Conservative manifesto pledges national training scheme

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What does the Conservatives' 2017 manifesto mean for HR?

Prime minister Theresa May has promised to introduce a national retraining scheme in the Conservative party's 2017 manifesto.

Under the scheme the costs of training will be met by the government, with companies able to use the apprenticeship levy to support wage costs during the training period.

Peter Cheese, chief executive of the CIPD, said he was concerned about the proposed changes to the levy. “While we welcome the idea of creating a national retraining scheme, we are concerned at the suggestion that companies will be able to use the apprenticeship levy to support wage costs as part of this initiative,” he said. “A far better way to boost training opportunities for individuals and meet employers’ skills needs would be to reframe the apprenticeship levy as a more flexible training levy.”

May also pledged to continue her campaign for fairer corporate governance, stating that there will be new rules for takeovers, executive pay, and worker representation on company boards.

Cheese added: "Only by increasing transparency in business can we help to rebuild trust, and also give employees a greater voice in organisations. We therefore welcome the proposals around annual shareholder votes on pay packages, as well as the requirement to publish pay ratios.

"However, it would be better if companies were benchmarked against their own median pay rather than broader UK workforce pay, which risks organisations being forced to publish numbers that give no context to their individual reward strategy."

Additionally, a Tory government would increase the National Living Wage to 60% of the national median earnings by 2020.

Speaking at the manifesto launch in Halifax, May said: "We must take this opportunity to build a great meritocracy in Britain. It means making Britain a country that works, not for the privileged few, but for everyone."

The manifesto includes tough cuts to immigration, doubling the skills levy companies must pay from £1,000 to £2,000 per migrant worker per year, and committing to reducing net immigration to just tens of thousands a year.

Carolyn Fairbairn, CBI director general, accused the Conservatives of a "blunt approach to immigration" that risks hobbling UK firms trying to attract overseas talent.

Nick Elwell-Sutton, a partner at Clyde & Co, agreed this approach could have adverse effects. "Doubling the skills charge for hiring non-EU employees could help to address some industries' over-reliance on migrant workers,” he said. “However, if the Conservatives win the election they will need to ensure that the UK does not suffer a 'brain drain' as a result of the increased costs of hiring foreign talent. This policy is likely to look less attractive post-Brexit when access to skilled workers from Europe becomes more limited."

Other measures in the manifesto include:

  • A reduction of the 'triple lock' on pensions to a 'double lock' with the state pension to rise by the higher of average earnings or inflation
  • No increase in VAT, but scrapping a 2015 election pledge not to raise income tax or National Insurance
  • Universities charging maximum tuition fees will have to sponsor academies or help found free schools
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