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The new right to Shared Parental Leave has proved largely problem free for employers with half simply updating their HR policies to reflect the new rights, according to the latest CBI/Accenture Employment Trends Survey.
It also finds that firms identify skills shortages as the top threat to the UK’s attractiveness as a place to do business.
The annual survey – in its 18th year, and with 342 respondents employing nearly 1m employees – found that more than two fifths (43%) of companies will grow their workforce next year, with permanent jobs outstripping temporary roles.
Nevertheless, firms are concerned about rising labour costs through the planned National Living Wage (NLW) and the apprenticeship levy, and against the backdrop of an unreformed business rates system. Although companies expect to create more graduate jobs and apprenticeships next year, the rate of growth for both is easing. Just one in six businesses believe the new apprenticeship levy is the right approach to tackle the UK’s skills challenges.
Carolyn Fairbairn, CBI Director-General, said: “The UK’s labour market has continued to outperform expectations with businesses delivering jobs in every region of the UK. But there’s a danger of Government complacency, with companies facing multiple increasing costs, through the apprenticeship levy, the national living wage and unreformed business rates, these are acting as a cumulative drag that could hamper growth.
“Given the uncertainty surrounding the effects of the National Living Wage, it is critical that an independent, evidence-based Low Pay Commission plays the main role in assessing its true impact and recommending future rate rises accordingly.
“The Government must be careful not to sacrifice prosperity for political expediency by saddling businesses with costs that could harm investment, which is critical to increasing productivity.”
More than half of businesses intend giving staff a pay award next year at or above the RPI rate of inflation, but nervousness remains about the impact of the NLW, says the CBI. Half of service sector respondents indicate they will raise their prices, 27% will employ fewer people and 18% will make changes to their reward packages as a result.
Emma McGuigan, Managing Director, Accenture Technology, UK & Ireland said: “Business optimism is absolutely clear, but these findings also signal a real challenge in the employment landscape. Most significantly, just under half (46%) of respondents reported a lack of skills is threatening to have a major impact on the UK’s labour market competitiveness.
“For that reason, over half (52%) of respondents cited the development and maintenance of digital skills within organisations as having a new urgency, especially as a way to develop new revenue streams. The workforce of the future will not just be more digitally literate, but more capable of delivering new digital business models, customers experiences and business partnerships. These broader digital skills will be essential to boosting the UK’s competitiveness and sustainable employment growth.”
The survey also shows multi-skilling employees to improve organisations’ productivity and capacity to adapt is now the leading form of flexibility, operated by nearly four in five respondents (79%), followed by flexibility over location for work (73%).