UK General Election 2020: REC backs Labour's pledge to broaden apprenticeship levy

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn launched his general election manifesto on 21/11/19 where he stated that his party will put work at the heart of its manifesto and to broaden the apprenticeship levy, which has received the support of the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC).

Tom Hadley, director of policy and campaign at the REC is happy to hear the Labour party to propose to broaden the apprenticeship levy which is something the REC, CIPD and the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed (IPSE) wrote to Sajid Javid, Chancellor of the Exchequer back in September to ask him to do.

Mr Hadley said:

It is right that the Labour Party has put work at the heart of its manifesto. There are few things that people care about more than their jobs, and making great work happen should be a priority for any incoming government.

We welcome the proposal to broaden the apprenticeship levy, allowing more flexibility for business. We hope it will allow levy money to be spent on training temporary workers. It is also good to see the manifesto acknowledge that the future immigration system should be based on the UK’s skills needs. Labour’s ambitious housebuilding plans, for example, will require large numbers of construction workers which the UK currently doesn’t have.

While it is important that the next government creates a regulatory environment that helps workers to thrive, it must also protect one of our labour market’s greatest strengths – its two-way flexibility. Our new research shows that many people actively choose temporary work, freelancing or contracting over a permanent job. Any changes to rights and regulations around temporary workers must also keep our jobs market agile for both employers and workers.

The Freelancer & Contractor Services Association (FCSA), welcomes Labour’s commitment to fair employment practices as it has promised to separate bogus and genuine self-employed individuals as employment status is “complex”.

Julia Kermode, chief executive of the FCSA said:

FCSA welcomes Labour’s promise to protect the UK workforce particularly in its pledge to end bogus self-employment and create a single status of worker for everyone apart from those genuinely self-employed in business on their own account.  Employment status is complex; all employers should treat their workforces properly so that exploitation cannot happen and it is unacceptable that some workers do not enjoy minimum rights or protections.

Umbrella businesses are a great example of treating workers well as they provide contractors with greater job stability along with all 84 statutory employment rights, whilst also giving them the flexibility to work for numerous different end-clients.  Unfortunately there are increasing numbers of tax avoidance schemes which aggressively target contractors, luring them into dubious arrangements which put innocent workers at significant financial risk, and these schemes must be stopped.

With the gig economy on the rise it is important that policymakers act to protect the vulnerable and precarious whilst not unfairly penalising genuinely self-employed people who are important contributors to the UK economy.