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Recrutiment & Employment Confederation
Insight

In your corner: REC Campaigns and Policy news – 29 July 2021

Government and campaigns

Luiza Gomes avatar

Written by Luiza Gomes Campaigns Advisor

On 19 July, England moved to the final stage of the roadmap, which saw all legal restrictions around Covid rules lifted. Or so we hoped…cue the so-called "pingdemic" which has seen thousands of people up and down the country told to self-isolate by the NHS Track and Trace app. At a time of already increasing labour shortages, many industries have been hit again, with changes in opening hours and empty shelves becoming common scenes. Please help us understand how this is affecting you by responding to the pop-up question on this page.

To find out more, have a look at our Covid Hub for up-to-date information on restrictions and exemptions in all four nations.

Labour shortages as a result of the "pingdemic" are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to widespread skills and labour shortages. This will be the REC's main campaign priority over the summer and beyond. Ahead of parliament returning from summer recess in September, we want to hear from you! As we develop our asks, we’re also looking for case studies, so please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us to share your views via policy@rec.uk.com

REC meets with Lord Jones of Cheltenham
Yesterday, the REC met with Lord Jones of Cheltenham to discuss issues around labour shortages following his parliamentary question, which referenced the REC’s Report on Jobs and asked the Government what plans it has to address the shortages. At the meeting, we discussed a number of issues affecting our members, including labour shortages, the apprenticeship levy, and the move back to in-person Right to Work (RTW) checks from 1 September. It was a really positive meeting, and we hope to work alongside Lord Jones to get these issues raised in Parliament when it returns in September.

The REC and our public affairs activities
Ahead of the summer recess, the REC’s campaigns team has been busy carrying out targeted engagement with parliamentarians who have shown interest in the issues affecting our members. We’ve already had some great wins, including the meeting with Lord Jones of Cheltenham. The REC also  featured in Parliament when Stephen Crabb MP (Preseli Pembrokeshire)  tabled two written parliamentary questions drafted by our team and ask the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) what steps it is taking to address labour shortages, as reported by the REC. In another question,  Crabb asked what discussions the DWP is having with the recruitment industry to address the labour shortage issue.

Both questions have been answered, and it’s encouraging to see the department’s commitment to keeping the REC and others at the heart of the discussions. We will continue to campaign hard on resolving these issues and making sure our members' concerns are heard at all levels of government.

Government's open letter on Heavy Goods Vehicle (HGV) drivers' shortage
In addition to the announcement on more flexibility around drivers' hours, government has announced a package of measures to help address the shortage of hauliers via an open letter to the industry. Some of the announcements include the intention to increase testing to 2000 passes a week and to change testing requirements to free capacity. The Large Goods Vehicle (LGV) Driver apprenticeship standard will be available from 2 August with an increased funding band and an incentive payment to employers. The REC reiterates the need for apprenticeships to be structured flexibly to account for non-regular working patterns. DWP also working to support returning to driving and helping jobseekers become HGV drivers, where appropriate. A line on immigration in the letter states: '… for the future workforce we will need to develop people resident in the UK as opposed to specifically providing visas for this group of workers'.

In the next week, the REC will write to the Department for Transport (DfT) to seek further clarification on some of the announcements and ensure members' business models are well represented in the follow-up proposals. Please contact us with concerns/ideas arising from this.

REC signs joint letter on Skills
The REC has signed a joint letter with London First and several other organisations highlighting the need for assistance to help businesses in the capital recover. The letter set out several proposals to boost the economic recovery in London, and across the UK. The letter was sent to Rt Hon Gavin Williamson MP, Education Secretary, and was featured in City AM.

REC submits a freedom of information request on Digital Right to Work (RTW) checks
As part of the REC's ongoing commitment to digital RTW checks remaining in place permanently, we submitted a Freedom of Information (FOI) request to the Home Office. In the FOI. We requested information on the Home Office’s risk assessment on the return to face-to-face RTW check in September, and on the number of RTW checks that are being conducted fraudulently.  The Home Office has confirmed that we will hear back from them regarding these requests in late August.

Letter from Care Minister for REC healthcare members
Helen Whately MP, Minister of State for Care at the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC), has written a letter to the REC to thank members and the wider agency medical workforce for the ‘invaluable efforts in supporting our healthcare system during what has been an unprecedented and challenging time.’  Whately also pointed out that the suppliers of agency staff to the NHS have ‘important responsibilities’, recognising the significant contribution that the agency staff brings to the UK’s health and social care. She said that the flexible workforce will remain integral beyond the pandemic in reducing the backlog of elective care and operations. Speaking on the frameworks, Whately expressed her department’s commitment to compliance with framework rules stating that eliminating off-framework spend is one of the NHS’ priorities.

The REC is delighted that the department has formally recognised the work that healthcare recruitment agencies do to support the NHS, both during the pandemic and beyond. We thank all REC members who have been playing a vital role in healthcare especially during the pandemic.

New proposals to clamp down on promoters of tax avoidance
Following HMRC's consultation, Tackling Promoters of Tax Avoidance, the Government last week published proposals that would strengthen sanctions against anyone promoting or enabling tax avoidance schemes. The proposed legislative changes mean any UK firm, including umbrella companies, that are enabling and promoting offshore schemes will have their assets frozen, face significant penalties and have their businesses wound up. The proposals would also enable HMRC to name promoters, share details of the way they promote tax avoidance and the schemes they promote at the earliest opportunity. This will help warn taxpayers of the risks and encourage those already involved to get out of avoidance. Raising awareness of these schemes will help workers better navigate their tax affairs and ensure they don’t unintentionally enter disguised remuneration schemes.

Research Corner
The REC’s latest JobsOutlook showed that in the three months to June, employers’ confidence in their ability to hire new staff and make investment decisions continued improving. At net: +33, this was the highest level that was recorded since the survey was commissioned in mid-2016. The survey also found that business confidence in the UK economy rose to net: +17. This is the second rolling quarter in a row the barometer has been in positive territory.

Next week we are also publishing KPMG and REC UK Report of Jobs, so keep an eye out for the latest insight on recruitment activity in the UK.