The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) is calling on the Chancellor to deliver a manifesto pledge to incentivise employers that take on the long-term unemployed, ex-offenders and those with a disability as part of its Autumn Budget submission.
The current Conservative Manifesto commits to providing a one-year National Insurance Holiday for firms that hire those furthest from the labour market, including individuals with long-term mental health conditions and former armed service personnel. The pledge is yet to be enacted by Parliament.
Research indicates that individuals from these groups face systemic discrimination when trying to secure work. Only half of disabled job applicants are invited for interview, according to the charity Scope.
The ask follows the #FSBWellbeing campaign which ran throughout September, highlighting steps to improve physical and mental health in the workplace.
Mike Cherry, FSB national chairman, said: “Having hired an ex-offender who is now a crucial part of my team, I’ve seen first-hand the importance of dismissing prejudices about harder to reach groups. People who are disadvantaged when it comes to finding work often feel as though the system has given up on them. Meanwhile, firms are not sufficiently encouraged to provide them with job opportunities.
“That’s why we need to see this vital National Insurance Holiday pledge delivered at the Budget. Small firms are already disproportionately successful in helping individuals that are struggling to secure work, with around nine in ten unemployed people finding opportunities through self-employment or in a small business. But there’s more work to be done.
“Given we’re close to full employment, we need to start extending lifelines to disadvantaged groups. As things stand, too many people who could be making a fantastic contribution to our business community are outside the labour market. Enacting this pledge will help unleash their potential.”
FSB is also calling for existing incentives for business investment to be protected, including the Enterprise Investment Scheme (EIS) and Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme (SEIS).
Mr Cherry added: “Small firms are at the beating heart of local communities and regional growth. Without the right support, they can’t be expected to maintain their integral contribution to society.
“At a time when other nations are attempting to draw our business owners to their shores, we need to see the UK positioned as the best place in the world to invest in growing firms. Maintaining the EIS and SEIS will be fundamental to achieving that.
“These schemes have helped dispel myths about equity finance and ensure business owners all over the country have access to the funding they need to create jobs and growth.”