Tag Archives: employment

Brexit: what will happen to the European Social Fund?

The Work and Pensions Committee has been conducting an inquiry into the future of the European Social Fund.

This fund provides £500 million each year

“for employment support programmes for people who struggle to access and benefit from mainstream support.  This includes disabled people, ex-offenders, and the long-term unemployed.

The future of ESF-type funding after Brexit is currently uncertain. Leaving the European Union could offer the UK an opportunity to design its own, improved version of the funding. The Committee is considering the case for a successor fund to the ESF, and what this fund might look like.

The report released yesterday says the government will create a UK Shared Prosperity Fund (UKSPF) which “will serve a similar purpose to the existing European Structural and Investment Funds (ESI—of which ESF is one)”.

But will it?

Witnesses in the inquiry emphasised that the transition between European Social Fund monies and future funding must be “seamless and immediate”. A gap in funding would be a ‘nightmare scenario”. 

Just one example given was the testimony by Steve Hawkins, Chief Executive of Pluss. This is a Community Interest Company who supports people with disabilities in finding employment. Mr Hawkins outlined some of the issues faced:

Rural isolation, for example, where people are further away and require additional support, whether it be housing issues, transportation needs, training or confidence building, a whole range of things that need to be addressed fundamentally before they are in a position to sit in front of an interview panel and secure a job.

The Work and Pensions Committee says:

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Lessons from Finland on Universal Basic Income

Piles of money. Photo credit: czbalazs - http://www.sxc.hu/photo/1236662Aditya Chakrabortty, a Guardian Columnist, recently travelled to Finland to interview a man who’s been part of a Universal Basic Income trial. The scheme gives 2,000 randomly chosen people, who were already receiving unemployment benefits, £493 a month unconditionally. The scheme will finish properly at the end of 2018 and no official results will be published until then, but there is anecdotal evidence from a number of interviews conducted with people chosen to take part.

One such person is Juha Jarvinen. When asked by …

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LibLInk: Nick Clegg: This is the future – the unstoppable march of machines

Nick Clegg’s latest Standard column starts off by setting out a number of current problems. One is very different from the others:

There’s a lot to worry about these days: hard Brexit, Trump’s protectionism, Diego Costa’s future at Chelsea, Putin’s manoeuvres, conflict in the South China Sea, Boris Johnson’s next gaffe, climate change.

It’s another that he focuses on, though. What happens to people as their jobs are replaced by machines. He uses the self-driving truck as an example:

According to one recent report, truck driving and related jobs employ more people than any other job in 29 out of America’s 50 states. It is estimated that there are 8.7 million trucking-related jobs in the US. It is one of the few jobs that still attracts a fairly decent income — about $40,000 (£32,000) a year — without requiring higher academic qualifications. In other words, it’s a precious ingredient in the American Dream: a dependable job, accessible to everyone.

It is a question of when, not if, American highways will be crisscrossed by thousands of similar self-driving trucks. And what then for the millions of truck drivers, their families and their communities? An economic earthquake, that’s what, which could leave millions of people out of work.

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William Wallace writes…What should the Liberal Democrats be saying to the “left behind?”

What should the Liberal Democrats be saying to the ‘Left Behind’?  We’ve claimed a strong position as the voice of the 48%; but there are many among the 52% who are not illiberal at heart, and others who voted ‘Sod off!’ in the Referendum to London as much as to Brussels in their disillusion with politics and the distant elite.  People who live on partly-sold off Council estates, or in places built to house workers in factories that closed 30 to 40 years ago, where local services have been steadily cut back and jobs are hard to get to, low paid and insecure, have some justifiable reasons to feel resentful .

Theresa May has spoken about the ‘left behind’ at the Davos World Economic Forum, but said little about what an’ active state’ (yes, she has used that term) should do to help them. Donald Trump in his inauguration speech promised ‘the forgotten people’ from globalisation that they will now be remembered, but didn’t say what he would do to help them beyond putting up barriers to imports.  The right-wing media in Britain have portrayed their problems as mostly down to fecklessness and immigrants – taking their jobs and the social housing they want to claim, weighing down the NHS.  Labour is wavering over whether to give in to that narrative, or address more underlying problems.

But what do we want to say, consistent with our values, and without pandering to the ‘blame the East Europeans’ narrative?  Liberal Democrat peers have set up a working group to address this, to feed into party campaigning in ‘left behind’ areas.  The London-based media portrays the political choices for such voters as between Labour and UKIP (having forgotten the Lib Dem record in cities like Sheffield, Liverpool, Newcastle, Hull and elsewhere).  We know that Labour has already lost their trust, and that local campaigning has created new pockets of Liberal Democrat support, with encouraging local by-election results in recent months. Our group includes peers with local government experience in northern cities and neglected rural areas; and we are drawing on a number of reports on the social and economic conditions of England’s pockets of depression and deprivation.

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We need to focus on things which tangibly improve lives

Terraced housingAre we barking up the wrong tree?

I have wondered for a while if we are focussing on the wrong things, particularly where the EU is concerned. For the record, I want to remain in the EU. I see it as a flawed institution, run by the same cadre of neoliberal capitalists as those who run this country and most of the other countries in Europe. It has, however, two things going for it. The first is the possibility of deeper co-operation across national boundaries. The second is that it has woven into it a thick texture of human rights which the neoliberals, despite their best efforts, have been unable to unwind – it was after all woven in before they came along.

But when I look at this country’s biggest problems, the EU is neither the problem nor the solution. The media cacophony remains completely confusing as to why people voted to leave. The people who voted leave are equally confusing, and there are massive attempts to shut down debate by taking offence if suggestions are made that, for instance, cutting immigration will not solve any problems other than the fragility of some people’s sense of national identity. Taking back control does not take back control, but meely hands it to different members of the neoliberal elite. We still need to identify and solve the problems which have caused such disaffection with the political process.

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Of chocolate and jobs

Last month I visited York’s Chocolate Story, a visitor attraction in the centre of the city of York. A very lively tour guide told us about the Quakers who established the chocolate industry in York, and we saw how filled chocolates are made (and got to eat some) and made our own chocolate lollies (and got to eat them too). The other visitors included several grandparents, who seemed to be enjoying the experience at least as much as their grandchildren!

As the UK population gets older, the leisure industry has observed that we are becoming far more interested in acquiring ‘cultural capital’. Since 2009 household spending on recreation and culture has risen faster than total household consumption (VisitEngland, 2013). Older people, whilst more numerous, are getting ‘younger’ wanting to undertake new experiences and acquire new knowledge and skills – whether it’s baking, gardening or learning about history or art.

This creates new employment opportunities that we should be actively promoting.  Rather than working in yet another retail mall, young people can acquire knowledge that they can then share. Enriching an older person’s life is far more rewarding than stacking shelves or driving a delivery van. Of course there are concerns that these will be low paid jobs. However older people, whose incomes have been protected most in the years since the recession are likely to be able and willing to pay, and indeed this could be a good transfer of cash from the old to the younger generation.

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Jo Swinson highlights need for better management to increase productivity

It sounds obvious, but well-,managed employees who feel part of a team with a shared goal perform better. Sadly, not all employees work under good managers who are able to get the best out of their teams. This week, Jo Swinson highlighted the need for good management as WSB reports:

“The role of good management skills needs to be more prominent in the thinking about productivity,” Swinson said.

One of the biggest challenges we face in dealing with the productivity dilemma in this country is about improving the quality of management skills.

She said the lack of managerial training was an “ingrained

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Some thoughts on zero hours contracts – Liberal Democrat record in government is better than Labour’s

Zero hours contracts have taken up a lot of bandwidth and airwaves today.

There is a narrative that goes something like: “There might not be mass unemployment but the jobs created under this government are all zero hours contracts”. That is nonsense. The proportion of the workforce on zero hours contracts is actually very small. It’s only about 2% of all jobs.

If exploitation is going on, even if it’s only a handful of people being exploited, it needs to be stopped. There’s no doubt about that. And Liberal Democrats in Government have stopped the scandal of exclusivity, the practice of not guaranteeing your employee any hours or any pay, but not letting them work for anyone else either. We’re way ahead of Labour.

Jo Swinson said at her campaign launch on Monday that she was thinking about something like ensuring that people would automatically have  rights if they were working consistent hours over a certain period, so she and Labour are not a million miles apart. However, I think that we need to be sure that thee won’t be any unintended consequences from such a policy. Think about it. If you were an unscrupulous employer, would you be inclined to make sure that your employees didn’t build up that consistent work pattern? Labour’s policy might not be the simple solution that they are trying to make out.

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Paul Burstow MP writes… Mental health and employment support must be available to all who need it

For most people, work plays a defining role in their lives. It provides structure, the money to live and enjoy life, and for the lucky ones, it can provide a sense of achievement and purpose. Every one of these elements is a component in supporting good mental health, and helps to explain in part the vicious cycle of mental ill-health and unemployment, as well as the critical role that employment can play in mental health recovery.

But it’s sadly not true to assume that work is always good for you mental health. Surveys have found the mild to moderate mental health problems – including stress, anxiety or depression – are the most common reasons people are signed off work, and mental ill health costs UK employers £26billion every year: £8.5billion in sickness absence, £15.1billion in lost productivity and £2.4billion in staff turnover. That’s an average of more than £1000 for every employee, so it’s in everybody’s interests to make sure that employers do everything they can to improve employees mental health, and to encourage them to seek support and treatment as soon as mental health problems develop. While there are some fantastic employers who ‘get’ mental health and its debilitating impact on their employees as well as their business, a recent survey conducted by CentreForum found that two thirds of people said they had been treated unfairly in keeping a job, and 75% said they had stopped themselves applying for work due to fear of discrimination. This needs to end.

That’s why the Mental Health Commission I chaired made the workplace one of our priorities for action. As we recommended, there should be a concerted effort to make UK businesses and services mental health friendly employers, with all organisations with more than 500 employees signing up to a mental health kitemark and 90% of these organisations on board by 2020. I am proud to be able to say that we established the first government funding for the Time to Change campaign – which works to end mental health discrimination – during my tenure as Minister responsible for mental health. It is fantastic that under Norman Lamb, the government have committed to continue funding this crucial work.  To maximise our impact, we now need to ensure that all public sector bodies have taken up the mantle, and use public sector procurement to filter this commitment throughout the distribution chain. At the same time, Norman Lamb has called on all FTSE 100 companies to sign up to the Time to Change initiative – and this is a call we should all echo.

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Opinion: Mental health problems in the workplace: prevention is better than cure #timetotalk

Time to talk 2015It is good to see that increased openness about mental health issues is leading employers to become more accommodating towards people who have such issues. However, there is one policy issue which needs more consideration, and that is the question of how we prevent working conditions and management practices which cause mental health issues in the first place.

Stress and anxiety are some of the most common triggers of mental health problems: the demands of many jobs and detrimental management practices, sometimes combined with an unhealthy work-life (im-)balance, are often a trigger for such problems. What always amazes me is that we can have health and safety regimes concerning physical health which have now gone so far that people joke about them – (but which really have made the world of work much safer), while many employers still seem to take little notice of working conditions which have a detrimental impact on workers’ mental wellbeing.

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Opinion: Stop state sponsorship of sweat shops

BBC News reports:

Outlining proposed restrictions on tax credits and child benefits, Mr Cameron said a migrant in work with two children was getting £700 a month on average in support from the state, twice the amount paid in Germany and three times as much as in France.

Let’s forget about migrants for a moment. Britain’s “generous” in-work benefits are payable to all. Should we be proud of our “generosity”?

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Opinion: Liberal Democrats must prioritise skills development

One of the depressing facts that came out from last week’s Joseph Rowntree Foundation report on poverty is that only 1 in 5 of low paid employees have left low paid work completely ten years later.  Also in the news recently were reports of severe staffing shortages of skilled staff in several sectors including construction and health/social care, leading to major recruitment drives overseas.   There is a real problem with skills development in the UK.

There are several reasons for this.  Since the recession companies have cut back on investment, and that includes training.  The increase in outsourcing in our public services has had an impact; some private providers have good long term training programmes, whereas others take a much more short term approach, particularly if they are fighting to win government contracts on cost. Another cause is the rise in self-employment – 15% of the UK working population is now self-employed compared to 13% in 2008.  Many of these self-employed are rehired to their original organisations but without many of the benefits including a training budget.

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A fair and fast economic recovery

The Labour Party has two attack lines on the economic recovery these days. One is that it is the slowest recovery ever, and the other is that it is happening particularly unfairly. Both are wholly without merit, and show that Labour are living in a fictional dreamworld.

The charge that this is a particularly slow recovery seems to be based on the length of time it is taking to return to trend, looking at graphs such as this:

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Opinion: New law needed to tackle millions wasted on public sector redundancy and rehiring

Those of us who exited the NHS as whistleblowers, given the bum’s rush and no cash, would not be expected to have much sympathy for the small army of re-tread NHS managers who have been ‘made redundant’ and then re-hired, sometimes doing essentially the same job in essentially the same area, having recently received a small fortune for notional ‘redundancy’.

3,950 NHS staff were made redundant between May 2010 and November 2013 and later re-hired, 2,570 of them on a permanent basis and 1,380 on fixed contracts. Last week’s published Department of Health accounts show that the average cost of redundancy …

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Vince Cable scraps exclusivity clauses in zero hours contracts

Vince Cable, Business Secretary at the launch of the joint government and UK automotive industry's automotive strategyVince Cable has introduced a Bill which will ban zero hours contracts that prevent people from looking for other work. These “exclusivity” contracts are particularly unjust. It’s one thing to not offer work in a particular week. It’s quite another to prevent an employee doing another job to supplement their income.

He spoke about this and other things that he had done to encourage fairness in the workplace in this video including increasing the Minimum Wage, enforcing it and curbing high executive pay, which is also available

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Danny Alexander: More people in work than ever before, earnings now rising in line with prices

speech danny alexander 6Two pieces of good economic news today, as the BBC reports:

UK unemployment falls to five-year low of 2.2m

The number of people out of work in the UK has fallen by 77,000 to a five-year low of 2.24m in the three months to February, official figures indicate. The unemployment rate now stands at 6.9% of the adult working population, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said.

After six years, wages finally overtake inflation

After nearly six years of falling real wages, weekly earnings have finally edged above inflation. Weekly wages, including bonuses, rose by 1.7% in the year to February, up from 1.4% in January, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS). Earlier this week, inflation, as measured by the Consumer Prices Index (CPI), fell to 1.6%. It is the first time that earnings have been higher than inflation for six years, apart from two months in 2010.

Here’s what the Lib Dem Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander had to say:

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Fewer workless households

welfare-vs-workfare.s600x600Lib Dem HQ tells us that the number of workless households is falling.

Over the last four years, under the Coalition, the number of households in which no-one works has dropped by 450,000, with a substantial drop of 137,000 in the last year alone.

This outcome appears to validate the campaign to make work pay, so that people will always be better off in work than on benefits.

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Clegg: Shoving new mums aside is unfair and bad for the economy

From Monday’s Scotsman:

MOTHERS often feel “shoved aside” in the workplace because they have had children, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has warned.

He said the problem was “far too common” and was not only unfair but also bad for the economy.

The Liberal Democrat leader said there was a need to dramatically change working practices to adapt to the realities of modern family life.

Mr Clegg’s comments came as a survey showed three quarters of women who returned to work after having a child thought it made it harder to progress in their career.

He went on to say:

It is sadly still far

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Stephen Lloyd writes… It’s all about the jobs!

Stephen Lloyd with Matt Hancock MP, the Minister for Skills & Unemployment Stephen Lloyd with Matt Hancock MP, the Minister for Skills & Unemployment

The “jobs agenda” is one of the top priorities for all Liberal Democrats; whether you’re an activist on the doorstep, someone who is concerned for the future of our young people – or indeed a parliamentarian. I happen to be all three!

In Government, our party has actively pursued policies that are enabling many people to benefit from work and to a greater extent, they are working! Almost one and a half million new private sector jobs have been created; a million new apprenticeships are getting our young people into work and Liberal Democrat policies are helping businesses grow with the £3.2 billion Regional Growth Fund.

We have seen real results from core Liberal Democrat policies. The achievement I am most proud of so far is a subject I am passionate about. In fact, it is one of the issues that drew me back to politics: the dignity afforded to us by being in a job. The scar of benefit dependence that has built up over generations, alongside the apparently intractable problem of high youth unemployment, is something I have been keen to tackle, and have worked furiously on both locally in Eastbourne and nationally in Parliament.

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Employment: Jobs are growing – but there is a long way to go

Employment trendsA million more people are in work compared to early 2010. The number of unemployed people in the UK has dropped by 18,000 in the last three months. And the number of people in jobs is at the highest level ever, according to the Office for National Statistics.

Liberal Democrat minister Steve Webb says:

The Liberal Democrats in government have helped business create more than a million private sector jobs, and now we are working to help create a million more… There is a long way to go, but the economy is on the mend and jobs are crucial to building a stronger economy in a fairer society that allows everyone to get on in life.

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Jo Swinson to name and shame rogue employers who fail to pay minimum wage

Jo Swinson was featured widely in the media yesterday talking about her plan to tackle employers who fail to pay the National Minimum Wage.

The BIS website outlines the plan:

Employment Relations Minister Jo Swinson said:

Paying less than the minimum wage is illegal. If employers break this law they need to know that we will take tough action.

This is why I’m making changes so it is easier to name and shame employers who break the law. This gives a clear warning to rogue employers who ignore the rules, that they will face reputational consequences as well as a fine if they

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