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APSCo calls on incoming government to “overhaul” IR35

Leading staffing body outlines its vision for an improved flexible working sector

The Association of Professional Staffing Companies (APSCo) is the latest organisation to set out its vision for the UK’s flexible workforce, calling on the next government to introduce reforms in a number of areas.

Among those proposals are the “overhaul” of the “unsatisfactory” IR35 legislation and off-payroll rules, which have “led to experts leaving the labour market in many skills-short sectors”, says APSCo.

The body has additionally called for the introduction of umbrella regulation and reforms to the Agency Workers Regulations (AWR) 2010.

APSCo’s other proposals span the wider world of work, including skills, training and talent development, and how the UK can start “harnessing technology” such as Artificial Intelligence (AI) to “enhance opportunities for good work and drive economic growth”.


APSCo’s manifesto for the self-employed, in greater detail

APSCo believes that IR35 and HMRC’s approach to enforcing compliance are both contributing to skills shortages in key industries. To counter this, the body wants the next government to undertake “a comprehensive review” of IR35, and work with the sector to “remove the current burdens” of the off-payroll rules.

One step to achieving this – and another of APSCo’s recommendations– is to “clearly define and protect self-employed status in legislation”. Doing so would “help resolve the complexity” of tax and employment statuses in the labour market.

Another prominent challenge is tax non-compliance in the umbrella sector. APSCo wants the government to “collaborate and consult closely” with recruitment bodies and compliant umbrella companies to design appropriate regulation and tackle “rogue operators”.

The body also suggests updating the Agency Workers Regulations (AWR) 2010 to exclude contractors, reducing “unnecessary complexity and administration at the professional end of the contracting market”, alongside action to protect small businesses from late payments.


Changes needed ‘to drive economic growth’

Launching its manifesto on its website, APSCo said the document “focused on the policy reform needed to deliver better workplaces”.

With professional skills “in short supply across key sectors”, the association believes an incoming government will need to work with the recruitment sector, which will be “key” to unlocking productivity and economic growth.

Doing so, however, means achieving “the right workplace regulatory environment” as well as better “opportunities and protections for workers”, and a comprehensive plan to “address skills shortages”.

APSCo’s manifesto offers the future government a blueprint, with “recommendations on appropriate regulation… designed to raise efficiency and drive economic growth”. Implementing these measures, alongside “a skills-based approach to the labour market” would enable the UK “to remain competitive internationally”, the body said.


Political manifestos offer “flawed” solutions

However, with all major political parties having launched their manifestos, there is little indication that the proposals outlined by APSCo are a priority for the next government.

Tania Bowers – the body’s Global Public Policy Director – has raised some concerns about the policies on offer.

This includes the Conservative Party’s pledge to scrap National Insurance Contributions (NICs) – a “flawed” move which will not help to solve the UK’s “dearth of highly-skilled professionals in critical sectors”, said Bowers.

Similarly, the Labour Party’s ‘deal for working people’ is missing detail on the “professional recruitment sector”, including labour supply chains and the contracting workforce – both of which need to be “appropriately recognised in legislation”, she said.

However, these policies suggest that no party is focused “directly” on the needs of businesses. This means their “manifesto plans are likely to be out of touch” with the challenges various industries are facing today, Bowers concluded.

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