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Now is the time for business to engage apprentices

Having been ignored for decades, apprenticeships are back for good. According to the government, ‘over 2.1m people have started apprenticeships this Parliament, with a six-fold increase in higher apprenticeships started since 2009-10’. The number is planned to increase and there’s an apprenticeship voucher scheme on the way, scheduled for roll-out in 2017. In yesterday’s Budget from Chancellor George Osborne, the apprentice wage went up by 57p an hour to £3.30 – equivalent to an annual salary increase of over £1,000 for a full time worker.

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Budget: Health & Safety regulation review

The Government are introducing legislative change in 2012 so that health and safety law will no longer hold employers to be in breach of their duties in civil law where they have done everything that is reasonably practicable and foreseeable to protect their employees;

  •  giving the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) authority to direct all local authority health and safety inspection and enforcement activity, in order to ensure that it is consistent and targeted towards the most risky workplaces. A code based on existing powers will be introduced in April 2013;
  • amending the Health & Safety (First Aid) Regulations 1981 to remove the requirement for HSE to approve the training and qualifications of appointed first-aid personnel. Revised guidance aimed at small business will be published by May 2012, and provisions repealed by October 2012;
  • amending the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulation (RIDDOR) and its associated guidance to provide clarity for businesses on how to comply with the requirements by October 2013. This is in addition to the legislative change being made in April 2012 to extend to seven days (from three) the period an employee needs to have taken off work before an injury or accident needs to be reported;
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Government to reduce burdens on business

Government budget proposals

  • will improve and reform the Enterprise Management Incentive scheme (EMI), which helps SMEs recruit and retain talent, by providing additional support to help start-ups access the scheme; by consulting on amending restrictions that currently prevent the scheme being used by academics employed by start-ups, and by more than doubling the individual grant limit to £250,000, subject to State aid approval;
  • will consult on simplifying the Carbon Reduction Commitment (CRC) energy efficiency scheme to reduce administrative burdens on business.  Should very significant administrative savings not be deliverable, the Government will bring forward proposals in autumn 2012 to replace CRC revenues with an alternative environmental tax, and will engage with business before then to identify potential options;
  • will scrap or improve 84 per cent of health and safety regulation, including legislating in 2012 so that ‘strict liability’ provisions in health and safety law will no longer hold employers to be in breach of their duties when they have done everything that is reasonably practicable and foreseeable to protect their employees;
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Apprenticeships: Cable guarantees quality, slashes red tape and delivers cash boost for firms

Business Secretary Vince Cable today announced new measures to ensure more young people benefit from an apprenticeship, and to help employers gain the skilled workers they need to grow.

As part of the Government’s plan for growth, Ministers are taking action to make it easier for companies to take on apprentices, and ensure that the quality of apprenticeships is continually improved. He told businesses in Londonrecently that the Government would slash the red tape that can deter hard pressed firms from taking on apprentices, and provide a financial incentive to help the smallest firms recruit their first young apprentices.

The following measures to further strengthen the UK’s world class apprenticeships programme were recently announced:

· To encourage thousands of small firms that don’t currently hire apprentices to take on a young apprentice aged 16 to 24, the Government will offer employers with up to 50 employees an incentive payment of up to £1,500. This will support up to 20,000 new apprenticeships in 2012/13. An initial payment will be made two months after the individual has started their apprenticeship; the balance will be paid after the apprenticeship has been completed and the trainee has progressed into sustainable employment.

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Government introduces deregulatory measures

The Financial Secretary to the Treasury, Mark Hoban MP, has announced that two deregulatory amendments to the EU Prospectus Directive have been brought into effect a year early by the UK to help small businesses access equity finance more cheaply and effectively. By bringing these measures into force now, the Government is demonstrating its commitment to helping small UK businesses access the finance they need, in an announcement welcomed by the Federation of Small Businesses. The new requirements come into law on 31 July 2011, allowing businesses to take advantage of the measures from 1 August 2011.

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Government launches next phase of Growth Review

The rural economy and medium sized businesses will be at the centre of the next stage of the Growth Review, the Government announced today, as it continues its focus on restoring the economy’s health.

Building on the radical programme of reforms set out in the first Plan for Growth, published at the Budget, the next stage of the review will focus on:

Infrastructure – considering how to eliminate barriers and encourage greater investment in UK infrastructure

  • Education and skills – looking across the whole of the education system from schools, FE colleges, universities and other training providers to consider how to maximise economic growth
  • Logistics – covering rail, road, shipping and air freight interests and cutting across the wholesale industry, looking at opportunities and barriers to growth as the logistics sector evolves in response to the increasing complexity and globalisation of supply chains
  • Mid-sized businesses – examining businesses that have expanded beyond the definition of SMEs, considering how to increase the number of firms that show significant growth at this level
  • Rural economy – scrutinizing the constraints, opportunities and risks impacting on economic growth in rural areas, and considering specific issues including labour market characteristics, to support the Government’s commitment to rebalancing the economy
  • Open data – investigating the potential growth benefits and risks of opening up access to public sector data assets
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More than £450m investment for regional jobs and growth

Over 100,000 new jobs will be created and safeguarded under Government plans announced today by the Deputy Prime Minister to invest £450m in businesses across England.

The first round of the Regional Growth Fund (RGF) will see an expanded amount of public investment support 50 bids by companies and partnerships who demonstrated how they would create jobs and a high level of private sector-led sustainable economic growth in their local communities over the coming years.

The Government expects over 27,000 jobs to be directly created and safeguarded, with close to a further 100,000 jobs in associated supply chains and local economies.

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£20m management training fund will help small businesses grow

Skills Minister John Hayes today called on senior leaders in SMEs to take advantage of funding that will support leadership and management training to help them grow their businesses.

Around 13,000 small and medium sized businesses and social enterprises that demonstrate a potential for growth will benefit from the Leadership and Management development grant. This will help stimulate innovation and employment, boosting the economy and helping develop a bigger and more cohesive society.

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