17 May 2022
by APSCo United Kingdom

Latest ONS labour data highlights urgent need for Employment Bill Clarity

With the latest ONS data revealing that the number of job vacancies hit a new record between February and April 2022 – with jobs surpassing the number of people unemployed for the first time – the Association of Professional Staffing Companies (APSCo) has highlighted the urgent need for more appropriate employment legislation to increase participation in the labour market.

Tania Bowers, Global Public Policy Director at APSCo commented:

The skills shortages in the UK are reaching concerning levels and this latest data shows the scale of the pressure on employers and the staffing sector as demand continues to outstrip supply. We’ve seen some encouraging signs from the Government, including the highly skilled immigration visa which was announced by the Chancellor earlier this year.

However, we are concerned that the absence of the Employment Bill in the Queen’s Speech is an indication that the immediate skills crisis has slipped off the priority list for the Government. At a time when the job market is growing at unprecedented rates and competition is rife, more appropriate regulation is needed for the modern labour market.  Our members are taking matters into their own hands and using an “attract, train, deploy” model to train graduates and school leavers for specialist roles, but there is a risk of first jobbers being treated poorly such as the recently reported news of a firm purportedly claiming extensive costs from new hires if they leave a position before their pre-agreed term is up. Trade associations like APSCo have distinct Codes of Conduct and seek to ensure that recruiters comply with statutory regulation with compliance reviews, but regulation generally across the sector and the labour market needs to be updated for modern hiring.

Employment legislation isn’t fit for purpose in the modern world of work. Self-employed status needs to be defined in legislation to differentiate it from highly skilled self-employed independent professionals from dependent contractors, workers, other variants of self-employment and the lower skilled, less independent elements of the gig economy. Regulation of the Umbrella market is also needed if the UK’s economy is to be strengthened. Government must futureproof employment legislation and consider steps such as Single Enforcement Body (SEB) licensing of the “umbrella” market, the mandatory use of client accounts and the introduction of statutory compliance codes. 

As vacancies continue to rise and supply of highly skilled resources drops, swift action is needed. But for that to happen, we first need clarity on the regulation of the labour market.