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The manifestoes - employment and immigration law. Part one - Liberal Democrats

The General Election will take place on 4th July 2024 and with the campaign in full swing, the majority of the major UK parties have announced their manifestoes. While the big issues in the campaign thus far have been around the NHS, tax and national infrastructure, all the parties have made various pledges regarding the world of employment and immigration law.

In a series of blogs, we'll look at what each of the major UK parties have promised to deliver in their manifesto about employment and immigration law. This is our first blog, focusing on the Liberal Democrats.

The Liberal Democrats' manifesto contains plans and proposals that will affect employment law. These proposals cover a variety of different areas such as employment status, enhancements and increased eligibility to statutory maternity, paternity and sick pay, and measures to make it easier for disabled people to work. 

Many of their proposals featured in their 2019 manifesto and were also suggested by the Taylor Review and Good Work Plan, so may not be classed as ‘new’ proposals. Their lengthy list of proposals includes:

Employment Rights

  • establish 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 
  • establish an independent review to recommend a genuine living wage across all sectors
  • increase the minimum wage by 20% for people on zero-hour contracts at times of normal demand to compensate them for the uncertainty of fluctuating hours
  • Giving a right to request fixed-hours contract after 12 months for zero-hours and agency workers not to be unreasonably refused
  • change the burden of proof in employment tribunals for employment status from employees to employers
  • encourage employers to promote employee ownership by giving staff in listed companies with more than 250 employees a right to request shares

Enhancements to statutory entitlements for parents

  • making all parental pay and leave day-one rights and extend them to self-employed parents
  • doubling Statutory Maternity Pay and Shared Parental Pay to £350pw
  • introduce a ‘use it or lose it’ month for fathers and partners, paid at 90% of salary with a cap for high earners

Changes to Statutory Sick Pay (SSP)

  • removal of lower earnings limit (currently (£123 a week) to increase eligibility
  • aligning the SSP rate with the National Minimum Wage
  • make SSP available from the first day of absence instead of the fourth day of absence
  • Supporting small employers with SSP costs (details not provided)


  • introduce new Equality Act protected characteristics of ‘caring’ and requiring employers to make reasonable adjustments to enable employees with caring responsibilities to provide that care
  • require large employers to publish data on gender, ethnicity, disability, and LGBT+ employment levels, pay gaps and progression, and publish five-year aspirational diversity targets
  • introduce specialist disability employment support
  • raising awareness of and simplifying the Access to Work scheme
  • introduce ‘Adjustment Passports’ to record the adjustments, modifications and equipment a disabled person has received, and ensure that Access to Work support and equipment stays with the person if they change jobs
  • Provide additional support to employers on neurodiversity in the workplace
  • extend the use of name-blind recruitment processes in the public sector and encourage their use in the private sector

Employment law analysis

As mentioned above, many of these proposals were first suggested as part of the Taylor Review and were taken forward as part of the Good Work Plan, including the plans for the right to request a fixed-hours contract after working on a zero-hours contract and the shifting of the burden of proof to employers in employment status cases.

The introduction of a new 'dependent contractor' employment status between employee and self-employed is another Taylor Review recommendation and whilst it may seem, at first glance, novel, it may be more of a rebranding of the familiar 'worker' status, which already exists in between employee and self-employed status.

An increase to the Living Wage would seem to be on the table, although this would depend on the outcome of the proposed independent review looking at it. 

Additionally, those working on zero-hours contracts would benefit from the proposals with a 20% uplift of pay in times of normal demand. There is no detail of how this would be implemented and how, for example, normal demand would be assessed.

The more interesting proposals are around equalities issues. A new protected characteristic for carers and a requirement for employers to make adjustments for employees with caring responsibilities would need careful consideration if implemented. Plans for ‘Adjustment Passports’ may assist employers and employees alike as often employers are unsure what adjustments an employee may need without engaging with occupational health or other medical advice. If these were more easily transferred from employer to employer it may benefit all involved.

Also interesting to note are planned requirements to give employees a right to request shares and how such a scheme might be implemented in reality, given its potential impact on corporate governance and structure. 

Immigration law

The Lib Dems have plans to overhaul the Immigration Rules, making them fairer and simpler with greater Parliamentary oversight. 

They intend to scrap the Rwanda scheme, repeal the Illegal Migration Act and create safe and legal routes to claim asylum in the UK. A dedicated unit will be set up to tackle the asylum backlog and asylum cases will be processed within three months in all but the most complex asylum cases. Asylum seekers who have been waiting on a decision for more than three months will be given the right to work and legal aid will be expanded to allow more individuals to access legal advice. 

The Lib Dems plan to end immigration detention for children and only detain adults as a last resort. Those asylum seekers who receive positive decisions on their claims will be given more than 60 days to find new accommodation, meaning that they will be less likely to become homeless or destitute during their transition out of Home Office accommodation. Returns of those without the right to stay in the UK will be speeded up. 

The Lib Dems will invest in tackling smuggling, trafficking and modern slavery in co-operation with Europol and the French authorities, including on those facilitating small boat crossings.

Policy making on work and student visas will be transferred out of the Home Office and into the relevant departments, with decisions on salary thresholds for work visas being set by the responsible department. NHS and care staff will be exempt from the Immigration Skills Charge and the ban on care workers’ dependants will be reversed. The new income threshold for family visas (which recently rose from £18,600 to £29,000) will also be reversed. Fees to register a child as British will be reduced. 

The Lib Dems will negotiate an expansion of the EU’s proposal on a Youth Mobility Scheme which would allow young people to experience living, working and studying in Europe. At the same time they will offer protection to EU citizens and their families in the UK by granting settlement to all those with pre-settled status. 

They intend to implement the Windrush Lessons Learned Review in full and ensure all victims are compensated. 

Finally, they would abolish the “Right to Rent” scheme in England which puts a legal obligation on landlords to check that potential tenants have permission to live in the UK.

Summary of Liberal Democrat Party manifesto proposals on immigration law

Rwanda & small boat crossings

  • Cancel the Rwanda scheme and invest the savings in clearing the asylum backlog. 
  • Scrap the Illegal Migration Act & uphold the Refugee Convention 
  • Work closely with Europol and the French authorities to stop the smuggling and trafficking gangs behind dangerous Channel crossings. 
  • Invest in officers, training and technology to tackle smuggling, trafficking and modern slavery 

Immigration Rules

  • Overhaul the Immigration Rules to make them simpler, clearer and fairer, and ensure greater parliamentary scrutiny of future changes. 

Devolved authorities

  • Extend the participation of devolved administrations in the development of the evidence base for UK-wide policy on work permits and student visas

Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration

  • Strengthen the powers of the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration. 

Refugees & asylum

  • Establish a dedicated unit to tackle the asylum backlog
  • Introduce a service standard of three months for all but the most complex asylum claims to be processed, with the right to work for asylum seekers waiting over three months for a decision


  • End the detention of children for immigration purposes
  • Reduce detention for adults to an absolute last resort, with a 28-day time limit. 
  • Speed up returns of those without a right to stay. 

Work & student visas

  • Transfer policy-making over work visas and overseas students out of the Home Office and into other departments
  • Replace the salary threshold with a more flexible merit-based system for work visas, with the relevant department working with employers in each sector 
  • Exempt NHS and care staff from the £1,000-a-year Immigration Skills Charge
  • Reverse the ban on care workers bringing partners and children. 
  • Expand the Youth Mobility Scheme to EU nationals, with reciprocal arrangement for British citizens: 

Family visas

  • Reverse the increase to income thresholds for family visas, so that no more families are torn apart. 

Visa fees

  • Reduce the fee for registering a child as a British citizen from £1,214 to the cost of administration. 

EU citizens

  • Protect the rights of EU citizens and their families in the UK by: 
  • Automatically granting full Settled Status to all those with Pre-Settled Status. 
  • Providing them with physical proof of their right to stay. 


  • Implement the Windrush Lessons Learned Review in full 
  • Ensure victims of the Windrush scandal get the compensation they are entitled to by making the compensation scheme independent of the Home Office. 

‘Right to Rent’ scheme

  • Repeal the ‘Right to Rent’ scheme in England

Immigration law analysis

Arguably the most comprehensive of all the major political party plans on immigration, the Lib Dem’s manifesto touches on almost every one of the key issues of the day surrounding immigration, asylum and nationality policy. What they envisage involves a return to the pre-Rwanda asylum system (but more efficient), and a radical overhaul of the immigration rules to make them clearer, fairer and simpler, with greater oversight from Parliament and the Independent Inspector on Borders and Immigration. The Lib Dems are also one of the few political parties to highlight the importance of the participation of the devolved nations in setting policy in this area.

There is also a plan to deliver a more flexible and intuitive solution to the skills shortage, by placing responsibility for policy on work (and student) visas with the relevant government department who they believe are better placed than the Home Office to set policy in their own areas of expertise. EU nationals with pre-settled status and those caught up in the Windrush scandal will also welcome the Lib Dem pledges.

Finally, the Lib Dem manifesto reverses some unpopular policies, such as: the “Right to Rent” scheme in England which puts the burden of immigration enforcement on landlords; the increase to the minimum income requirement for mixed nationality families; and the ban on care workers bringing their loved ones with them to the UK. 

Our next blog, out shortly, will focus on the Conservative manifesto.
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If your organisation has any questions in relation to employment or immigration law, please contact a member of our team.


employment law, immigration