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Key election pledges: What HR needs to know (part two)

The UK general election is to take place in two days' time, on Thursday 4 July 2024

In the run up to the general election on Thursday (4 July), we look at the key policy pledges that would impact HR. Today, we focus on apprenticeships, skills, pensions and benefits.

Apprenticeships and skills

The Conservative Party promises to:

  • Introduce mandatory national service for all school leavers at 18, who could choose between a placement in the military or civic service
  • Fund 100,000 new “high-quality” apprenticeships for young people to replace "rip-off" university degrees with high drop off rates, low job progression and decreased future earning potential
  • Introduce the Advanced British Standard qualification for 16-to-19-year-olds that aims to put academic and technical education "on equal footing".


Labour's apprenticeship pledges are to:

  • Strengthen and localise resources for job seekers, to help people get into work
  • Establish Skills England to bring together business, training providers and unions with national and local government create a highly trained workforce
  • Guarantee access to training, an apprenticeship, or support to find work, for all 18-to-21-year-olds
  • Reform the apprenticeships levy, instead creating a flexible growth and skills levy, with Skills England consulting on eligible courses to ensure that qualifications offer value for money.


"After years of Conservative chaos and policy churn, the skills system in England is confusing for young people, adults and employers. Apprenticeship numbers have plummeted. Skills shortages are widespread. Young people have been left without the opportunities they need," the Labour manifesto read.

"The result is an economy without the necessary skills, nor any plan for the skills needs of the future. Labour will address this by bringing forward a comprehensive strategy for post‐16 education. And we will guarantee training, an apprenticeship, or help to find work for all 18- to 21-year-olds."


The Green Party has stated that it would: 

  • Make a £4 billion investment each year in skills and retraining, to prepare workers for the transition to a green economy
  • Campaign to amend the Companies Act 2006, so that company directors must prioritise the wellbeing of all living entities (including all nations, all species and future generations, as well as all people alive today) and avoid negative environmental and social consequences.

A Green Party spokesperson said: "Small and medium-sized businesses are the lifeblood of our economy and our communities. We want to see them supported to play a key role in the green economy of the future, and to create new, quality jobs and training opportunities.

"Green MPs will back the setting up of regional mutual banks to drive investment in decarbonisation and local economic sustainability by supporting investment in SMEs and community-owned enterprises and cooperatives.

"Our aim is for investment in skills and training (including retrofitting) to reach £4 billion per year, allowing workers to be prepared for the transition and the new roles they can take on."


The Liberal Democrats said they would:

  • Fix skills and labour gaps by investing in education and training, including increasing the availability of apprenticeships and career advice for young people
  • Replace the apprenticeship levy with a broader and more flexible skills and training levy, and scrap the lower apprentice rate of the national minimum wage
  • Expand vocational training and careers advice given to young people to solve particular skills gaps.

A Liberal Democrats spokesperson told HR magazine: “We need a real plan to build an economy that is genuinely innovative, prosperous and fair. That means helping more people into work, helping people learn the skills they need, and making it easier for people to juggle work with caring responsibilities.

“Liberal Democrats also understand that small businesses are key to creating the jobs of the future, so people have genuine opportunities wherever they live. That’s why we will always champion small businesses, including with our plans to scrap unfair business rates and replace them with a Commercial Landowner Levy.”

Read more: Key election pledges: What HR needs to know


The Conservatives have stated that they would:

  • Cut tax for pensioners with the 'triple lock plus' scheme, so the tax-free allowance for pensioners would rise in line with the highest inflation figure, earnings or 2.5%.


The Labour party pledged to:

  • Retain the triple lock for the state pension
  • Reform pensions to improve security in retirement.


The Liberal Democrats promised to:

  • Review pensions so that gig economy workers do not lose out.


The Scottish National Party (SNP)'s pension promises are to:

  • Maintain the triple lock pension and move to a “wellbeing pension”
  • Oppose changes to the state pension age
  • Compensate women who have experienced pension inequality
  • Reverse the Pension Credit cut.


Reform UK pledged to:

  • Review the current pension system
  • End 'the mineworkers pension scandal' and implement findings recommended by the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee in 2021.

Read more: Liberal Democrats’ manifesto: What HR needs to know

Benefits, childcare and welfare

Conservatives said that they would:

  • Extend the 30 hours of free childcare a week available to eligible working parents of three- and four-year-olds to include two-year-olds, by 2025
  • Move from an individual to a household child benefits system, which would raise the salary threshold for child benefits to £120,000.


Labour promised to:

  • Work with local areas to create plans to support more disabled people into work, as well as tackle the backlog of Access to Work claims
  • Introduce disability and ethnicity pay gap reporting for large employers
  • Support disabled people to work by improving employment support and access to reasonable adjustments.


Liberal Democrats pledged to:

  • Make parental leave and pay a day-one right and extend to include self-employed parents and kinship carers
  • Introduce paid neonatal care leave and require employers to publish their parental leave and pay policies
  • Extend paternity leave to a 'use it or lose it' month for fathers and partners, and introduce six weeks of 'use it or lose it' leave for each parent, paid at 90% and 46 weeks of shared parental leave, double the current statutory rate
  • Add ‘caring’ and ‘care experience’ to the list of protected characteristics under the Equality Act, to make it illegal for any employer to put an employee at a detriment or treat them differently due to their caring responsibilities.

Read more: Reform UK’s manifesto: What HR needs to know 

Reform UK pledged to:

  • Support training to help people back to work, particularly people between the ages of 16 and 34 years old
  • Withdraw benefits for job seekers who were fit to work if they did not find employment within four months or accept a job after two offers
  • Reform the work capability assessments. The party suggested independent medical assessments for personal independence payments (people registered with severe disabilities or serious long-term illnesses would be exempt)


The SNP's childcare and benefits promises are to:

  • End child poverty by introducing seven new benefits specific to Scotland. One of these included a Scottish Child Payment at £26.70 per child a week
  • End the two child cap on benefits and abolish the rape clause and the Universal Credit young parent penalty


Read part one, detailing the parties' policies on employment rights, immigration and tax here.