Budget for business is good news for UK plc

Employment issues featured widely in the Budget, including measures aimed at improving the UK’s skills base, getting people off incapacity benefit and back to work, and more help for working parents.

Personnel Today looks at the proposals and the response from industry leaders.

In a largely business-friendly Budget, chancellor Gordon Brown announced that the government would adopt the Better Regulation Task Force’s

call for targets for cutting red tape in every department year by year. But he did not abandon his focus on families, and paid maternity leave will be extended to a year with the statutory rate also rising.

The key elements of the Budget for HR professionals are:

– New rules to encourage incapacity benefit claimants in to work and changes to housing benefit to help create jobs

– A £2,000 return-to-work bonuses available to single parents

– New centres for people to get vocational training

– £65m to be spent in the coming year on employer training pilots

– Child tax credit to rise by 13%, in line with earnings, over the next three years

– A five-year, £1.5bn programme to renovate and renew further education colleges

– Thirty-five government agencies will be combined into just five, with changes in consumer and trading standards regulators and food inspectorates.

Budget feedback

Mark Serwotka, general secretary of the Public and Commercial Services union (on the cutting of quangos):

“There was a time when the only worry thousands of hard working civil and public servants had on budget day was whether petrol or taxes would go up. Nowadays the worry is whether they will have a job by the end of it.”

Sir Digby Jones, director general, CBI

“This is a measured Budget that has been crafted to maintain economic stability. The chancellor has avoided pre-election risk-taking, targeting help only where it is needed most. Employers already spend £23.5m annually on training. By 2010, 80% of all new jobs in the UK will require higher level skills so [the budget announcement] is another step in the right direction.”

John Philpott, chief economist, Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD)

“The CIPD is delight-ed the government is to adopt recommendations on business inspection and regulatory reform outlined last year by the Panel for Regulatory Accountability, and also those in the report by the Better Regulation Task Force. However, while the streamlining of the business inspection process will gain most attention, the CIPD believes the most important announcement is the decision to transform the Better Regulation Task Force into an independent Better Regulation Commission.”

Bob Warner, chief executive, Remploy (the UK’s largest provider of jobs for disabled people)

“The proposed changes to incapacity benefit rules will significantly reduce the risks for disabled people who want to return to work. They will give people greater reassurance and confidence that their benefits will be protected.”

Gareth Osborne, managing director, Recruitment and Employment Confederation (commenting on the measures for extending maternity pay and for transferring some maternity leave to fathers)

“These proposals could have a real impact on employers who are already experiencing severe resourcing diffi-culties. It is difficult to see how organisations can cope with more leave arrangements at a time of such acute resourcing difficulties. We must ensure that more flexibility for some employees does not result in more work and stress for others.”

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