Free childcare and flex working feature in Lib Dems manifesto

The Lib Dems have launched their manifesto with pledges on free childcare, a right to day one flexible working and a right for zero hours workers to request fixed hours after 12 months. It comes a day after the Green Party pledged a number of reforms, including a Universal Basic Income.

Small child playing with brightly coloured bricks on the floor in a childcare setting


The Liberal Democrats have launched their election manifesto with a proposal to expand free childcare, more rights for the self employed and benefits changes to tackle in-work poverty.

The manifesto, which calculates there would be a £50bn ‘Remain bonus’, says the money would go mainly to education and to funding changes in benefits in a bid to tackle in-work poverty.  That includes reversing cuts to work allowances for families on Universal Credit and additional support for families with two earners.

The party has already outlined its plans for 35 hours a week of free childcare for children aged two to four, or from nine months for working parents. It says this will be paid for by an increase in corporation tax and changes to capital gains allowances on the sale of assets.

Other proposals already announced include a £10,000 grant for every adult in England to put towards education and training over 30 years. The party says it also proposes to increase by 20% the minimum wage for zero hours workers working during ‘times of normal demand’ to compensate for insecurity.

Other plans include:

  • Increasing statutory paternity leave from two to six weeks and ensuring access to parental leave is a day one right
  • Forcing employers to publish their parental leave policies
  • Bringing in a 40% target for women in senior leadership position
  • Extending equality pay audits – on gender, BAME and LGBT+ – to all larger employers
  • Providing a free unconscious bias toolkit for employers and making unconscious bias training a condition of employers receiving government funding
  • reviewing the Living Wage
  • Creating a Worker Protection Enforcement Authority
  • Introducing legislation to make flexible working a day one right and requiring employers to advertise jobs as flexible unless there is a sound business reason for not doing so
  • Creating a dependent contractor status with employment rights
  • Reviewing tax and NI to ensure fairness between employed and self employed people
  • Introducing a right to request fixed hours after 12 months as a zero hours or agency worker
  • Shifting the burden of proof in employment tribunals to employers
  • Strengthening union powers
  • Reviewing the IR35 changes on disguised employment
  • Extending parental leave and parental pay to freelancers
  • Reforming Universal Credit to make it work for the self-employed.

Commenting on the childcare element of the manifesto, the Institute for Fiscal Studies [IFS] said: “The Liberal Democrats are promising an enormous increase in spending on free childcare that will greatly increase the scope of the welfare state in the early years. Parents with young children will certainly welcome more support with their childcare costs. But ensuring that this new spending provides an opportunity to improve the existing free childcare system – which, at least based on available evidence, delivers only small benefits in terms of parents’ working patterns or children’s development – will need clarity about what the priorities are and mechanisms in place to ensure that the money delivers on those aims.”

Green Party manifesto

The Green Party launched its manifesto yesterday with a Green New Deal, a huge expansion of the renewables industry, a circular economy, more power for local government and a target of reducing climate emissions to net zero by 2030 at its heart.

In addition to backing a second referendum on Brexit, policies include the creation of a Universal Basic Income, paid to all UK residents to tackle poverty and give financial security to everyone. This single payment of £89 a week for adults would replace most benefits, but certain groups would get more, for instance,  pensioners, the disabled, lone parents, those currently on Housing Benefit and families with an income of under £50,000 per year. UBI would be phased in, with a view to all adults being in receipt of their full rate of UBI by 2025 and the first tranche of people to receive it being the WASPI women, women born in the 50s who have lost out due to changes in the pension system. The Greens also say they will raise the Living Wage to £12 and extend it to workers aged between 16 and 21.

They are also promising 35 hours a week free childcare from nine months for all, legislation to make it easier for people take action against employers over unequal pay, a 40% quota for women on the boards of the UK’s leading companies, legislation to ensure the maximum wage paid to any member of staff in an organisation should not exceed 10 times that paid (pro rata) to the lowest paid worker in the same organisation, a ban on any bonuses exceeding the annual wage of the lowest paid worker in the organisation granting the bonus and a reviewing of employment law to close loopholes that allow employers in the gig economy to deny them  key rights. They pledge to ensure that gig economy workers always receive at least the current minimum wage,and have job security, sick leave, holiday pay and pension provision. The Greens also say they are supporting employers to explore four-day working weeks in their workplace.

Meanwhile, it emerged that the Conservatives are likely to promise tax cuts through raising the threshold for National Insurance to £9,500 next year and eventually move towards a target of £12,500. The current threshold is £8,632. The IFS says only 3% of the total gains from raising NICs thresholds would accrue to the poorest fifth of all households – and only 8% to the poorest fifth of working households. It says the Government could target low-earning families much more effectively by raising in-work benefits.

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