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The manifestoes – employment and immigration law. Part two – Conservatives

The General Election campaign is in full swing ahead of the 4th July election and the major UK parties have announced their manifestos. 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.

We’ve already examined the Liberal Democrats' employment and immigration pledges in this article. In the second of our series of blogs looking at each of the main parties, today we focus on the Conservative manifesto.

The Conservatives’ manifesto contains very little policy announcement that would affect employment law in the UK. The section on growing the economy focuses on pledges on tax and investments in infrastructure.

In terms of policy announcements, the limited number which would affect employment law are:

  • To limit the impact of industrial action on public services and balance the ability of workers to strike with the rights of the public, the Conservatives would continue to implement Minimum Service Levels legislation.
  • Increases to the National Living Wage would continue at two-thirds of median earnings. Current forecasts would mean it would eventually rise to £13 per hour.
  • Proposed amendments to the Equality Act to clarify that references to the protected characteristics of sex mean biological sex.
  • An ‘overhaul’ of the fit note system taking responsibility away from GPs towards specialist work and health professionals.
  • Commitments to further reduce employee’s national insurance contributions and abolish national insurance for self-employed people.

Employment law analysis

As noted above within the Conservative manifesto there isn’t a great deal of new policy announced which would affect employers on a day-to-day basis. It is probably expected that the National Living Wage will continue to rise as it has done since its introduction in 2016. 

Also, within those few policies, the Conservatives have maintained their commitment to implementing the Minimum Service Levels legislation. We can speculate given their commitment to continue with previously announced policies that they intend to continue with other policies previously announced but not introduced before the dissolution of Parliament. This included previous consultations on the allocation of tips, changes to paternity pay, and a code of practice on dismissal and re-engagement.

It is perhaps unsurprising that after being in Government for 14 years the Conservatives are only promising minor evolution to the existing employment law framework instead of the full-scale revolution promised by other parties.

Immigration law overview

The overall focus of the Conservative manifesto is on cutting net migration and restricting free movement. Many of the proposals are a continuation of existing government policies and so may not be classed as ‘new’ proposals. For instance, if re-elected the Conservative party will push ahead with their flagship Rwanda scheme: flying asylum seekers to Rwanda for their claims to be processed there; fully implementing the Illegal Migration Act 2023; and ramping up efforts to crack down on organised immigration crime to stop small boat Channel crossings. 

In terms of new proposals, responsibility will be handed over to Parliament to set a “binding, legal cap” on migration with Parliament tasked with voting annually to set a cap on work and family visas as well as on the number of individuals arriving in the UK via the Hong Kong, Ukraine, and Afghan settlement schemes. 

All visa fees will be increased and the salary threshold for skilled workers will be raised automatically in line with inflation, as will the minimum income requirement for family visas. The student discount for the Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS) will be removed and migrants will be required to undergo health checks in advance of travel to the UK. If found to be a “burden” on the UK, their IHS may be increased or they may be required to purchase health insurance. 

Summary of Conservative manifesto proposals on immigration law

Rwanda Scheme

  • Continue with flights to Rwanda plan from July 2024, if re-elected
  • Implement the Illegal Migration Act 2023

Tackling organised immigration crime

  • Crack down on organised immigration crime, including through the National Crime Agency and the intelligence services.


  • Work with other countries - holding an international summit - to reform international laws on refugees.
  • Restrict visa access from countries that don’t co-operate with the UK on illegal migration policies.
  • Negotiate further return deals such as that with Albania.

Schemes for refugees seeking sanctuary

  • Maintain the Hong Kong, Ukraine and Afghan settlement schemes and give parliament control of how many places are offered on those routes, with a cap based on the capacity of local areas.

Increasing thresholds and fees/ introducing health checks

  • Raise the Skilled Worker salary threshold automatically with inflation.
  • Raise the Family minimum income requirement automatically with inflation. 
  • Require migrants to undergo health checks in advance of travel & if they have health issues increase their Immigration Health Surcharge or require them to buy health insurance.
  • Increase all visa fees. 
  • Remove the student discount to the Immigration Health Surcharge. 


  • Continue with the Windrush Compensation Scheme. 

EU citizens

  • Continued commitment to the EU Settled Status Scheme
  • No return to free movement 

Cutting migration

  • Introduce a binding, legal cap on migration, set on work and family visas 
  • Give parliament an annual vote on the level of the cap 

Analysis – what does this mean for you?

Despite being 76 pages long, the Conservative party manifesto is light on the detail when it comes to immigration and asylum policy. As mentioned above, many of the proposals are a continuation of existing policies. The Rwanda scheme features heavily, and the Conservative manifesto reiterates a commitment to push ahead with the scheme at all costs, even if this means disregarding European Court on Human Rights (ECtHR) judgments or orders - “If we are forced to choose between our security and the jurisdiction of a foreign court, including the ECtHR, we will always choose our security”. 

The proposal to automatically raise the minimum income requirement for family visas and skilled worker visas in line with inflation will cause concern amongst mixed nationality families and businesses alike considering the massive hikes to the thresholds introduced earlier in the year (the threshold rose from £26,200 to £38,700 for skilled worker visas and from £18,600 to £29,000 for family visas). 

The proposals to increase all visa fees; remove the student discount to the Immigration Health Surcharge; and place a cap on migration (to be set by Parliament) are all new but again, chime with the Conservative party’s commitment to slashing net migration. 

A point not directly addressed by the Conservative proposals to cut migration, including skilled labour, is around economic growth and the renewables sector which relies on migrant workers and is experiencing a skills shortage. Continual salary and fee hikes my price those operators out of hiring foreign national workers. 

If your organisation has any questions in relation to employment or immigration law, please contact a member of our team


employment law, immigration