The Department is taking a number of steps across the piece to make it easier for small businesses to take on new employees. This includes:
a package of reforms to employment law, including, from April 2012, measures to streamline employment tribunals and an increase in the qualifying period for unfair dismissal from one to two years. In addition, we are taking forward measures through the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill, such as facilitating the use of settlement agreements, which will give greater confidence to businesses to deal with staff issues in the workplace and encourage growth. In April, we also launched the “Taking on an Employee” online tool to help businesses—especially the smallest of businesses—to understand what they need to do when they take on staff. This can be found at:
http://www.businesslink.gov.uk/employ a number of enterprise measures, including a simplified tax regime, reducing red tape, enabling small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) more easily to access public procurement opportunities, an enhanced Business Link website at:
www.businesslink.gov.uk providing a range of tools and advice on starting and growing a business, and measures to help businesses access the finance they need to grow. We have helped all employers by increasing the employer national insurance contribution threshold by £21 a week, increasing the number of employees for whom employers pay no national insurance contributions (NICs) by 650,000. In addition, to encourage businesses to take on their first employees, we introduced the regional Employer National Insurance Contribution Holiday Scheme. This allows every new business in eligible areas to claim a NICs holiday for the first 10 employees in the first year of business (up to £5,000 per employee); making it easier and quicker for SMEs to take on an apprentice by simplifying and speeding up the process for employers. The National Apprenticeship Service is improving its service to SMEs, and new standards will be introduced to help ensure training providers are providing SMEs with a quick and effective service. Additionally, we are making available up to 40,000 incentive payments of £1,500 to small employers to help them recruit their first 16 to 24-year-old apprentice. Social entrepreneur and jeweller Jason Holt has undertaken a review examining what more can be done to make apprenticeships more accessible to SMEs, and this will be published shortly.