Conservative Manifesto – key messages for recruiters

18 May 2017


May 18, 2017

After a few delays and much debate, the Conservative party manifesto was published today in the marginal constituency of Halifax in West Yorkshire. The manifesto focuses on the “five great challenges” that Theresa May suggests the country is facing: Brexit; social care; tackling social divisions; inter-generational unfairness; challenges of an increasingly digital world/economy.

We have pulled out the commitments of most interest to recruiters below.


The Conservatives say they would make the immigration system work for sectors that are suffering skills shortages whilst ensuring that the UK develops skills for the future. They committed to the following:

“…controlled, sustainable migration, with net migration down to the tens of thousands. Ask the independent Migration Advisory Committee to make recommendations about how the UK’s visa system can become better aligned with an industrial strategy. Double the Immigration Skills Charge levied on companies employing migrant workers, to £2,000 a year by the end of the parliament. Increase the earnings thresholds for people wishing to sponsor migrants for family visas and toughen the visa requirements for students post-Brexit, Reduce migration from the EU while still allowing the UK to attract skilled workers. Make it a priority in EU negotiations that the 140,000 staff from EU countries can carry on making their vital contribution to our health and care system.”

Workers’ Rights and Employment

On Monday, Theresa May released her 11 point plan for workers. These commitments were reiterated in today’s manifesto and include:

“…increase the National Living Wage in line with median earnings until the end of the next Parliament in 2022. New protections for ‘gig’ economy workers following on from the Taylor Review. Require listed companies to strengthen the voice of their employees at board level and mandatory pay ratio reporting for the FTSE 100. A new statutory right to leave to care for a family member and right to child bereavement leave. A new statutory right to request leave for training purposes. A one year national insurance contribution exemption for employers who hire people from under-represented groups.”


Dealing with Brexit was identified as one of Theresa May’s ‘great challenges’, unsurprisingly. There was little new information on the plans for our exit, though the Conservatives did reiterate the following:

“…to guarantee all rights that workers currently enjoy as we leave the European Union that “no deal is better than a bad deal for the UK” though the Conservatives do want fair, orderly negotiations, minimising disruption with as much certainty as possible to secure the entitlements of EU nationals in Britain and British nationals in the EU. Pursue free trade with European markets and secure new trade agreements with other countries.”


The manifesto includes a number of measures addressing taxation, the following will be of specific interest to recruiters:

A commitment to keep taxes as low as possible but the pledge to freeze income tax and national insurance that appeared in the 2015 manifesto was not retained. A full review of business rates, reduction in corporation tax to 17% by 2020, VAT freeze and a personal allowance increase to £12,500 and the higher rate to £50,000. Simplify the tax system.

Industrial strategy and skills

The Conservatives reiterated their commitment to developing a modern industrial strategy and plan for skills including a National Productivity Investment fund, infrastructure investment, a new system of technical education and returnships to help women get back into work after a career break.

There was also a commitment to start a new national retraining scheme. Under the scheme, the costs of training would be met by the government, with companies able to gain access to the Apprenticeship levy to support wages costs during the training period.

The REC’s view

The UK is facing a long-standing productivity and skills problem. A modern industrial strategy will go towards tackling this but only if it is underpinned by an effective skills strategy which benefits all workers. On this issue, one of our core pre-election messages is that the apprenticeship levy should evolve into a broader ‘training levy’ that can meet the training needs of those in non-permanent roles.

The benefits of a more robust approach to skills will take time to bear fruit. As well as radically improving the UK skills base, the next government must work with industry to build a balanced and agile immigration strategy that reflects business needs in all sectors and regions. Doubling the immigration skills charge at a time of unprecedented skills shortages would create an additional burden for businesses who have already had to absorb significant additional costs over recent years – ranging from pensions auto-enrolment to the apprenticeship levy.

In our submission to the Taylor Review, we stressed that all workers, including temporary staff, must be treated fairly. Providing all workers and businesses with clarity on their rights and responsibilities is the best way to ensure employers and individuals can work in a way that suits their needs and continue to enjoy the benefits of flexible working. New proposals aimed at reflecting modern working practices must remain proportionate and recognise the regulatory load that employers have had to deal with.

We are proactive in supporting the inclusion agenda and have long been calling for a step change to increase the participation of under-represented groups in the workplace. Incentives will only go so far however. Businesses will also need to ensure they offer flexible working patterns to better enable people to get into and stay in work. We also need to encourage employers across all sectors to review current hiring practices, a process we are keen to support through the ongoing Good Recruitment Campaign.

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