With the 2024 general elections around the corner, our employment specialists at Womble Bond Dickinson have reviewed the election manifestos of the major parties. While the current polls do not suggest a continuation of the Conservatives 14-year governing streak, we have reviewed and analysed their manifesto to provide you with an overview of their proposals relevant to employment law.

Even though employment legislation and policies do not seem to be at the core of the Conservatives' agenda for the election, there are several policies that are worth analysing which could have an impact on both employers and employees alike.

Minimum Service Level legislation

One of the Conservatives' flagship policies is the continuation and expansion of the minimum service level legislation. This policy, which has been on the Conservatives' agenda amidst the recent industrial action, specifically in the public transport sector and within the NHS, mandates that essential services maintain a baseline of operations even during strikes. For employers, this would mean a more stable operating environment during strikes, reducing the potential for widespread service interruptions and ensuring that public needs are still met during labour disputes. However, for employees, the criticism brought against this policy centres around a worry that minimising the disruption caused by industrial action could ultimately reduce workers and trade unions leverage for wage negotiations.

Diversity, equality and inclusion (DEI) initiatives and suggested amendments to the Equality Act

The Conservative manifesto outlines a cautious approach to DEI initiatives. The party plans to review current DEI mandates to strike a balance between promoting workplace equality and maintaining operational efficiency. There is an emphasis on controlling the scope and implementation of these programmes. This could result in streamlined reporting requirements and more flexibility for employers to develop DEI programmes that are tailored to their specific organisational contexts, however employers should ensure that their efforts towards more equitable workplaces are not undermined and that the initiatives still promote and reflect the society we live in.

Additionally to the amendments to the approach of DEI, the Conservatives aim to change the Equality Act with a particular focus on the protected characteristic of sex. The proposed amendment seeks to state in the Equality Act that the protected characteristic of sex refers to biological sex therefore undermining any alternative gender theories which have gained traction in recent years. The Conservatives' aim is to clarify these ongoing debates and legal ambiguities. This is one of the more controversial policies to be introduced in the manifesto and it has the potential to undermine DEI progress made and bring harm to marginalised communities in our society at their workplaces. For employers, this means they may need to review and possibly update their policies and practices to comply with these changes while ensuring that workplace environments are inclusive and free from discrimination

National Insurance (NI) contributions and National Living Wage

With the long term ambition of the Conservatives to abolish National Insurance contributions for workers entirely, they bid to take the next step by cutting NI contributions of workers to 6% by April 2027. This follows their recent reductions in NI from 12%.This reduction aims to increase take-home pay and reduce costs for businesses. The hope is that the reduction of costs for businesses will spur job creation and entrepreneurial activity.

The manifesto additionally commits to a continued increase in the National Living Wage, ensuring that it remains in line with inflation and the cost of living. At current projections this would manifest in an increase to £13 per hour for all workers aged over 21. The goal is to support low-income workers and reduce income inequality. For employers, particularly in sectors with a high proportion of low-wage workers, this means preparing for higher labour costs. However, the Conservatives argue that this will be offset by the aforementioned reduction in National Insurance.

Overhaul of the 'fit note' system

The manifesto proposes a significant overhaul of the 'fit note' system to better support employees returning to work after illness or injury. In an effort to relieve the workload of GP's across the country, fit notes would be provided by other healthcare professionals in the future. In the current system 94% of fit notes are signed as 'not fit for work' without the provision of any detailed reasons. The new system aims to provide more detailed guidance on what tasks an employee can perform. This change is expected to facilitate smoother transitions back to work and reduce prolonged absences. Employers would gain from clearer, actionable information that can help them make reasonable adjustments.

Apprenticeships and childcare

The Conservative Party is making an effort on focusing on the new generations in a few of their proposed policies by providing better accessibility of childcare and the promotion of apprenticeships as viable alternatives to university degrees. By creating 100,000 more apprenticeships every year by the end of the next Parliament, the Conservatives plan to increase funding and simplify the apprenticeship levy system to encourage more businesses to participate. For employers, this initiative promises a more direct involvement with younger generations and could potentially provide a more skilled and work ready labour force by providing companies with a pipeline of trained workers who are tailored to specific industry needs.

With a focus on childcare, the Conservatives plan to expand access to affordable childcare services. This includes increasing funding for childcare providers and offering more flexible childcare options for working parents. The milestones set by the Conservative Party include an expansion of free childcare to 30 hours per week for all eligible parents with children from nine months old until they start school by September 2025. Both employers and parents would benefit from a more stable and engaged workforce, as employees with young children find it easier to balance work and family responsibilities.


While the Conservative Party's 2024 election manifesto does not provide a strong focus on employment policies, the ones suggested do come with implications for employers. The proposed reforms aim to balance economic growth with social equity, however, they also present challenges. The continuation of minimum service levels could limit the leverage of labour strikes, potentially creating friction with unions. Tightening controls on DEI initiatives may spark debate over the adequacy of workplace diversity efforts. The amendments to the Equality Act with regards to sex as a protected characteristic could demand significant policy updates and training efforts.

The reduction in National Insurance contributions is a financial relief for employers, but the simultaneous increase of the NLW will necessitate careful financial planning to manage rising labour costs. Expanded childcare support and the overhaul of the 'fit note' system could improve workforce stability yet they come with a price in that employers will potentially have to adapt to new administrative processes.

While the apprenticeship expansion offers long-term benefits, it also requires immediate investment and commitment from businesses as well as adaptability to training initiatives and the change they can bring to the overall workforce. An increase in free childcare hours for children from nine months old until they start school could significantly improve the employment landscape for eligible working parents.

Overall these proposals necessitate a proactive and strategic approach from employers to navigate the potential disruptions and capitalise on the opportunities presented by the Conservatives.

Should you require any support or if you would like to discuss any of the proposals outlined in this article, we have a dedicated team of specialist employment lawyers who can help, so please get in touch. Look out for our other articles on the employment proposals in the Liberal Democrats and Labour Party manifestos.


A special thank you to Johanna Guttler who helped put this article together.

This article is for general information only and reflects the position at the date of publication. It does not constitute legal advice.