Labour launches manifesto with an emphasis on workers’ rights

Labour has launched its election manifesto with pledges on flexible working, free childcare and employment rights.

Employee Rights


Labour has launched its manifesto, pledging to eradicate in-work poverty in its first term by tackling the structural causes of poverty and inequality and increasing the social safety net.

Its manifesto includes big pledges on greening the economy, the NHS, council housing and social justice, with a promise to set up a new Ministry for Employment Rights backed by a Workers’ Protection Agency. On tackling low pay, the party has pledged to rapidly introduce a Real Living Wage of at least £10 per hour for all workers aged 16 and over and use savings to public finances to help small businesses manage the extra cost.

The promises include a pledge to reduce average full-time weekly working hours to 32 across the economy within a decade, with no loss of pay, funded by productivity increases. This will in part be done by setting up an independent Working Time Commission to advise on raising minimum holiday entitlements and reducing maximum weekly working time.

The manifesto has a range of pledges for working families. They include the introduction of extra protections for pregnant women and  those going through the menopause, extending statutory maternity pay from nine to 12 months, doubling paternity leave from two weeks to four and increasing statutory paternity pay, introducing statutory bereavement leave, including for miscarriage and fining employers who do not publish and implement plans to eradicate the gender pay gap and other inequalities.

On flexible working, Labour says it will give all workers a day one right to flexible working, with the onus being on employers to show that flexible working is not possible.  On childcare, it has already announced plans to introduce a new free nursery education service for all two to four year olds.

The party will also create a new Department for Women and Equalities, with a full-time Secretary of State, responsible for ensuring all policies and laws are equality-impact assessed. And it will establish a new National Women’s Commission as an independent advisory body. Under Labour all employers with over 250 employees will be required to obtain government certification on gender equality or face further auditing and fines. By the end of 2020, it aims to lower the threshold to workplaces with 50 employees, whilst providing the necessary additional support for small businesses.

Other plans include:

  • Introducing a National Care Service
  • Immediately increasing public sector pay by 5% followed by above-inflation increases in subsequent years
  • Scrapping Universal Credit. A report out this week from the IPPR think tank said Universal Credit had helped take social security payments to their lowest level since 1948 compared to average earnings and called for urgent reforms.
  • Giving workers a stake in the companies they work for – and a share of the profits they help create through Inclusive Ownership Funds (IOFs). Up to 10% of a company will be owned collectively by employees, with dividend payments distributed equally among all, capped at £500 a year
  • Introducing a Universal Basic Income pilot
  • Developing tailored support and protections for the self employed, including: collective income protection insurance schemes, annual income assessments for those on Universal Credit and better access to mortgages and pension schemes. It says the self employed will also benefit from the roll-out of fast broadband and free childcare
  • Introducing 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
  • Giving everyone full rights from day one on the job
  • Ending bogus self-employment and creating a single status of ‘worker’ for everyone apart from those genuinely self-employed in business on their own account and banning overseas-only recruitment practices.
  • Banning zero-hour contracts and strengthening 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.
  • Requiring breaks during shifts to be paid.
  • Requiring cancelled shifts to be paid and proper notice for changes in hours.
  • Introducing four new bank holidays
  • Giving statutory rights to equalities representatives.
  • Strengthening the unions through a series of legal changes
  • Requiring one-third of boards to be reserved for elected worker-directors and giving them more control over executive pay
  • Replacing the Social Mobility Commission with a Social Justice Commission, based in the Treasury, with wide-ranging powers to hold government to account
  • Keeping the state pension age at 66
  • Creating a new ground for discrimination on the basis of socio-economic disadvantage
  • Requiring all employers are trained to better support disabled people, while introducing mandatory disability pay-gap reporting for companies with over 250 employees.

Paul Johnson of the Institute for Fiscal Studies said the manifesto represented “a very substantial increase in the role of the state”.

He questioned whether Labour’s sums added up, particularly in relation to plans to change the benefits system and plans for keeping the state pension age at 66 as the population ages. He said: “If you want to transform the scale and scope of the state then you need to be clear that the tax increases required to do that will need to be widely shared rather than pretending that everything can be paid for by companies and the rich.”

However, other experts have said that Labour’s spending plans would bring the UK to levels that are lower than European countries such as France, Norway and Sweden.


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