Employers need to accept parents’ family focus, says Mumsnet CEO

flexibleworking

Employers must accept that working parents will always put family considerations ahead of work, according to Mumsnet CEO and founder Justine Roberts.

Speaking at an event in London to discuss flexible working as part of the CBI Great Business Debate, Roberts urged employers to accept this truth as a way of forging better relationships with working families.

“I had careers both in the City and as a football journalist, which were both very male-dominated environments. And I noticed that there were parents there who really had to pretend their children didn’t exist,” she said.

“I needed a different working environment, one that recognised an essential truth – that parents will always put family first and work second.”

Roberts added that for many work will come “a close second”, but accepting it will not be put first will make for “much better employers”.

Research carried out by the CBI, based on a YouGov poll of around 1,300 workers, revealed 38% of British working parents report finding it either “fairly difficult” or “very difficult” to balance their work and family/home lives. The results are almost identical for men and women.

Another part of the research suggests 40% of employees feel comfortable asking for flexible working, although 42% would feel uncomfortable doing so.

Jill Sheddon, group HR director at Centrica, said that “the language of corporates can sometimes suffocate the debate” around flexible working in large corporates.

“When we had some round tables about flexible working what struck me is that SMEs actually did a lot of this stuff but just didn’t label it as such. The mindset was that what was good for the individual was good for the company.”

 

One in five HR directors not ready for shared parental leave

parent

More than one in five (21%) HR directors admit they are not ready for the requirements of the shared parental leave legislation that comes into effect on 1 December, according to research by HCM solutions provider ADP.

The Workforce View 2014/15 is the latest annual barometer of the views and attitudes of UK workers. It is based on a survey of around 2,500 British working adults. It also suggests 70% of HR directors predict little or no interest in shared parental leave within 12 months of its implementation.

Despite it being available to any parents expecting or adopting a child on or after 5 April 2015, 11% of those staff questioned admit that they have not heard of it. However, 33% of 16- to 34-year-olds asked said they intend to take advantage of it within five years.

ADP UK HR director Annabel Jones told HR magazine all HRDs are “instrumental in raising awareness” of shared parental leave.

“It is crucial for HRDs to make sure that organisations have policies and processes in place to comply with the new legislation,” she said.

“They must clearly indicate how the process works, how much leave is available and who is eligible. Working closely with line managers and other functions will enable them to make sure that teams can operate efficiently before, during and after shared parental leave.“

 

Two-thirds of newly-employed paid below living wage

lowpay

Two-thirds of people who moved from unemployment to work over the past 12 months took jobs that pay below the living wage, according to research by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation.

The report, Monitoring Poverty and Social Exclusion 2014, is based on wage data and comparative research on factors such as the retail price index and average housing costs.

It also revealed the average hourly rate for men fell from £13.90 to £12.90 between 2008 and 2013. For women it has decreased from £10.80 to £10.30. Both figures take into account inflation.

Across the same period the average income for the lowest-paid 25% has fallen by 70% for men and 40% for women, making this group the worst affected by the fall in wages.

There is also an issue with getting people out of long-term, low-paid work. Only one-fifth who were in low-paid roles 10 years ago have now moved out of it. Additionally, there are 1.4 million people in part-time work because they cannot find full-time positions.

Joseph Rowntree Foundation chief executive Julia Unwin warned the UK will not reach its “full economic potential” if large numbers of people are still struggling with low incomes.

“We are concerned that the economic recovery we face will still have so many people living in poverty. It is a risk, waste and cost we cannot afford,” she said.

“A comprehensive strategy is needed to tackle poverty in the UK. It must tackle the root causes of poverty, such as low pay and the high cost of essentials.”

 

The Holiday Pay Saga Continues

On 4 November 2014 the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) handed down an important ruling in Bear Scotland and others v Fulton and others. The EAT ruling demonstrates that employers are now required to include most types of overtime payment when calculating holiday pay for salaried workers.

The judgment changes the previous understanding of the law and therefore means that most employers who pay overtime are currently at risk of claims in respect of underpayments of holiday pay.

Background

The Working Time Directive (WTD) required all member states of the EU to create an entitlement, for all workers, to a minimum of 4 weeks’ paid annual leave. The WTD does not specify how to calculate pay during such leave. The UK incorporated these provisions into domestic law using the Working Time Regulations 1998 (WTR) which also gave UK workers an additional 1.6 weeks’ paid leave over and above the WTD minimum entitlement. The mechanism for calculating holiday pay is contained in complicated provisions under the Employment Rights Act 1996.

The mechanisms for calculating holiday pay are different depending on whether or not the worker in question has normal working hours, it is the mechanism for calculation in respect of workers with normal working hours (i.e. fixed contractual hours or salaried) that is called into question.
For workers with normal working hours domestic legislation has been interpreted for many years as requiring holiday pay to be based on basic pay alone (with some exceptions like compulsory and guaranteed overtime). This means that employers have not previously been required to include variable payments such as non-guaranteed overtime, commission or incentive bonuses when calculating holiday pay.

UK Law Incompatible with WTD

Prior to Bear Scotland we were already on notice that the European Court of Justice (ECJ) considered the UK method of calculating holiday pay for workers with normal working hours to be inconsistent with the WTD. This is because to not include all elements of remuneration intrinsically linked to the performance of the job (or part of their normal pay) could have the effect of discouraging workers from taking annual leave. These ECJ decisions specifically dealt with time away pay, flying pay and seniority payments (Williams v British Airways) and commission payments that are regularly received (Lock v British Gas Trading Ltd).

Bear Scotland Ruling

The main point to take from the EAT judgment is that employers are now required to include the following in holiday pay calculations:
• Non-guaranteed overtime (overtime that the employer is not obliged to offer but when     offered the employee is required to work);
• Semi-voluntary overtime (overtime that the employer is not obliged to offer but when       offered the employee can only refuse on reasonable grounds);
• Pay supplements for anti-social hours or short-notice availability (stand-by or on-call       payments).

To properly include the above in holiday pay calculations employers would need to include average overtime payments over the previous 12 week reference period.

As guaranteed and compulsory overtime was already required to be included as part of holiday pay calculations this means that the only form of overtime that is still unclear is genuinely voluntary overtime. It should be noted that comments made in the judgment tend to suggest that voluntary overtime which is worked regularly should also be included but the position will not be clear unless and until a ruling on the specific point.

A particularly important aspect of the Bear Scotland ruling from an employer perspective is that it clear that the judgment only applies to the 4 weeks’ paid annual leave under the WTD and not the additional 1.6 weeks’ under the WTR. Further, claims for unlawful deductions from wages based on historic underpayments will be limited as claims can only go back as far as the start of a series of deductions where the gap between deductions is 3 months or less. Due to the way the EAT construed the difference between the WTD annual leave entitlement and the WTR entitlement this means that claims will very rarely go back beyond the current holiday year.

Appeal?

The parties in Bear Scotland have already been granted leave to appeal to the Court of Appeal, which means that the position is far from settled and may change.

Other Holiday Pay Issues

UK employers are likely to find the holiday pay saga continuing for years to come, there is likely to be considerable further litigation relating to various variable pay elements.

It is very likely that the following types of variable pay would be required to be included when calculating holiday pay for workers with normal working hours:

• Guaranteed, non-guaranteed, semi-voluntary overtime (and possibly voluntary overtime);
• Commission;
• Shift premia;
• Seniority payments (i.e. payments linked to grade/seniority);
• Stand-by payments;
• Incentive bonuses.

The reference period over which to calculate an average overtime for the purposes of holiday pay is the previous 12 weeks but it is possible that a different reference period may apply with respect to other variable pay elements such as commission or bonus. If the reference period remains 12 weeks then many employers will find this unfair due to significant fluctuations in variable pay throughout the year. Workers would find it advantageous to take holiday immediately after a reference period in which high commissions or an annual bonus was awarded as this would greatly increase their holiday pay. Based on the ECJ case of Lock v British Gas Trading Ltd (concerning commission payments) it may be that a 12 month reference period is deemed more appropriate but we will have to await a domestic ruling on this point (currently expected February 2015).

Next Steps for Employers

It is clear that the current law requires employers to include most types of overtime, shift premia and stand-by payments in holiday pay calculations. Other variable pay elements are less clear but most likely will also need to be included if they are intrinsically linked to the work the worker is required to carry out under their contract.

The main question for employers is whether to change the way you calculate holiday pay now or await the outcome of appeals and domestic rulings on specific variable pay elements that affect your business. Beginning to include variable pay elements in holiday pay now will increase operating costs (estimated as 3-5% increase) but has the advantages of ensuring compliance, good employee relations/industrial relations, avoiding adverse publicity and preventing or limiting historic claims. However, while the law is unclear and unsettled you are at significant risk of overpaying or paying in circumstances where it may later be proven is not necessary at all (which you could then be held to continue with).

The second question is if you do decide to include variable pay elements in holiday pay calculations will you limit this change to the strict requirement to include them when calculating the 4 week’ annual leave under the WTD? There is currently no requirement to change the way you calculate holiday pay for the additional 1.6 weeks’ leave under the WTR or any contractual additional entitlement over and above 5.6 weeks. However, consider whether the administrative burden of different methods of calculation for different “types” of holiday is worth the saving in holiday pay. It is unlikely that you specify which “type” of holiday is deemed to be taken first but this is probably a good idea if you intend to calculate holiday pay differently for different types of holiday and more importantly to assist with limiting claims for historic underpayments (to create the 3 month gap between underpayments by specifying that the first 4 weeks’ holiday is the WTD entitlement).

For now, the best advice for any business which is affected by the changes in holiday pay is to conduct a risk analysis of your workforce with a view to identifying variable pay elements and the related additional salary costs if they are included in holiday pay calculations. If you decide not to change your current method of calculating holiday pay consider putting aside a budget to meet the costs of any later claims or settlements.

Vicky Pryce: Ex-offenders deserve level playing field

vicky-price

Economist Vicky Pryce speaks to Arvind Hickman, editor of HR magazine, about why jobseekers with criminal records deserve an equal chance, and the value to business and society of providing employment to ex-offenders.

Economist and Prisonomics author Vicky Pryce, who spent two months in prison for taking former husband and cabinet minister Chris Huhne’s motoring penalty points, is a strong advocate of providing employment opportunities to those with a criminal record.

Vicky Pryce is an advocate for Business In The Community’s Ban the Box campaign, which promotes a level playing field for jobseekers with criminal records by urging organisations to remove criminal check boxes when recruiting. Launched in October 2013, the Ban the Box campaign has the backing of 15 organisations and shadow justice secretary Sadiq Khan.

Here is HR magazine’s Q&A with Vicky Pryce.

HR: What is the basis for society’s negative perception of people who go to prison?

VP: Newspapers and commentators tend to sensationalise criminals. TV programmes have murders and people behaving badly, but this is at odds with the statistics.

Most people who go to jail are incarcerated for very trivial offences. It could be shoplifting, but it could also be non-payment of a TV licence, or because your children are truant from school. It could be because you are in a serious financial situation or under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or you fall under the spell of someone you are with.

You could get put in jail for something that is not a threat to society. Many of the people who get caught have serious problems already and are falling into crime from a vulnerable position. That’s not the perception you get when you hear about criminals.

HR: What changed your perception of prisoners?

VP: The first thing is the realisation that a large number of people who are labelled ‘criminals’ are like the rest of us. By accident, or momentary mistake, they’ve found themselves on the wrong side of the law.

Many people are being imprisoned for offences that perhaps can be dealt with differently. We have doubled the number of people in prisons over the past 20 years, when crime has been coming down consistently. We end up with people being criminalised when 20 years ago they wouldn’t be.

Criminologists think only three out of 100 offences that are committed end up in court, and a small number of those end up with a conviction. It means there are many people  who don’t get caught.

The second thing is that rehabilitation is so important and people are desperate to get back to working and earning, otherwise they will fall back on the state and re-offend.

The third thing is you can see very clearly what impact getting a job has in terms of their attitude to their lives, wellbeing and also the dedication to achieving really good results. [Prisoners would] get up at ridiculous hours in the morning, get on public transport and be in London early morning, and then come back again. That’s a gruelling commitment.

If people can do that day in and day out, and still contribute to your business, that’s exactly what you want in an employee.

HR: The aim of Ban the Box is to reduce discrimination that prevents ex-offenders from getting work. How suitable are ex-offenders for work?

VP: The vast majority of people who commit offences are suitable for work. For example, if you had a woman who was trying to feed a drug habit by shoplifting but is out of it now, that’s not detrimental to any white-collar business, as long as you are satisfied this person is not still under the influence.

My point for employers is that people with serious mental problems – and you have to remember that many people who go to prison have been abused – are probably not in a fit state to immediately ask for a job. But those who are fit for work are like everyone else, and in fact can even be better because they need to work otherwise they are homeless and won’t be able to look after their children.

They often have great attributes: they work harder and employers say they are less likely to leave, so it costs less in lost training and recruitment money. They are more punctual. They give really good value for money.

HR: Can you understand why some employers would be apprehensive of hiring ex-offenders, particularly in some sectors such as care and education?

VP: There’s always an issue on the types of people who might apply. I know firms who would never hire a sex offender and they need to know that offence. But how many sex offenders are there who are going to be applying for jobs? You can imagine there is a limited number.

What you also don’t know is there could be sex offenders who already work for you. The sex offenders who were caught were not (in a legal sense) sex offenders before. So you don’t really know what is going on in your organisation at any one point in time. You can’t completely insulate yourself against people behaving badly.

It is at least worth getting to a point where you can see what skills people have and then have an outright ban on some offences when you find out what they are. It may mean that, out of 1,000 people you see, two are unsuitable but are caught by checks later on in the process. That’s a small price to pay to give others the chance. There are some sectors where, depending on what your offence was, those positions will be closed to you, so you wouldn’t apply. There is a lot of self-selection, and charities such as Working Chance, which advises people on what jobs they should go for, do the first scrutiny.

HR: If you were an employer, would you hire some of the people you met in prison?

VP: Through Working Chance, I hired a woman who spent six months in Holloway Prison as my PA. I trusted her completely; she was the best whizz-kid of IT I have ever come across and worked with me for a few months.

She now has another job – all she needed was a bit of confidence, to be sure of herself and say, ‘Yes, I can do this’. She was just as good as the people I had before, very flexible and put in 100% effort in making sure I was happy with her. I would employ a number of people I’ve met [in prison].

HR: What message would you send to HRDs?

VP: If you are not doing it already, put your toe into the water, experiment and talk to other employers to find out why they are employing ex-offenders and giving them a chance. Also think about what you are giving back as an employer to your communities; it’s probably one of the best things you could do: employ people who really want to work and give their all to your company.

The more you allow people to rehabilitate themselves, and the more you ensure they have jobs, the less likely they are to re-offend. There is no doubt that having a job is the surest way to not re-offend.

 

Six steps to supporting employees through bereavement

amy-armstrong

Bereavement is one of the most devastating things any of us will ever go through. For many employers, it can be difficult to know how to respond when an employee is bereaved.

Recent Ashridge Business School research into bereavement in the workplace found that the ‘suffering overspill’ caused by grief has significant psychological and interpersonal implications for individuals at work, yet employers know little about how to respond.

The way that employers respond to employee bereavement can make or break an individual’s grief experience. For example, a 2014 survey of over 4,000 adults in the UK found that 32% of people who had been bereaved within the past five years and who were in a job at the time did not feel they had been treated with compassion by their employer. And 56% of those surveyed said that they would consider leaving their job if they were not treated with compassion.

Here are six practical steps for line managers, HR professionals and colleagues to consider when supporting employees through the distress of bereavement:

Learn to recognise the stages of grief

Line managers, HR professionals and colleagues alike should learn about the grief process in order to try and understand what individuals may be going through and to enable them to respond with compassion. Kübler-Ross & Kessler describe five stages of grief from denial and anger, to bargaining, depression and acceptance. But it is important to recognise that each person grieves in a very different way and at different speeds.

Further, during the grief process, individuals may behave out of character, for example a normally outgoing person may withdraw from social settings, or a usually calm person may react angrily. This can be part of the grieving process for some people, so it is important that colleagues do not judge or criticise seemingly uncharacteristic behaviour.

Be aware of the role of work in the coping process 
 
For some people, work is an important coping mechanism. Work can be a distraction, especially in the early stages of grief, and by attempting to work through it, some people find that it provides some normality and routine. Work can be an important anchor for some people when other facets of their life feel in disarray. It is especially important for line managers to understand that a quick return to work does not mean it is ‘business as usual’. Work may be part of the coping process, so limit your expectations of these individuals and do not assume that they will be able to perform at the same level straight away. Individuals grieve at different speeds and in different ways. It may be weeks, months or years before an individual is able to perform at the level they once did.

Treat people as grown-ups

It is important to remember that we are all unique. We all have different personalities, life circumstances and ways of coping. Line managers should therefore be empowered to flex bereavement policies to allow individuals to take the time that they need away from work and to choose their own point of return. By treating people as adults and giving them the choice, most people will return to work within a timescale that is acceptable to the organisation. Research suggests that the way in which HR bereavement and sickness policies are interpreted shapes the way employees view their employer and their commitment to the organisation. Compassionate employers are therefore not just ‘nicer’ organisations to work in, they also have higher staff retention levels as a result.

Create a ‘safe space’ to talk

Unless there is a safe environment at work where employees can openly express their emotions without fear of judgement or reprisal, grief can become ‘stifled’, and individuals may be unable to complete the grieving process. Unfortunately, in the UK, the ‘stiff upper lip’ culture still prevails in many organisations, where people are expected to keep their emotions in check. In some settings, crying at work is perceived to be completely out of bounds, which can place a huge pressure on people who are going through personal difficulties, such as a bereavement. Line managers, colleagues and HR professionals should work to create opportunities for individuals to speak in confidence about their grief experiences. Having someone you trust and can confide in at work can significantly aid an individual’s recovery.

Recognise that line managers are pivotal in the healing process

Line managers should be proactive in their support to individuals who are experiencing bereavement, but it is important that they ask the individual themselves how they would like to be supported and how they would like their situation to be communicated to others. In one instance for example, a well-meaning line manager did not inform the rest of the team that one of his direct reports had experienced a bereavement, believing that he was respecting confidentiality. However, when the individual returned to work, nobody acknowledged his trauma, so he assumed that everyone was trying to avoid a difficult situation. It is vital that line managers do not offer just a one off conversation about an individual’s bereavement and their return to work, but they continue to create the time and space for confidential non-work conversations after the bereavement has occurred.

All may not be as it seems 
 
Once back at work, it is important that line managers, HR professionals and colleagues remain sensitive to any underlying signs of distress. Despite appearing to perform as normal on the surface, some individuals struggle for a long-time after a bereavement to psychologically adjust and some experience ongoing mental health issues such as anxiety or depression as a result. One of the ways in which line managers may learn to pick up on the hidden signs of distress is by providing the opportunity for ongoing confidential non-work conversations, or for the organisation to formally provide individuals with access to a named member of staff with whom the individual can talk in confidence, or organise specialist ongoing support.

Death often remains a taboo subject in Britain, but these steps are designed to help employers and HR professionals cope with bereavement more comfortably. Getting a handle on these is essential for the wellbeing, happiness and productivity of staff and important for employee retention.

This article is published courtesy of HR magazine and was written by Amy Armstrong (pictured) a research fellow and member of faculty at Ashridge Business School. 
  
It is based on Armstrong’s doctoral thesis (2014) ‘I’m a better manager: A biographic narrative study of the impact of personal trauma on the professional lives of managers in the UK’, Aston University. 

Corporate manslaughter case offers lessons for HR

jonathan-grimes-2

Last week Sterecycle, a waste processing business, was convicted of corporate manslaughter following the tragic death of employee Michael Whinfrey, in an explosion at its Rotherham plant in January 2011.

In his sentencing remarks the judge said the company fell short in all material respects of its obligations to maintenance and safe operation, while the Health and Safety Executive described the accident as entirely preventable. Sterecycle was fined £500,000.

What lessons can HR managers learn from this case and the other corporate manslaughter prosecutions to date?

The Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007 (CMCHA) made it easier to prosecute companies for corporate manslaughter by removing the requirement to identify the negligence of an individual at senior level within the organisation. A conviction can result in an unlimited fine for the business, as well as a remedial and publicity order, the latter requiring the company to publicise in a prescribed form the fact of its conviction and the reasons for it. Sterecycle is the eighth company to be convicted of corporate manslaughter under the CMCHA.

It is important to remember, however, that individuals can be prosecuted alongside the company, either for gross negligence manslaughter or breaches of health and safety legislation. These prosecutions can result in prison sentences in the most serious cases.

All cases so far have involved smaller and predominantly owner-managed businesses. They are perhaps at higher risk as they tend to have less resource to devote to issues of health and safety. However that is not to say larger companies should rest on their laurels.

All cases so far have been in industries that typically have a higher risk of accidents: construction, farming, manufacturing and extractive; and all deaths have been of employees. But other business sectors should not be complacent.

Despite the lack of cases in the first few years after the act came into force, there does now appear to be a steady number of cases coming through (three so far in 2014). We should expect this to continue at a similar level for the foreseeable future.

Corporate manslaughter cases raise largely the same issues for businesses as the health and safety legislation that has long been a feature of the regulatory landscape. A company that is determined to avoid such prosecutions is likely to be focused on minimising any risks that it poses either to its employees, customers or other members of the public.

The Sterecycle verdict is a reminder of the severe consequences that companies may face if they do not protect the safety of their employees.

This article is published courtesy of HR magazine and was written by Jonathan Grimes (pictured), a criminal law partner specialising in health and safety law at Kingsley Napley.

Learning from disciplinaries and grievances

darren-maw

Disciplinaries and grievances are two issues that can easily spiral out of control if not dealt with effectively, costing thousands of pounds and damaging staff morale, trust and reputation.

This year the Christie Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, a world-renowned cancer research centre and hospital, found itself facing criticism over the suspension of its chief executive.

What started off as a disagreement over a £2,600 expenses bill ended up costing in the region of £270,000, and that is before you even take into account the legal fees.

Commentators are quick to criticise the public sector: ‘When it’s not your money it doesn’t matter’, ‘it wouldn’t happen in the private sector’. However, isn’t this perhaps a lazy explanation? In our experience it doesn’t matter whether or not the taxpayer is paying the wages of a suspended employee for months on end. The issue is more complex and is rooted in the size and culture of the organisation. Large employers can learn from how smaller organisations often deal with disciplinary and grievance issues.

So what do small organisations do that large organisations do not? We have identified five key differences.

1. The very nature of small organisations means there is no place to hide for the person responsible for disciplinaries. This creates an incentive to keep momentum so that issues are addressed in a timely manner.

2. Alongside this, a culture of resolution means that rather than being process-driven, priority is given to ensuring a timely resolution for all concerned, something that some large organisations lose sight of.

3. A key element of this culture is an intolerance of delay at leadership level. Prescribed timescales will be strictly adhered to, even if that may mean making the best of a less than perfect situation.

4. Small organisations naturally have fewer stakeholders – which means they have more efficient processes and decision-making and those responsible for managing the process are closer to the people and the issues. A risk faced in larger organisations is that participants in the process (e.g. witnesses) do not give priority to their part in it over their ‘day job’ – leading to meetings being delayed around apparent unavailability.

5. Finally small companies often don’t have a dedicated resource and therefore, while they have to allocate reasonable endeavor, are more likely to resist additional peripheral investigations and distractions from the central issues. Such distractions often lead to protracted and expensive delays in large organisations.

A common theme is ownership of the resolution. This is naturally a challenge in larger organisations, but without individuals being given clear ownership of resolution (rather than process management/compliance) delays will be inevitable as there is always a good reason to gold plate a process at the expense of delay.

As with all cases, whether in a large or small business, it is in the interest of all parties to resolve the issue as quickly as possible. The old adage of ‘justice delayed is justice denied’ certainly rings true. Adopting some of the values and practices of smaller organisations could result in a different outcome for all concerned.

This article is published courtesy of HR magazine and was written by Darren Maw  (pictured), managing director of HR and employment law firm Vista

 

Party leaders set out manifesto for business

Westminster

Yesterday’s CBI conference gave the world of business and employment a rare opportunity to see all three party leaders speak on the same stage.

In possibly the last chance to see them address assembled business leaders before the election in 2015, all three gave strong hints about the issues that will spearhead their employment agenda. So what did we learn from the three speeches?

Cameron: EU reform sorely needed

Prime minister David Cameron claimed that a referendum on the EU would not harm the UK’s economy and reiterated the need for reform around Europe.

“Britain’s future in Europe matters to our country and it isn’t working properly at the moment, and that is why we need to make changes,” he said. “We should be looking for a reformed European Union.”

In his address, Cameron pledged a Conservative government would focus on “rebalancing” the UK’s economy, ensuring the recovery is felt across all regions and sectors. He said he wanted to see his party “abolish youth unemployment”, and a Tory government would aim to produce 3 million apprenticeships over the next parliament.

He also encouraged businesses to get more involved with schools. “You [business leaders] can be excellent role models if you go into school and talk to young people,” he said. “If we can link up our schools and universities with businesses better, we’ll be onto a winner.”

Miliband: This is a ‘joyless recovery’

In his speech to the CBI conference, opposition leader Ed Miliband promised that a Labour government would work with businesses to create “decent jobs” for British people.

He welcomed the fact that the economy is growing “finally”, but added that many see it as a “joyless recovery” to the lack of wage growth. He warned that the youngest generation coming into work is “without hope” due to a lack of clear career paths.

To solve this, he proposes making a future Labour government’s main aim to support a “revolution in vocational education”. He explained this is a departure from the last Labour government, which had the key goal of seeing more people go to university.

Maintaining a strong relationship with the EU is another area that Miliband targeted to achieve his aims of protecting and creating high-quality jobs within the UK. He warned that too much posturing on the financial relationship would put us on the “conveyor belt to the exit”, putting millions of jobs at risk.

Clegg: Coalition government best for recovery

Deputy prime minister and Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg told business leaders to be “careful what you wish for” when it comes to single party government. Speaking at the CBI conference, Clegg said a coaltion government was necessary to “anchor government in centre ground” and avoid “lurching” right and left.

Clegg also argued passionately for the UK to remain in the EU, claiming it will not be possible to compete globally otherwise. “If we can’t stand tall in Berlin, Paris or Brussels, how will we stand tall in Washington, Tokyo or Beijing,” he said.

Like Cameron, Clegg urged business leaders to go into schools and inspire children about the world of work. “Speaking to people who can inspire them is a powerful catalyst to make sure children feel ambitious about their futures,” he said.

 

CBI calls for NI and childcare help for workers

John Cridland

The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) is calling on government to improve living standards by increasing the national insurance threshold and extending free childcare to working parents of one and two year olds.

The report A Better Off Britain, launched at the CBI’s annual conference in London, proposes increasing the threshold at which employees start making national insurance contributions to £10,500 by 2020/21. The current figure is £7,956.

It also suggests extending maternity pay from 39 to 52 weeks to bridge the gap between pay for young mothers and the time at which childcare becomes available.

For childcare itself, the free weekly provision of 15 hours per week would be extended to children between one and two-years-old. Currently it is only available for children aged between three and four.

Other recommendations in the report include ways to increase productivity to support higher pay, defining clearer routes into high-skilled work and measures to ensure pupils don’t fall behind at school.

CBI director-general John Cridland predicted that although living standards are set to increase slowly in the future, financial growth itself will not be a “miracle cure”.

“The UK needs to face up to some real long-term challenges,” he said. “Changing skills needs, greater global competition and low social mobility mean for many the pathway to a better life is tough and far from clear.

“But the answers do not lie in short-term sticking plaster fixes, like intervening in pay or attacking the UK’s flexible labour market, which will ultimately cost jobs. Instead, we need to invest in productivity, skills and education to make the best of Britain’s talents.”