The government must work with organisations to develop a plan for economic growth that involves investment in technology and skills development, a body representing the manufacturing industry has said.
In a submission to HM Treasury for the chancellor’s spending review this month, Make UK called on the government to make the furlough scheme available where there is a risk of economic shut downs; develop a “fit-for-purpose” immigration system to allow employers to recruit the staff they are struggling to find domestically; and reform statutory sick pay.
Chief executive Stephen Phipson said there is a feeling within industry that the government sees business as “the enemy within” and urged it to work in partnership with organisations to develop a longer-term economic plan “which has enterprise and wealth creation as the fundamental principal”.
“Growth is the right solution to making the most of the opportunities ahead of us and getting the job done,” said Phipson.
“To encourage the investment in technology and skills we need to help make this realistically happen, government must set out a long term vision for the economy that works with the grain of business to promote growth and wealth creation, not against it.”
Make UK said that employers are likely to become frustrated with the points-based immigration system when demand for staff picks up.
Skills and recruitment
“Certain aspects, including the shortage occupation list, are not yet flexible enough to meet the needs of business, particularly at times of high demand and a lack of domestic labour. Even, then, the shortage occupation list does not deliver what is needed in times of crisis,” Make UK’s submission to the Treasury says.
“An example of this has been the recent, and indeed ongoing, HGV driver shortage. While the government has now issued fast-track visas, the number on offer are a drop in the ocean. Moreover, this intervention has come far too late.”
It said there is a strong case to put HGV drivers on the shortage occupation list, but “there is stronger case for government to go further and explore an ‘Emergency Temporary Visa’ which would enable employers to quickly recruit from outside of the UK, without facing the hurdles and costs of the [shortage occupation list] at times of high demand.”
The submission, which has been published today but was put together before the withdrawal of the furlough scheme in September, also asks the government to ensure that the Job Retention Scheme will be accessible during temporary economic shut downs in future.
“Going forward, the JRS has shown that during a crisis saving jobs is a sustainable solution to preserving the UK economy’s long-term health. We see a strong case for a long-term generic crisis management tool to be available for labour protection should there be other challenges in the future that risks large scale redundancies across the nation,” it says. “In the next six months, government should consult with industry and wider stakeholders on what the mechanics of this would be.”
Other recommendations from Make UK include:
- Reforming statutory sick pay so that employees can always claim it from day one of illness rather than day four. A temporary arrangement allowing employees to claim SSP from their first day off work during the Covid-19 pandemic came to an end in September.
- Developing an online digital skills account for employees, to allow them to undertake sector-specific or general digital skills training at various points of their career.
- Enabling employers to use up 20% of Apprenticeship Levy funds to support wage costs for apprentices, and doubling the incentive payment for employers.