and benefits from the impending legislative changes.

Chris Brown
Chris Brown
CEO at Rippl | Website

As CEO of Rippl, Chris Brown leads the mission to transform employee recognition and rewards. Rippl delivers innovative SaaS solutions that boost employee engagement, productivity, and satisfaction through customised programmes. Chris focuses on strategic vision, operational excellence, and fostering a collaborative, inclusive culture. Committed to growth and customer success, Chris leverages advanced technology to meet organisational needs, setting new standards in HR tech.