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The manifestoes – employment and immigration law. Part four – Labour.

As part of a series of articles examining the main political parties’ pledges on employment and immigration law, we previously delved into the Conservative manifesto here, Liberal Democrats here and the SNP, Greens and Reform here

In the last in our election blog series, we turn our focus to the Labour manifesto. 

An overview of Labour’s Immigration law pledges

As with the Conservative party, the Labour manifesto outlines plans to tackle UK net migration and issues within the asylum system. Labour also addresses claims made in the Conservative manifesto regarding a return to free movement under a Labour government, confirming there will be no return of free movement and that it will not seek to rejoin the European Union, the single market or the customs union. 

Instead, Labour confirms it will seek to “reset the relationship and deepen ties with European friends, neighbours and allies”. This will include negotiating agreements with the EU aimed at opening up markets for UK service exporters (UK touring artists were specifically name checked) and seeking a UK-EU security pact to strengthen cooperation on common threats, including the small boats crisis. Labour plans also include strengthening the UK's position in multilateral organisations such as the UN and NATO, using its position within these organisations and the Commonwealth to “work to uphold human rights and international law”. Another priority area for Labour is strengthening international development work within the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO), which aligns with its plans to reduce the flow of migrants from refugee-producing countries by working to prevent conflict. 

Labour’s answer to the small boat crisis will be to set up a new Border Security Command aimed at tackling the criminal gangs behind the small boat crossings. Under Labour’s plans, this new team will work internationally and be supported by new counter-terrorism style powers with an agreement being sought with the EU on intelligence sharing and joint operations. 

If elected, Labour will scrap the Rwanda scheme. Instead, it will invest in tackling the asylum backlog, set up a new returns and enforcement unit to facilitate fast-track removal of those without permission to be in the UK and negotiate additional returns agreements with safe countriesIt will also work with international partners to address the humanitarian crises which lead to people fleeing their homes and strengthen support for refugees in their home region.

Visa fees are not mentioned in Labour’s manifesto, save for the scrapping of fees for non-UK veterans and their dependents, who have served for four or more years in the armed forces. 

In terms of economic migration, Labour intends to reduce net migration overall with a view to ending “long-term reliance” on overseas workers in some parts of the economy. Rather than focusing on a cap on numbers, the Labour Party is advocating for more joined-up thinking between government and non-governmental organisations to identify and address skills gaps in the UK, both through migration and by establishing effective training plans to upskill British workers in those shortage areas. At the same time, Labour pledges to crack down on the exploitation of foreign workers by employers and recruitment agencies. 

Summary of Labour manifesto immigration proposals

Rwanda scheme

  • Scrap the Migration and Economic Development partnership with Rwanda. 

Tackling organised immigration crime

  • Go after the criminal gangs involved in smuggling people across the Channel.
  • Create a new Border Security Command with hundreds of new specialist investigators and use new counter-terror style powers to tackle criminal boat gangs. This will be funded by ending the Migration and Economic Development partnership with Rwanda.
  • Seek new security agreement with the EU to ensure access to real-time intelligence to enable policing teams to lead joint investigations with European counterparts.


  • Hire additional caseworkers to clear the asylum backlog. 

Returns arrangements/enforcement

  • Set up a new returns and enforcement unit, with an additional 1,000 staff, to fast-track removals to safe countries for people who do not have the right to stay here.
  • Negotiate additional returns arrangements to speed up returns and increase the number of safe countries that failed asylum seekers can swiftly be sent back to.


  • Negotiate an agreement with the EU to assist UK touring artists.


  • Reform the points-based immigration system, with appropriate restrictions on visas, and by linking immigration and skills policy.
  • Ensure that migration to address skills shortages triggers a plan to upskill workers and improve working conditions in the UK. 
  • Strengthen the Migration Advisory Committee and establish a framework for joint working with skills bodies across the UK, the Industrial Strategy Council and the Department for Work and Pensions. 
  • End the long-term reliance on overseas workers in some parts of the economy by bringing in workforce and training plans for sectors such as health and social care, and construction.
  • No tolerance for employers or recruitment agencies abusing the visa system. 
  • Employers who breach employment law rules will be barred from hiring workers from abroad. 

Visa fees for veterans 

  • Scrap visa fees for non-UK veterans who have served for four or more years, and their dependents.

An analysis of Labour immigration law pledges

Labour’s manifesto has a strong focus on national security and “securing borders”. Unlike the Conservative plan to deter small boat crossings through the threat of being sent to Rwanda, Labour’s plan focuses on tackling the root causes (i.e. the criminal gangs behind the smuggling and the conflicts which result in displacement) rather than on the individuals making the dangerous crossings. Labour’s manifesto points to a closer working relationship with the EU and a rapprochement with the wider international community on asylum and international refugee commitments as well as on cooperation on cross-border crime. Though not specifically mentioned in its manifesto, it is expected that Labour will also scrap the Illegal Migration Act 2023, which effectively bans the right to asylum in the UK. 

Labour’s headline policies on economic migration (identifying shortages early on with a view to cutting the UK’s reliance on foreign labour and simultaneously upskilling British workers) are short on the detail. How will this be implemented in practice and what role will the Migration Advisory Committee play are questions that have yet to be answered.

Labour’s manifesto did not address several areas in the current government’s five-point immigration plan, specifically: the family/skilled worker visa thresholds, student visas, the graduate scheme and the youth mobility scheme.


An overview of Labour’s employment law pledges

Labour’s manifesto commitment is that it will seek to implement measures set out in a separate policy document entitled ‘Labour’s Plan to Make Work Pay: Delivering for Working People’ in full and this will involve introducing legislation within 100 days.

Within that documentation, it is acknowledged that many of the reforms have been discussed and debated for years and formed part of the response to the 2017 Taylor Review of modern working practices but have not been implemented by successive governments since then. 

The suggestion is that elements of their ‘New Deal’ will be implemented within the new legislation and others will take longer following a period of review and consultation. What isn’t clear from the published plans is what will form part of the first 100 days and will come later. If Labour is elected then the publication of the Employment Rights Bill will be a key date for employers to look out for.

In terms of policies in the ‘New Deal’, these include:

  • Remove the qualifying period for certain employment rights e.g. protection against unfair dismissal, parental leave and sick pay.
  • Increase the time limit for bringing employment tribunal claims from three months to six months.
  • End fire and rehire practices.
  • Ban ‘exploitative’ zero-hours contracts.
  • Introduce a single status of worker.
  • Enhance family friendly rights.
  • Introduce a ‘right to switch off’.
  • Enhance collective rights and responsibilities of Trade Unions.
  • Tackle ‘fair pay’ e.g. by removing the age bands within the National Minimum Wage.

An analysis of Labour’s employment law pledges

The above is just a snapshot of the policies announced in the ‘New Deal’ document which itself is 24 pages long. As noted above and within the document itself, many of the suggested policies follow on directly from the Taylor Review and Good Work Plan, including the creation of a single status of worker and changes to the rules on zero-hours workers. As these plans have been mooted since 2017, these are not unexpected. A simplified system would be a step forward for many as the case law is notoriously complex.

The removal of the qualifying period for certain employment rights was featured within Labour’s 2019 manifesto. In 2019, it wasn’t clear which rights would be acquired on day one of employment. This time around, the manifesto specifically mentions unfair dismissal, parental leave and access to sick pay. However, the reference to parental leave for example is unclear. Does this only mean unpaid parental leave or would it extend to other forms of leave such as maternity and paternity leave?

The move to make unfair dismissal a day one right is particularly significant as this means employers will have to be aware of the possibility of ordinary unfair dismissal claims from all employees. The ‘New Deal’ does stress that employers will not be prevented from dismissing for reasons of conduct, capability or redundancy, or probationary periods with fair transparent rules and processes. Employers may well want to review their existing probationary period policies to ensure that they will meet those standards.

Another notable proposal is the policy to introduce a ‘right to switch off’. As mentioned in the New Deal’, this is not a new concept as it has been introduced in a number of other European countries such as Ireland and Belgium. We had previously discussed a Scottish Government proposal to introduce a similar ‘Right to Disconnect’ for Scottish Government employees. The suggestion in the manifesto is rather than dictating how this is implemented, employers and workers will have ‘constructive conversations and work together on bespoke workplace policies or contractual terms’. This suggests there won’t be a one-size-fits-all approach and employers will have the opportunity to determine a model that works best for them and their business.



employment law, immigration