What are the main parties pledging on employment this general election?

From extending protection for new parents to increasing the living wage, People Management gives the lowdown on the proposals made in five key areas for HR

What are the main parties pledging on employment this general election?

With the general election looming, the UK's main political parties are vying to win crucial votes and have announced their campaign promises ahead of tomorrow's vote. In addition to pledges on Brexit, the parties' manifestos contain myriad proposals on revolutionising the world of work, including on the future of flexible working and the apprenticeship levy.

People Management has rounded up what politicians have said on five of the most pressing issues for HR: 

Wages and working conditions

The national living wage, introduced in April 2016 for employees aged 25 and over, is currently £8.21 per hour, but many of the parties want to increase it. The Conservatives pledged to raise the national living wage to £10.50 per hour by 2024 for those over the age of 21, meaning younger workers would benefit from wage rises. 

Labour has said it will introduce a ‘real living wage’ of £10 per hour in 2020 for all workers over the age of 16. And the Green party, co-led by Siân Berry and Jonathan Bartley, has said it will increase the living wage to £12 per hour and extend it to workers aged between 16 and 21.


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The Liberal Democrats pledged to establish an independent review to consult on how to set a ‘genuine living wage’ across all sectors. The party also promised zero-hours and agency workers the right to request a fixed-hours contract after 12 months, as well as setting a 20 per cent higher minimum wage for people on zero-hours contracts at times of normal demand to “compensate them for the uncertainty of fluctuating hours of work”.

The Independent Group for Change, led by Anna Soubry, has also said it will reform rights for those working on contracts so these individuals will be notified of their shifts one month in advance.

Protection for parents 

Balancing work and being a new parent is no easy task, and politicians have recognised the need for better workplace protection for such workers. Labour has said mothers will be given statutory maternity pay for a full year, increased from nine months currently. The party said it will also double paternity leave from two weeks to four and increase statutory paternity pay.

Like Labour, the Conservative party has said it will explore ways to make it easier for fathers to take paternity leave. It also pledged legislation to allow parents to take extended leave for neonatal care. 

The Lib Dems have pledged to increase statutory paternity leave to up to six weeks and to ensure that parental leave is a right from the first day of employment. Under their leadership, businesses would be required to publish their parental leave and pay policies. 

The Scottish National Party, led by Nicola Sturgeon, promised the most time off by increasing shared parental leave from 52 to 64 weeks, with an additional minimum of 12 weeks to be taken by fathers. The party also pledged a ‘use it or lose it’ principle, wherein paternity leave cannot be transferred, to encourage more fathers to take leave. 

Flexible working and the four-day week

With mental health and wellbeing on many businesses’ agendas, the political parties were quick to adopt stances on flexible working and decreases in the UK’s working hours. The Labour party has said it will introduce legislation to move the UK from a 40-hour to a 32-hour working week within the next decade, with no loss of pay.

The Conservative party has said it will encourage flexible working and consult on making it the default unless employers “have good reason not to”. The Lib Dems have promised to change the law so that flexible working is open to all workers from day one in the job, with employers required to advertise jobs accordingly unless there are significant business reasons that that is not possible. 

Skills and apprenticeships

The parties have all put forward solutions to help businesses tackle growing skills shortages. Labour has said it would make it easier for employers to spend the apprenticeship levy by allowing it to be used for a wider range of accredited training. Further proposals include increasing the amount that can be transferred to non-levy-paying employers to 50 per cent, and introducing an online matching service to help levy-paying companies find smaller businesses to transfer funds to.

The Lib Dems have proposed ‘skills wallets’ for every adult in England, giving them £10,000 to spend on education and training throughout their lives. Individuals, their employers and local government would be able to make additional payments into these wallets. Like Labour, the Lib Dems said they would expand the apprenticeship levy to include a wider range of skills and training, with 25 per cent of funding going to a ‘social mobility fund’ targeted at areas with the greatest skill needs.

The ‘centrepiece’ of the Conservative's plan on skills is a new ‘national skills fund’, worth £3bn, which would provide matching funding for individuals and employers. A portion of this would be reserved for ‘strategic’ investment in skills. 

Brexit

The UK’s future relationship with the European Union is undoubtedly the most notable and controversial issue of this election more widely. 

The Conservatives have pledged to ‘get Brexit done’ by bringing back the withdrawal agreement bill to parliament before Christmas to achieve Brexit by the end of January 2020. The party has also argued it will not extend the transition period after the UK’s departure beyond the end of this month, and will also enact a new points-based immigration system as well as end freedom of movement between the EU and UK. 

The Labour party has said it would renegotiate a Brexit deal within the next three months and hold a public vote within six months, with the negotiated deal to run alongside an option to remain on the ballot. It has also said it would secure a revised withdrawal agreement that would provide legal protection for workers and citizens, and ensure a transition period to allow businesses to adapt to any new arrangements. 

The Lib Dems by contrast are completely opposed to the UK leaving the EU and have campaigned vehemently to remain. The party has pledged to revoke Article 50 – thereby cancelling Brexit – if elected. 

Like the Lib Dems, the Green party opposes Brexit and has committed itself to a second referendum and to campaign to remain. The Independent Group for Change, likewise, has campaigned for the UK to remain in the UK and would allow the British people a ‘final say’ on Brexit in another referendum.