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Round-up of the week

Posted on 24th March 2016

8 in 10 employers believe economy is improving

Most employers in the UK feel economic conditions are getting better, a new survey has found.

According to research by the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC), 79 per cent feel the operating environment is improving.

As a result, many are planning to step up recruitment activity, with 81 per cent looking to take on new permanent members of staff over the next three months.

Meanwhile, 78 per cent said they intend to hire more permanent employees over the next three to 12 months.

Kevin Green, chief executive of the REC, described the findings as "encouraging", but pointed out that headwinds such as the upcoming EU referendum, the apprenticeship levy and the introduction of the National Living Wage could have an effect in the near future.

"However, competition for talented candidates remains fierce especially where skills shortages are already entrenched," he commented.

MPs push case for flexible working

A group of MPs has said every role should be advertised as flexible, as this could help to close the gender pay gap.

According to the Women and Equalities Select Committee, flexible working is "high on the list of priorities for millennials and employers are beginning to recognise it can help them improve productivity as well as attract and retain talent"

Furthermore, it said the government fully accepts the benefits of flexibility. However, it said ministers have failed to introduce policies that encourage employers to make more flexible working opportunities available.

As a result, the committee believes all jobs should be available to work flexibly unless an employer can demonstrate an immediate and continuing business case against doing so. 

"The extension of the right to request flexible working to all employees does not deal with the problem of flexible hiring," it said.

"Only six per cent of well paid jobs are advertised as open to flexible working. This contributes to the gender pay gap by limiting women’s options and hampers productivity."

IoD: Businesses should harness female talent

With the Women and Equalities Committee this week highlighting the issue of the gender pay gap, the Institute of Directors (IoD) has encouraged businesses to get more women into senior positions.

Seamus Nevin, head of employment and skills policy at the IoD, said the lack of females in executive leadership roles is a "real problem" for businesses.

However, he stated that there are many things firms can do to address the issue themselves, without being hit with "the heavy hand of government intervention".

For instance, he said offering increased and intuitive flexible working practices could help considerably.

Mr Nevin also pointed out that overhauling the school curriculum to include a greater focus on STEM subjects and business accounting could have long-term benefits, as could providing more career guidance in schools and universities.

"Governments and employers also need to adopt a more open approach to lifelong learning to enable people to retrain and upskill throughout their working lives, helping them start new careers at 40 or 60, not just after school or university," he commented.