The Association of Professional Staffing Companies (APSCo) has called for a refocus on supporting the highly skilled temporary workforce in the upcoming Spring Budget, warning that the UK’s economy is dependent on this under-supported group.
In its recommendations for the Budget (to be announced on 6th March 2024), the trade association for the professional recruitment sector has outlined a number of reforms that would help tackle skills shortages, maximise productivity and enable growth.
- Broadening the scope of the Apprenticeship Levy to align with skills requirements
- Greater government collaboration with business on regional skills hubs and training
- More flexible visas for highly-skilled workers
- Legislation to define self-employment status
- Keeping Off-payroll (IR35) under constant review
- Updated regulation for umbrella companies and greater work to tackle rogue umbrellas
- Action to exclude highly skilled workers from the Agency Workers Regulations
- Supporting reasonable payment terms to protect SMEs within the supply chain
As Tania Bowers, Global Public Policy Director at APSC, explained, the highly skilled flexible labour market is in urgent need of more appropriate support for the benefit of the country’s businesses and its economy:
“Insufficient access to highly skilled workers remains an issue for UK employers and this on-going issue is holding back our economy. It’s imperative that the Government takes action that drives positive growth without significant expenditure. Our proposals to change Agency Worker Regulations (AWR) to exclude independent workers on rates above a set multiple of the National Minimum Wage will help make hiring cheaper and faster for firms.
“UK business leaders are concerned about the labour market and skills investment. If the Chancellor is serious about bolstering the UK’s access to skills, our recommended reforms to apprenticeships and regional skills investment should resonate. Far too many staffing firms in high skilled and high compliance sectors have unspent levy pots that are going to waste. These funds should be diverted into agency worker development, modular agency worker apprenticeships, returner training and supporting skills creation in sectors such as healthcare that are desperately short of resources.
“The entrenched position on skills across policy makers needs a refocus to ensure that resources are being created and utilised appropriately. To achieve this, regulation reforms will be necessary to better accommodate the nuanced requirements of the highly skilled temporary workforce.”