Today’s autumn statement from the Chancellor has drawn a mixed response from the recruitment industry. Identifying good news for the industry, Tania Bowers, global public policy director at the Association of Professional Staffing Companies (APSCo) said: “For the professional staffing sector, the news that HMRC is proceeding with the set off proposals to off-payroll rules is welcome. This latest development – outlined in the full details of the Autumn Statement – has followed three years of lobbying by APSCo on this issue which started when we held the co-chair position of the then named IR35 Forum. Although it doesn’t mitigate the dampening impact overall of off-payroll on professional contractors, who should be included in the Chancellor’s broad appreciation of the self-employed, it does reduce the unfairness of the rules on recruiters, who are the deemed employers.

Bowers reported APSCo also pleased that the Chancellor paid heed to calls to expand Investment Zones and proceed with legislation to deal with tax avoidance promoters.

“Making full expensing permanent should also encourage recruitment firms to invest in growth plans, which will certainly be a boost following an arguably difficult year for them after the highs of 2021 and 2022,” she added. “Any targeted investments in innovation and advanced sectors should boost job creation across technology, engineering, and life sciences which are key sectors for our members. However, there is still a candidate skills deficit and unfortunately continuing to plough on with a singular policy on technical skills, namely apprenticeships, and the dismissal of an opportunity to review business visas, means that our members expect that the much sought-after productivity boost will, as a result, be slower.”

Neil Carberry, REC chief executive, gave his view that the Chancellor had taken some significant pro-business steps, although the downgraded growth forecasts prepared by the OBR show the scale of the challenge he faces. “We need to get the UK powering on all its cylinders to really make progress,” said Carberry, “and we should remember that – despite today’s news – we are still heading for a post-war high on the tax burden over the next few years.

“Reducing employees’ NI is a great way to make work pay – and we also welcome the extension of the Restart programme and reform of fit notes as these steps will help ensure that we make the most of the UK’s labour force,” said Carberry.

“By delivering real terms cuts in public investment, the Chancellor has put the ball into the private sector’s court. It is for business to drive growth, we agree. But the public sector must provide a framework. We saw some of that today in the support and incentives on offer – but it does not yet add up to the industrial strategy the country really needs. And in some areas – like skills – the investments announced today were woefully inadequate. Really engaging with firms on apprenticeship levy reform is long overdue.”

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