Well, that was a surprise. Following five years of coalition government, we’re back to one party rule. Confounding the expectations of the commentators, the bookies, and – according to Nick Clegg – Cameron himself, the Conservatives won a slim majority in May’s General Election. At his first Cabinet meeting following the election, the Prime Minister claimed that the Tories were now ‘the real party for working people’. But what does the new government mean for the world of work?

Sajid Javid MP, a rising star in the Conservative Party, has been promoted from Culture, Media and sport to Secretary of State for Business Innovation and Skills, replacing Vince Cable who was unseated in Twickenham. Tipped as a future leadership contender, Javid will be in a rush to make a name for himself, ahead of the competition to succeed Cameron who will make way for a new leader before the 2020 election. He is seen as an ardent Thatcherite, recently tweeting a picture of the former PM that now hangs on his office wall at BIS. The new Employment Minister will be Priti Patel MP, has moved from her role as Exchequer Secretary at the Treasury to replace Esther McVeigh who lost her seat. Another member of the 2010 intake, Patel is seen as being on the right of the party and co-authored a book Britannia Unchained which described British workers as ‘among the worst idlers in the world’.

Their plans for the coming year will be set out in the Queen’s Speech next week – the first by a majority Conservative Government since October 1997. But we can glean some of the likely changes from their recent manifesto.

The new Government clearly has a clear de-regulatory zeal. The Queen’s Speech will include an Enterprise Bill that will aim to cut red tape by at least £10 billion. In their view, one of the key barriers to growth, particularly for small business, is excessive regulation. In his first major speech in the role, Javid promised to back small businesses and ‘sweep away burdensome red tape’. Much of this regulation originates from the EU, and this looks set to be one of the key battlegrounds for the renegotiation of our relationship with the EU ahead of the promised referendum. However, as recent research by the IPA has shown, the UK labour market is already one of the least regulated in the developed world.

With the cost of living one of the key political battlegrounds in recent years, the Tories have made a number of pledges to ease the squeeze on those at the bottom. A key promise of the campaign was to enshrine in law the principle that nobody working 30 hours on the Minimum Wage should pay any income tax. This extends the policy of increasing the tax-free alliance, borrowed from their now discarded and much diminished coalition partners. But there with a target of £12billion annual savings in the welfare bill, the vast majority of which are yet to be revealed, there is concern that the benefit for low-paid workers of this change will be more than out-weighed by the reduction of in-work benefits. Ian Duncan Smith retains his role at the Department of Work and Pensions. He will face the daunting task of identifying £12billion of welfare cuts and completing the long-delayed roll-out of Universal Credit.

Whereas Labour seemed to be advocating a more active role for the Low Pay Commission, the Conservatives are somewhat less radical, but they have expressed a desire for real terms increases, and hope it will be ‘on course’ for a Minimum Wage of over £8/hr by 2020. There was not a single mention of the Living Wage in the Conservative manifesto.

Part of the cause of stagnant living standards in the last parliament was the stall in productivity. Despite the recent improvement in the economy, productivity remains a major concern, and it remains 16% below the pre-crisis trend. The Chancellor George Osbourne has promised a ‘laser-like focus’ on raising productivity and living standards in his upcoming budget, including through creating more apprenticeships.

Asides from these promises, there are pledges to halve the disability employment gap and reduce the gender pay gap, but little detail on how these will be achieved. With Labour having made banning ‘exploitative’ zero-hours contracts a central promise of their campaign, the Conservatives have pledged merely to take action to outlaw exclusivity clauses under which employees are unable to take up other offers of employment.

In the public sector, things look set to get increasingly tough. The Coalition failed in their aim of eliminating the deficit in the last parliament – it fell by just one third. But in their manifesto, the Tories promised to turn this deficit into a surplus by 2019, whilst also ruling out increasing income tax, national insurance and VAT. As well as ruling out significant tax increases, there are some substantial tax cuts promised – for example on the basic rate of income tax and inheritance tax. Some areas will be relatively protected, with, for example a pledge to find the £8billion that the NHS needs according to NHS Employers’ Five Year Forward View. But this just means that the huge burden of deficit reduction will fall disproportionately on unprotected areas of government spending such as local government and policing. This will lead to cuts that dwarf even those experienced between 2010 and 2015. The next five years look set to be incredibly tough for the public sector, with a likelihood of continued pay restraint, job losses, and industrial action.

On this last point, perhaps the most controversial proposals are those that would tighten the rules regarding industrial action. Under the Government’s proposals, strikes would only be legal if the turnout was over 50%. Tougher still rules would apply in health, education, fire and transport where 40% of all members would have to vote for a strike to make it legal. So, for example, if there were to be a ballot in the NHS, with 55% responding (on the high side for such ballots), and a clear majority of 70% voting in favour, the strike action would not be lawful.

Frances O’Grady, General Secretary of the TUC called the changes ‘the most aggressive assault on basic labour rights anywhere in the developed world’, arguing they were designed to make legal strikes close to impossible. This, she claims, would mean workers would be reduced to having ‘as much power as Oliver Twist brought to the negotiating table’. Conversely, she also warned that these measures may also lead to more illegal wildcat action.

In addition, the Conservatives have promised to allow employers to hire agency staff to cover for striking workers – reducing the potential impact of industrial action, and to ban ‘rolling’ strike action, and tighten rules of facility time.

Joe Dromey is Head of Policy and Research at the Involvement and Participation Association