The Conservative Party’s (Employment Rights) Manifesto: Maintaining the status quo?

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In April, we wrote about the Labour party’s manifesto called “A New Deal for Working People” and the significant changes proposed to employers’ obligations and employees’ rights (read our blog here). The Conservative party has now published its own manifesto on 11 June 2024. Contrary to Labour’s manifesto, the Conservatives’ manifesto contains limited proposals directly affecting employment law, indicating an intent to largely maintain the status quo. However, although not a significant focus of the manifesto, some Conservative proposals may impact how employers do business, which we discuss below.

The Conservative manifesto focuses significant attention on economic issues and proposes changes to the tax system designed to incentivise business and effectively increase employee take-home pay. This includes proposals to cut the National Insurance tax rate for employees and abolish it for those who are self-employed, noting that the self-employed are often risk-takers and entrepreneurs without the same protections as employees. In addition, there are proposals to maintain National Living Wage at two-thirds of median earnings, which could result in future increases to the National Living Wage.

In addition to tax adjustments, the Conservatives want to incentivise and facilitate employment by providing 15 hours of free childcare to working parents with children between the ages of nine months to two years, which will then be increased in September 2025 to 30 hours of free childcare each week for working parents with children aged between nine months up to school age. Similarly, to incentivise employment, the Conservatives intend to reform the process for issuing fit notes to employees absent from work due to illness, which will involve occupational health professionals deciding when to sign someone off sick, freeing up GP time, and providing support to help people stay in or get back to work.

As far as developing skills and providing opportunities to young people, much attention has been given to the Conservatives’ proposal of compulsory national service for all school leavers at 18, with the choice between a competitive placement in the military or civic service roles. In addition, the Conservatives propose creating 100,000 apprenticeships in England every year by curbing university degrees with a high rate of students dropping out and low job prospects after graduation. The manifesto also includes a proposal to make loans available for adults to cover the cost of new qualifications to meet skill shortages.

Although the Conservative manifesto contains few direct changes to employment law, the above proposals could impact how employers and employees operate. In addition, employers can expect the continued rolling out of legislation that has already been passed including the introduction of neonatal leave and pay, which is expected this autumn. Regardless of the result of the upcoming election, we will monitor proposals to employment laws so employers are prepared to address any changes.

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