Yesterday’s Queen’s Speech lived up to earlier expectations that it might be fairly ‘lightweight’– as much of the coalition government’s legislative programme had already been announced and the most important goal remains to reduce the deficit.
In many ways, this can be seen as good news for business as what our economy needs more than ever at this time is stability, rather than more legislation and potential bureaucracy.
One of the measures announced today was particularly pertinent to this agenda – the Deregulation Bill aims to reduce excessive bureaucracy and regulations placed upon businesses. We hope this will be good news for employers and we will work with government to ensure that, as they move forward with deregulation and the red tape challenge, they do not unwittingly cut the important safeguards and assurances that protect our industry. This is why we have argued so strongly against proposals to abolish the Employment Agency Standards Inspectorate (EASI) during the recent consultation on the Conduct Regulations.
Another area that could be of real interest to recruiters, their clients and candidates is the announcement of a National Insurance Contributions Bill, which promises to help more small businesses and create jobs through a new Employment Allowance. It also intends to curb tax avoidance through an extension of General Anti-Abuse Rule to cover National Insurance Contributions. As the Treasury moves forward with these plans, we will seek to represent the views of our industry to ensure clarity and consistency surrounding the introduction of any new measures.
Not unexpectedly, the Immigration Bill has grabbed most of the headlines. This refreshed earlier announcements around a renewed focus on enforcement and prosecution and a limit to the benefits available to migrants. At the REC, we continue to be champions for an immigration policy which reflects the needs of our labour market, recognises the importance of an international and mobile workforce and ensures that the world sees Britain is open for business. At the same time we support effective enforcement in areas such as illegal working and will continue to promote the positive role that REC members play by ensuring that the right checks are taking place.
The proposed investment in infrastructure projects announced today, like High Speed 2 rail, energy and water could increase this requirement for skilled workers which is good news for specialist recruits. One of the challenges ahead is the shortage of skilled staff in key areas which is presents a potential barrier the growth and will be discussed in detail at our Skills Summit on June 26th. Equally, proposals around capping payments for Social Care and better support for working parents through improved Childcare are great in principle but miss the point about how we attract new people into these important industries.
One of the best ways to develop our skilled workforce is to start as early as possible – and education was also a feature of today’s Queen’s Speech. More rigorous assessment at GCSE level and an improved national curriculum continue to be the direction of travel for this government, plus there will be moves to ensure every young person goes into a traineeship, apprenticeship or onto university in the future. This again sounds good in principle but will only work if young people are prepared for the world of work through careers advice and guidance at school. This is why campaigns like our own Youth Employment Charter remain so important.