Way to Work: A Fresh Start or a Bad Idea?

By Matthew Reymes Cole
11 Feb 2022

Getting people into jobs should be a good step forward for the unemployed and for companies that need workers. That looks like the premise of the new Way to Work scheme announced by the Government.

The Government plans to get half a million unemployed people into jobs by end of June 2022.  This will attempt to tackle the 1.2 million job vacancies plaguing various industries at the beginning of the same year.

However, the intention to get people into jobs faster comes with risks for both employer and employees.

Here, we will investigate the possible positive and negative outcomes of hiring workers under the Way to Work scheme.

If you are struggling with finding candidates for your vacant roles, or are concerned about retention, we can help. Call our 24/7 HR advice line on 01455 858 132.

What is the Way to Work scheme?

The Way to Work scheme is a government plan to place job seekers into new roles within a shorter timeframe. Previously, people looking for work had three months to find a job in their sector of choice. The new rules will require them to widen their job search after four weeks, to keep Universal Credit support.

Giving people more incentive to open their work options presents positive aspects. Through this plan, the government can push the focus on the job market offer. Simply put, it can strengthen the link between demand and supply. In a very dynamic economy, ability to adapt increases chances of success for both individual and business.

Way To Work Interview

But often adapting takes time, resources, and support to make it happen. Wood bends to make curved barrels only by using the right technique, in the right timeframe. Trying to simply force a piece of wood to bend by putting it under immediate stress will most likely break it.

When we apply this example to the Way to Work scheme, questions arise. The question below seems to best summarise the difficulties around the new plan:

How will it manage to pair business and job seekers into a good fit?

What Way to Work proposes for job seekers in 2022

As mentioned above, people out of work now have a three times shorter period to find a job within their sector. It means that, after the first four weeks of their search, they need to apply for jobs in other industries. This has become a requirement for continuing to receive Universal Credit support.

The government explained that those out of work who already engage with Jobcentre Plus won’t see much change going forward. Also, they mention more face to face time and intensive support with a Work Coach.

Such a solution seems relevant to situations where changes in the economy mean less jobs become available in certain sectors. When certain industries shrink and others expand, the availability of work follows the same pattern.

However, questions remain on how this will tackle skill gaps, training needs and industry requirements. Young mothers, for example, might not be able to take on night shifts as lorry drivers. Nurses and doctors take more than four weeks to train, to look only at the health care sector.

Pushing people into work they do not feel fits them raises retention concerns too. In the social care sector, it can take a few weeks for people with no previous experience to get the necessary basic training.  If these workers then decide to quit their new job in 6 months’ time, the company loses money and ends up understaffed again.

We’ll discuss below how you can make training people on the job work for your organisation.

How companies respond to unemployment and staff shortages

Various companies have expressed support for Way to Work, including Reed, Balfour Beatty, TalkTalk and Amazon.

From this list, one company has attracted extensive criticism over issues with workers unionising and health & safety in their warehouses – Amazon. However, they also demonstrate a long-term strategy of tackling both understaffing and unemployment. The company announced 1,500 apprenticeships for 2022 across 40 schemes in the UK, with 200 of these at degree level.

Training people on the job sounds like a solid solution to benefit both employer and employee in the long run. It takes time to get people with no previous experience to the desired skills and knowledge level. It also proves willingness from the company to invest in their employees.

Way To Work Vs Training Needs

But how can an employer like you secure an investment in a newly recruited workforce? Organisations in the social care sector have successfully applied a solution to secure their investment in their staff. Their employment contracts specify that the company will deduct the costs of training from staff wages should they leave within a certain timeframe.

Our contracts and documentation team will help you adjust your documents to include such necessary precautions. This approach could enable you to take new workers in through the new scheme, train them to the desired level, and secure a good level of retention.

Talk to a Croner advisor

Many companies like yours have been struggling to fill in employment gaps. The Way to Work scheme might hold the solution if you can make the necessary adjustments to retain staff. Talk to our advisors today to learn how you can approach your staffing issues to achieve the best long-term results, on 01455 858 132.

About the Author

Matthew Reymes-Cole

Matt joined Croner in 2007 as an employment law consultant and has advised clients of all sizes on all aspects of employment law. He has worked within management positions since 2017 and currently oversees a team within the litigation department, whilst continuing to support a number of clients directly.

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