With the UK General Election just around the corner, immigration and employment feature heavily in election manifestos. Here we highlight the key pledges from each of the three main parties on employment law and business immigration. 

  1. Conservatives
  2. Labour
  3. Liberal Democrats

1. Conservatives

Worker rights

The Conservatives want to make the UK the "best place in the world to work". Key pledges on workers' rights include:

  • creating a single enforcement body for employment rights and cracking down on employers abusing employment law  
  • giving workers without fixed contractual hours the right to request a more predictable contract reflecting their actual hours  
  • increasing the national living wage to £10.50 per hour by 2024 and lowering the age threshold to 23 in 2021 and then 21 by 2024 (currently the national living wage is £8.21 for workers aged 25 and over, with lower rates for those under 25)  
  • requiring employers to pass on all tips and service charges to workers in a fair and transparent way in accordance with a new statutory code of practice.

Family & diversity

Key pledges from the Conservatives on family and diversity include:

  • encouraging flexible working and consulting on making it the default position unless employers have good reasons not to  
  • strengthening redundancy protection for pregnant women and new parents  
  • allowing parents to take extended leave for neonatal care  
  • looking at ways to make it easier for fathers to take paternity leave  
  • introducing a right to a week's leave for unpaid carers.

Immigration

Key immigration pledges include:

  • introducing an Australian-style points-based system where visas will be based on migrants' skills and the contribution they can make  
  • treating EEA and non-EEA citizens the same for visa purposes from 1 January 2021  
  • requiring migrants to contribute to the NHS by increasing the immigration health surcharge from £400 to £625 a year  
  • allowing foreign students to work for two years after graduation  
  • introducing bespoke new visa schemes for migrants to fill shortages in public services, including a new NHS visa for health professionals.

2. Labour

Worker rights

Labour is pledging the "biggest extension of workers' rights in history". Key pledges include:

  • creating a new Secretary of State for employment rights and a Workers’ Protection Agency to enforce worker rights  
  • introducing sectoral collective bargaining to set minimum employment conditions for particular sectors  
  • strengthening trade union rights, including their right to enter workplaces, and making strike ballots easier  
  • creating a single status of "worker" for everyone apart from the genuinely self-employed  
  • ensuring all workers have full and equal rights from day one of engagement  
  • abolishing the opt-out of the 48 hour working limit and reducing the length of the average full-time working week to 32 hours within a decade, with no loss of pay  
  • banning unpaid internships and zero-hours contracts  
  • introducing a right to a regular contract after 12 weeks for zero-hours workers  
  • requiring rest breaks and cancelled shifts to be paid  
  • introducing a statutory real living wage of £10 per hour for all workers aged 16 and over (currently the national living wage is £8.21 for workers aged 25 and over, with lower rates for those under 25)  
  • strengthening protection for whistleblowers  
  • increasing protection against redundancy  
  • extending the powers of Employment Tribunals and introducing new Labour Courts with a stronger role for people with industrial experience on the panel.

Corporate governance 

Labour plans to give workers a stake in the company they work for and a greater say in how it is run by:

  • requiring large companies to set up "Inclusive Ownership Funds (IFOs)" which would give employees a stake of up to 10% ownership of the company  
  • requiring one-third of boards to be made up of worker-directors elected directly from the workforce.

Family & diversity

Key pledges on diversity and family friendly rights include:

  • creating a right to flexible working for all from day one of employment (instead of a right to request flexible working after 26 weeks' service)  
  • increasing statutory maternity pay from nine to twelve months  
  • doubling paternity leave from two to four weeks and increasing statutory pay  
  • banning the dismissal of pregnant women without prior approval of a government body  
  • requiring large employers to report on their disability pay gap and all employers to implement plans to eradicate the pay gap for gender, race and disability or face fines  
  • requiring large employers to obtain gender equality certification from the government  
  • requiring large employers to have flexible working and menopause policies  
  • requiring employers to maintain workplaces free of harassment, including from third parties  
  • making it easier for employers to use positive action in recruitment  
  • introducing "disability leave" to be recorded separately from sick leave  
  • introducing statutory bereavement leave and 10 days of paid leave for survivors of domestic abuse.

Immigration

On immigration, Labour says it will:

  • establish a humane immigration system and end the 'hostile environment'  
  • seek to protect free movement rights if the UK leaves the EU  
  • end the minimum income requirement for family immigration  
  • restore the overseas domestic workers' visa.

3. Liberal Democrats

Worker rights

The Liberal Democrats want to see "secure jobs, with proper rights and fair pay". Their key pledges on worker rights include:

  • establishing a new Worker Protection Enforcement Authority to protect those in precarious work  
  • creating a right to flexible working for all from day one of employment (instead of a right to request flexible working after 26 weeks' service)  
  • establishing a new "dependent contractor" status to replace "worker" status, with entitlement to basic rights such as minimum wage, sick pay and holiday  
  • reviewing the tax and NICs status of employees, dependent contractors and the self-employed to ensure comparable treatment  
  • introducing a 20 percent premium on the minimum wage for people on zero-hours contracts to compensate for the uncertainty in their hours  
  • introducing a right to request a fixed-hours contract after 12 months for zero-hours workers and agency workers  
  • introducing a presumption of employment or dependent contractor status, with the onus being on the employer to prove otherwise  
  • giving trade unions a right of access to workplaces along with other measures to strengthen their ability to represent workers  
  • reviewing the rules on pensions for gig economy workers  
  • offering parental leave and pay to the self-employed.

Corporate governance

Pledges for promoting employee ownership and strengthening employee and shareholder voice include:

  • giving staff in listed companies with more than 250 employees a right to request shares, to be held in trust for their benefit  
  • requiring all listed companies and private companies with more than 250 employees to have an employee representative on the board  
  • requiring binding shareholder votes on executive pay policies.

Family & diversity

Key pledges on diversity and family-friendly rights include:

  • increasing statutory paternity leave from two weeks to six weeks  
  • requiring employers to publish parental leave and pay policies  
  • requiring employers with more than 250 employees to publish gender, BAME and LGBT+ employment levels and pay gaps  
  • pushing for at least 40 percent female board representation in FTSE 350 companies  
  • outlawing caste discrimination.

Immigration

On immigration, the Liberal Democrats will:

  • replace Tier 2 work visas with a more flexible merit-based system  
  • move policymaking on work permits from the Home Office into the Department for Business  
  • introduce a new non-political agency to take over processing of visa applications  
  • create a new visa allowing foreign students to work for two years after graduation.