Disability Plan to Help a Million into Work

Disability Plan to Help a Million into Work
The BBC are reporting that the government plans to get one million more disabled people in work over the next 10 years have been set out by the government. Ministers say the new strategy will help those with disabilities keep their jobs and progress in their careers.

The new measures include widening the number of people who can issue fitness-to-work notices and additional training for mental health professionals. Labour’s Debbie Abrahams said benefit cuts had already pushed more disabled people towards poverty.

The pledge comes after ONS figures from June 2017 suggested that disabled people were twice as likely to be unemployed as non-disabled people. About 80% of non-disabled people are in work compared with just under 50% of disabled people.

Prime Minister Theresa May said a person’s life and career “should not be dictated by their disability or health condition”.

“Everyone deserves the chance to find a job that’s right for them,” she added. “I am committed to tackling the injustices facing disabled people who want to work, so that everyone can go as far as their talents will take them.”

The government says in the past four years 600,000 disabled people have found work. However, the disability charity Scope says progress is too slow. The new strategy includes:

  • Measures to provide access to personalised support for those with mental health issue
  • Extending “fit note” certification – which details how a condition affects someone’s ability to work – beyond GPs to a wider group of healthcare professionals, including physiotherapists, psychiatrists and senior nurses
  • Reform statutory sick pay

The 10-year plan builds on a green paper published last year which pledged to halve the so-called disability employment gap. The government hopes the changes to the fit note system will improve the identification of health conditions and treatments to help workers get back to work quickly.

But some disability activists say the problem lies in employers’ attitudes. Mik Scarlet, an inclusion specialist, says he chose to be self-employed after some “disastrous attempts” at getting work.

“Employers have little idea of how beneficial disabled employees can be to a workforce,” he said. “They also don’t understand that creating flexible inclusive work systems improves the working environment for all.”

BBC disability correspondent Nikki Fox said it was not the first time the government had pledged to get more disabled people into work. However, she said “the employment gap between disabled and non-disabled people has not significantly changed for some years”.

Labour’s shadow work and pensions secretary, Ms Abrahams, warned the government’s plans “hinted at” further cuts. “The Tories’ cuts to social security support are pushing more and more disabled people into poverty,” she said.

“The Tories have already hit disabled people who are not fit for work but who may be in the future in the work related activity group. “I hope they are not going to now target the most disabled people in the support group, as their green paper hinted at.”

UK Should End Cash in Hand Economy

Taylor Review: UK Should End Cash in Hand Economy
The author of a government review into work practices would like to see an end to the “cash-in-hand economy”. Matthew Taylor, whose report is out on Tuesday, said cash jobs such as window cleaning and decorating were worth up to £6bn a year, much of it untaxed.

The review recommends that firms which have a “controlling and supervisory” relationship with workers should pay a range of benefits. That includes millions of pounds in National Insurance contributions. The recommendations are part of a much wider review into modern working practices, including the gig economy. Mr Taylor’s report recommends a new category of worker called a “dependent contractor”, who should be given extra protections by firms such as Uber and Deliveroo. It also says low-paid workers should not be “stuck” at the minimum living wage or face insecurity.

At the launch of the report later on Tuesday, the prime minister will say that it confronts issues that “go right to the heart of this government’s agenda and right to the heart of our values as a people”. Mrs May will say: “I am clear that this government will act to ensure that the interests of employees on traditional contracts, the self-employed and those people working in the ‘gig’ economy are all properly protected.”

In particular, Mr Taylor’s review found the UK had a “great record on creating jobs” but less so on the “quality” of those jobs. “In my view there is too much work particularly at the bottom end of the labour market that is not of a high enough quality,” Mr Taylor told the BBC. “There are too many people not having their rights fully respected. There are too many people at work who are treated like cogs in a machine rather than being human beings, and there are too many people who don’t see a route from their current job to progress and earn more and do better,” Mr Taylor said.

He said his aim was not to change the working landscape for those who wanted to work flexibly: “If people want to clock on and earn a few extra quid we don’t want to stop that. “We don’t want to ban zero hours [contracts] – many people who work zero hours want to do so.” But he said working platform providers such as Uber had to demonstrate that workers signing on for hours of work would “easily clear” the minimum wage.

Mr Taylor also said he did not want to ban cash payments outright, but hoped, over time, the increasing popularity of transaction platforms such as PayPal and Worldpay would see a shift from cash-in-hand work. “In a few years time as we move to a more cashless economy, self employed people would be paid cashlessly – like your window cleaner. At the same time they can pay taxes and save for their pension,” he said. “Most people who do pay for self-employed labour would like to know that that person is paying their taxes.”

However, Labour’s shadow business secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey said the review did not go far enough for the 4.5 million people in insecure work. She told the BBC’s Today programme: “If it looks like a job or it smells like a job then it is a job, and the worker should be employed, and I think in those those situations where a worker is carrying out work on behalf of an employer… they should not be exploited as a flexible workers.”

Trade unions also said Mr Taylor did not tackle many of the issues facing workers. TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “From what we’ve seen, this review is not the game-changer needed to end insecurity and exploitation at work.” Tim Roache, GMB general secretary, called it a “disappointing missed opportunity”.

Mr Taylor, who worked on the review for nine months, is presenting seven recommendations to the government to provide “good quality work”.

The BBC understands he will also suggest ways to tackle tax avoidance from cash-in-hand work. He is set to call for cash jobs to be paid through platforms such as credit cards, contactless payments and PayPal.

Last year, tax dodging by people in the “hidden economy” cost the government £4.4bn, according to HMRC figures.

However, making changes to cash-in-hand work is a controversial area. In 2012 the then-Treasury minister David Gauke was criticised for saying it was “morally wrong” to pay tradesmen in cash.

Former shadow chancellor Ed Balls also came under fire for suggesting people should get a written receipt for all transactions, even small gardening jobs.

Teachers Jobs in & Around the North East

Teachers Jobs in Newcastle & the North East
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With so many schools under pressure to fill vacancies for a short or fixed term basis due to sickness or other issues First Call Teachers can help schools free up time and resources spent on the recruitment process looking for supply teachers. Using a recruitment service such as First Call Teachers is an ideal choice for anyone looking to start their teaching career, returning after a break or needing part time work to fit around other commitments, not only can you start to build up your reputation and begin to form relationships within the profession you can also gain valuable experience and knowledge from undertaking a variety of different roles within a range of schools.

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Call to Raise Retirement Age to at Least 70

Call to Raise Retirement Age to at Least 70
The retirement age should rise to at least 70 in rich countries by 2050 as life expectancy rises above 100, according to a new report. The World Economic Forum said that employees should continue working until 70 in nations such as the UK, US, Japan and Canada.

The increase will be needed, as the number of people over 65 will more than triple to 2.1 billion by 2050. By then, the number of workers per retiree will have halved to just four.

Michael Drexler, head of financial and infrastructure systems at the World Economic Forum, said the expected rise in longevity was the financial equivalent of climate change. “We must address it now or accept that its adverse consequences will haunt future generations, putting an impossible strain on our children and grandchildren,” he said.

In the UK the state pension age is due to rise from 65 in 2018 to 68 by 2046.

A report for the Department for Work and Pensions earlier this year has suggested that workers under 30 may not get a state pension until they are 70. The Forum’s report, We’ll Live to 100 – How Can We Afford It, said that governments need to make it easier for workers to save for their retirement and praised recent reforms in the UK.

The auto-enrolment scheme means more than six million British workers have now been signed up automatically to a pension savings scheme, but fears remain over how much is being set aside.

The WEF said the retirement savings gap was forecast to rise from $70tn to $400tn by 2050 in the eight countries studied: Australia, Canada, China, India, Japan, Netherlands, the UK and the US. The gap is the amount of money required in each country to ensure a retirement income equal to 70% of a person’s pre-retirement income.

Jacques Goulet, president of health and Wealth at Mercer, which worked with the Forum to produce the report, said the issue was at a crisis point. “There is no one ‘silver bullet’ solution to solve the retirement gap. Individuals need to increase their personal savings and financial literacy, while the private sector and governments should provide programmes to support them,” he said.

The Forum also says that countries should aggregate and combine pensions data to give workers a full picture of their financial position. It cites Denmark, where an online dashboard collates pension information to give individuals details of their different pension savings accounts.

UK Jobless Rate Remains at 4.7%

UK Jobless Rate Remains at 4.7%
The UK unemployment rate has remained at 4.7% as inflation starts to wipe out wage growth, official figures show. The number of people unemployed fell by 45,000 to 1.56 million in the three months to February, said the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

Average weekly earnings including bonuses increased by 2.3%, the same as in the year to January.

On Tuesday, figures showed inflation was running at 2.3%, above the Bank of England’s 2% target.

The ONS said in a statement: “Average weekly earnings for employees increased by 2.3% including bonuses and by 2.2% excluding bonuses, compared with a year earlier.  “However, adjusted for inflation, average weekly earnings grew by 0.2% including bonuses and by 0.1% excluding bonuses, over the year, the slowest rate of growth since 2014.”

The number of people in work continued to increase – up by 39,000 on the latest quarter to 31.8 million, giving an employment rate of 74.6%, the joint highest since records began in 1971.

Work and Pensions Secretary Damian Green said: “This is yet another strong set of figures, with unemployment at a rate that hasn’t been beaten since the 1970s and more vacancies than ever before. More people are finding full-time jobs and average wages have grown yet again, meaning more families have the security of a regular wage.”

However, Samuel Tombs, chief UK economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics, said: “Households are being caught in a perfect storm of rising inflation and slowing labour income growth.”

Andrew Sentance, senior economic adviser at professional services firm PwC, said: “With inflation expected to pick up further over the course of this year, this squeeze on consumer purchasing power is likely to intensify. “Both the employment and wage figures therefore point to a slowdown in consumer spending, which is already apparent from the retail sales data for the early months of this year.”

The unemployment rate is at its highest in the North East region at 6.4% and at its lowest in the South East at 3.4%.

Sterling rose slightly against the dollar after the figures were released and hit a 12-day high versus the euro.

Gender Pay Gaps Must be Declared by UK Business

Gender Pay Gaps Must be Declared by UK Business
UK companies with 250 or more employees will have to publish their gender pay gaps within the next year under a new legal requirement. The move is part of attempts to fight workplace discrimination. The UK has a gender pay gap of 18.1% for all workers, or 9.4% for full-time employees.

Public, private and voluntary sector firms are now all required to disclose average pay for men and women, including any bonuses. About half of the UK workforce will be affected by the new reporting rules, which encompass 9,000 employers and more than 15 million employees.

Firms must publish a snapshot of their employee pay as at 5 April 2017 if they are a private business or charity, or 31 March 2017 for those in the public sector. A few companies including Virgin Money and Deloitte have already published their figures. All the data will eventually be available on a central government database.

If employers fail to comply by the April 2018 deadline, they will be contacted by the Equalities and Human Rights Commission. Companies that discover they do have a gender pay gap will be encouraged to publish an action plan alongside the figures detailing the steps they plan to take to address the problem.

Justine Greening, the Secretary of State for Education and Minister for Women and Equalities, tweeted that the new disclosure rule would be a key move in closing the gender pay gap.

Other countries are also working to eradicate the gender pay gap. Iceland is debating a bill that would require companies with more than 25 employees to prove they do not discriminate between male and female workers.

The country has the smallest gap, according to the World Economic Forum’s Gender Pay Gap Index, while the UK is in 20th place.

By April 2018, large and mid-sized companies in the UK must:

> Publish their median gender pay gap figures, which compare the pay of the man and woman who are at the mid-point of the company payroll.
> Publish their mean gender pay gap figures – produced by dividing the total payroll by the number of workers.
> Publish the proportion of men and women in each quarter of the pay structure.
> Publish the gender pay gaps for bonuses

The gender pay gap and equal pay are two different things. The former is the difference in average earnings between men and woman. Equal pay, or paying men and woman the same amount to do the same job, has been a legal requirement for more than 40 years.

“Today sees a big step forward in the journey to achieve gender parity in the UK,” said Emma Codd from Deloitte UK, which already publishes figures on its gender pay gap. “For the first time people will be able to see the gender pay gap of large employers at one fixed point in time, with this gap measured and reported in a consistent way.”

But Sam Bowman from the Adam Smith Institute, described the new measure as “counterproductive”. “It reinforces the idea that the gender wage gap is caused by discrimination by firms against women,” he said.

“In fact, it’s more to do with the fact that women are expected to take quite a lot of time out of their jobs after they have children, which interrupts their career progression, and many switch to part-time work when they do return to work. We have more of a motherhood pay gap than a gender pay gap. That gap can be closed by encouraging men to handle a more equal share of child-rearing time and by consumers preferring firms that take the lead in giving flexibility to working mothers.”

Income Inequality Among Men Soars

Income Inequality Among Men Soars
The number of men in low-paid part-time work has increased fourfold over the past 20 years. New research by the Institute for Fiscal Studies has found that one in five low-paid men aged 25 to 55 now work part-time. While 95% of top-earning men normally work full-time, 20% of the lowest paid now work part-time.

That means wage inequality for men has risen over two decades, but for women the opposite is the case. More women have had a better education in recent years and more have moved into full-time jobs. As a result their pay has improved and they have had less incentive to leave the workforce.

However, the research does not reveal why increasing numbers of low-paid men are working part time.

Jonathan Cribb, senior research economist at the IFS and author of the report, said: “To understand the drivers of inequality in the UK it is vital to understand the growing association between low hourly wages and low hours of work among men.”

There are two schools of thought about what might be happening. It may be that increasing numbers of men want to work part-time, although this seems unlikely. The second theory is based on the sectors where these low-paid jobs are found.

Six in ten of them are in the retail, wholesale or hospitality sectors. That might suggest men who previously worked in low-paid but secure, full-time jobs in sectors such as manufacturing have lost that type of employment. Instead they have been forced into the traditionally poorly paid and less secure services sector of the economy.

Yet those are the sectors of the economy that traditionally have employed large numbers of poorly paid and part-time female workers.

UK Unemployment Falls Again

UK Unemployment Falls Again
UK unemployment fell by 16,000 to 1.62 million in the three months to October, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS). The unemployment rate held steady at 4.8% in the same period. Average weekly earnings excluding bonuses rose by 2.6% in the year to October – slightly higher than the previous month.

The UK has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the European Union.

The number of women in work reached a record high of almost 15 million – an employment rate of nearly 70%, the best since records began in 1971. In total, there were 31.76 million people in work, which was “slightly down on the record set recently”, said ONS senior statistician David Freeman. “The labour market appears to have flattened off in recent months,” he said.

Fewer people also looked for work, leading to a rise in economic inactivity, which measures people without a job who are not seeking or available to work. There were 8.91 million people of working age who were economically inactive – 76,000 higher than in the previous period.

“The combination of the weakest employment data since mid-2015 and the fastest wage gains since June will raise eyebrows, but it probably is not as alarming as it might seem,” said Ian Shepherdson, chief economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics.  “The employment data are very erratic and sudden swings, in either direction, are not unusual.”

The Bank of England and other economists have forecast that unemployment is set to rise amid uncertainty over Brexit. “Today’s data provides the clearest evidence yet that the jobs market has started to cool off since the Brexit vote,” said John Hawksworth, chief economist at PwC.

The employment figures are based on the Labour Force Survey, in which the ONS speaks to about 40,000 households once every three months. That is a very large survey, but it still means the figures are not precise.

The ONS is 95% confident that the figure of a 16,000 fall in unemployment is accurate give or take 81,000. That means that the fall in unemployment is not statistically significant.

School Leavers Lack Essential Work Place Skills

School Leavers Lack Essential Work Place Skills
You’re 18 and leaving education, the world of work is at your feet. Or is it? Not so, according to the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA). A survey by the business group has found eight out of 10 British school-leavers “lack essential business skills” such as numeracy. More than 80% of young people require “significant training” before being put to work, according to the 4,000 finance professionals questioned. The figure is worse than last year, when 75% of school-leavers were said to need this level of help after being hired.

The top areas of weakness for new recruits are people skills and business skills, followed by technical skills. But how much of this can and should be taught in schools?

Alison Arnaud, borough principal of Tower Hamlets College says her staff go above and beyond to prepare young people for the workplace, but at the end of the day, they will always need some finessing depending on the industry they end up in. “We will mine for the diamond, but the cut and polish is the responsibility of the employer,” she says.

Victoria Hill is 17 and studying business, economics and accounting A-levels at the college. She is aware her choices throughout her education have set her up well for work. But, she says her activities outside of school are just as important. “I do public speaking because I take part in pageants,” she says. “It’s definitely increased my confidence.”

Victoria also works part-time for her family’s business, and says the amount of team work involved in her job took her by surprise.  “You have to work well together to plan properly for the different groups of customers that come in,” she says.

Fellow student Ifthekar Hussein, 18, had a summer job at Tesco this year. He says the training he received at the supermarket chain was invaluable in helping him learn how to approach and deal with customers. “I was so nervous at first,” he says.

Grace Mehanna, campaign director for youth employment at Business in the Community, an outreach charity that promotes responsible business, says businesses have a big role to play in preparing school leavers for work. “From working in schools to help young people and teachers to understand what employers need, to offering new routes into work in the form of apprenticeships; there are many ways businesses can help to bridge the skills gap,” she adds.

Worryingly, the CIMA research finds that the apparent low calibre of new hires is affecting the performance of the firms that took part in the survey.

More than 90% of those surveyed in the UK reported that their workload had increased as a result of skills shortages, with 66% agreeing it had increased the stress levels of staff and 44% that it had caused a fall in departmental performance.

“It is clear the education system is failing young people and failing business. Children spend at least 14 years being schooled, and that provides ample opportunity to equip them with the basic numeracy and literacy skills on which to base a career,” says Noel Tagoe, executive director of CIMA Education. Over the years our various governments have been keen to champion new ideas in education. My concern is that in the long-term the frequency of these changes appear not to be strengthening students’ grasp of the basics,” he adds.

Tower Hamlets College principal Ms Arnaud agrees that the number of changes is “part of the problem” when it comes to the disconnect between what employers are expecting and what students are being taught. “Education is a steamliner, it can’t be turned around quickly. Change is not a bad thing, it can be refreshing, but it can’t be done for the sake of change,” she says.

Georgie Walters, who is 16 and works in financial services, says school left him ill-prepared to deal with the pressures of work. “Work is very different to school, teachers spend a lot of time talking about bullying, which is important, but they need to also spend time teaching us how to handle pressure. They don’t tell you about the stresses involved in working.”

Student Doctor Numbers to Rise by 25%

Student Doctor Numbers to Rise by 25%
The number of medical school places will increase by 25% from 2018 under plans to make England “self-sufficient” in training doctors. Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt is to announce an expansion in training places from 6,000 to 7,500 a year. He believes increasing the number of home-grown doctors will be essential given the ageing population.


There is also concern it will become more difficult to recruit doctors trained abroad in the future. About a quarter of the medical workforce is trained outside the UK, but the impact of Brexit and a global shortage of doctors could make it harder to recruit so many in the future.

Prime Minister Theresa May told the BBC: “We want to see the NHS able to recruit doctors from this country. We want to see more British doctors in the NHS.”

The increase also comes after the health secretary has spent a year at loggerheads with junior doctors over the pressures being placed on them to fill rota gaps. Medical degrees take five years to complete, so it will be 2024 before the impact of these extra places is felt.

◾ Each year 6,000 medical students currently graduate after five years of study
◾ There are a similar new junior doctors places open for them (although some students take gap years)
◾ By the third year of junior doctor training they need to choose a specialism, such as general practice or a hospital speciality like surgery
◾ That is where the shortages start to emerge
◾ Latest figures from Health Education England show one in 10 places remain unfilled
◾ The biggest gaps are seen in psychiatry (19%), GPs (17%) and paediatrics (7%)
But Mr Hunt will tell the Conservative Party conference in Birmingham on Tuesday: “We need to prepare the NHS for the future, which means doing something we have never done properly before – training enough doctors.

“Currently a quarter of our doctors come from overseas. They do a fantastic job and we have been clear that we want EU nationals who are already here to stay post-Brexit. But is it right to import doctors from poorer countries that need them while turning away bright home graduates desperate to study medicine?”

Mr Hunt will say the steps will mean that by the end of the next Parliament the NHS in England will be “self-sufficient” when it comes to training doctors.

The rise in training places will cost £100m by the end of the Parliament, but in the long-term the government hopes to recoup money by charging foreign students more than it does now. Medical students will also be expected to work for the NHS for at least four years – or face penalties that could include them having to repay the cost of their training, which currently stands at £220,000 over the five-year degree.

British Medical Association leader Dr Mark Porter said the announcement “falls far short of what is needed”.

“The government’s poor workforce planning has meant that the health service is currently facing huge and predictable staff shortages,” he said. “We desperately need more doctors, particularly with the government plans for further seven-day services, but it will take a decade for extra places at medical school to produce more doctors. This initiative will not stop the NHS from needing to recruit overseas staff.”

Nigel Edwards, chief executive of the Nuffield Trust, said: “For decades, the NHS has failed to train enough of its own staff, so increasing the number of UK-trained medical staff is long overdue. However, if this new announcement involves simply replacing overseas doctors with UK-trained ones, that won’t increase the total number working in the NHS, and certainly won’t solve the agency staff crisis that is affecting the NHS right now.”

Chief Executive of Dartford and Gravesham NHS trust Susan Acott told the BBC there were shortages in specialisms including Accident and Emergency, radiology and intensive care in her hospitals. “An expansion of medical training is very desirable,” she said. “We’re a very under-doctored country compared to European levels.”

The idea that doctors could be retained in the UK once they had trained was an “interesting” idea, she added, but there were practical obstacles.  “Doctors go abroad to develop their training and experience different health systems and techniques,” Ms Acott said.