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Are Labour going to U-Turn on their New Deal for Workers?

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There’s been a lot of excited reaction to today’s FT story that Labour is about to water down its employment rights package. The truth is more complicated than that. There are three reasons for this:

Firstly, Labour remains committed to its package to create a new floor in employment rights. The main thing out of today is that they will consult more deeply on the consultation. It’s about doing the serious work to get the important detail right.

Secondly, while Labour will introduce legislation in the first 100 days of a Labour government, they won’t be able to introduce everything into an enormous compendium employment rights Bill. So there will undoubtedly be some aspects of legislation that may have to wait if Parliament isn’t to be clogged up entirely on one piece of legislation. Also the consultation that I mentioned won’t be completed in time for everything to be included in the first 100 days.

Thirdly, there’s also a more prosaic reason which is that the New Deal document to be refreshed which is that the Party’s National Policy Forum made changes – which the Party has already announced – such as the use of probationary periods, fair pay agreement for social care.

So my strong feeling is that the package of employment right reforms are still a crucial component of Labour’s offer. More generally the package plays an important role for Labour in making sure that flexibility around employment rights in labour market isn’t one sided.

While the FT story is interesting and will cause some waves, as things stand I don’t think that Labour is on the verge of doing a ‘£28 billion’, namely watering down the substance of their policy – as they arguably did on climate transition funding.

And for completeness here’s the full quote from Labour in response to the FT piece:

A Labour spokesperson said:

“The New Deal will be a core part of Labour’s offer to the country and we will be campaigning on this ahead of the General Election.

“Labour’s New Deal for Working People was agreed at the party’s National Policy Forum last summer building upon our Green Paper.

“Our commitments to bring forward legislation to Parliament within 100 days to deliver the New Deal and to consult widely on implementation have not changed.”

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