What will they do now? The Conservative Party’s Manifesto on Employment Reform
Today’s UK general election results saw the Conservative party victorious, having achieved their largest majority at Westminster since 1987. But what do they plan to do now? In an election crowded with Brexit rhetoric it may have been difficult to appreciate each party’s plans outside of leaving the EU. In this article we investigate what the Conservative manifesto proposes to achieve over the next few years in relation to jobs and workers.
For anyone who has read the Conservative manifesto you will be perfectly justified in thinking ‘so, what exactly do they plan to do?’. This campaign the Tories have kept their manifesto intentionally vague, save for their determination to ‘get Brexit Done’, choosing to fill their pages with pictures of Boris Johnson rather than policy specifics. Most of the employment policies the Conservatives have put forward continue existing recommendations from the Good Work Plan which we have discussed in previous articles available on the Acuity website. Additional policies include the formation of a new employment law enforcement body, greater entitlement to leave for parents and carers, and various minor wage and tax adjustments.
The Good Work Plan
The Good Work Plan was published in December 2018 following the reports and recommendations raised by Matthew Taylor in his 2017 review of modern working practices. The reforms revolve around the prevalence of more flexible working arrangements in today’s gig-economy and ensuring these workers are adequately protected. April 2020 will see a number of employment reforms including greater rights for employees to take advantage of flexible working and rights for workers to request more predictable working hours. There have been no significant deviations from these plans as of yet.
On page 39 on the Conservative manifesto they state, in a single sentence, that they will create a single enforcement body and crack down on employers abusing the law. With such a drastic proposal it would be reasonable to expect a little more insight, but this has been the subject of a consultation since July 2019 and the party is unlikely to commit to specifics until the feedback has been evaluated. The essential goal of the enforcement body would be an entity similar in nature to Ireland’s Workplace Relations Commission or France’s Labour Inspectorate which can coordinate the numerous enforcement agencies.
The Conservative manifesto has promised extensions of entitlement to parental leave for neonatal care and a more accommodating framework for fathers to take paternity leave. The Tories also recognise the potential for discrimination against women immediately after returning from maternity leave have promised to reform redundancy laws to address this. In relation to unpaid carers, the Conservatives seek to extend leave entitlement from two days to a full week.
Wages and Tax
The manifesto supports the Conservatives’ pledge to raise the National Living Wage by 2024. This increase will reach two thirds of average earnings, currently forecasted to be £10.50 per hour, and will apply to everyone over the age of 21.
With income tax, National Insurance contributions, corporation tax and VAT all set to remain the same there are no proposals for major tax reforms. The manifesto does, however, promise to increase the National Insurance threshold to £9,500, to reduce business rates, and to increase small business employment allowance. Additionally, although there has been no confirmed deviation from the current IR35 plans due to come into force in April 2020, Chancellor of the Exchequer Sajid Javid has stated that the party will review if the current proposal is the right way to proceed. Watch this space for updates and see our article on IR35 for further information on the planned tax reforms affecting individuals operating through personal service companies.
It is clear to see that the Tory manifesto is somewhat ‘conservative’, both in the nature and extent of proposed reforms and in the information the party is willing to disclose at this stage. Now that a majority has been achieved we will have to wait and see whether the manifesto is adhered to or whether an emboldened government might pursue further reform.