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Liberal Democrats’ manifesto: What HR needs to know

The Lib Dems have promised to modernise employment rights for gig workers, and offer better support for working carers

The Lib Dems have released their manifesto, ahead of the general election, highlighting gig workers’ rights, closing skills gaps, parental leave and sick pay.

Employment rights

The Lib Dems have vowed to modernise employment rights, to make them fit for the age of the ‘gig economy’, by establishing a new ‘dependent contractor’ employment status in between employment and self-employment, with entitlements to basic rights such as minimum earnings levels, sick pay and holiday entitlement.

The party would also raise minimum wage for people on zero-hours contracts, with a right to request a fixed-hours contract after 12 months for zero-hours and agency workers, not to be unreasonably refused. Furthermore, they promised to review pensions so that gig economy workers do not lose out.

Notably, Lib Dems would shift the burden of proof in employment tribunals regarding employment status from individual to employer.

Paul Nowak, general secretary of the Trades Union Congress, said that the measures to upgrade workers' rights would be welcome.

He told HR magazine: “Insecure work has rocketed under the Conservatives. More families than ever lack the job security and guaranteed hours of work needed for a decent life.

“Working people are desperate for change. The next government must upgrade workers’ rights to improve job quality and living standards for working families across the UK.”


The manifesto vowed to fix skills and labour gaps by investing in education and training, including increasing the availability of apprenticeships and career advice for young people.

It promised to replace the apprenticeship levy with a broader and more flexible skills and training levy, as well as scrapping the lower apprentice rate of the national minimum wage.

The Lib Dems would also seek to solve particular skills gaps through expanding vocational training and careers advice given to young people.

Read more: Apprenticeship levy: where next in its evolution?

Parents and carers

All parental leave and pay would become a day-one right and be extended to include self-employed parents and kinship carers. Paid neonatal care leave would be introduced, and employers would be required to publish their parental leave and pay policies.

Paternity leave would be extended to a 'use it or lose it' month for father and partners. There would also be six weeks of 'use it or lose it' leave for each parent paid at 90% and 46 weeks of shared parental leave, paid at double the current statutory rate. 

As well as introducing paid carer’s leave, the Liberal Democrats would also look to add ‘caring’ and ‘care experience’ to the list of protected characteristics under the Equality Act. This would make it illegal for any employer to put an employee at a detriment or treat them differently due to their caring responsibilities.

Kate Palmer, employment services director at Peninsula, told HR magazine that these measures have formed a core part of the Lib Dems’ campaign so far.

She said: “It’s clear that pay and family-friendly policies are high on the list of priorities for the Liberal Democrats, with Sir Ed Davey having spoken openly just this last weekend about the struggles of balancing caring for his disabled son with work. 

“So it’s no surprise that many of their proposed policies focus on people with caring responsibilities, including creating a new care worker’s minimum wage and introducing paid carer’s leave.”

Sick pay

The party vowed to make statutory sick pay available to workers earning less than £123 a week, as well as aligning the rate with minimum wage and making payments available from the first day of missing work rather than the fourth.

It would also support small employers with statutory sick pay costs, consulting with them on the best way to do this.

Read more: MPs call for sick pay boost