Responding to the latest job figures released by the ONS today, Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) National Chair Martin McTague said:
“It’s concerning to see that the number of those economically inactive due to long-term sickness is at a record-high – this is a stark reminder that more needs to be done to support people with long-term sickness into employment, which is crucial to our economic growth.
“Earlier this year, FSB published a report, Business without Barriers, which put forward a list of recommendations to close the disability employment gap. They include a ‘Kickstart’-style disability employment scheme to get more disabled people into employment for the first time and a Statutory Sick Pay rebate for small businesses to help with the costs of long-term sickness absence.
“Despite the number of job vacancies falling, we’re still seeing an extremely tight labour market with over 1.2 million unfilled jobs across the country.
“The widespread labour shortage is limiting small firms’ ability to grow, as they also wrestle with a worsening energy crisis in the winter, rising interest rates and rampant inflation.
“What small firms need now is a holistic approach to skills and training. Maintaining Skills Bootcamps in the long term and enabling small businesses to automate processes by continuing to ensure that R&D tax credits can be claimed without needless administrative hurdles should help.
“It’s vital to ensure small firms can access global talent, as they don’t have the same level of resources as big corporates to sponsor overseas workers – limiting visa fees to £1,000 for small employers will help us get there.”