The REC’s manifesto set out our wish-list of the policies needed to make great work happen. Now that the three main UK-wide political parties have published their manifestos, we have a look at the policies they have proposed and whether they address the issues we outlined.
The REC’s manifesto called for the next government to ensure that employment regulations are proportionate and reflect modern working practices, whilst nurturing one of the labour market’s greatest strengths: its two-way flexibility.
The policies outlined in the three manifestos in this area need to be more clearly thought through if they are going to be implemented successfully. This includes the Conservatives’ pledge to create a single enforcement body, the Liberal Democrats’ proposal of another employment status, as well as how sectoral collective bargaining would be implemented if there was a Labour Government. The REC hopes that whatever form the government takes, they will consult widely and carefully with business organisations before progressing with their proposals to ensure there are no unintended consequences.
One positive from all the party manifestos is the importance they place on training and retraining, and the recognition that the apprenticeship levy needs to be reformed. Both the Liberal Democrats and Labour have said that they will broaden the apprenticeship levy into a skills and training levy. The Conservative Party has said that they will “look at how we can improve the working of the apprenticeship levy.” We welcome this as a step in the right direction and will continue our campaign to ensure agency workers can benefit in the future.
The REC, through our Future of Jobs Observatory, has been calling for policy initiatives that recognise the rapid developments in the world of work. It is welcome to see all three main parties respond to this. The Conservatives have pledged for the introduction of a National Skills Fund, Labour has added more details onto their previous announcement of a National Education Service, while the Liberal Democrats have proposed the introduction of a “skills wallet”. The need for people to be able to retrain throughout their lives is fundamental to preparing for the new world of work.
If the political parties want to deliver on some of their more ambitious policies, including building more homes, fixing social care and increasing childcare places, there must be an immigration system that reflects the needs of the UK economy and public services. If the UK is going to leave the EU, getting the right future immigration system is crucial. With this in mind, the lack of detail from the two main parties is not helpful. The Conservatives have added a bit more information on what an “Australian-style points-based immigration system” will look like but do not outline whether they intend to maintain any route for lower-skilled immigration. Labour’s manifesto states: “If we remain in the EU, freedom of movement would continue. If we leave, it will be subject to negotiations.” This will remain a key area of REC engagement with the future government.
Finally, it is positive to see that the Liberal Democrats have pledged to review IR35 in their manifesto, and that Labour and the Conservatives have made similar commitments in the following weeks. However, the absence of calls for regulation of umbrella companies in all three manifestos is disappointing.
Whatever the outcome of the election, we know we will need to keep the voice of the recruitment industry firmly in the minds of the government. If you want to learn more about the work the policy team does and how to get involved, please get in touch.