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What do the 2019 UK general election manifestos say for small businesses and the self-employed?

12-minute read

Sam Bromley and Lauren Hellicar

27 November 2019

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The next UK general election will take place on 12 December 2019 – which key points in the parties’ manifestos should small business owners and the self-employed take note of?

We’ve been through each major party’s manifesto and pulled out key policies for small business owners and the self-employed. Read our party-by-party breakdown:

The Conservative Party manifesto for small businesses and the self-employed

”Get Brexit Done Unleash Britain’s Potential”

The Conservatives will launch a review to explore how to better support the self-employed including “improving their access to finance and credit (not least mortgages), making the tax system easier to navigate, and examining how better broadband can boost homeworking.”

Business rates to be reviewed

The party says it wants “thriving high streets” and that it will carry out a “fundamental review” of the business rates system. They want to “further reduce business rates for retail businesses” as well as extend the discount to “grassroots music venues, small cinemas and pubs.”

Clamping down on late payments to businesses

The Conservatives say they will “support start-ups and small businesses via government procurement, and commit to paying them on time.”

They also want to “clamp down on late payment more broadly and strengthen the powers of the Small Business Commissioner to support small businesses that are exploited by their larger partners.”

Access to finance for businesses

The Conservatives say they will “expand start-up loans, which have particularly high take-up from women and BAME entrepreneurs. The British Business Bank has supported 90,000 smaller businesses with over £7 billion in investment or loans, and will continue to grow.”

Employment law

The manifesto states that the Conservatives “will strive to achieve the right regulatory balance between supporting excellent business practice and protecting workers, consumers and the environment.”

They want to “ensure that regulation is sensible and proportionate” and to “consider the needs of small businesses when devising new rules, using our new freedom after Brexit to ensure that British rules work for British companies.”

Here are some key employment law policies:

  • giving workers the right to request a more predictable contract
  • encouraging flexible working
  • allowing parents to take extended leave for neonatal care and making it easier for fathers to take paternity leave
  • extending the entitlement to leave for unpaid carers to a week

Investing in skills

The manifesto promises that “as well as encouraging investment in physical building and equipment, we will help employers invest in skills and look at how we can improve the working of the Apprenticeship Levy.”

The Conservatives want to create “a new National Skills Fund worth £3 billion over the next Parliament. This fund will provide matching funding for individuals and SMEs for high-quality education and training.”

Making tax fairer

The Conservatives are pledging to simplify the tax system and make it fairer. They want to “redesign the tax system so that it boosts growth, wages and investment” and have cancelled plans to lower corporation tax, keeping it at 19 per cent.

Here are some of the party’s key tax policies:

  • a “triple lock” on taxes meaning they won’t raise the rates of income tax, National Insurance or VAT
  • increasing the Employment Allowance for small businesses
  • raising the National Insurance threshold to £9,500 next year – they claim this is a tax cut for 31 million workers. The Tories want to ensure that “the first £12,500 you earn is completely free of tax”
  • they say they will get stronger on tax evasion by creating a “beefed-up” Anti-Tax Evasion unit at HMRC
  • they will increase the R&D tax credits rate to 13 per cent and review the definition of R&D


The Conservatives promise to "get Brexit done" in January. They will help Britain’s small and medium sized businesses become exporters, to “seize the opportunities” Brexit will bring.

Read the Conservative and Unionist Party manifesto for the 2019 UK general election.

The Labour Party manifesto for small businesses and the self-employed

“It’s time for Real Change – for the many, not the few.”


Labour say they “will make it easier for employers to spend the [Apprenticeship] Levy by allowing it to be used for a wider range of accredited training”.

They're also pledging to help small businesses by increasing the amount that can be transferred to non-levy-paying employers to 50 per cent, and introducing an online matching service to help levy-paying businesses find smaller businesses to transfer their funds to.

Making tax fairer

Labour says: “…we will make Britain’s public services the best and most extensive in the world. We’ll ask those who earn more than £80,000 a year to pay a little more income tax, while freezing National Insurance and income tax rates for everyone else.

“We will end the unfairness that sees income from wealth taxed at lower rates than income from work.

“VAT is a regressive tax that hits the poorest hardest and we guarantee no increases in VAT.

“We will launch the biggest ever crackdown on tax avoidance and evasion and reform the inefficient system of tax reliefs.”

Reviving the high street

Labour is pledging to “revive high streets by stopping bank branch closures, banning ATM charges and giving local government new powers to put empty shops to good use.”

Business rates to be reviewed

To tackle the pressure of business rates, Labour says it’ll “review the option of a land value tax on commercial landlords as an alternative and develop a retail sector industrial strategy.”

Starting and running a business

The manifesto also mentions setting up a Business Development Agency, which would offer “free support and advice on how to launch, manage and grow a business”.

Introducing a living wage

On the subject of pay, the Labour manifesto promises to “rapidly introduce a Real Living Wage of at least £10 per hour for all workers aged 16 and over, and use savings to public finances to help small businesses manage the extra cost”.

Protecting the self-employed

Tailored support and protections for the self-employed feature on the Labour agenda for the self-employed, including:

  • collective income protection insurance schemes
  • annual income assessments for those on Universal Credit
  • better access to mortgages and pension schemes

Clamping down on late payments to businesses

To tackle late payments that “leave small businesses and the self-employed waiting months to be paid”, Labour says its measures will include banning late payers from public procurement.

There’s also a promise of no quarterly reporting for businesses below the VAT threshold.

A new Ministry for Employment Rights

Labour says it will introduce a Ministry for Employment Rights. It would put an end to bogus self-employment, creating “a single status of ‘worker’ for everyone apart from those genuinely self-employed in business on their own account”. This, they say, is to prevent employers getting around workers’ rights. Overseas-only recruitment practices would also be banned.

Zero-hour contracts would be banned and the law tightened up so that people working regular hours for more than 12 weeks have a right to a regular contract.

Labour would also bring in four new bank holidays on the four patron saints’ days of the UK, and stick with Sunday trading restrictions.

Amending the Companies Act is also on the Labour agenda, “requiring companies to prioritise long-term growth while strengthening protections for stakeholders, including smaller suppliers and pension funds.”


Labour wants to “revolutionise parents’ rights by increasing paid maternity leave from nine to 12 months, doubling paternity leave to four weeks and extending pregnancy protection.

The dismissal of pregnant women without prior approval of the inspectorate would be banned under a Labour government.

Universal Credit

Universal Credit would be scrapped under a Labour government. The party says it would “immediately stop moving people onto it and design an alternative system that treats people with dignity and respect.”


Labour is another party that’s promising to deliver free full-fibre broadband to all. They say this’ll be achieved by 2030.


The promise stated in the manifesto is that “within three months of coming to power, a Labour government will secure a sensible deal. And within six months, we will put that deal to a public vote alongside the option to remain. A Labour government will implement whatever the people decide.”

Read the Labour Party manifesto for the 2019 UK general election.

The Liberal Democrats' manifesto for small businesses and the self-employed

“Stop Brexit Build a Brighter Future”

The Liberal Democrats say that the first step of their plan is to “stop Brexit and use the Remain Bonus to invest in public services.” Here’s what else they say:

A plan to replace business rates

The Liberal Democrats will replace business rates in England “with a Commercial Landowner Levy based solely on the land value of commercial sites rather than their entire capital value, thereby stimulating investment, and shifting the burden of taxation from tenants to landowners.”

They want to protect our high streets and town centres “by scrapping the rule which allows developers to convert offices and shops into residential properties without planning permission.”

They will also expand the Future High Streets Fund.

Access to finance for businesses

The party want to create “a new ‘start-up allowance’ to help those starting a new business with their living costs in the crucial first weeks of their business.”

They want to “expand the activities of the British Business Bank, enabling it to perform a more central role in the economy by tackling the shortage of equity capital for growing firms and providing long-term capital for medium-sized businesses.”

They claim they will continue to “support investment in new UK digital start-ups by reforming the British Business Bank’s support for venture capital funds to enable it to help funds ‘crowd in’ new backers rather than acting as a funder of last resort.”

And they will help finance training for individuals by creating “a new Skills Wallet for every adult, giving people £10,000 to spend on approved education and training courses”.

Clamping down on late payments to businesses

The Liberal Democrats say they will require “all government agencies and contractors and companies with more than 250 employees to sign up to the prompt payment code, making it enforceable.”

They want to ensure “that the company at the top of a supply chain cannot abuse its position to shore up its own cashflow at the expense of smaller suppliers.”

Employment law

The Liberal Democrats say they will expand “the rights and benefits available to those in insecure forms of employment, such as offering parental leave and pay to the self-employed.”

They also want to:

  • establish an independent review to consult on how to set a genuine Living Wage across all sectors
  • change the law so that flexible working is open to all from day one in the job
  • establish a new ‘dependent contractor’ employment status in between employment and self-employment, with entitlements to basic rights such as minimum earnings levels, sick pay and holiday entitlement
  • review the tax and National Insurance status of employees, dependent contractors and freelancers to ensure fair and comparable treatment
  • shift the burden of proof in employment tribunals regarding employment status from individual to employer

Simplifying the tax system

The Liberal Democrats want to take corporation tax to 20 per cent “and keep the rate stable with a predictable future path.”

They will also:

  • “simplify business taxation to lower administration costs – supporting smaller companies – and reduce opportunities for tax avoidance.”
  • tax capital gains and salaries through a single allowance, and scrap the Marriage Tax Allowance
  • “end retrospective tax changes like the loan charge” and “review recent proposals to change the IR35 rules

Read the Liberal Democrats' manifesto for the 2019 UK general election.

The Brexit Party manifesto for small businesses and the self-employed

“A Clean-Break Brexit is the key to changing Britain for good.”

The Brexit Party say: “… our Contract with the People is a targeted set of deliverable pledges. We are not seeking election as a government. We are seeking to deliver the Brexit that we were promised three and a half years ago.”

Replacing business rates

In addition to corporation tax reform, the party plans to replace business rates with a simpler system to help small high street retailers and leisure operators outside the M25. It plans to fund this through an online sales tax.

What about corporation tax?

The party wants to introduce zero-rate corporation tax for the first £10,000 of pre-tax profits. Some 66 per cent of companies (which adds up to more than a million, according to their manifesto) pay less than £10,000.

The economy

Along with boosting lending to small and medium-sized firms, the party plans an overhaul of financial services regulation, cutting red tape, increasing competition and creating freeports in certain regions to encourage investment and create new jobs.


The Brexit Party says it’ll bring in a new workable apprenticeship scheme, scrapping the “cumbersome Apprentice Levy” and introducing tax incentives for employers to take on genuine apprentices.

Import tariffs

According to their manifesto, 20 per cent of UK food is brought in from outside the EU. The party’s proposed ‘Clean-Break Brexit’, they say, will mean tariffs on certain foods, footwear and clothing can be reduced to zero.

Building houses

“We need to simplify the planning and development processes to encourage small and medium sized developers”, according to the manifesto. They say this will speed up the pace of development to increase housing supply. It comes with a promise to simplify planning consents for brownfield sites.


According to its manifesto, the Brexit Party wants to put money behind digital infrastructure. It says it’ll partner with service providers to offer free base-level domestic broadband in deprived regions and free Wi-Fi on all public transport.

Read the Brexit Party manifesto for the 2019 UK general election.

The Green Party manifesto for small businesses and the self-employed

”If not now, when?"

Small business support

Putting forward its Green New Deal, the Green Party says it recognises, “the many challenges facing businesses today, especially small, local businesses, run by families or individuals – and the enormous value they bring to the communities they serve.

They’re pledging to give small businesses access to lending at affordable rates, by helping to establish a network of regional mutual banks.

Their plans also include freeing up funding by requiring traditional banks to increase their lending to small businesses and businesses focussed on the sustainability transition.

According to the Greens’ manifesto, 15 per cent of government contracts would go to small and micro businesses. The rollout of high-speed broadband also features on their agenda.

Reporting on late payments

Businesses would be required to publish and report the difference between agreed payment days and actual payment days, with fines for large companies that fail to pay small businesses on time.

Employment Allowance

The Greens say they’ll “increase the Employment Allowance to £10,000 (currently just £3,000) per year, allowing small businesses which employ people to claim back the equivalent National Insurance of four full-time workers earning the average salary.”

They believe “this tax cut will benefit hundreds of thousands of small businesses, allowing them to hire more people, increase wages or reduce prices.”

Abolishing business rates

Business rates are set to be abolished by the Greens, along with Council Tax, replacing them with a LVT (land value tax).

“The new LVT would charge the landowner a proportion of the capital value of the land each year (estimated to be around 1.4% of current values).”

Simplifying the tax system

The Greens’ plan to simplify tax involves merging Employees National Insurance, capital gains tax, inheritance tax, dividend tax and income tax into a single Consolidated income tax. They believe this will provide the public purse with around £20 billion extra a year, and will mean all income is treated the same way for tax purposes.

Their manifesto also promises to stop pension funds being subject to corporation tax and then income tax when paid out to individual pensioners.

Under a Green government, corporation tax would rise to 24 per cent, in line with the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) average. They want to see public country-by-country reporting and consolidated Corporate Tax across the EU to prevent profit shifting.

HMRC gets a mention too, as the Green Party wants to see the tax man become an independent agency of government, answerable to Parliament. This, they say, is to stop politicians striking secret deals with powerful corporations and individuals.


They also want to introduce new support for entrepreneurs and small business owners from BME backgrounds, and provide 35 hours a week of free childcare for all, from the age of nine months. This free childcare will include on-site crèches and flexible working to help parents who choose to go back to work.

Boost for local businesses

A VAT reduction on food and drink served in pubs, bars and restaurants, on hotel bookings and on theatre, music concert and museum and gallery tickets features in the manifesto, to “help 125,000 businesses at the heart of their local communities”.


On the subject of Brexit, the Green Party say they’re “a proudly pro-European party and are unequivocally campaigning for Britain to Remain in the EU."

Read the Green Party manifesto for the 2019 UK general election.

The SNP manifesto for small businesses and the self-employed

"Stronger for Scotland"

The SNP's manifesto is focused on Scottish independence. They want an independence referendum within this parliamentary term, which will give Scotland “the opportunity to choose to be an independent European nation.”

Devolving tax powers

The SNP had previously said they won’t support further reductions to corporation tax. They're campaigning for further devolution of tax powers. They also want:

  • a rise in the Employment Allowance from £3,000 per business per year to £6,000 per business per year
  • a reduction in employers National Insurance contributions
  • a “greener tax deal for heating and energy efficiency improvements in homes and businesses”
  • “immediate action, including reform of Companies House, to uncover the beneficial ownership of Scottish Limited Partnerships, other companies and trusts”
  • “a review of the tax rules around intermediaries – known as the IR35 tax rule - and problems with implementation of the Loan Charge”

Employment law

The SNP say they will “press for the devolution of employment law”. They want the statutory living wage to rise “to at least the level of the real living wage, and for an end to age discrimination.”

They’re also pledging “to increase parental rights” – including:

  • increasing maternity leave to one year
  • setting “maternity pay at 100% of average weekly earnings for the first 12 weeks, then 90% for 40 weeks or £150.00, whichever is lower”
  • increasing shared parental leave from 52 to 64 weeks with the 12 weeks to be the minimum taken by the father
  • if the father doesn’t use the leave, he loses it – it can’t be transferred

Access to finance

The SNP are asking that Scotland “gets a fair share of any investment by the British Business Bank and that it works closely with the Scottish National Investment Bank.”

Read the SNP manifesto for the 2019 UK general election.

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