Election round-up

What do the three main parties have to say about pensions, care and tackling the UK’s high rates of economic inactivity since Covid?

Serious pensioner stares into the distance

 

What do the main parties say about issues relating to older workers, including pensions, care and tackling economic inactivity?

Labour says it will bring Jobcentre Plus and the National Careers Service together to provide a national jobs and careers service, focused on getting people into work and helping them get on at work. It says this will be done in partnership with local employers and services.

To address the high number of people who have dropped out of the workforce since Covid, many of them in older age groups, Labour says it will work with local areas to create plans to support more disabled people and those with health conditions into work, devolving funding so local areas can shape a joined-up work, health and skills offer for local people. Labour says it will tackle the backlog of Access to Work claims and give disabled people the confidence to start working “without the fear of an immediate benefit reassessment if it does not work out”. The manifesto adds: “We believe the Work Capability Assessment is not working and needs to be reformed or replaced, alongside a proper plan to support disabled people to work.”

On pensions, Labour says it will retain the triple lock for the state pension and adopt reforms to workplace pensions “to deliver better outcomes for UK savers and pensioners”.

Labour has also pledged to create a sustainable National Care Service.

The Conservatives have announced an extra 730m pounds for mental heath treatment to keep people in work, to be paid for by benefits savings. The announcement is part of their plans to reform benefits and reduce the number of people who are off work due to long-term sickness, which Rishi Sunak has referred to as Britain’s “sicknote culture”. That includes bringing forward changes to disability benefits, tightening work capability assessment criteria and taking the power to sign sick notes away from GPs. Spending experts have expressed doubts about whether the plans can deliver the savings the Conservatives anticipate.

On tax, they say they will introduce a further 2p cut in employee National Insurance from April 2027 and scrap the main rate of self-employed National Insurance by the end of the parliament. And on pensions, they have said they will raise the tax-free pension allowance.

Under what they have called their “Triple Lock Plus” plans, the tax-free personal allowance for pensioners will increase by at least 2.5% or in line with the highest of earnings or inflation. The proposal comes amid fears that the freezing of income tax thresholds since 2021 could see hundreds of thousands of people on the state pension being taxed on their income by 2027.

The Liberal Democrats have put care at the centre of their manifesto. They have pledged to overhaul the Carer’s Allowance system “so that it provides real financial support to those who need it”, establish free personal care and offer a higher minimum wage for care workers.

On pensions, they have pledged to continue the triple lock system, to ensure Waspi women are treated fairly and properly compensated, to invest in pensions helplines and to address the gender pension gap and barriers to carers getting adequate pensions as well as to ensure gig workers get access to pensions.

From Plaid Cymru to the SNP

Plaid Cymru has pledged to tackle insecure work, provide paid bereavement and miscarriage leave as ‘day one employment rights’, outlaw fire and re-hire tactics, abolish compulsory zero-hours contracts, establish the right to ‘disconnect’ (a right not to be routinely contacted about work outside normal working hours), and reform Shared Parental Leave. It is calling for paid Carer’s Leave, wants to see benefits increase with inflation, says it will maintain the triple lock on pensions, increase statutory sick pay, ban benefits sanctions and support the principle of a universal basic income and promote UBI pilots. Other pledges include compensation for women who have been negatively impacted by the changes in pension provision, as highlighted by the Women Against State Pension Inequality campaign (WASPI).

The Scottish Nationalists are calling for the full devolution of tax powers to Scotland. They also say they will stand up for WASPI women “by making sure the UK Government delivers full, fast and fair compensation for women who have been wronged by pension inequality”. On employment rights the SNP is pledging to  empower workers by scrapping zero hours contracts, banning ‘fire and rehire’ practices and repealing the Minimum Service Bill. The SNP says it will “oppose any acceleration of planned changes or further increases in the state pension age” and maintain the pension triple lock.

Other parties

The Greens are pledging an increase in the minimum wage to £15 an hour for all ages, with the costs to small businesses offset by reducing their National Insurance payments; equal employment rights for all workers from their first day of employment, including those working in the ‘gig economy’ and on zero-hours contracts; and a move to a four-day working week.

On benefits, they are promising to increase Universal Credit and legacy benefits by £40 a week; end the ‘bedroom tax’; and, in the long term, introduce a universal basic income. The Green party have also said that people will be entitled to pension tax relief at a flat rate of 20 per cent, as opposed to it being link to the amount of income tax a person pays.

Reform UK says that it will “make work pay” by lifting the income tax start point to £20,000 per year and lifting the higher rate threshold to £70,000. It is also calling for a ban on IR35 tax legislation and says it wants to withdraw benefits for job seekers and those fit to work who do not find employment within four months or accept a job after two offers. It has pledged to to review the pension system, saying the current system is “riddled with complexity, huge cost and poor returns leading to less uptake”.

Meanwhile, the Workers Party of Britain promises to increase the personal tax threshold for the poorest paid workers to remove tax entirely from the first £21,200 of wages and to undertake a major review of pensions policy “with the ultimate aim of restoring a life-long commitment through earnings to adequate pension provision with all workers having the option of retiring at 60”.



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