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Employment priorities in the Spring Budget

One of the stated priorities of the Spring Budget is employment. The Chancellor announced a number of employment-focussed measures targeting four groups – the long-term sick and disabled, welfare recipients and the unemployed, older workers and parents. Measures announced range from Skills Bootcamps for the over-50s to an increase in free childcare for working parents. Some key proposals are set out below:

The long-term sick and disabled

The Budget reports that mental health and musculoskeletal conditions are some of the leading causes of long-term sickness absence from work. The Budget includes a number of measures designed to improve health outcomes for these medical conditions including digital resources for the management of them. The idea being that these measures will support people with long-term health conditions to access the services they need, to manage their conditions and support them to return to work. In addition, a new programme, WorkWell, will be piloted to seek to better support those with health conditions to get jobs and retain them. The Chancellor has also announced that the government will introduce a new Universal Support program for disabled people and those with long-term health conditions, matching participants with jobs and funding necessary training and workplace support.

Older workers

The Budget states that the number of inactive 50 – 64 year olds has increased significantly in the last few years, with the UK lagging behind other comparator economies. The Budget states its aim of encouraging inactive people aged over 50 to say in or return to work. The well-publicised removal of the pension Lifetime Allowance and increase in the pension Annual Allowance is part of this plan. In addition, The government will introduce Returnerships, a new scheme promoting existing skills interventions to the over-50s, focussing on flexibility and previous experience to reduce training length. This will be supported by investment for Skills Bootcamps and new Sector-Based Work Academy Programme placements.


The Budget notes that the employment rate and hours worked by parents, particularly mothers, drops after childbirth and persists until after their children reach school age. In order to combat this, from April 2024, working parents of children aged two (subsequently reducing to nine months from September 2024) will be able to access 15 hours of free childcare per week. This will be increased to 30 hours of free childcare per week from September 2025.

The Budget further says that many parents work fewer hours even when their children reach school-age, partly due to the lack of universal care at both ends of the school day. A new "wraparound childcare pathfinder scheme" will be launched, designed to ensure that all primary-aged children in England can access care in school between the hours of 8am and 6pm. The government also plans to launch a consultation on further measures to support reform of the childcare market to improve the childcare offer for parents.

Occupational health

The government also plans to support more businesses to provide occupational health services by expanding an occupational health pilot subsidy scheme for small and medium sized business. The government will also launch a separate consultation on options for incentivising greater take-up of occupational health provision.

Private members bills

The Budget confirms the governments support for the multitude of employment-related private members bills that are currently going through parliament. These include bills providing for a day one right to request flexible working, enhanced redundancy protection for pregnancy, carer’s leave, neonatal care leave, rules to ensure tips go to staff and providing workers with the right to request a contract with more predictable hours.

We wait to see the detail and timescale of some of these scheme and consultations.