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The next 5 years, what can we expect? a brief review by ARC

So, what can we expect on the employment front? 

First of all, who are the main protagonists?

Priti Patel has been appointed as the new Minister of State for Employment. Ms Patel became the Conservatives’ first female Asian MP in 2010.  Her MP website describes her as “particularly interested in business, trade and ensuring that British businesses flourish”. She came to BIS from a Treasury background. 

The post of Secretary of State for Business, Innovation & Skills is filled by Sajid Javid who has held a number of government positions, such as the Secretary of State for the Department of Culture, Media and Sport and as the Financial Secretary to the Treasury. 

David Gauke, who was appointed Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury in 2010, and promoted to Financial Secretary to the Treasury in 2014, will continue in that role.  

These three ministers are likely to control policies relevant to the recruitment industry, employment and related tax.  

A review of the Conservative Party Manifesto reveals the following likely employment related policies:

1.    An increase in the National Minimum Wage (NMW) to &pound8 per hour by 2020.  This is to support the Living Wage.

ARC’s comment: the increase of NMW over 5 years in percentage terms amounts to approximately 4 % per annum which is only a slight increase over the last review of 3 %  (as in October 2014).

2.     Assist businesses in creating two million new jobs in order to achieve “full employment”. 

ARC’s comment: it would be interesting to see how the government proposes to go about this and what it means by “full employment”. However, if it results in two million more placements ARC members would be keen for the government to proceed! 

3.    Steps to reduce the abuse of workers, such as non-payment of NMW and exclusivity in zero-hours contracts.

ARC's comment: there is no doubt that members would support measures to enforce the NMW. Also the removal of exclusivity should have no bearing on recruiters who use zero-hours contracts, given that these contracts do not normally contain exclusivity provisions. 

4.    Introduction of tougher labour market regulation to tackle illegal working and exploitation.

ARC's comment: tougher labour regulations would be something we would be looking out for and we have particular concern that any campaign to split the “professional sector” away from the industry would be counterproductive. It could create an imbalance and would simply encourage the government to regulate the “non-professional sector” further. At what point and why would an organisation or individual be considered to be within the “professional sector”? If the delineation is to be based on pay levels, what is the cut-off point? ARC would not want to see those below the line discriminated against.  

5.    Companies with more than 250 employees would be obliged to publish gender pay gap differences.

ARC's Comment: the drive for equality is a good thing on all levels. 

6.   Workers in large companies and the public sector would be entitled to paid leave for three days a year to undertake voluntary work in the community. 

ARC's Comment: this idea sounds interesting and commendable. However, we would want to see more details of the plan to assess the impact on the recruitment industry.  

7.   Lifting the ban on employers hiring agency staff during strikes.

ARC's Comment: many supply recruiters would see this as helpful for their business prospects in the event of a strike. However, having said that, supplying workers to replace striking staff is guaranteed to lead to friction.  

8.   An in-out referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU by the end of 2017.

ARC Comment: the Conservatives have pledged to re-negotiate the terms of UK membership. If successful the negotiations could engender a review by the government of all areas of employment law which are currently driven by EU Directives. It is well-known already that the government is considering a review of the Human Rights Act 1998. A review of the AWR could result in a resolution of the conflict that currently exists whereby Agency Workers (with AWR rights) can still claim employment rights against the hirers, in line with ARC’s campaign to that effect.

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