Millions working without employment protections, Labour analysis finds

Elliot Chappell

Analysis published by the Labour Party has found that millions of people across the country are working without access to employment protections and rights as a result of lengthy qualifying periods.

The research, released by the opposition party today, showed that nearly 7.2 million people have been working for in their jobs for less than two years and therefore do not generally have the ability to claim unfair dismissal against an employer.

“It is unfair that employees currently have to wait until two years into their employment to gain their full rights, including protections against unfair dismissal, and that so many are restricted from achieving a better work-life balance and miss out on valuable time at home with their families because of these qualifying periods,” Andy McDonald said.

Labour also found that almost two million people have been in their jobs for less than 26 weeks and consequently do not have the right to request ‘flexible working’.

The Shadow Employment Rights and Protections Secretary added: “No worker should be allowed to be without the protection against being unfairly dismissed, which leaves the most vulnerable workers exposed, and all workers should be able to enjoy the benefits of flexible working.

“Labour would give all workers full employment rights and protections from day one, scrapping the qualifying periods that deny millions the security and dignity that they deserve.”

Labour launched its new deal for working people campaign earlier this week, with party leader Keir Starmer and deputy Angela Rayner pledging to “fundamentally change our economy” and “make Britain the best place to work”.

The Labour leader wrote exclusively for LabourList on Monday to explain why the party has launched the new campaign, which is based on five principles – “security at work”, “quality jobs”, “a fairer economy”, “opportunity for all”, “work that pays”.

Labour shortly afterwards announced plans to increase security in work with the creation of a single ‘worker’ status, encompassing all but the genuinely self-employed, giving employees rights and protections from the first day of work.

Under the proposals, Labour would remove qualifying periods for rights, such as the protection against unfair dismissal. The party is also calling for an immediate right to flexible working for all workers as the default.

Those employed for longer than 26 weeks have the right to request flexible working, but businesses are only obliged to handle the requests in a ‘reasonable’ manner and do not have to accept the request even if such an arrangement is possible.

“Labour will make flexible working a force for good so that everyone is able to enjoy the benefits of flexible working, from a better work-life balance to less time commuting and more time with their family,” Rayner said earlier this week.

Downing Street confirmed last month that the government is considering introducing a right for employees to request home working specifically, and a spokesperson said a flexible working task force was examining how best to proceed.

But they stressed that there would be no legal right to work from home, reporting that the Prime Minister Boris Johnson still believes that there are benefits to working in the office, such as in-person collaboration with colleagues.

If the government were to legislate to introduce a right to flexible working with the current six-month qualifying period in place, 1,922,074, or 7% of all employees, would currently not be able to benefit from the right.

As well as a right to flexible working and protection from unfair dismissal, Labour’s proposals would also ensure that all workers are entitled to statutory sick pay, the national minimum wage and holiday pay from day one.

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