What are the political parties promising on employment ahead of the 2017 general election?

18 May 2017 By Hayley Kirton

From time off to care for sick relatives to banning unpaid internships, the political parties had a lot to say about the world of work ahead of the general election on 8 June 2017

Here's a breakdown of the need-to-know policies for HR. Jump straight to a section using the links below:


The Conservative party launched its manifesto on Thursday 18 May. The most important points for HR are:

  • Retain rights for UK workers which stem from the EU following Brexit
  • Increase National Living Wage to 60 per cent of median wages by 2020 and then continue to raise the rate in line with median wages after that
  • Introduce greater protections and rights for gig economy workers
  • Introduce protections for workers' pensions from bosses' recklessness
  • Strengthen shareholders' voting powers on executive pay, require listed companies to publish the pay ratio between their executives and their wider staff and change the law to require listed companies to take into account employees' interests at board level
  • Double the Immigration Skills Charge for companies employing migrant workers to £2,000 a year by the end of parliament, in a bid to encourage businesses to train UK staff
  • Create more opportunities for programmes to help people return to work after a career break, such as mothers returning to work after raising children
  • Take steps to encourage more parents to use Shared Parental Leave and more workplaces to offer flexible working
  • Extend pay gap reporting for large employers to cover race
  • Amend the Equality Act to cover discrimination on grounds of mental health
  • Introduce 30 hours of free childcare for working parents of three- and four-year-olds who would otherwise struggle to afford it and assess what else needs to be offered
  • Allow larger organisations to pass Apprenticeship Levy funds to smaller organisations in their supply chain and work with businesses to allow larger businesses to place apprentices into their supply chain
  • Give workers the right to request leave for training

However, discussing her party's plans for workers' rights ahead of the manifesto launch, Theresa May also pledged to create a legal right to up to a year off to care for a sick relative and a right to leave on the death of a child. 


Although it was leaked the week beforehand, the Labour Party officially published its manifesto on Tuesday 16 May, including a 20-point plan on workers' rights and various other employment-related promises. In summary, these are:

  • Ban zero-hours contracts, unpaid internships and umbrella companies
  • Raise minimum wage to the same level as living wage, which is expected to be £10 per hour by 2020
  • Scrap the public sector pay cap
  • Introduce maximum pay ratios of 20:1 in the public sector and for companies bidding for public contracts
  • Extend paid paternity leave to four weeks and increase paternity pay
  • Scrap employment tribunal fees
  • Repeal the Trade Union Act, enforce rights to trade union representation, guarantee unions the right to access workplaces and only award public contracts to companies that recognise trade unions
  • Grant equal rights to all workers from the first day of employment, regardless of whether full or part time, or on a permanent or temporary contract, and shift the burden of proof for employment status onto employers, so it is assumed a worker is an employee unless the employer can prove otherwise
  • Introduce legislation to make sure employers wishing to recruit from overseas do not undercut UK staff
  • Introduce four new public holidays
  • Amend the Takeover Code to make sure businesses have a plan to protect pensions and workers
  • Strengthen protections for unfair redundancy against women
  • Conduct a public inquiry into blacklisting
  • Provide equalities representatives with statutory rights
  • Bring back protection against third-party harassment
  • Create a civil enforcement system to make sure organisations comply with gender pay auditing
  • Guarantee rights for EU nationals living in Britain and secure reciprocal rights for UK citizens living in the EU27

Ahead of the manifesto launch, Labour also pledged to introduce new charges on businesses which paid staff excessively, defining this as a 2.5 per cent levy on remuneration packages above £330,000 and a 5 per cent levy on packages above £500,000.

Liberal Democrats

The Liberal Democrats published its manifesto on Wednesday 17 May. Work-related promises include:

  • Scrap the public sector pay cap and employment tribunal fees
  • Back the creation and adoption of a 'good employer' kitemark, which would cover areas such as paying a living wage, avoiding unpaid internships and using name-blind recruitment
  • Run an independent review into setting a genuine living wage for all sectors
  • Require large employers to publish the number of staff earning less than a living wage and pay ratios between top and median pay
  • Update employment rights so they are better suited to modern working practices, including the gig economy
  • Create a right for those on zero-hours contracts to request a fixed contract, and consult on introducing a right to request more regular working patterns after a certain period of time
  • Encourage listed employers with more than 250 staff to offer employees the right to request shares
  • Amend company law to allow German-style two-tier boards to include employees
  • Aim to double the number of businesses hiring apprentices
  • Make sure all receipts from the apprenticeship levy in England are spent on training
  • Make paternity and shared parental leave a right from day one of employment
  • Introduce an additional 'use it or lose it' month for shared parental leave to encourage fathers to take time off
  • Encourage more employers to offer flexible working
  • Campaign for the UK to guarantee the rights of EU citizens living in the UK and to make sure employment rights stemming from the EU are not undermined


The SNP released its manifesto on Tuesday 30 May and work-related promises include:

  • Continue to seek full devolution of employment and employability policies, including minimum wage, from Westminster 
  • Press for a Fair Work Commission to be established, including representatives from trade unions, public sector organisations and businesses, to make sure workers' rights are not eroded by Brexit
  • Create a new single adult rate of minimum wage for everybody over the age of 18
  • Repeal the Trade Union Act and ban 'exploitative' zero-hours contracts
  • Call on the UK government to scrap employment tribunal fees 
  • Strengthen the laws designed to protect women from discriminatory practices and redundancies 
  • Alter the laws which currently allow employers to have different dress codes for men and women 
  • Introduce a legal right to breastfeed in the workplace
  • Increase provision of free childcare for three- and four-year-olds, as well as two-year-olds from low income households, to 30 hours a week
  • Exclude organisations found to be engaging in blacklisting from bidding for public contracts

Plaid Cymru

Plaid Cymru published its manifesto on Tuesday 16 May and its policies related to workers included:

  • Maintain trade ties with Europe to protect up to 200,000 jobs and guarantee the rights of Europeans currently living and working in Wales
  • Introduce a "real, independently verified living wage"
  • Train and recruit an additional 1,000 doctors and 5,000 nurses for the Welsh NHS over the next decade
  • Provide free full-time nursery places for all three-year-olds
  • Create Welsh-specific visas to plug skills gaps as needed

The Green Party

The Green Party released its manifesto on Monday 22 May. Employment-related policies included:

  • Ban 'exploitative' zero-hours contracts
  • Introduce a four day working week
  • Reduce the gap between the highest and lowest paid, including increasing minimum wage to £10 per hour by 2020 and abolishing age-related wage bands
  • Close the gender pay gap and require at least 40 per cent of public company and public sector board members to be women
  • Scrap the cap on employees' national insurance
  • Guarantee the rights of EU citizens living in the UK and seek reciprocal arrangements for UK citizens living in the EU

Women’s Equality Party (WEP)

The WEP launched its manifesto on Friday 12 May. It contains a number of pledges related to gender equality in the workplace, including:

  • Extend gender pay gap reporting requirements to small companies of 50 employees or more, and require that data to be broken down by age, employment status, ethnicity, race, disability, industry and working hours.
  • Introduce an additional requirement to collect data on retention during – and up to a year after – parental leave
  • Increase the grace period for cases involving maternity or parental leave discrimination from three to nine months
  • Expand the criteria that protect women from being made redundant while on maternity leave to pregnant women before they start maternity leave
  • Lower the fee for issuing an employment claim from £250 to £50, and remove the £950 hearing fee
  • Incentivise employers to provide on-site childcare
  • Introduce nine months’ parental leave at 90 per cent of pay for each parent (including same-sex couples and adoptive parents); each parent to receive three months off, plus three months that can be split between them. Single parents would be able to share parental leave with a nominated second caregiver
  • Offer maternity, paternity and adoptive leave, and pay entitlements, to self-employed parents
  • Require companies with 250 or more employees to state the forms of flexible working the role is suited for in their job adverts
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