• Business leaders in Kent were encouraged to explore the opportunities offered by the new apprenticeships reform which comes into effect on 6 April at a seminar held by law firm Brachers in Maidstone this week.

    There has been much media coverage of the new ‘apprenticeships levy’ that means employers will have to pay 0.5% of their annual pay bill into a central fund. However, this only applies to firms with an annual pay bill of more than £3m – and will affect only an estimated 1.3% of employers.

    For the other 98.7% of firms, the reform means the opportunity to take on an apprentice and receive grants and subsidies towards the cost of their training. There is also a £1,000 incentive for employers that recruit 16-18 year olds.

    Chris Homewood, Employability Development Officer at Kent County Council, said:

    “The apprenticeship reform presents a great opportunity for many businesses. It’s an opportunity to develop your workforce to meet the needs of your business and to develop skills training and staff development to suit. There is lots of advice and information on our Apprentice Kent website, www.apprenticekent.com, where we are encouraging employers to hire an apprentice – Made in Kent.”

    Employment law experts at Brachers and the firm’s related HR consultancy Kent HR, Catherine Daw and Veronica Fox echoed the potential for businesses of the apprenticeship scheme – though also warned that it is important to ensure that the necessary conditions are satisfied.

    In line with the theme of ensuring businesses in Kent are fit for the future, Brachers and Kent HR discussed the business benefits of an effective employee wellbeing strategy – a key consideration if workplace productivity is to be enhanced with recent figures from the Office of National Statistics showing that the number of sick days taken by UK workers had actually fallen in 2016.

    Veronica Fox of Kent HR said that a clear strategy to boost wellbeing is key in driving similar reductions in absenteeism and increasing productivity:

    “Businesses need to consider the wellbeing of their staff across the five domains of wellbeing identified by the CIPD: work, health, personal growth, values and society. It is important to take a connected approach that considers work demands, the working environment, effective line management and change management. Your staff are your most valuable asset – so it is vital to look after them.”

    For Catherine Daw, partner and head of employment at Brachers, the key for businesses is to plan ahead:

    “For businesses managing their people and talent strategies, it is always essential to plan for what’s coming. Whether it is taking advantage of the new apprenticeship scheme, developing an effective wellbeing strategy that will help promote a better workforce or taking account of key trends and upcoming changes, you need to plan ahead. Getting the right advice can help you identify what you need to do and when, and ensure that you put effective measures in place.”

    Download a summary of the Future-proof your business: Develop a thriving workplace for 2017.


    This content is correct at time of publication

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