What is the potential impact of a changing government on the UK employment legislation and how might this impact the recruitment industry?

By Michael Allen of Brightred Resourcing Limited April 2015 Vote 2015 With the general election only a matter of weeks away, political rhetoric is heating up. Each party fighting in the General Election has policies and manifesto commitments which will, if implemented, have major implications throughout the political landscape, not least in the workplace. Employment law is fast changing, complex and diverse. It covers a vast area of legislation, including the implementation of European directives, effects on HR policies and people management, and issues concerning grievances and discipline in the workplace.   In an attempt to establish policy differentiation, all four main parties are in the process of firming up potential legislative change in employment law in the event of victory on May 7th and a recent article by the BBC  summarizes their key proposals, thus: The Conservatives:

  • Will create three million apprenticeships to be paid for by benefit cuts
  • Will implement radical changes to the laws concerning strikes and other industrial action
  • Will introduce a British Bill of Rights, which appears likely to replace the Human Rights Act 1998, severing the link with the European Court of Human Rights so that the ECHR judgments will no longer be binding in UK legal system.

Labour:

  • Will guarantee a job for those under 25 who have been unemployed for over a year, and adults unemployed for more than two years
  • Have pledged that as many young people go on an apprenticeship as currently go to university by 2025
  • Will create a million new high technology, green jobs by 2025
  • Will increase the minimum wage to £8 an hour by 2020
  • Will increase free childcare to incentivise parents back into paid work.

Lib Dems:

  • Will add an extra £1 an hour for the lowest paid apprentices
  • Will implement the ‘Workers Rights Agency’ as a single agency to deal with workers’ rights
  • Will campaign to create a million more jobs.

UKIP:

  • Will allow firms to offer jobs to British workers first ‘without the fear of being sued for discrimination’
  • Will shrink the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.

Additionally, the Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrat parties have all promised a significant reform to ‘exploitative’ zero hour contracts and some extension to those who benefit from employment rights.

With the current focus on the increased cost of living outstripping wages, all main four parties have been forced to re-examine employment rights and protections for workers at the lower end of the pay scale.  As a result, it is highly likely that wages and employment rights will form a key part of all the main parties’ election manifestos, due to be published in the coming days.

Thankfully, in the midst of this maelstrom of individual party-led ideas and proposals, the Cross-Party Manifesto for Skills and Employment, published by the All- Party Parliamentary Group for Skills and Employment, has presented a unified directive, committed to representing all individual learners, training providers, workers and employers (large and small) regardless of political affiliation. You can read it here.

Closer to home, in the business of recruitment, how can we know what specific changes are ahead for this fast-growing industry with regards to employment legislation? Who is monitoring these changes in order that we are not on the back foot when it comes to both knowledge and implementation?

The professional body for the UK’s £28 billion recruitment industry, the Recruitment and Employment Confederation is committed to lobbying government and campaigning on behalf of recruiters in the UK, advising all levels of government both in the UK and the EU.

REC chief executive Kevin Green says:   “The UK labour market has undergone significant change in the last decade and we believe this will only accelerate over the next few years. We feel strongly that our dynamic labour market is a real competitive advantage and must be nurtured and protected.”

Following the publication of the Chancellor’s March 2015 budget, the REC is concerned that, with recruiters already struggling to find suitably skilled candidates in IT and other key industries, people investment continues to be a top priority. The growth of apprenticeships, and the introduction of a better immigration system to import key skills from other countries is a start but there is a long way to go.

APSCo  is once again this year conducting a survey of recruitment firms operating in the UK, aiming to gather key information regarding the ‘efficiency, profitability and growth of the recruitment sector.’ In allowing recruitment firms to track their financial and operational key performance indicators through this survey, it will assess financial and operational performance of the industry as part of the overall market. I welcome this approach as it keeps our feet on the ground through fresh and relevant statistics, while all the time ensuring members of the industry remain engaged, inspired and informed.

As managing director of Brightred Resourcing Limited  I will view the result of the General Election with keen interest. My own strong entrepreneurial spirit has led me from my days as a trainee fresh from university to a position at the helm of my own thriving business. I am passionate about inviting my workforce to join me on the same journey, and dedicated to attracting top quality apprentices to train in this vibrant and ever-changing industry. Whilst I am pleased to hear the Conservatives pledge an additional three million apprenticeship places, I remain unconvinced that this will be as smooth a process as it sounds. It is currently very difficult to gain access to the calibre of trainees we require, and as part of the pledge, I would welcome an audit of professional service companies across the board so that there is a streamlining of the system, which in the end will benefit everyone.

The outcome of the General Election is very hard to predict. How it will affect our business is equally hard to predict. In terms of growth, the recruitment industry is forecast at a 9% upsurge in 2015, and it is not only the political scene that will influence the market. April’s reporting requirements, the review of the Conduct Regulations and the continued fine-tuning of the intricacies of our industry in partnership with legal and compliance teams, means that now more than ever, we are under pressure to continue to drive up standards. A new government will inevitably seek to stamp its identity on our (and every other) industry through new legislation and initiatives, so we can only wait and see. In the meantime, we must continue to press on to positively change the perception of recruitment as a whole, with the help of bodies such as the REC and APSco who, with the Institute of Recruitment Professionals  will ensure that whatever the political landscape post May 7th, we remain at the top of our game.

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