WHEN I talk to businesses in Bedfordshire and elsewhere in the region, many tell me that they have increased employees’ pay over the last year and most remain optimistic about growing their workforce over the next 12 months.
In fact, the latest Workforce Survey by the British Chambers of Commerce shows that more than half of the 3,000 businesses quizzed expect to increase their workforce in 2015 and almost 60 per cent have increased pay in line with or above inflation.
Those in sectors including IT, energy and construction are most positive about creating new jobs. However, the survey also reveals that employment regulation – red tape, time consuming and costly to implement – such as the new rights of employees to request flexible working and increased paternity leave and pay are a major threat to jobs growth.
Some analysts have rung alarm bells as the rate of economic growth in the UK has slowed. However, the BCC survey findings show that businesses remain optimistic about both growth and pay prospects for their staff.
Smaller businesses are most confident about job growth so it is crucial that those businesses are able to find talented workers with the right skills to meet that demand. This relies on schools and businesses working together to develop the talents of our young people.
Businesses in Bedfordshire and elsewhere are embracing the idea of flexible working. They recognise that the well-being of their workforce improves business productivity and in turn has a positive impact on growth.
The majority of our members already offer flexible working so legislating in this area is unnecessary and will likely push up business costs. What we want to see is better engagement by the government with businesses in order to help prevent unnecessary regulations in the first place and for the process to be simpler for firms when trying to implement regulations that are truly important.
At the same time, businesses must play their part. If they want to retain key staff as they start families, they must invest in childcare provision, which is currently inadequately supplied. The government can support this through measures such as the Childcare Contribution Scheme, proposed by the BCC, to help parents manage the initial costs of paying for childcare.
This would be a major boost in enabling more talented individuals to stay in work and contribute to business growth.