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Recrutiment & Employment Confederation

COVID-19: It's time to protect jobs


Tom Hadley avatar

Written by Tom Hadley Director of Policy and Campaigns

Employment businesses keep us in work, placing a million people into new jobs every year, and a million temps into workplaces every day. They need support now.

There is a crisis in the jobs market, with hiring slowing down. But this is not a normal recession – it is a short-run dip caused by the Covid-19 virus.

Without action, there's a huge risk we will lose critical economic capacity to find work and grow careers. Recruiters need support, just like other vital sectors, so they can help the UK recover.

The large-scale loan facility announced by the Chancellor and the welcome change to tax rules for freelancers (IR35) were good steps. But more needs to be done.

We believe the following steps are necessary, immediately:

1. Focus on cashflow support to businesses. 

The situation is very urgent, but hopefully short-term. Firms in key sectors can’t wait long to know when they will get support – but they also shouldn’t need it for long. Programmes already announced need to hit bank accounts quickly – and government can do more to keep firms going in the short-term:

  • support for wages and relief on payment timescales for VAT and PAYE revenues
  • extending the business rates discount to recruiters, and
  • rent holidays for businesses.

2. Fund Statutory Sick Pay for every worker, with quicker access to state support. 

All businesses want to provide access to sick pay, but in a pandemic-induced recession, firms will struggle to pay it. State support for SSP for all employers is essential - up to 14 days for all workers, regardless of how they are employed or by whom. And employment agencies must be treated as small employers if they employ fewer than 250 staff – temporary workers placed with clients should not count.
Only about 20% of agency jobs can be done remotely. So at this time of disruption, it is also essential to ensure agency workers can access the benefits system quickly if work isn’t available.

3. Help recruiters help the NHS and other critical sectors. 

Harnessing the expertise of recruiters in health, social care, education and logistics will be crucial as we tackle the virus. Recruiters are key workers in these sectors. A new partnership between the Government and healthcare recruiters can get staff where they need to be efficiently and effectively to deal with this emergency.

4. Find people work quickly but safely. 

In the current situation, we need compliant and safe alternatives to face-to-face Right to Work checks. Work with us to make this happen.

These four steps will help Britain stay in work.

Recruiters are also ready to do more, through sharing: 

  1. Expertise - We can harness this plus our drive and contacts to ensure that key workers are placed into front-line roles quickly. Flexible and agile resourcing is more important than ever.
  2. Transitions - As part of our partnership with DWP, we will help those affected by the crisis to transition into new roles. Recruiters can also support the BEIS Emergency Volunteering initiative.
  3. Intelligence - We will provide updates and solutions to emerging labour market challenges.

Urgent government action is needed to support recruitment businesses through the current crisis. But recruiters will also do their part and we will pay that support back.

We have written to the Prime Minister, as well as to the Business Secretary and the British Business Bank, pushing for a greater understanding of the difficulties facing recruiters, particularly around managing cashflow.