The HR policy guide: Liberal Democrats
On day three of HR's pre-election policy guide, we explore the Liberal Democrats' policies.
The Liberal Democrats plan to increase the number of apprenticeships, improve their quality, extend the Apprenticeship Grant for Employers for the remainder of the next parliament, and expand the number of degree-equivalent Higher Apprenticeships.
The party wants to meet business’ needs for high-level vocational skills by developing National Colleges as national centres of expertise, in sectors such as renewable energy.
It has also pledged to improve careers information, advice and guidance provision in schools, and allow Jobcentre Plus to give advice to 16- and 17-year-olds.
The party’s pre-manifesto states it will “tackle in-work poverty by giving people on low earnings help and advice to move up to higher paid jobs”.
At the 2014 Liberal Democrats party conference, business secretary Vince Cable announced a review into extending employment rights to workers. This was set to report in March 2015, but has not been delivered at the time of going to press. The results could shape future policies that would entitle workers to receive unfair dismissal protection, minimum notice, redundancy pay, TUPE protection, maternity leave and the right to request flexible working.
The party has also suggested its manifesto will include plans for a Workers’ Rights Agency. This will streamline the NMW enforcement section of HMRC, the working time directive section at the Health and Safety Executive, the Employment Agency Standards inspectorate, and the Gangmaster Licensing Authority.
And it has already pushed through a bill on mandatory reporting of gender pay gaps for large companies.
The Lib Dems want to raise the tax-free allowance to £12,500 by 2020.
They plan to increase apprentice minimum wage pay by £1 an hour. In March, Nick Clegg announced the NMW for apprentices would increase by 20% from £2.73 to £3.30 in October.
If they win the election, the party will ask the Low Pay Commission to look at ways of raising the NMW without damaging employment opportunities, and how to improve enforcement action.
A Lib Dem spokeswoman told HR magazine the party would establish an independent review to consult on setting a fair living wage, working with stakeholders such as the Living Wage Foundation. “We would ensure this living wage is paid by all central government departments and executive agencies from April 2016 onwards and encourage other public sector bodies, including local authorities, to do likewise,” she said.
The party has also pledged to ensure public sector workers receive payrises.
The party wants to introduce a single-tier pension. It would also legislate to “guarantee pensioners the best system for increasing the state pension”, the Liberal Democrat spokeswoman said. This would include the triple lock.
The spokeswoman added the Lib Dems would continue to rollout the auto-enrolment scheme.
Nick Clegg wants to extend free childcare policies that provide 15 hours of free childcare to all children of working parents aged between nine months and two-years-old. Currently it applies to parents of three- and four-year-olds, and disadvantaged two-year-olds. Long-term, the party wants to increase this to 20 hours a week.
The party proposes to extend paternity leave from two to six weeks.
The Lib Dems have already backed changes at Jobcentres that see migrant workers denied benefits if they do not attend English language courses.
It has pledged to increase the enforcement of NMW laws to tackle illegal working and human trafficking.
Clegg says freedom of movement within the EU is “a good thing”, but wants to see reforms; one is to remove exemptions for self-employed migrant workers.
The party backs plans for an in-out referendum and will campaign for the ‘in’ vote.