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Colborn’s Corner: Gordon’s jobs package


Quentin Colborn The government is currently looking to play its part in mitigating the effects of unemployment and, earlier this week, the ‘Jobs Summit’ outlined steps to get people back to work. Quentin Colborn addresses some of the key outcomes and questions what impact they will have on HR activities.

The big ticket item to come out of the summit was the announcement of the £2,500 grant to organisations that recruit someone who has been on the dole for six months or more. On the face of it a reasonable inducement, but what will it mean in practical terms?

Of course, the measure is designed to not only get people back to work short term but also ensure that longer term we don’t have a tranche of long-term unemployed who are not used to the ethos of working.

Hearing of the proposal, my first question is how much will it induce employers to recruit who would not have done so otherwise? For those who recruit at a minimum wage level, the grant is quite significant, amounting to about 20% of base salary costs. However, even in times of recession, employers are not necessarily looking to recruit at that level. If we are looking to recruit people at higher salaries the proportionate benefit clearly becomes less.

“Cash-strapped employers who are looking to benefit from the scheme may find it takes some time to receive payment.”

Will it all be worth it? The background to the scheme is not yet entirely clear. Undoubtedly, and in many ways completely correctly, there will be various rules and procedures to ensure that the grant is only paid where it is due but this will inevitably create additional paperwork, and with it potential barriers to participating in the scheme.

We also need to consider who will administer the arrangements. My expectation is that the Jobcentres will be increasingly overwhelmed over the coming months – they have not had much time to get their own staff trained to cope with the influx of claimants, and so cash-strapped employers who are looking to benefit from the scheme may find it takes some time to receive payment.

So what impact will the scheme have on recruitment decisions? Clearly if a particular potential recruit comes with a £2,500 grant there will be an attraction to recruiting that person in preference to someone who doesn’t come with the grant.

But is this necessarily the correct decision for the employer? When I work with recruiters I try and inculcate a belief that you should always recruit the right person for the job, even if that means waiting a little longer or paying a slightly higher salary.

My views on this haven’t changed; in fact especially during a recession, it is even more important to ensure that new recruits are able to deliver their responsibilities and contribute to the organisation’s success. So taking someone on just because they come with a signing-on fee is not a good rationale – they need to have the necessary skills and attitude.

“Taking someone on just because they come with a signing-on fee is not a good rationale – they need to have the necessary skills and attitude.”

Are there any alternatives? Many employers will cite red tape and employment legislation as being barriers to recruiting staff. Yet in reality, with the qualifying length of service for unfair dismissal tribunal claims being 12 months, the first year is a lengthy probationary period and perhaps this concern is more one of theory than fact.

What I think would benefit both employers and potential employees is greater emphasis being given to taking staff on part-time and then increasing hours as the job develops. This has the benefit to the employer of managing costs, yet giving them the flexibility to increase hours when necessary.

From the employee’s perspective, part-time work provides a route back into employment and for those who had been put off work for some time, the opportunity to re-establish themselves in a working environment. My question is, do our benefit and support services give the appropriate support to those who go back via the part-time route?

If you are an employer, how much difference will the grant make to recruitment decisions? If this isn’t going to make a big difference, what would you advocate to get more people back into work?

Quentin Colborn is an independent HR consultant based in Essex who advises management teams on operational and strategic HR issues. Quentin can be contacted on 01376 571360 or email: [email protected]. For more information, visit:

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