The Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, announced the Budget which saw a variety of changes including an extension of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, an increase in the national living wage, support for the self-employed, a rise in incentive payments to encourage businesses to hire new apprentices and new Restart grants for many different organisations.

However, how have the various sectors reacted to the Chancellor’s 2021 Budget after a year which completely overhauled the working landscape?

The CIPD

The Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development (CIPD), the professional body for HR and people development, expressed that there were missed opportunities regarding addressing the need for reskilling in the UK.

Peter Cheese, chief executive of the CIPD, said:

[Yesterday’s] announcements on skill investment and policy lack ambition and don’t meet the needs of businesses or workers.

Spending on lifelong learning is still less than it was a decade ago at a time when investment in this area has never been more important.

This must be addressed if the Government’s further education reforms are to meaningfully tackle the skills gaps and shortages that hold back the economy. There also needs to be much more sector-specific funded training and mentoring support to help job seekers develop the technical and employability skills they need to find work in parts of the economy that are set to grow.

Regarding apprenticeship support, the body acknowledged that the increase in the number of traineeships would prove beneficial but that the increase in cash incentives for firms to take on apprentices is still not sufficient. In specific, the CIPD called for the support to be targeted at small firms and apprenticeships for young people in particular.

When considering the Help to Grow fund, digital and management support for SMEs, the CIPD stated that this is a move which is “critical to UK’s productivity growth”.

However, it asked the Government to learn from previous schemes which showed that effective marketing through trusted networks, particularly at a local level, will be key to effective uptake. It further suggested that the training for managers should focus on people management skills which is highly correlated with positive firm-level productivity.

The TUC

The Trade Unions Congress stated that the Chancellor was “gambling with the recovery” of the UK after his Budget speech.

Although the body stated that the extension of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme was “welcome”, it staunchly criticised the decision for the scheme to end in September and instead suggested it should be extended until the end of the year.

Reflecting on what the TUC called for the Chancellor to introduce, the body claimed the measures fell short in comparison. Their own recommendations included:

  • Bringing in a wage floor to prevent furlough pay falling below the minimum wage
  • Extending the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme until the end of 2021
  • Raising the national minimum wage to at least £10 per hour.
  • Fixing statutory sick pay by raising it to £330 per week (to match the level of the real Living Wage) and extend eligibility to the two million low-paid workers currently excluded from SSP.
  • Retaining the Union Learning Fund, which supports 200,000 workplace learners annually.

The REC

The Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC) stated that it was pleased to see an extension to the furlough scheme, the deferral period for VAT and business rates and the expansion of access to grants for the self-employed.

However, where it claimed the Budget missed the mark was regarding the plan for recovery. The REC expressed that the UK was looking for a “clearer strategy for tackling unemployment and resourcing growth”.

Instead, it stated that the Chancellor did not address important issues such as the reformation of the Apprenticeship Levy which would work to support training, instead of hindering it. Neil Carberry, Chief Executive of the REC, said that “a flexible skills levy would deliver better apprenticeships for young people and allow older workers to do the qualifications they need, rather than the ones Government is willing to fund”.

It also suggested cutting the tax on jobs – employers’ national insurance – would have helped to tackle unemployment.

City & Guilds Group

The City & Guilds Group echoed similar sentiments to the REC, calling for “a comprehensive long-term strategy, that connects all the dots of employment, welfare, skills and education, to connect people to jobs, for longer term growth and productivity.”

In specific, the group addressed the Chancellor’s failure to address “people who are mid to late career” who were “forgotten”.

It called for immediate funding to be made available to help unemployed and furloughed people retrain and reskill so they can transition from one job to another and quickly get back into meaningful work after the pandemic.

If you are interested in finding out exactly what the Chancellor proposed as part of the 2021 Budget, you can find this here.