The Association of Recruitment Consultancies (ARC) has accused the government of “missing the bigger picture” in its assumption that plans for employment intermediaries and relief for travel and subsistence (T&S) will not negatively impact the flexible workforce.

ARC chairman Adrian Marlowe expressed concern that a “great opportunity” for progress had been lost by the decision to scrap this relief. Alternative measures would have been preferable, he argued, such as capping rather than scrapping expense claims and imposing other kinds of limits that would still encourage flexibility and support contracting/agency workers.

The consultation argues, somewhat optimistically, that the potential demand for increased pay for services will be accommodated by market forces and help to create the high wage economy the government is seeking; however, according to Mr Marlowe, while this may be possible in specific sectors, a good deal of negotiation will be necessary and sectors such as education and the NHS will find it difficult.

He added: “The National Association of Head Teachers reported only a few days ago that 79% of schools face difficulties with recruiting staff, or failed to recruit at all due to the high cost of living and with rates falling behind comparable professions. Against this, it makes no sense at all to push up the cost for agency workers. Where will the money come from? How can market forces really play a part if flexibility is to be retained?”

Mr Marlowe also criticised the failure to refine the ‘SDC as to the manner’ test. Contra to government claims, this was not supported by any proper case precedents.

He concluded by reminding the government that the option is still there for change.

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