General Election 2019: what the parties say about small business

We've gathered up all of the key small business policies from the major parties to help you decide how to vote in the 2019 General Election

The 2019 general election is only a couple of weeks from now – and it’s one of the most heated votes in years.

Questions have been asked around who the real party for small business and what exactly is each one promising.

To help you defog these quandaries, we’ve sifted through the manifestos and pulled out key policies relating to entrepreneurs and small businesses.

The main areas we’ve covered are:

  • Late payments
  • Business rates
  • Skills and apprenticeships
  • Self-employed support
  • Employee rights
  • Finance
  • Other noteworthy policies

Links to each party’s manifestos are included in the table for you to take a further look.

Late paymentsBusiness ratesSkills and apprenticeshipsSupport for the self-employedEmployee rightsFinanceOther noteworthy policies
ConservativeClamp down on late payments.‘Fundamental review of the system’ to reduce business rates.Introduce a £3bn national skills fund. This fund will provide
matching funding for individuals and
SMEs for high-quality education and

Improve the working of the apprenticeship levy.

Invest almost £2bn to upgrade entire further education college estate. Will have 20 institutes of technology, connecting high-quality teaching in science, technology, engineering and maths to business and industry.
Launch a review into better support for the self-employed – improving access to finance and credit (especially mortgages), making tax system easier to navigate and how better broadband can boost home working. Introduce a single enforcement body to crack down on any employer abusing employment law.

Give workers the right to request a more reasonable contract.
Increase tax credit rate to 13pc and review definition of R&D so that investments in cloud computing and data are incentivised. Review and reform entrepreneurs’ relief.
LabourBan late payers from public procurement.Review the option of a land value tax on commercial landlords as an alternative to business rates.Employers can use Apprenticeship Levy for a wider range of accredited training, in line with guidelines set by the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education and the Government’s wider priorities for the economy.

Launch a Climate Apprenticeship programme.

Targeted bursaries will be available to women, BAME people, care leavers, ex-armed forces personnel and people with disabilities to take up climate apprentices.
Introduce collective income protection insurance schemes for the self-employed.
Establish Ministry for Employment Rights. Agree on minimum standards such as pay and working hours that every employer in the sector must follow.

Ban zero-hours contracts.

Give all employees full rights from when they start work.

Employee breaks during shifts to be paid, cancelled shifts to be paid.

Give all workers right to flexible working.

Extend maternity pay from nine to 12 months.

Bring in statutory bereavement leave.

Introduce four new bank holidays.
Double paternity leave from two weeks to four and increase statutory pay.

Devise and implement plans to eradicate the gender pay gap and pay inequality underpinned by race and/or disability or else face fines.

Ban unpaid internships.

Remove unfair and unnecessary restrictions on trade unions.
Work with big banks to fund the creation of local banking sector dedicated to meeting needs of small and medium-sized businesses. Use public money to attract private investment for zero-carbon priorities.

Provide Scottish National Investment Bank, under Scottish control, with £20bn of lending power to deliver funds to local projects and Scotland’s small businesses.

Increase corporation tax to 26pc (21pc for businesses with an annual turnover of less than 300,000).

Increase the amount that can be transferred to non-levy-paying employers to 50pc and introducing an online matching service to help levy-paying businesses to find smaller businesses to transfer their funds to.

Extend use of name blind recruitment process in public sector and encourage use in private sector.

No quarterly reporting for companies under the VAT threshold.

Introduce a 32-hour working week – end opt-out provision for the EU working time directive and enforce working-time regulations.
Liberal DemocratsAll companies, Government agencies and contractors with more than 250 employees to sign up to prompt payment code, making it enforceable.Replace business rates in England with a commercial landowner levy based only on the land value of commercial sites rather than their entire capital value.Skills Wallets for every adult in England, giving them £10,000 to spend on education and training throughout their lives: £4,000 age 25, £3,000 at age 40 and £3,000 age 55. Employers and local Government can top up the wallet.Extend rights of workers in insecure forms of employment, such as offering parental leave and pay to the self-employed.Carry out an independent review of setting a genuine Living Wage across all sectors.

Change law so flexible working is available from when you start a new job – employers will be required to advertise jobs accordingly, unless there are significant reasons why this is not possible.

Modernise employment rights to accommodate gig economy, including a 20pc higher minimum wage for zero hours workers at times of normal demand.
Create a start-up allowance to entrepreneurs who are starting a new business with their living costs in the first weeks of their business.

Allow the British Business Bank to play a more central role by tackling shortage of equity capital for growing firms and providing long-term capital for medium-sized businesses.
Support fast-growing businesses to scale up by providing mentoring support.

Prioritise SMEs in the rollout of hyper-fast broadband.

Review recent proposals to change the IR35 rules.
Green Party Require businesses to publish and report the difference between agreed payment days and actual payment days.

Introduce a fine for large companies that fail to pay small businesses on time.
Abolish business rates and replace them with land valuation tax.Invest £2 billion a year in training and skills (including new apprenticeships), to help people access the new jobs created through the transition to a low carbon economy.

Fund councils to deliver new training and skills for residents, to equip them for jobs created by the Green New Deal.

Boost the repair and recondition sector with new apprenticeship schemes.
N/ASupport small businesses to work with employees to take on full workplace rights.

Small businesses will be able to access lending at affordable rates by helping to establish a network of regional mutual banks. Banks will be created to provide funding for locally led economic initiatives and opportunities including cooperatives, community interest companies and other non-profit businesses.

Free up funding by introducing credit guidance for traditional banks, requiring them to increase lending to small businesses and businesses focused on the sustainability transition.

Reduce VAT on food and drink served in pubs, bars and restaurants, on hotel bookings and on theatre, music concert and museum and gallery tickets. This will boost leisure and cultural sectors, helping 125,000 at the heart of their local communities.

Increase the Employment Allowance from £3,000 to £10,000 per year, allowing small businesses which employ people to claim back the equivalent National Insurance or the equivalent of four full-time workers earning the average salary.
Create new support for entrepreneurs and small business owners from BME backgrounds.

Roll out high-speed broadband across the UK, including rural areas.
Brexit PartyN/AReduce business rates to zero for high street retailers and leisure operators outside the M25, with reductions funded by an online sales tax.Abolish the apprenticeship levy and introduce a new workable apprenticeship scheme.N/AN/AReform corporation tax – zero rate corporation tax for the first £10,000 of pre-tax profits.

Cut red tape and boost lending to SMEs.
Maintain subsidies and grants paid by the EU to UK businesses like farmers, fisheries, universities and research bodies.

Roll out free base-level domestic broadband in deprived regions and free WiFi on all public transport.

Reduce import tariffs to zero on certain food, footwear and clothing.
SNPSupport the
introduction of effective legal protections to ensure
small businesses are paid on time.
N/ASupporting Scotland’s people to gain the skills they need to share the rewards of
new approaches to investment through a Climate
Emergency Skills Action Plan.

Oppose Immigration Skills Charge and continue to press for
the it to be scrapped altogether.
Call on the UK Government to take steps to extend auto-enrolment, so that more low paid and self-employed workers can benefit from regular pension savings.Consider proposals to ensure fairer pay by ensuring that the balance of salaries of all employees within a company or organisation are considered when senior pay packages are decided.N/APress for a fit-for-purpose support service for small and medium sized businesses, to help firms navigate Brexit uncertainty.

Carry out a review of the IR35 tax rule.
Plaid CymruN/AN/AIntroduce a National Academy for Welsh tourism sector to provide hands-on learning from apprenticeship to degree level.

N/APlaid Cymru has led call to ban zero hours contracts in Wales.N/ACreate publicly owned Welsh broadband infrastructure company to guarantee access to every home and business in Wales by 2025.

There have been plenty of mixed reactions to the manifestos, with controversial policies including  a rise in corporation tax to 26pc, replacing business rates with a commercial land value tax and reviewing entrepreneurs’ relief.

The Entrepreneurs Network have even paired up with The Coalition for a Digital Economy (coadec) to produce their own document, The Startup Manifesto, focusing on talent and skills, access to finance and regulation.

Russ Shaw, founder of Tech London Advocates & Global Tech Advocates, said:

“The Startup Manifesto is a fantastic example of the private sector in action.

“Whilst access to capital and a progressive regulatory framework are important areas of focus, the issues raised on UK immigration policy come at a critical time for tech in Britain. Talent is the most important ingredient for guaranteeing that that the UK remains an attractive destination for investors and entrepreneurs looking to establish and scale businesses.

Tech London Advocates has been campaigning for the re-evaluation of the Start Up and Innovator Visa routes for some time. While the points made by the Startup Manifesto are all important and valid, we would also argue for the cap to be lifted on the Tier 2 Visa and for better methods for graduates to transition from Tier 4 Student Visas to Tier 2 Visas, helping the UK retain critical, diverse and highly-skilled talent.”

For a closer analysis of the policies from the three main players, check out the below

Conservative Party 2019 manifesto deemed ‘pro-enterprise’ but lacking in detail

Labour reveals plans to increase corporation tax to 26% in 2019 manifesto

Liberal Democrats election 2019 manifesto: experts react to key policies

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Anna Jordan

Anna is Senior Reporter, covering topics affecting SMEs such as grant funding, managing employees and the day-to-day running of a business.

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