Big companies use apprenticeships to cut costs, according to report

Low-skilled jobs are being reclassified as apprenticeships by companies in a bid to gain subsidies for training workers, according to a report from the think tank Reform.

The centre-right think tank says companies are repackaging existing roles since an apprenticeship levy was introduced to incentivise their use. Reform says 40% of government-approved apprenticeship standards would not meet the traditional definition of an apprenticeship.

Companies with a payroll worth more than £3m now have to pay 0.5% of the total salary amount into an HMRC ‘digital account’ which can be ‘spent’ on apprenticeship delivery training through government-registered providers. Employers can claim back 90% of the cost of training.

Offering an apprenticeship enables employers to pay less than the national minimum wage. Minimum rates for apprentices range from £3.70 and hour to £7.38 per hour.

The government has previously said that apprenticeships have to be skilled roles, requiring substantial and sustained training of at least 12 months, leading to full competency and providing the apprentice with transferrable skills in the occupation.

However, large companies have been using the scheme to advertise low-skilled roles such as serving coffees and making fast food.

The report claims that some employers are using the opportunity to offer high quality apprenticeships, but others are simply using the system as a way to reduce costs.

ECJ clarifies rules on pregnant workers’ rights

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) has ruled that firms are able to sack pregnant women as part of general cuts to staffing without breaching rules on protecting pregnant women, according to BBC News.

The ECJ held that Spanish bank Bankia was entitled to dismiss employee Jessica Porras in 2013 as the dismissal was not connected to her pregnancy.

EU Directive 92/85 bans dismissing a pregnant worker from the start of pregnancy to the end of maternity leave. However, there are exceptions for national laws where a dismissal is not connected to pregnancy.

The High Court of Catalonia asked the ECJ to clarify the rules on pregnant workers’ rights following Ms Porras’ appeal against a court ruling in Mataro near Barcelona.

Under EU rules, an employer must give written reasons for making a collective redundancy and inform the pregnant employee of the criteria for choosing who will be dismissed.

The ECJ found that Bankia had met its obligations by consulting workers’ representatives about the forthcoming job cuts and had sent Ms Porras a letter outlining the reasons. The ECJ found Ms Porras had been given a low score in an assessment.

Annual immigration into the UK to fall 100,000

Brexit is set to reduce annual immigration into the UK by 100,000 even if talks with the European Union result in a smooth deal, according to economists from Bank of America Merrill Lynch (BAML), the Telegraph reports.

The bank cites strong economic performance in eurozone countries as a counter incentive to emigration to the UK. These attractive conditions are likely to keep would-be immigrants at home whereas they would have once sought work in the UK.

The weak pound has also made jobs in the UK less attractive as migrants’ earnings are worth less in their home currencies, including the Euro. Net immigration is now at 300,000 per year.

The BAML estimates mean that several hundred thousand fewer workers will come to the UK in the next few years. Analysts said that if by 2022, 350,000 fewer people arrive than previously projected, the UK economy could be negatively impacted.

The UK government has previously stated that it aims to limit net migration to the UK at 100,000 people per year. BAML said it would view this potential outcome as a ‘hard Brexit’ if agreed in the EU withdrawal talks.

Despite this goal, the UK economy is currently performing well and unemployment is at its lowest level in 42 years, suggesting a need for immigrant workers.

UK employment rate increases

Official figures for UK employment were higher from May to July this year, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS) statistical bulletin on the UK Labour Market released on Wednesday.

From May to July 2015 there were 31.09 million people in work, an increase of 42,000 compared to February to April 2015. The latest figure is also up by 413,000 over the same period in 2014.

ONS data shows that there were 22.74 million people working full-time in the UK in the period reported, 361,000 more than the prior year, while there were 8.36 million people working part-time, a rise of 52,000 year-on-year.

The proportion of people aged from 16 to 64 who were in work, which is reported as the employment rate, amounted to 73.5%. This percentage was only slightly different compared with February to April 2015, but higher than for a year earlier, when it was recorded as 72.8%.

British people who were not in work but seeking and available to work, numbered 1.82 million, which meant there were 10,000 more unemployed people than for February to April 2015. However, this number was 198,000 fewer than May to July in 2014.

The UK unemployment rate, which represents the proportion of the labour force who were unemployed, stood at 5.5%, unchanged compared with February to April 2015. But the rate was 6.2% lower than for a year earlier.

According to the ONS report, there were 8.99 million people aged from 16 to 64 who were economically inactive, meaning those not working and not seeking or available to work. This figure was 24,000 lower than for February to April 2015 and 65,000 lower than for the year before. The proportion of people aged from 16 to 64 who were economically inactive, known as the inactivity rate, was 22.1%, flat compared with February to April 2015 but down slightly from a year earlier , when it was recorded as 22.3%.

When comparing May to July 2015 with a year earlier, both total pay including bonuses and regular pay, not excluding bonuses, for employees in the UK, was revealed to have increased by 2.9%.

Women bear the brunt of unemployment

Out of 28,000 people that lost their jobs between November and January, 22,000 were women.

That means a staggering eight out of ten workers to lose their jobs were female.

The latest employment statistics show a worrying trend where women are the hardest hit by unemployment.

The number of women accepting part-time work because they could not secure full-time employment is at its highest level for twenty years.

The amount of women claiming job seekers allowance is also at its highest for 17 years, reaching 531,000.

The number of women on jobseekers allowance has more than doubled since the credit crunch in August 2007 when the number stood at 228,000.

Liam Byrne, Labour’s work and pensions spokesman, said: ‘The surge in women’s unemployment is reaching shocking levels.’

Dave Prentis, general secretary of Unison, said: ‘Women are still being hit hardest by job losses.

‘It is shameful to see that not only are women bearing the brunt of the recession, they are unemployed in record numbers and are hardest hit by the cuts to public services and jobs.’

The figures published by the Office for National Statistics this week show that older females are suffering more so than younger women.

The number of women between the ages of 50 and 64 are at record levels, with 148,000 women job hunting.