Vince Cable launches review on employment rights and seeks to boost pay for apprentices

At the Liberal Democrat conference business secretary Vince Cable launched a wide-ranging employment review to strengthen the status of workers, employees and self-employed people.

Tue, 7 Oct 2014

At the Liberal Democrat conference business secretary Vince Cable launched a wide-ranging employment review to strengthen the status of workers, employees and self-employed people.

It follows the government’s review on zero-hours contracts, which has led to upcoming legislation to outlaw abuses under these types of contracts.

A press statement from the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills said many workers are not aware of their employment status and therefore what employment rights they are entitled to. Equally, many employers are also unsure what rights their workers are entitled to, which makes them more vulnerable to legal challenge.

The review will seek to address a number of issues, including the potential extension of employment rights, ensuring employment law is easily understood by individuals and employers, and additional job stability, particularly when it comes to zero-hours contracts and agency workers.

In a press statement, Cable said it was important that the “fruits of recovery were shared by all”. He added: “Some types of contracts that offer fewer employment rights and which were never designed to be widely used have become much more commonplace. As the economy recovers, it is right to explore giving a silent minority of workers the security and rights enjoyed by the majority of employees,” he said.
Kevin Green, chief executive of the Recruitment & Employment Confederation (REC), said the organisation will be working closely with BIS as it conducts the review and is “keen to participate” by providing evidence and research.

However, Green said: “Cable must be sure to avoid proposing changes that would have any kind of detrimental impact on the UK’s successful, flexible labour market which has kept record numbers of people in employment and avoided the problems faced by many of our European neighbours throughout the downturn.”

The business secretary has also outlined proposals to simplify and boost the National Minimum Wage for apprentices. Based on the current rates for 16-17-year-olds, the policy being mooted would give around 31,000 apprentices in the first year of their programme a pay rise of more than £1 an hour, making their hourly pay £3.79 per hour instead of £2.73.

In a press statement Mike Kelly, head of Living Wage at KPMG, said: “Most apprentices already earn more than the minimum wage but about 31,000 people are expected to benefit from the move. Though meeting minimum wage shouldn’t be the final stop; pushing for a Living Wage should already be happening.”

Mike Thompson, head employability and early career programmes at Barclays, who said it was a positive step in “easing youth unemployment”, also welcomed the proposal.

He said: “At Barclays, we value our apprentices by paying them the equivalent of any other entry-level position and guaranteeing full-time jobs for every graduate of our programme. We call on more businesses to offer apprenticeships and ensure that young people are paid a wage that they can live on.”

Recruiter contacted a number of recruitment agencies to get a response but none were available to speak to us ahead of the deadline.

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