Published byREC

REC responds to the Liberal Democrats manifesto 2024

Commenting on the Liberal Democrats manifesto 2024, Kate Shoesmith, REC Deputy Chief Executive, said:

“The promise of reform of the apprenticeship levy, a fresh look at the unhelpful salary threshold for immigration and more affordable childcare are the kind of workforce tactics that employers want to loosen the labour market and enable them to get the economy growing.

“Ultimately all Parties should be thinking about how to protect and enhance the dynamism of the temporary labour market as it’s an important backbone of the economy, supporting employers and businesses to grow and people to work flexibly. That means not placing unrealistic burdens on the agency market - agencies carry the cost of paying workers before being reimbursed by employers.  By expecting them to support what would amount to a 20% pay increase for care workers could potentially cripple agencies with high interest costs on borrowing to cover such a significant increase in pay. That needs to be looked at as parties rightly look at how to better recruit and retain more social care workers.

“That said a commitment to tackle late payments by requiring all large government agencies and contractors to sign up to an enforceable prompt payment code would help agencies with this very issue and is very welcome.

“We hope a new Worker Protection Enforcement Authority which sounds like the Single Enforcement Body suggested in the “Taylor Review of Modern Working Practices”, will help government and employers better adapt to the consequences of modern ways of working, including getting a firmer grip on umbrella companies. And there are progressive commitments to tackle the disability employment gap and lift the ban on asylum seekers working.

“Giving a right to request a fixed-hours contract after 12 months for ‘zero hours’ and agency workers is in line with Mathew Taylor’s recommendations and would allow for a better determination of someone’s working pattern rather than a shorter qualifying period. It is vital that businesses keep the right to reject requests where it is appropriate.

“Sadly on health the Lib Dems claims of agency spend in the NHS as a ‘false economy’ is misplaced. This is because much of the increase in ‘agency’ spend since the pandemic is down to NHS banks and off-framework providers not restricted by the pay caps that most agencies follow.”