With just over two weeks to go before the UK General Election, the main UK-wide parties have set out their policy stalls. For the CIPD, we are most interested in what they have to say on skills and employment alongside some other key subjects. And in those areas there weren’t any major surprises.

All the major policies in the two main party manifestos had been announced already or build on existing initiatives. But many voters are likely to have been hearing them for the first time. Of those parties vying to be the next government, the Labour party, coming from opposition, is likely to bring in the most changes to skills and employment.

From the CIPD's perspective, we’ve had some key successes reflected in the party manifestos, with two of the parties pledging to reform the apprenticeship levy, a longstanding call of ours and many other business organisations.

We have also seen some changes to Labour’s proposed New Deal for Working People in line with some of the concerns we've raised, such as the move towards greater consultation on key proposals and a strengthened statutory code for ‘fire and rehire’ rather than an outright ban.

On the Conservatives’ side, there aren’t any big legislative changes planned in employment or skills in its manifesto. But some key changes to employment legislation have already taken place over the past year, many backed by the CIPD, for example, the introduction of the day one right to request flexible working and a significant focus on improving work and health in the lead up to the election. What is likely are more incremental changes to employment policy in a future Conservative government.

Skills

The Conservatives are planning to introduce the Advanced British Standard which will bring A levels and T levels into a single qualification framework to “end the artificial and damaging divide between academic and technical education”. They are also looking to boost apprenticeships by 100,000, paid for by cutting poor performing university courses. 

Labour and the Lib Dems are both looking at reforming the Apprenticeship Levy – which taxes businesses to invest in apprenticeships – into a more flexible growth and skills levy. The CIPD has been calling for the Apprenticeship Levy to be reformed into a more flexible skills levy for many years, with the aim of both boosting apprenticeship provision for young people and making it easier for employers to invest in other forms of training for existing employees. Labour have also committed to a ‘youth guarantee’, which mirrors a key call from our most recent research on the Apprenticeship Levy for an Apprenticeship Guarantee that could help to significantly boost the number of apprenticeships taken up by young people.

The Conservatives’ other big policy in this area is their proposal for national service, which has improving skills as a key element. Labour on the other hand is focused on bringing in significant new powers on skills for combined and local authorities and a new ‘Skills England’ body.

Employment

On employment, the Labour party is looking at some potentially significant changes through its proposed New Deal for Working people, with measures such as day one employment rights, regulating zero-hours contracts and strengthening measures that restrict ‘fire and rehire’. The Conservatives are focused on getting more people into work through welfare reform and cuts to National Insurance (NI), going so far as to scrap NI completely for the self-employed.

The Conservatives are proposing stricter sanctions for people who should be looking for work. Their manifesto also includes overhauling the fit note process to ensure that people aren’t signed off sick as default and to make it easier for people to get specialised work and health support. As part of this they will boost the capacity of Individual Placement and Support (IPS) by 140,000 places.

Other key issues

If there’s a Labour government, we could see new gender and ethnicity pay gap reporting rules. There’s potential for a review of private pensions, something that the CIPD, alongside a range of other organisations, had previously called for all parties to look at.

Agenda from other parties

The Lib Dems, Greens and Reform have all launched their manifestos recently and while they don’t look set to form a government themselves, some of their key policies could influence a future government. Reform is campaigning for lower immigration, which could have implications for the wider labour market. The Lib Dems have a number of detailed policies on skills that could be put forward if there is new legislation brought to parliament. The Green party is pushing for some quite significant employment law changes such as a four-day working week and a maximum 10:1 pay ratio for all public and private organisations.

What next?

With only a short time left until the election, it won’t be long before we find out which of these policies get taken forward into government. For businesses, this election could mean significant changes in employment legislation, changes to NI or even reform of the Apprenticeship Levy, so there could be lots to get to grips with come 5 July.

About the author

Carl Quilliam, Public Affairs Manager

Carl leads our engagement with the UK government, working to inform policy and legislation that champions better work and working lives. 

As our Public Affairs Manager, he provides evidence to Parliamentary committees, supports our work responding to government consultations and inquiries and engages with ministers, civil servants and others.

He is an experienced public affairs professional, with more than 15 years’ experience. He has advised public and private sector organisations on strategy, policy and public affairs. Carl also has direct experience of front-line politics, as a former staffer for a political party and a former elected councillor.

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