Getting people ‘back to work’ was one of the employment focuses of the chancellors spring budget this year.
To boost the number of people at work and to help with bridging the skill gap, the following 4 suggestions were put forward.
Specialised help for people with disabilities
The government plan to implement a support programme to aid disabled people in England and Wales. It will be designed to match people with disabilities or long-term illnesses with the right jobs for them. Alongside this it will also assist with providing support and training around that job.
The Chancellor said that he aims to abolish the work capability assessment so that people can go back to work without having to worry about losing their financial support form the government.
Tackling the main causes of ill-health and sick leave
The budget outlined a range of ways in which it will look at the leading causes of ill-health related time off of work. These included:
- customised support in mental health and musculoskeletal health services
- increasing access to digital resources and health checks to help people manage long-term conditions with support to return to or remain in employment
- supporting businesses to provide work-related health services
- consulting on ways to boost UK occupational health coverage
- consulting on options to increase investment in occupational health services by UK-wide employers through the tax system
Offering incentives to older and highly skilled workers to return to work
The plan put forward was to attract economically inactive over-50’s back to the workplace through the introduction of a new type of an apprenticeship – an ‘returnership’. These aim to enable the targeted age group to re-train and potentially develop second careers through programme placements and skills bootcamps.
Additionally, the government intends to expand the existing midlife MOTs programme. This is with the objective of helping older workers get high quality advice on finances, health, and careers before they retire.
The pensions tax-free annual allowance will also be increased significantly from £40,000 to £60,000. This is to incentivise highly skilled workers to stay at work. On the other hand, the lifetime allowance has been completely abolished as both of these changes came into force in April.
Improving the accessibility of childcare for parents
Currently, the UK’s childcare system is one of the most expensive in the world as working parents with children aged 3 and 4 are eligible for 30 hours free childcare during term-time. This is set to be expanded via a phasing in system;
- From April 2024, working parents will be allowed 15 hours free childcare for children aged 2 years old.
- From September 2024, they will receive 15 hours free childcare for children aged from 9 months to 3 years.
- From September 2025, this will be increased to 30 hours.
The word ‘free’ in this context needs to be taken with a pinch of salt as the government only subsidises for 39 weeks of the year, reflecting term-times. Additionally, many parents top up government payments in order to reach fees for nurseries and other childcare facilities.
Furthermore, extra funding will be given to schools and local authorities in order to work towards providing wraparound care so that parents can drop off and pick up their children from school anytime between 8am and 6pm. This is projected to be achieved by September 2026.
For more information or if you have any questions, please contact our Employment Solicitor, Katie Bowen Nicholas.