Skip to content

What two party manifestos say about occupational health and safety regulations

Date posted
24 June 2024
Mary Lawrence
Estimated reading time
3 minute read

Continuing our series of blogs in the build-up to the UK General Election, Osborne Clarke LLP partner Mary Lawrence looks at what the Conservative and Labour parties are saying on occupational safety and health (OSH).

The party manifestos have been published. What have the Conservatives and Labour said about OSH and how do their commitments align with the key priorities identified by IOSH members?

An overall commitment to safe, healthy, decent work

While this may be implied across party manifestos, the Labour Party's "Make Work Pay: Delivering a New Deal for Working People" specifically calls for the need for safer workplaces, and for a thorough review of the current health and safety guidelines and regulations with a view to modernise them where they do not reflect a modern workplace.

It specifically calls out various other risk areas of focus, including working in high temperatures, physically demanding and sedentary roles and the need to focus on worker health more broadly. Separately there is a proposal to introduce a "right to switch off" (as exists in Ireland and Belgium already) to try to promote healthier working practices, particularly when working from home.

Broader labour and human rights issues relevant to OSH

The Conservative Party specifically raises concerns around modern slavery and makes proposals to implement change. It commits to ending human trafficking and modern slavery.

The Labour Party includes a commitment to strengthen protection for whistleblowers (in particular around sexual harassment at work for women).

There is (perhaps not surprisingly) a tussle between the Conservatives and Labour on trade unions. The Conservatives state "We will never introduce Labour's package of French-style union rules, which are a threat to jobs, our competitiveness and our economy", while Labour sets out detailed proposals about modernising trade unions under the heading "voice at work", emphasising its views on the benefits of unions, with the benefits of change.

Response to UK public safety disasters

Formally named the Terrorism (Protection of Premises) Bill, Martyn's Law (or the "Protect Duty" as known by many), which came about in response to the Manchester Arena bombing, was in draft form and still at a consultation stage when the election was called. However, both Labour and the Conservatives have made clear that they remain committed to bringing this into law, to help ensure that premises are better prepared for terrorist attacks and taking proportionate steps to mitigate risks.

Labour indicates that it would introduce a "Hillsborough Law" if it came into power, placing a legal duty of candour on public servants and authorities and providing legal aid for victims of disasters or state-related deaths.

What's missing and what's next?

Reflecting on what is included within the IOSH manifesto but is not currently within either party's own documents is a significant call-out relating to the role of the Health and Safety Executive, albeit we expect to see reviews of regulatory approaches more broadly if either party come into power.

The gig-worker safety protection is also not overtly covered although the Labour Party manifesto is significantly focused on worker rights.

Both Conservative and Labour parties put economic stability and job security at top priority and with that, we would hope would come a focus on sustainable and healthy work.

However, the next government is sure to have its work cut out and, if Labour is elected, we anticipate that any wholesale legislative review of health, safety and worker rights may take some time to materialise in practice.

Last updated: 28 June 2024

Mary Lawrence

Job role
Health and Safety specialist
Osborne Clarke LLP partner


  • Strategy and influence


  • building standards
  • "Follow me," says new Fellow
  • Government urged to protect workers
  • Next UK Government cannot ignore emerging risks