Feedback from the fringe Vol III - REC @ the Conservative Party Conference
This week’s Conservative Party Conference in Birmingham was the latest opportunity to showcase the findings of our Flexible Work Commission and to champion the positive contribution of recruiters to the UK economy and jobs market.
All three major Party Conference have referred to the importance of the UK’s flexible labour market. However, the reality is that this flexibility is often taken for granted. The Commission and the series of fringe sessions in association with PCG have played a key role in driving the debate and in showcasing the benefits for both workers and employers.
Opening the discussion in a packed breakout room of the Birmingham Convention Centre, REC Chief Executive Kevin Green underlined the need to “raise awareness amongst future generations of workers of different ways of working – such as freelance and contract work – as well as of the skills that employers are looking for”. Developing a careers guidance network that is fit for purpose is part of the solutions and should be a priority concern for policy makers across all the major parties.
Kevin also made the point that “You only have to look at the US and recent surveys here in the UK to see the direction of travel in terms of what future generation want from the world of work. Flexibility will increasingly be driven by worker demand”. This was a view shared by other speakers including Jacob Rees Mogg MP who underlined the fact that “flexible working patterns are key to retaining talent within organisations”. The MP also argued that freelancers and contractors are “crucial to a vibrant economy” and that employment law was at odds with the changing dynamics in our jobs market.
Our other speaker last night was Syed Kamall MEP who underlined the need to protect crucial flexibility and to learn from labour market reforms in countries such as Germany. On flexible working patterns, the MEP referred to his own experience as a business leader in making the point that “what matters in the workplace is output, not time spent in the office”. Discussions on flexible work inevitably veered into AWR territory. This was an opportunity to reiterate our calls for a substantive review in 2013 and to emphasize the role that recruiters have played in limiting the impact on jobs.
At the heart of the debate was the question of what role policy makers should play in this area? Outside of the need for better support and guidance for job-seekers it is more about what government doesn’t do in terms of not adding the regulatory quagmire. The proposed ‘controlling persons’ legislation is a good example of a knee-jerk regulatory response that would actually erode crucial flexibility within our labour market.
This flexibility has helped limit unemployment during the downturn and will continue to help UK businesses respond quickly to new opportunities and compete in what will remain a difficult economic environment. The Flexible Work Commission and the recent fringe events at Party Conferences will ensure that the recruitment industry remains at the forefront of the flexibility debate.