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On 22 May, Rishi Sunak announced that the next general election for the UK will take place on Thursday 4 July 2024.

With the campaign trail well underway for all parties, this page will act as a one-stop shop for all things election. This page will be updated throughout June with relevant information for REC members on the key announcements made by the main political parties including policy announcements, manifesto pledges and the REC’s view on how these could impact the recruitment sector.

We’ll also feature the latest updates from the REC’s own work in the pre-election period – keeping members informed of our advocacy for the sector during this time.

 

 REC Manifesto for growth   2024 Election timeline    Talking Recruitment webinar  

Policy tracker   Candidate engagement template 


REC Manifesto - Dynamic Labour Markets for Growth (2024)

PDF

The REC Manifesto aims to help policymakers better understand the crucial role of the labour market as a strategic driver of economic growth in the UK. It explains how targeted policy interventions can help our diverse workforce spur economic growth, enhance public services, and boost productivity - making the UK a competitive place to live and work.    

OUR FOUR KEY ASKS

This manifesto sets out four key themes, supplemented by focused recommendations aimed at supporting policymakers better understand the crucial role of the labour market, and how it underpins economic success.

Understanding today’s people and labour market challenges

The Government should put people issues and the labour market at the heart of a new Industrial Strategy that prepares the UK for 2030. Any new Government must embrace this – along with the recognition that demand for temporary work by both employers and individuals is increasing. Better support for flexible forms of working will add dynamism to our labour market. To build a better understanding of today's labour market, government should:   

  • Work with businesses and employee representative bodies to develop a Workforce Plan for the UK. It must make skills policy more suited to the needs of our economy – but it must also go beyond skills (including transport, childcare, immigration).  
  • Conduct a Workplace Employment Relations Study (WERS). This will provide the foundation for an evidence-based, robust workforce strategy. The survey will offer insight into how the labour market is functioning, and what workplace performance is really like. 

Supporting our labour market transition by preparing for the future

Better aligning the skills system and working with businesses and labour market experts to understand how people work, what jobs they want, and how to motivate them is critical for future growth. In the last few years, we have seen increases in the so-called “gig economy” and other flexible working practices, notably as economic inactivity has risen and demands between the home and workplace have blurred. Recruiters are on the frontline of understanding and managing these issues. Agency work is well-regulated, and we should apply the same standards to emerging forms of flexibility to protect standards and opportunity. To prepare for our future labour market, we recommend: 

  • Supporting local jobs through Local Skills Improvement Plans/LSIPs model. Labour market experts should be represented across (LSIPs) in England. This will allow businesses, education and training providers to hear directly from recruiters about what local jobs are in demand and how work is changing. 

  • Introducing immigration policy that supports employer needs. The increased salary threshold for the Skilled Worker Visa needs a rethink. Successful modern economies are international but higher thresholds sends the wrong signal around the world, splits up families, and robs the UK of key people at a time of real shortages. Survey after survey shows people support immigration by those who are here to work, pay tax, and build a life. Public policy should reflect this. We also believe the Government should conduct an impact assessment into its policy to reduce visas for dependents of those on Health and Social Care visa routes and whether this exacerbates labour market shortages.    

  • Embedding net zero and tech change into education to enable future employment needs. Continue building on the Gatsby Benchmarks to ensure every young person gets effective careers advice with a clear understanding of career pathways, particularly in emerging sectors that support Net Zero and technology change. Use schemes like Kickstart and Restart to promote the uptake of digital and green skills training.  

  • Establishing the UK as a world leader in the safe and ethical use of AI. Develop an AI assurance framework and work with employers to promote best practice around its safe and ethical use. 

Boosting workforce productivity and driving down inactivity 

Temporary and flexible work is often a catalyst for older workers, workers with long-term health conditions, younger workers and underrepresented groups to access the labour market. We have to get people into work, and that means understanding and addressing the barriers to that. This will require investment in key infrastructure, like reliable public transport and sufficient childcare support. Our specific recommendations include: 

  • Reform the Apprenticeship Levy to fund high-quality, modular training to enable more people, including temporary workers, to train and fill vacancies.  

  • Expand the eligibility for 30-hours childcare entitlement to parents or carers in training or education. 

  • Reform public sector procurement processes to get better value for taxpayers and efficiency for service providers. 

  • Mandate ethnicity and disability pay gap reporting for larger businesses to further diversify the labour market. 

 

Regulating for a sustainable and dynamic labour market

Nearly half of the UK working population works in a non-permanent, flexible way. Too often, agency workers are forced to work around legislation designed for employees in permanent roles, resulting in confusion and sometimes a lack of clarity about the rights they have. Specific recommendations include: 

  • Review and revise employment laws to reflect the increasingly flexible way that people work. We'd recommend starting with the completely outdated Working Time Regulations - enacted in 1998. 

  • Introduce regulation for the whole labour supply chain - including umbrella companies and joint employment models - bringing them under the scope of the Conduct of Employment Agencies and Employment Business Regulations 2003. 

  • Introduce a properly-resourced Single Enforcement Body (SEB) to improve coherence between departments, support better compliance and provide more clarity on worker rights.

2024 Election Timeline

Click any date below for full details 

June 2024

13 June – Plaid Cymru policy on Agencies

In their manifesto Plaid Cymru have set out their position that private sector shareholders should not be profiting from people’s poor-health. This announcement plays in to the wider narrative that agencies are overcharging and profiting off of the NHS. Plaid Cymru have stated that “shareholders should not be profiting from people’s ill health, and that profits from private agencies would lead to a better service if it was instead re-invested into healthcare.”

At the REC we know that agency workers play a valuable role in staffing for the NHS, and in order to maximise efficiency we need to see a proper partnership approach between the NHS and healthcare staffing providers. We need to see reform to public sector procurement that acknowledges the increase in spend has been driven by off-framework and bank staffing, and introduces a new procurement model that allows agencies to provide staff in a cost-effective and compliant manner. REC will continue to drive this messaging with all parties.

13 June - Childcare Announcement  

Labour pledge to create more than 100,000 new nursery places  

Labour has pledged to create more than 100,000 new nursery places for nine-month-old children ahead of the publication of its full general election manifesto. The intention behind this policy is to support children in making the transition into compulsory full-time education. A key goal is to break down the barriers to future opportunities for children by boosting child development and hitting early learning targets. 

REC feels strongly about improving the childcare system in the UK but for Labour's plans the details of how to create these places will be crucial, alongside their wider plans for supporting the workforce. Labour has previously briefly mentioned the need to expand the workforce and build capacity; however, this needs to be expounded upon through consultation with industry professionals.  

Our key asks in this space are: 

  1. Expand the eligibility for 30 hours of childcare entitlement to parents and carers in training or education.  
  2. improve access to childcare for working families by reforming childcare benefits and improving funding for childcare providers. 
  3. Create a childcare workforce strategy, developed in partnership with childcare providers to maximise the efficiency of funding in the sector.  
  4. Make it easier to access childcare provision by removing bureaucracy and expanding access to childcare support to those in training and education to remove barriers to employment.  
  5. Grant a business rates exemption to all early years providers to boost the availability of childcare.  
  6. Governments should commit to reviewing the childcare system and increase the financial contribution to the tax-free childcare scheme for parents and grandparents.  

REC has previously set out our asks for childcare provision in the UK in our manifesto, Dynamic Labour Markets for Growth, and more details on the above recommendations can be found here. REC would be keen to work with any future Labour government on this issue, to ensure changes are implemented in an effective and useful manner. 

2 June -REC comments Labour's announcement to cut net migration:

Commenting on Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper’s comments on Labour’s plans to cut net migration by reducing visas for overseas workers, Neil Carberry, REC Chief Executive, said:

“The Shadow Home Secretary’s comments on bringing down work-related immigration need to be set in a wider economic context. Of course, fixing the skills system and better back-to-work support will help, but that is not a quick fix.  We currently have a broader shortage of people - not a few specific shortages. Labour would cause problems for its own growth goal by restricting firms from access to workers where the alternative might be work going elsewhere. There is also a risk of lower competitiveness as firms struggle to meet their needs. There was however some hint of understanding the scale of the issue in the Shadow Home Secretary’s comments about workforce planning.

Read the full press release here 

May 2024

29 May - REC comments on apprenticeship announcements by the Conservatives

Commenting on apprenticeship announcements by the Conservatives, Neil Carberry, REC Chief Executive, said:

“The apprenticeship brand is strong in the UK, and it is great that skills are part of the General Election debate. But the announcements by the Conservatives do not deliver the reform that many employers want and shows the need for policymakers to work closer with business on solutions.

It does not address the failures of the apprenticeship levy, it does not focus on the intermediate level skills that our economy needs or focus on young workers. After all, we need both apprenticeships and university courses to provide pathways for young people to flourish and overcome labour and skills shortages to help our economy to grow."

Read the full press release here

 

28 May - REC responds to Shadow Chancellor’s speech

Commenting on Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves’ speech today, Shazia Ejaz, REC Director of Campaigns and Research, said:

“The Shadow Chancellor’s commitment to working in partnership with business must extend to working with the recruitment sector on initiatives to overcome labour and skills shortages. This will help avoid the risk of the UK economy missing out on £39 billion every year caused by these shortages.

Our recruiter members and their clients are clear that better aligning the skills system with business and worker needs will help. Therefore, we urge Labour’s to act on its commitment to reform the Apprenticeship Levy within its first 100 days in government."

Read the full press release here 

 

22 May - REC comments on announcement of General Election

Responding to the announcement of a General Election, REC Chief Executive Neil Carberry said: “Any plan for competitiveness is fundamentally about the talent and application of our British workforce. In the next few weeks, politicians must show that they really get today’s labour market. From helping people build skills to investment in transport and childcare, there is a lot to do. But it starts with understanding that workers and businesses need a more flexible approach than in the past, and that our regulation, skills and tax systems need to keep up."

Read the full press release here


Talking Recruitment webinars June 2024

Watch REC's Chief Executive, Neil Carberry, Deputy CEO, Kate Shoesmith and Chief Membership & Innovation Officer, Maxine Bligh as they provide an update on the key issues of the day.

In this edition of the Talking recruitment webinars we covered:

  • The latest labour market outlook, with the short to mid term market forecasts post-election

  • How your business can get on the front foot in preparing for the next government
  • A review of REC cutting-edge research on client sentiment - including a new global study on ‘The Work We Want’ 
  • How to support your teams in their professional development journey
  • And a sneak peek at REClive24 and how to join us! 

 

Download the slide show   Watch more on demand 


Members Only

Engage your local candidates to advocate for issues that impact your business

MS Word

This General Election is the time to take action and engage your local candidates to advocate for issues that impact your business. Drive positive change by reaching out to your local candidates about how they can help resolve the pressing challenges facing the business. Please use this template to amplify the business community's voice.'


Policy Tracker

Conservative Party Manifesto: “Clear Plan, Bold Action, Secure Future” 

Launched against the iconic backdrop of Silverstone race track on 11 June, Rishi Sunak outlined the Conservative Party’s vision for the future, unveiling their priority promises for voters in their manifesto. With the strapline of 'taking bold action to guarantee a more secure future for you, your family, and our country', Sunak promised to steer the nation towards economic prosperity and social unity. But what does it actually say, and what might this mean for the recruitment industry? 

Key policy headlines 

  • Commitment to scrap the national insurance for the self-employed. 

  • Ensuring 30 hours of free childcare a week.  

  • 100,000 new Apprenticeships for young people. 

For a fuller list of policies, click here.

The Economy, Transport and Infrastructure 

The Conservative Party say that they remain dedicated to supporting business as the ‘engine of future investment, growth, and opportunity’. Central to their economic strategy is a tax system that attempts to encourage business investment. One of their key commitments is around maintaining the current corporation tax rate. The Party also promises to abolish the main rate of National Insurance for the self-employed by the next Parliament, with the intention of supporting entrepreneurs and businesses. 

The Conservatives say they aim to make 'the UK the best place to start or grow a business', supported by a £4.3 billion business rates package over five years and simplified public sector procurement. On the simplification of public sector procurement processes, we would like to see these reviewed every two years, and for any future government to collaborate with the REC to design markets for temporary public service work that drive true value for the taxpayer and service users. 

They also plan to make it easier to hire apprentices, raise the VAT registration threshold to £90,000, and implement a ten-point plan to aid SMEs through changes to business rates, VAT, access to finance, and reducing reporting requirements. Also, the manifesto sets out that they will maintain tax incentives, promote prompt payment, and support female entrepreneurs.  

As part of their plans to ensure companies pay what they owe, the Tories have pledged to crackdown on tax avoidance - which they believe will gain "an extra £6 billion a year from tackling tax avoidance and evasion" by the end of the next Parliament. From REC perspective, we must make sure that this includes the proper regulation of umbrella companies.  

On the infrastructure front, the Conservatives outlined their plan to ‘prioritise’ transport projects in the North and Midlands. This includes reallocating the previous HS2 budget on £4.7 billion for local transport needs, £8.3 billion for road improvements, and an additional £8.55 billion for city regions. Key projects set out in the manifesto involve the Northern Powerhouse Rail, the Midlands Rail Hub, new bus routes, and rail upgrades in the Southwest and North Wales.  

We would have liked to have seen plans for an Industrial Strategy, a key commitment announced in our ‘Dynamic labour markets for growth’, which would provide the strategic focus on infrastructural development, aligned with a proper workforce plan. The remit of the strategy should span across transport, welfare, immigration, skills and health services - and this joined-up approach of this was not present in the manifesto.   

Jobs and Welfare 

The Conservatives laid out their “bold action” on welfare reforms to make the system more ‘sustainable, aiming to help more people return to work and save taxpayers £12 billion' annually.

They note that rising economic inactivity due to ill health "has increased to 2.8 million people” and led to an “unsustainable rate” of growth in benefit claims, costing £69 billion a year. Their reforms, as set out in the manifesto, will include targeted disability benefits, revamped PIP assessments, and enhanced mental health support. They are also planning to revise work capability assessments and “overhaul the fit note process so that people are not being signed off sick as a default.” 

As we have said before, addressing welfare concerns must be a part of a comprehensive workforce plan, alongside investments in the NHS and mental health services. Tougher sanctions regimes should be accompanied by enhanced employment support to create more job opportunities. Public-private partnerships, like the Restart scheme, can be evaluated and expanded to achieve these goals, with the recruitment industry ready to collaborate with policymakers on effective programmes that empower more people to work. 

Skills  

Alongside the policy commitment to increase the number of apprenticeships by 100k, the Conservatives have pledged to deliver the Lifelong Learning Entitlement (LLE), which provides adults with the support they need to "train, retrain and upskill flexibly throughout their working lives". From September 2025, adults will be eligible to apply for loans to cover qualifications. This investment in the LLE will also be supported by the Conservative's ambition to expand other adult skills programmes, such as Skills Bootcamps. It's promising to see these commitments towards the skills system, as we know firsthand from our members, that skills initiatives, like skills bootcamps have proven to be successful for finding new talent, reskilling existing employees, introducing people to potentially new sectors, and helping businesses invest in their people. This has been particularly evident in the driving sector. The key success in the implementation of Skills bootcamps is when they are co-designed in partnership with employers. However, these announcements fail to address the appetite across the recruitment industry for Apprenticeship Levy reform, and for our members to be able to capitalise on their Levy contributions.  

Health and Social Care 

On the healthcare front, there was no mention of the central role of contingent and temporary staffing - whose contributions are essential to overstretched wards, acute labour shortages across the NHS and patient care. Instead, there was a commitment "to invest in and modernise the NHS", aiming to address staffing shortages and improve working conditions. By the end of the next Parliament, they plan to significantly increase numbers of medical professionals (recruiting 92,000 more nurses and 28,000 more doctors), alongside boosting training places for other clinicians. Additionally, they pledge to support a sustainable social care system and implement reforms to cap social care costs from October 2025. They also want to improve access to NHS services with plans to train more staff in rural and coastal communities and expand patients' rights to choose their healthcare provider. 

Immigration  

The Conservative's plan for immigration was as heavily anticipated given their recent policies aimed at reducing net migration levels.  Their plan includes adjusting skills and family income requirements annually with inflation to prevent the undercutting of UK workers. Accompanying this, they will increase the Immigration Health Surcharge. Additionally, they aim to increase all visa fees and remove the student discount on the Immigration Health Surcharge. 

Furthermore, they propose introducing "a binding, legal cap on migration" for work and family visas, annually set to balance costs and benefits. This cap will "decrease each year and must not be breached". Parliament will have an annual vote on the cap to provide transparency and control over immigration numbers. We advocate for an evidenced-based immigration policy that supports a labour market in transition.  

There is plenty on the table for consideration in the Conservatives' manifesto, from a ‘modernised tax system for businesses’ to plans to ‘turbocharge growth’ and expand skills provision to alleviate acute labour and skills shortages. However, the manifesto failed to address the need for an overarching Industrial Strategy - the REC has stressed the need for an Industrial Strategy that goes hand in hand with considering our workforce. It must make skills policy more suited to the needs of our economy – but it must also go beyond skills. Production and job design, investment and infrastructure such as transport, childcare and the immigration system all matter to building an economy that can grow at the pace we need it to. As always, the REC will work with the next government to achieve a genuinely sustainable labour market that will unlock growth.

Labour Party Manifesto 2024: "Change" 

On Thursday 13 June the Labour Party unveiled their 136-page manifesto from the grand atrium of the Co-op HQ building in Central Manchester. Despite the attempt by a lone protestor to disrupt proceedings, Starmer talked through his 'no surprises' offer to Britain. 'No surprises' being that the Party had trailed out every big announcement that they planned to make in the weeks leading up to the launch. 

Key policy headlines 

  • Labour's Plan to Make Work Pay remains in their manifesto, focusing on their commitment to ban 'exploitative' zero-hour contracts, ending fire and rehire, day one rights, and creation of a single enforcement body'. There was no explicit mention of creating a single worker status.  
  • Labour committed to the creation of an Industrial Strategy, including an Industrial Strategy council which will collaborate with business. 
  • Labour will scrap the apprenticeship levy, instead creating a new 'Growth and Skills levy'. 

For a fuller list of policies, click here.

Plan to Make Work Pay 

Labour’s Plan to Make Work Pay still includes banning 'exploitative' zero-hour contracts and ending fire and rehire practices, which they claim will provide more job security and stability for workers. Introducing an entitlement to rights such as parental leave, sick pay, and protection from unfair dismissal from day one of employment still remain in the plan. Despite this, there is no mention of the creation of a single status of worker, as included in previous plans. Many of these announcements potentially present a step-change in Labour's position on workers’ rights compared to the last draft few months ago. This positive change is in part down to the REC's hard work behind the scenes engaging with the Labour Party to help them understand why some of their initial proposals would have been damaging for business, individuals and the economic growth we all want.  

The plan also has commitments to strengthen the role of trade unions in work-place relations and to establish a Single Enforcement Body. We raised the importance of a SEB in conversations with the Labour politicians so are glad to finally see a comprehensive compliance system around flexible employment practices on the horizon. We hope the expertise of the Employment Agency Standards Inspectorate is retained. 

Industrial strategy 

In their manifesto, Labour commit to creating a new industrial strategy. This is something that the REC have long been calling for, including in our 2024 REC manifesto, Dynamic Labour Markets for Growth. Labour plans to work with industry on developing the strategy, including establishing an Industrial Strategy Council to provide expert guidance, ensuring representation from all regions, industries, and trade unions. They say that this council will play a pivotal role in steering long-term economic policy, moving away from 'short-termism' and towards strategic planning. They said they want to support sectors where the UK holds competitive advantages such as research, professional services, advanced manufacturing, and creative industries. We will want to help shape the work of the council. They are keen to say that their industrial strategy aims to create a "pro-business environment with a competition and regulatory framework which supports innovation, investment, and high-quality jobs". They mention aligning procurement and trade policies with strategic economic priorities. For REC members, understanding these proposals when there is more detail will be essential to navigate potential changes in regulatory frameworks and economic policies that could drive labour market demands. We will help with that 

Business taxation 

Labour have committed to providing ‘stability’ by holding only "one major fiscal event" each year. They have also pledged to cap corporation tax at 25% to reassure businesses against unexpected tax increases.

They say they aim to stimulate business growth by maintaining full expensing for capital investments and retaining the annual investment allowance for small businesses. They also propose significant reforms to the business rates system with the intention to "level the playing field between high street retailers and online giants". 

Skills 

Labour’s skills strategy emphasises aligning training with market needs to address the current skills shortage. They will establish Skills England to bring together businesses, training providers, unions, and government to meet the training requirements needed for their industrial strategy. They will collaborate with the Migration Advisory Committee to ensure training in England addresses the overall needs of the labour market. The REC has previously set out the need for skills and immigration to be more closely aligned. Labour have also pledged to scrap the apprenticeship levy and instead create a 'Growth and Skills levy'. We will await detail to see if levy funds can be used for modular short courses for agency workers.  In the manifesto there are also plans to devolve adult skills funding to Combined Authorities, with consultations on eligible courses, with the intention to ensure that qualifications offer "value for money" and meet market demands. 

Immigration System 

Labour plans to reform the points-based immigration system. The REC has highlighted the risk that restricting work-related immigration could constrain Labour’s growth goals by limiting access to essential workers. While fixing the skills system and providing better back-to-work support are crucial, these are not quick fixes for the current broader shortage of people. Labour's proposed reforms must balance immediate business needs with long-term workforce planning.  

Health & Social Care 

Labour set out plans to deliver an extra two million NHS operations, scans, and appointments every year, which works out at 40,000 more appointments every week, by incentivising staff to carry out additional appointments out of hours. "Regular, independent workforce planning across health and social care" are in Labour's plan, along with an NHS long-term workforce plan that trains the necessary staff to reduce patient waiting times. However, there is no mention in Labour's plans of how staffing procurement will work for the NHS or the necessary role that agency workers must play within this. Labour will also undertake a programme of reform to create a National Care Service, "underpinned by national standards, delivering consistent care across the country" and establish a Fair Pay Agreement in adult social care. 

Devolution 

Labour has committed to establishing a new "Council of the Nations and Regions," which will bring together the First Ministers of Scotland and Wales, the First and Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland, and the mayors of combined authorities. This initiative aims to ensure that regional and national leaders have a direct influence on policy decisions. 

Overall there is a positive focus on growth in Labour’s manifesto which is key to lowering taxes and improving public services, with a particular look at a modern industrial strategy that supports the dynamic nature of work. It is also positive to see Labour’s plans for skills development and emphasising the need for flexible training options. Additionally, we note Labour’s commitment to modernising employment laws, enhancing clarity for workers’ rights, and supporting compliance in flexible employment practices. Finally, it is important that we take a balanced approach to immigration to ensure access to both UK and overseas talent, crucial for economic growth and addressing skills shortages in sectors like healthcare and public services. 

Liberal Democrat Manifesto: For a Fair Deal

In marketing circles, there's a concept called "First Mover Advantage", where a company launches a new product first, seizing an early share of the market before competitors have got going. Whether such a thing exists in politics is up for debate, but it's the Liberal Democrats who have moved first when it comes to publishing their official 2024 election manifesto, For a Fair Deal.

Launched in North London on 10 June in a short interlude between leader Ed Davey's campaign trail adventures, the Liberal Democrat's manifesto sets out the core policies that form the basis of their vision for the UK. But what does it actually say, and what might this mean for the recruitment industry?

Key policy headlines 

  • Plans to review childcare provision to ensure all parents have access to childcare that is flexible, affordable and fair by reviewing the rates childcare providers receive.
  • Making all maternity and paternity rights for leave and pay day one rights and introducing higher rates of pay for these.
  • Replace the sanctions regime for Universal credit with an incentive-based scheme to help people into work.
  • A requirement for large employers to monitor and publish data on gender, ethnicity, disability, and LGBT+ employment levels, pay gaps and progression, and publish five-year aspirational diversity targets.

For a fuller list of policies, click here.

Business and Jobs

The REC has long highlighted the need for a proper Industrial Strategy, and this is a cornerstone of the Liberal Democrat's manifesto, including the re-establishment of the Industrial Strategy Council to oversee this (something else the REC had previously called for). This also includes policies to tackle the productivity crisis by "encouraging businesses to invest in training, take up digital technologies and become more energy efficient", although the devil will be in the details of how these are implemented.

On skills, the Apprenticeship Levy is explicitly called out, with a promise to replace it with a broader, more flexible skill and training levy, although the Liberal Democrats do still aim to boost overall apprenticeship uptake by scrapping the lower apprenticeship rate of pay.

There are also a number of policies focused on modernising employment rights to reflect the gig economy: a new "dependent contractor" employment status, a higher minimum wage rate for workers on zero-hours contracts and a right to request a more stable contract after 12 months for zero-hours and agency workers. Should the Liberal Democrats overcome the polls and form part of the next government, these would be key areas where we would advocate on behalf of members to make sure these policies are implemented in a way that doesn't undermine the current temporary labour market in the UK.

 The Economy

The Liberal Democrats manifesto sets out what they say is their vision for a strong and fair economy that benefits everyone in the UK, setting out an "ambitious industrial strategy" as a core tenet of this. Another key policy is a commitment to invest in green infrastructure, innovation and skills, including net-zero public transport. REC has pushed for investment in green skills and our report, Defining Green jobs, sets out our vision for some of this. In our manifesto we ask for a Green Skills tax credit for employers so we will look for some detail on that if the Liberal Democrats elaborate on how they will achieve these plans.

The manifesto also highlights the need for HMRC to have proper resources to tackle tax avoidance and evasion. However, no mention is made of umbrella companies and the role they play in perpetuating schemes of this nature, and the need for regulation in this part of the supply chain to minimise this non-compliance. IR35 does come up on the agenda though, with plans to review the current off-payroll rules to ensure "fair treatment" for the self-employed.

Under Liberal Democrat plans, sick pay will be aligned to National Minimum Wage rates, and expanded to all workers with the removal of the lower earnings limit. This would increase costs for businesses, but there is also a promise to consult with small employers on how to support them with these costs. The detail of this consultation will be crucial to protect smaller businesses.

 

Health and Social care

In his speech launching the document, Ed Davey called this "a manifesto to save the NHS", and the headline policy was a right to see a GP within seven days. This increase in service is to be achieved predominantly by increasing the number of full-time equivalent GPs by 8000 through improved recruitment and retention of staff.

The increase in staff numbers will be paired with a "reduction in top-down bureaucracy", plans to "harness the benefits of new technology" and modernising NHS systems with the Liberal Democrats aiming to improve overall efficiency. At the REC, we know reducing waiting lists is crucial to helping people who are long-term sick return to work, and potential improvements in efficiency will contribute towards this. 

However they make reference to "the false economy of spending money on agency workers" and encourage the use of "flexible staff banks”. This demonstrates a lack of understanding of the true issues with staffing procurement in the NHS. REC data shows that in many cases bank staff costs more per assignment than agency spend, and simply building a narrative against agency spend won't see overall NHS staffing costs reduced.

Across social care, the manifesto aims to "introduce high-quality care for anyone who needs it". This includes plans by the party for improving staffing in the sector by introducing a "carer's minimum wage", creating clearer pathways into the sector and introducing a more collaborative staffing approach with the NHS. The REC is concerned that raising staff costs could cause trouble for smaller agencies, who will have to carry the increase upfront but the Liberal Democrat's manifesto does also contain a pledge to "tackle the late payment crisis by requiring all government agencies and contractors and companies with more than 250 employees to sign up to the prompt payment code". If this is properly implemented it could address some of these concerns for smaller businesses.

On other social care issues, any policies around the use of agency workers in social care are conspicuous in their absence from the manifesto.

Immigration

The Liberal Democrats are aiming to review the immigration system to introduce a more flexible merit-based system over the Conservative's "arbitrary" salary threshold as they put it. REC has previously highlighted the need for a more responsive immigration system to address shortages in the UK labour market. The recent Conservative Government bans on workers bringing partners and children will also be reversed under Liberal Democrat proposals.

The Liberal Democrats will also allow asylum seekers to work if they have been waiting for a decision for more than three months. Letting these people into the labour market makes sense in the face of skills shortages and the REC has previously suggested a similar proposal.

Transport and Infrastructure

On transport, the Liberal Democrats set out their intention to improve the rail infrastructure by electrifying more lines and re-opening smaller stations. Likewise, they set out plans to "boost bus services" by granting more power to local authorities to decide where need is best served locally. Improvements in infrastructure form a key REC ask, as improvements to public transport will improve access to work.

Young people also stand to benefit under the Liberal Democrat's proposals, with half-fares on buses, trams and trains for 18-year-olds, and a new "Young person's bus card", similar to the existing railcard for 19–25-year-olds in their proposals.

As with any manifesto, the promises made by the Liberal Democrats are broad and perhaps idealistic. If they get into power the real challenge will be in how these are implemented on a practical and workable level. In this eventuality, REC would be fully engaged with the party to ensure the changes set out above, particularly those which impact flexibility and employment rights, are introduced in a way that is fair, practical and realistic for the UK and doesn't limit the dynamism for the temporary agency market..

In this tab we have short summaries of the key policies in the 2024 manifestos for the other parties likely to win seats in parliament. These are not complete manifesto summaries and focus on the key areas that are most relevant to REC members. These have been directly taken from the respective manifestos and the specific wording is not necessarily the view of the REC. 

Greens  

Jobs and Work

  • Invest £12.4 billion in skills and training, including specific funding to help workers transition into green jobs.  
  • Introduce a minimum wage of £15 an hour for all, with the costs to small businesses offset by increasing the Employment Allowance to £10,000. 
  • Deliver equal day 1 rights for all workers currently excluded from protections, including ‘gig economy’ workers and those on ‘zero hours’ contracts

Health 

  • Push for a year-on-year reduction in waiting lists, guaranteed access to an NHS dentist, rapid access to a GP and an immediate boost to NHS staff pay, including the restoration of junior doctors’ pay.  
  • Invest £20 billion to introduce free personal care, increase pay rates and introduce a career structure for carers, alongside an additional £3 billion for high-quality children’s social care. 

Education 

  • Increase school funding to £8 billion, to include £2 billion for a pay uplift for teachers. 

Welfare

  • Restore the value of disability benefits with an immediate uplift of 5% and reform eligibility tests like PIP. 

The full manifesto can be found here.

Plaid Cymru  

Economy

  • Wales should have full control of economic levers, including the powers to set income tax bands and thresholds.
  • Support reform in Wales of Non-Domestic Rates, also known as Business Rates, in order to establish a system which better supports small businesses.

Jobs and Work

  • Reverse the Tories’ anti-strike legislation
  • Support legislation to tackle insecure work, provide paid bereavement and miscarriage leave as ‘day one employment rights’, outlaw fire and re-hire tactics, abolish compulsory zero-hours contracts, establish the right to disconnect, and reform Shared Parental Leave.

Skills

  • Implement an apprenticeship living wage.

Health 

  • Restore funding for GPs at 8.7% of the Welsh health budget and recruit an additional 500 GPs across the country.  
  • Improve access and availability of degree apprenticeships in the healthcare sector.  
  • Plaid Cymru believes that shareholders should not be profiting from people’s ill health, and that profits from private agencies should be re-invested into the healthcare budget. 
  • REC is seeking further clarity from Plaid Cymru about what this would actually entail and how it would be implemented.

Education  

  • Plans for recruiting and retaining 5000 teachers and support staff.  

The full manifesto can be found here.