It is fair to say that very few of us expected to see a UK General Election announced last week.
Yet this announcement – and its ultimate outcome – will of course shape the legislative boundaries of Employee Benefit (EB) provision for at least the next five years. So, although the EB space is unlikely to be a major battleground for votes, we will of course be watching developments in this area with a keen interest. As such, we are already giving some thought as to which areas may be under consideration by the political parties in the campaigns to come.
Given the snap nature of the decision to hold the election, there are of course very few manifesto promises yet committed to paper. But we can at least speculate on where the main areas of focus will be based on topicality, and indeed the promises made at the last General Election less than two years ago.
So which areas may appear in manifesto commitments this year?
The hot favourite must again be that of company-sponsored pension provision and tax reliefs. This was a major policy area for all the parties in the last election, and it would be surprising if this were not repeated again in 2017. Expect policy commitments around tax relief changes, scheme charges, the future of pension savings, access to retirement funds, and the state pension entitlement.
Whilst private healthcare is unlikely to feature heavily in its own right, changes and promises around the NHS will continue to play a major part in the electioneering to come. The shape of the NHS in future years will of course influence the offerings of the wider healthcare market.
Childcare costs are also fast becoming a major subject for manifesto commitments, and one that the media and electorate are always interested in. Given that the government’s new Tax Free Childcare initiative is finally expected to launch later this week, this topic is likely to make an early and sustained appearance in the election campaigns ahead. It will be interesting to see if this subject perhaps expands to include not just parents, but also those that provide care for other family members.
Recent political trends suggest that there will also be much talk from all sides about those families that are Just About Managing (JAM) financially, and how they can be better supported. This topic fits well with the subject of Financial Education, which found its way in to some of the manifestos of 2015. We would welcome anything that gives this important area some additional media exposure.
Employer supported volunteering (a legal right for employees to volunteer whilst receiving full pay from their employer) was a policy promise that appeared in the Conservative manifesto in 2015, but has subsequently failed to make an appearance in legislation. It will be interesting to see if this topic features again – perhaps as part of Theresa May’s “shared society” commitments – or if the other parties will also enter this policy space.
Finally, and not least, the topic of Income Protection has been growing in coverage in recent months, and has finally reached the political radar having been included in a parliamentary debate on long-term health problems recently. It will be interesting to see how many of the political parties look at this important benefit in their manifesto plans.
So quite a few subject areas to look out for, and we will comment on some of these – and any additional areas of interest – as and when the full suite of political manifestos become available.