The Charity National Numeracy is calling on employers to help workers boost their numeracy skills, as they look to raise the skills of all employees.

Government figures show that 17m working age people in England have only primary school level maths skills, and the campaigners have stated that their plan is to reach 1m adults over a five year period, starting in the workplace.

The aim is to raise the skills of all employees to at least the standard expected of 14 year olds, although some firms may decide the equivalent of a good GCSE may be a better idea.

Amid fears that poor maths is damaging Britain’s economic performance, Chris Humphreys of National Numeracy said action was “urgently needed if the UK is not to sink further behind”.

He added:

“All employers know what a massive problem we have with numeracy in this country.

“We are asking them and their employees to commit time and effort to doing something about it. This is a radical move… poor numeracy is a blight on an individual’s life chances and we believe that employees will be as keen as their employers to improve their skills.”

The charity has revealed that from next spring, employers will be asked to sign up to the National Numeracy Challenge and it is working on developing a cheap, online tool to give each employee a personal numeracy analysis.

A spokeswoman for National Numeracy said she expected the test to cost no more than a couple of pounds for each employee and that a more numerate workforce was in the interests of both employers’ and employees.

It has been said that the scheme has drawn support from both business organisations and unions with the Confederation of British Industry, Unionlearn, and Business in the Community all involved in its development.