Election round-up – what do the manifestos say about working family issues?

What are the main parties’ manifestos saying about the issues that affect working families?

Childcare

 

Now that the main parties have published their manifestos we look at what they are saying about the issues that affect working families, such as childcare.

Labour says it plans to create over 3,000 new nursery classes in schools in England, freeing up more than 100,000 new nursery places for children from nine months old.

The party says spare school classrooms will be converted into high quality spaces for nurseries “paid for by ending the tax breaks private schools enjoy”. It adds that it will continue with the Government’s two-year roll-out of ‘free’ childcare to children from nine months onwards. Childcare providers have said they are worried that they will not be deliver the places needed for eligible children. They are also concerned about the funding of the ‘free’ places and the ongoing recruitment crisis for childcare professionals.

Labour is also pledging to provide free breakfast clubs in every primary school in England, paid for by ending tax loopholes and clamping down on tax evasion.

Parent groups have welcomed the announcement about nursery classes. Joeli Brierley from Pregnant Then Screwed said: “There is little point in reducing the cost of childcare for parents if they cannot access a place, and with long waiting lists, and childcare deserts across England, it is imperative we do not continue to paper over the cracks. Unless decisive action on availability is taken soon, parents will find themselves in a mess. Pregnant Then Screwed welcomes this announcement as a first stage plan to reform the sector.”

Childcare providers says sustained funding and addressing the recruitment crisis are vital if any plans to extend provision are to be delivered.

Purnima Tanuku, Chief Executive of National Day Nurseries Association, added: “”It will be important to ensure that spaces are suitable and age appropriate environments for younger children. Drawing on the experience of established providers by working in partnership with them will be important.

“Any plans should be done in consultation with communities to ensure it is meeting the needs of local families and not duplicate or displace existing high-quality provision. Threatening the sustainability of existing pre-schools and nurseries will not help children or families.”

Labour has already announced several of the policies relating to family-friendly working in recent days and months as well as its New Deal for Working People which includes plans to ban exploitative zero hours contracts, end fire and rehire; and introduce basic rights from day one to parental leave, sick pay and protection from unfair dismissal. It also plans to create a Single Enforcement Body to ensure employment rights are upheld. The party has also committed to introduced mandatory action plans as part of gender pay audits.

Liberal Democrats

Meanwhile, the Liberal Democrats have put care at the centre of their manifesto, published on Monday. They say they will review the rates paid to providers for free hours to ensure they cover the actual costs of delivering high-quality childcare and early years education and develop a career strategy for nursery staff, including a training programme with the majority of those working with children aged two to four to have a relevant Early Years qualification or be working towards one.

Other pledges include making all parental pay and leave day-one rights, including for adoptive parents and kinship carers, and extending them to self-employed parents; doubling Statutory Maternity and Shared Parental Pay to £350 a week; scrapping the two-child limit on means-tested benefits; increasing pay for paternity leave to 90% of earnings, with a cap for high earners; introducing an extra use-it-or-lose-it month for fathers and partners, paid at 90% of earnings, with a cap for high earners; requiring large employers to publish their parental leave and pay policies; and introducing a ‘Toddler Top-Up’: an enhanced rate of Child Benefit for one-year-olds. In the longer term, when the public finances allow, they want to give six weeks of use-it-or-lose-it leave for each parent, paid at 90% of earnings and grant parents 46 weeks of parental leave to share between themselves as they choose, paid at double the current statutory rate.

Other pledges include overhauling the Carer’s Allowance system “so that it provides real financial support to those who need it”, setting up new mental health hubs for young people and a dedicated, qualified mental health professional in every school, establishing free personal care and offering a higher minimum wage for care workers.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies said there are clear risks that the package, which the Lib Dems say will be funded mainly through taxing banks, energy companies and tech giants,  would not raise the £27 billion a year that they claim, with the majority of the money being targeted at health, education and defence, leaving departments such as prisons, courts and local government at risk.

Conservatives

The Conservatives have announced an extra 730m pounds for mental heath treatment to keep people in work, to be paid for by benefits savings. The announcement is part of their plans to reform benefits and reduce the number of people who are off work due to long-term sickness, which Rishi Sunak has referred to as Britain’s “sicknote culture”.  That includes bringing forward changes to disability benefits, tightening work capability assessment criteria and taking the power to sign sick notes away from GPs. Spending experts have expressed doubts about whether the plans can deliver the savings the Conservatives anticipate.

On childcare they will continue with the roll-out of ‘free’ childcare to children from nine months old and there is a big focus on National Insurance cuts in their manifesto. They say they will introduce a further 2p cut in employee National Insurance from April 2027 and scrap the main rate of self-employed National Insurance by the end of the parliament.

The Green party

The Greens are pledging an increase in the minimum wage to £15 an hour for all ages, with the costs to small businesses offset by reducing their National Insurance payments; equal employment rights for all workers from their first day of employment, including those working in the ‘gig economy’ and on zero-hours contracts; and a move to a four-day working week.

On benefits, they are promising to increase Universal Credit and legacy benefits by £40 a week; abolish the two-child benefit cap, lifting 250,000 children out of poverty; end the ‘bedroom tax’; and, in the long term, introduce a universal basic income. There was also a pledge for free breakfast clubs to year 6.

Reform UK

Reform UK’s children policy is centred around support for marriage and stay at home parents. It says that as soon as finances allow, it would introduce a UK 25% transferable marriage tax allowance. It says this would mean no tax on the first £25,000 of income for either spouse and would “help make work pay and incentivise people trapped on benefits back into the workplace”.

It also states that “the majority of mothers would choose to stay at home more if they could” and that it would therefore front-load the Child Benefit system for children aged 1-4 “to give parents the choice to spend more time with their children”.

It adds that it will “make work pay” by lifting the income tax start point to £20,000 per year and lifting the higher rate threshold to £70,000. It is also calling for a ban on IR35 tax legislation and says it wants to withdraw benefits for job seekers and those fit to work who do not find employment within four months or accept a job after two offers.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies has said Reform UK’s spending plans don’t add up. It says its plans would represent a big cut to the public sector and that “the package as a whole is problematic”. It adds: “Spending reductions would save less than stated, and the tax cuts would cost more than stated, by a margin of tens of billions of pounds per year. Meanwhile the spending increases would cost more than stated if they are to achieve their objectives.”

Plaid Cymru

The Party of Wales says it pledges to help 330,000 Welsh families to deal with the cost of living crisis by increasing Child Benefit by £20 per week and wants to see employment law devolved to Wales. It would 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’ (a right not to be routinely contacted about work outside normal working hours), and reform Shared Parental Leave. It would also support paid carer’s leave.

On childcare, its vision is for a national and free Welsh-medium early years education and childcare service. Other pledges include action on gender quotas and compensation for women who have been negatively impacted by the changes in pension provision, as highlighted by the Women Against State Pension Inequality campaign (WASPI).

The Scottish National Party

The SNP is calling for the full devolution of tax powers to Scotland. It want to scrap the two child benefit cap, increase maternity pay by bringing the UK into line with other European countries and to promote shared parental leave.

It also says it will stand up for WASPI women “by making sure the UK Government delivers full, fast and
fair compensation for women who have been wronged by pension inequality”. On employment rights it is pledging to  empower workers by scrapping zero hours contracts, banning ‘fire and rehire’ practices and repealing the Minimum Service Bill.

Meanwhile, the Workers Party of Britain promises to increase the personal tax threshold for the poorest paid workers to remove tax entirely from the first £21,200 of wages and to undertake a major review of pensions policy “with the ultimate aim of restoring a life-long commitment through earnings to adequate pension provision with all workers having the option of retiring at 60”.

Northern Ireland

Sinn Fein pledges to support public services, campaign for progressive taxation and the power to raise the minimum wage, promote diversity and inclusion and ensure women are able to access the safe and legal health services they are entitled to.

The Alliance Party manifesto commits to a progressive taxation system, “where the super-wealthy pay their fair share”, and the phased implementation of carbon taxes to raise more money for public services, and
to progress the transition to net zero, a radical rethink of the social security system and a major investment in childcare, both through a bespoke model in Northern Ireland and through tax relief at Westminster.

The SDLP has committed to working “with others to press for improvements in the North’s fiscal framework, and in particular a comprehensive spending review which allows Stormont to set priorities over the long term, with multi-year budgets to deliver on those priorities.” It backs an end to zero-hour contracts and an equal minimum wage for all ages and a day-one right to flexible working as well as an increase in the rate of tax-free childcare to 35% and the raising of the annual cap.

The Democratic Unionist Party manifesto says the party will oppose the freeze on the personal tax allowance and higher rate income tax threshold, seek further reductions in national insurance, support the uprating of benefits in line with inflation, continue to support rises to the national living wage, increase the Tax-Free Childcare allowance from 20% to 35%, remove the cap on Tax Free Childcare (TFC) above £2,000, implement an ‘Essential Guarantee’ in Universal Credit, ensuring the standard allowance cannot reduce below a legal minimum amount required to afford basic essentials, remove the two-child limit on Universal Credit for 3-and 4-child households, apply the High-Income Child Benefit charge on the basis of household, rather than individual, income, offer all children 22.5 hours pre-school education per week, reduce childcare bills for working parents through a Northern Ireland Childcare Subsidy Scheme and work with employers and HMRC to incentivise the Workplace Nursery Model in NI, including through removing unnecessary complexity.

The Ulster Unionists want to see the two-child limit on Universal Credit payments abolished and are pressing for an increase in the carer’s allowance and a rise in the earnings cap applied to the benefit. They will campaign for flexible childcare solutions that support parents and caregivers and work “to hold the next Government to account if they fail in their duty to support our citizens living with disabilities in having active and fulfilling lives”. They say: “This support must include recognising that Personal Independence Payment and other social security payments are crucial in this regard, and any attempt to scale back this support will have a far-reaching and devastating impact.”

 



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