There had been a mixed response to the Queen’s speech from the recruitment industry, as the sector eyes a return to more normal business conditions.
APSCo have welcomed the delay to physical right to work checks but also reiterates its demand for digital checks to be a permanent option.
“We wrote to the Home Secretary in April highlighting our concerns over both the timing of the proposed return to physical checks, which at least has now been addressed, but also the fact that a return to physical checks will disproportionately disadvantage UK workers,” says Tania Bowers, General Counsel and head of public policy. “This is because there is already an online checking service via a share code for EU nationals which can be remote and for non-EU workers through the Government Employer Checking Service. However, the Passport Office has no online service for UK nationals.
“Additionally, physical checking does not mean safer,” she notes. “People are not as good as technology is at spotting fraudulent documents.”
Both the REC and FCSA are disappointed by the absence of the Employment Bill from the speech. “Despite a growing UK contingent worker market, it seems that the government has chosen to ignore the fact that this sector needs more targeted legislation to protect contractors from current and future exploitation,” said FCSA chief executive Phil Pluck. “There was an opportunity to adopt key elements of the Taylor Report, The Good Work Plan, as well as committing to providing regulation of the outsourced worker sector.”
“We were surprised by the lack of a specific Employment Bill in the speech,” says Neil Carberry, chief executive of the REC, “but we hope the commitment on plans to support jobs and improve regulation will see key issues tackled in the near future. A Bill is long overdue. It was due to contain a number of measures to extend and protect workers’ rights, and create a Single Enforcement Body to tackle abuses in the labour market – and could also have provided further guidance on flexible working and the regulation of umbrella companies. We hope to hear more about these issues from government as they can’t just be side-lined as the labour market recovers.”
Most commentators were positive about the government plans concerning skills. James Reed, chairman of REED Recruitment was among them: “For too long, society has been caught up in the outdated notion that the only route to employment is via university,” he said. “The Prime Minister’s plans to revolutionise the career ladder and broaden skills training to all age groups is music to the ears for those of us who’ve been campaigning on the issue for years.
“The pandemic has brought the issues that existed with our skills training into sharper focus, with older workers being greatly impacted by COVID-19-related job losses. This matters because, despite the advances of the last decade, redundancy remains an age-related problem: one-third of unemployed people over 50 have been out of work for a least a year, with many opting to take retirement far earlier than they planned or need to.
“Today’s announcement is the first step towards a post-pandemic jobs revolution, where the UK labour market becomes energist, not ageist, amid a rise of highly skilled, experienced and reinvigorated older workers,” Reed concluded.