Workers’ Rights – What the main parties are saying in their election manifestos

Workers’ Rights – What the main parties are saying in their election manifestos.


The Conservatives state they want “…to make the UK the best place in the world to work”. They emphasise a theme that there should be no contradiction between high employment levels that the country is currently experiencing, and high employment standards.

The manifesto expresses the imperative to “…strike the right balance between the flexibility that the economy needs and the security that employees deserve, introducing new protections for workers while preserving the dynamism and job creation that drive our shared prosperity.”

The narrative continues to extol Conservative’s enduring aims to “…prioritise the principle of fairness in the workplace, whether it is in the job application process, ensuring equal pay for equal work, or people’s working conditions”.

The manifesto states the party has already taken forward several recommendations from the Taylor Review of Modern Working Practices and wishes to build on existing employment law with measures that protect those in low paid work and the gig economy. Here are the proposals:

  • A single enforcement body to crack down on any employer abusing employment law, whether by taking workers’ tips or refusing them sick pay.
  • Ensure that workers have the right to request a more predictable contract and other reasonable protections.
  • Encourage flexible working and consult on making it the default unless employers have good reasons not to.
  • Legislate to allow parents to take extended leave for neonatal care, to support those new mothers and fathers who need it during the most vulnerable and stressful days of their lives.
  • Look at ways to make it easier for fathers to take paternity leave.
  • Extend the entitlement to leave for unpaid carers, the majority of whom are women, to a week.
  • Fund more high-quality childcare before and after school and during the holidays so that working parents do not have to choose between their careers and their children.

In its concluding remarks on Worker’s Rights in its manifesto, the Conservatives say. “Our vision for the labour market…is not one where the state does everything for you. It is one where the state does everything it can to help you help yourself – by upgrading your skills, or by being able to balance work and family life. It is one in which a deep commitment to entrepreneurship and business is matched by a desire to ensure that the jobs that are created are highly skilled, well-paid and fulfilling.”



The labour manifesto on Workers’ rights runs to some 2,000 words (far in excess of the other two parties,) as it seeks to re-balance the power in the relationship between worker and employer.

Labour wants to “…eradicate in-work poverty in its first term by tackling the structural causes of poverty and inequality” and “…rapidly introduce a Real Living Wage of at least £10 per hour for all workers aged 16 and over”.

Under Labour plans, workers will be given a stake in the companies they work for – and a share of the profits by requiring large companies to set up Inclusive Ownership Funds (IOFs). Up to 10% of a company will be owned collectively by employees, with dividend payments distributed equally among all.

Ministry for Employment Rights

The manifesto states that “The next Labour government will transform people’s lives for the better through the biggest extension of workers’ rights in history.” A voice for workers’ rights around the Cabinet table will exist by establishing a Ministry for Employment Rights.

Collective Bargaining

Labour will start to roll out sectoral collective bargaining across the economy, bringing workers and employers together to agree legal minimum standards on a wide range of issues, such as pay and working hours, that every employer in the sector must follow.

Tackling work-place insecurity

  • Give everyone full rights from day one on the job.
  • Strengthen protections for whistle blowers and rights against unfair dismissal for all workers, with extra protections for pregnant women, those going through the menopause and terminally ill workers.
  • End bogus self-employment and create a single status of ‘worker’ for everyone apart from those genuinely self-employed in business on their own account, so that employers cannot evade workers’ rights.
  • Introduce a legal right to collective consultation on the implementation of new technology in the workplace.
  • Ban zero-hour contracts and strengthen the law so that those who work regular hours for more than 12 weeks will have a right to a regular contract, reflecting those hours.

Proposals to help people balance work and family life

  • Increase wages through sectoral collective bargaining.
  • Require breaks during shifts to be paid.
  • Require cancelled shifts to be paid and proper notice for changes in hours.
  • Give all workers the right to flexible working.
  • Extend statutory maternity pay from nine to 12 months.
  • Double paternity leave from two weeks to four and increase statutory paternity pay.
  • Introduce statutory bereavement leave, guaranteeing workers time off to grieve the loss of close family members or following miscarriage.
  • Introduce four new bank holidays celebrating the four patron saints’ days.
  • Review family-friendly employment rights, including rights to respond to family emergencies.
  • Introduce a maximum workplace temperature to protect workers and require employers to take counteracting measures.

Equal treatment in the workplace

  • Require employers to devise and implement plans to eradicate the gender pay gap – and pay inequalities underpinned by race and/or disability – or face fines.
  • Require employers to maintain workplaces free of harassment, including harassment by third parties.
  • Increase protection against redundancy for people wherever they work.
  • Giving statutory rights to equalities representatives.
  • Set up a Royal Commission to bring health (including mental health) and safety legislation up to date.
  • Ensure that public-facing workers are protected by toughening the law against abuse and violence.
  • Ban unpaid internships.

Remove unfair and unnecessary restrictions on trade unions

  • Allow trade unions to use secure electronic and workplace ballots.
  • Remove unnecessary restrictions on industrial action.
  • Strengthen and enforce trade unions’ right of entry to workplaces to organise, meet and represent their members and to recruit.
  • Ban union-busting, strengthen protection of trade union representatives against unfair dismissal and union members from intimidation, harassment, threats and blacklisting.
  • Repeal anti-trade union legislation including the Trade Union Act 2016 and create new rights and freedoms for trade unions to help them win a better deal for working people.
  • Simplify the law around union recognition.
  • Give union reps adequate time off for union duties.

Reduce average full-time weekly working hours to 32 within 10 years

  • End the opt-out provision for the EU Working Time Directive and enforce working-time regulations.
  • Set up an independent Working Time Commission to advise on raising minimum holiday entitlements and reducing maximum weekly working time.
  • Mandate bargaining councils to negotiate reductions in working time.
  • Invest to increase productivity and to make sure workers share the benefits.


Labour will introduce a new, unified Workers’ Protection Agency to enforce workplace rights, including the Real Living Wage. It will be given extensive powers to inspect workplaces and bring prosecutions and civil proceedings on workers’ behalf. It will keep employment tribunals free, extend their powers, and introduce new Labour Courts with a stronger role for people with industrial experience on panels.

Increased worker representation

Labour will require one-third of boards to be reserved for elected worker-directors and give them more control over executive pay. Workers to be given a voice on public bodies such as the Competition and Markets Authority.




Liberal Democrats

The LibDems say that “…people should have secure jobs, with proper rights and fair pay. However, changes in technology and the nature of employment have outgrown the existing system of employment rights and protections.” Their plans are to:

  • Establish an independent review to consult on how to set a genuine Living Wage across all sectors. They will pay this Living Wage in all central government departments and their agencies and encourage other public sector employers to do likewise.
  • Establish a powerful new Worker Protection Enforcement Authority to protect those in precarious work.
  • Change the law so that flexible working is open to all from day one in the job, with employers required to advertise jobs accordingly, unless there are significant business reasons why that is not possible.
  • Modernise employment rights to make them fit for the age of the ‘gig economy’, including by:
    • Establishing a new ‘dependent contractor’ employment status in between employment and self-employment, with entitlements to basic rights such as minimum earnings levels, sick pay and holiday entitlement.
    • Reviewing the tax and National Insurance status of employees, dependent contractors and freelancers to ensure fair and comparable treatment.
    • Setting a 20 per cent higher minimum wage for people on zero-hour contracts at times of normal demand to compensate them for the uncertainty of fluctuating hours of work.
    • Giving a right to request a fixed-hours contract after 12 months for ‘zero hours’ and agency workers, not to be unreasonably refused.
    • Reviewing rules concerning pensions so that those in the gig economy don’t lose out, and portability between roles is protected.
    • Shifting the burden of proof in employment tribunals regarding employment status from individual to employer.
  • Strengthen the ability of unions to represent workers effectively in the modern economy, including a right of access to workplaces.

If you are an employer and need any advice, contact the Employment Team at Downs Solicitors for more information.

David Seals

David Seals


Tel: +44 (0) 1306 502218

Office: Dorking Office