Labour has launched its election manifesto with pledges on flexible working, free childcare and employment 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statutory paternity pay, introducing statutory bereavement leave, including for miscarriage and fining employers who do not publish and implement plans to eradicate the gender pay gap and other inequalities.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:
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.