In response to the Chancellor’s ‘Back to Work’ Budget, Ben Willmott, head of public policy for the CIPD, the professional body for HR and people development, said:

On the boost to free childcare and wraparound care:

“The plan to extend free childcare for children from the age of nine months is a potential game changer as it will enable many more working parents, particularly women, to return to work much earlier than they can currently. This can help avoid the loss of skills and confidence that can be caused by spending too long out of employment and boost gender equality. As will the boost to wrap-around care, but both schemes need to be properly funded to succeed.

“The proposed reforms to childcare support for parents on Universal Credit are also welcome and should help to make childcare more affordable and returning to work more achievable for all.”

On the consultations on occupational health, and supporting mental and musculoskeletal health:

“Supporting the health of workers throughout their working lives will decrease absence levels and reduce early exits from the labour market. The provision of timely access to support for those with musculoskeletal or mental health issues could reduce the likelihood of these conditions becoming chronic. We know these are the two main causes of long-term sickness absence. Occupational health’s key role here has been recognized, and we welcome the two new consultations in improving access, as well as the doubling of funding for the small business subsidy pilot.”

On skills:

“The introduction of returnerships, and other support on skills development for older workers, is a step in the right direction to help older workers access the development and support they may need to get back into work. Increasing access to the mid-life MOT through Universal Credit will also be a helpful step.

“However, the Government must strengthen its ambition on skills investment as part of its plans to boost growth. We need to see a bigger plan from Government to raise investment in skills across the workforce, which has been falling in recent years. In particular, we need to see reform of the Apprenticeship Levy, which has acted as a handbrake on employer investment in skills and coincided with a sharp fall in apprenticeships for young people.”

On pension changes:

“The increase in the annual pension allowance and the abolition of the lifetime allowance could help with the retention of senior medical staff in the NHS. However, typical full-time employees were not in any danger of breaching the old annual allowance, let alone this new one. As a matter of urgency, the Government needs to get serious about workplace pension reform to ensure that enough money is going into employee pension funds to ensure that more people can enjoy a reasonable income in retirement.”

Willmott concludes:

“While the Government's proposals to tackle labour market inactivity are welcome, they also need to be underpinned by a push to encourage more employers to introduce greater flexibility into roles. Evidence shows that effective people management and flexible working, in all its forms, are key to supporting workers’ health and their ability to manage caring responsibilities at different stages in their working lives. Boosting the creation of more high-quality and flexible jobs is also one of the best ways to encourage and enable people to extend their working lives, rather than opting for early retirement.”

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