Redundancy support: Scottish conference round-up
Setutsi van Lare reports from the biennial Scottish Government PACE conference.
Partnership Action for Continuing Employment (PACE) is the Scottish Government’s initiative dedicated to helping individuals and employers with the advice and support they need when faced with redundancy. Skills Development Scotland leads on the delivery of PACE support on behalf of the Scottish Government, in conjunction with a number of key partners, including ICAS.
The programme at the biennial conference, chaired by ICAS member Robin Crawford CA, a Skills Development Scotland Board Member, included case studies which demonstrated the influence of PACE, and heard from a number of experts including David Menzies, ICAS Director of Insolvency.
Fergus Ewing MSP, Minister for Business, Energy and Tourism, commended the PACE partners for the work they do in helping those who have been made redundant and those facing redundancy. Of particular mention was the work done by insolvency practitioners to save jobs and businesses. The Minister praised the contribution of ICAS in supporting the work of PACE and the recently agreed Memorandum of Understanding that underpins that work.
Over the past year, PACE task forces have been set up in geographic areas where significant numbers of employees have been made redundant. Many of these have been in rural areas where job opportunities are limited. The large businesses tend to grab the headlines, however a number of smaller businesses where fewer employees have faced similar circumstances also have needed the assistance offered by PACE.
The Minister commented on the high level of Employment Tribunal fees faced by employees already concerned about debt problems who may wish to bring a case to tribunal. He reiterated that the Scottish Government has made a commitment to abolish these fees in Scotland.
Dr Martin Taulbut, Public Health Information Manager, NHS Health Scotland, provided interesting comparisons between the impact of various social factors and in particular work on health and life expectancy. Unsurprisingly, unemployment significantly increases mortality (simply moving from employment to unemployment increases the risk of death by nearly 80% in men and just under 40% in women) however, paradoxically, economic growth is not necessarily good for health. Much depends on how additional wealth is used and distributed.
Kev House from “The Art of Brilliance”, demonstrated in a lively energetic manner how the sombre messages from NHS Scotland could be overcome through managing mindsets. There was much common sense and food for thought with delegates coming away determined to be '2%ers' – people who consistently have a positive mindset particularly as the use of anti-depressants increased 95% between 2000 and 2015 with over 70m prescriptions annually.
Eleri Lewis described how the Welsh Government’s ReAct programme has been working and lessons that have been learned since it was introduced as a rapid response to the closure of a large employer in Powys in 1999. The programme has a high success rate with 76% of participants finding employment within six months of redundancy.
David Menzies, ICAS Director of Insolvency, provided an insight into the factors insolvency practitioners consider with a business in financial difficulty and which is contemplating making redundancies - and how this will impact on the ability or otherwise to engage with PACE. He explained the tensions which exist between employment legislation and insolvency legislation, each placing a higher priority over creditors and employees respectively. In addition, the attitude of directors, shareholders, funders, employees, and suppliers will impact on the ability to commence employee consultation.
Simon Fuller, from the Office of the Chief Economic Advisor, delivered the Outlook for the Scottish Economy, highlighting the growth in the Scottish economy and how this is linked to a high performing construction sector, and underpinned by major government investment in infrastructure.
Recent falls in the oil and gas and steel industries have had a significant negative impact on the growth of the Scottish economy. There was some good news in that the unemployment rate in Scotland is below the average since 2005. Although there was a steady increase in the level of wages until January 2015, this has fallen slightly The introduction of the National Living Wage in April 2016 is expected to reverse the trend. Going forward, some of the positives are that there is continued job creation, household and business confidence is largely restored, and there is a good investment climate. On the other hand, conditions in export markets are mixed, household expenditure is exceeding wages and low oil prices are having a knock-on effect on the North Sea sector.
The conference ended with workshop sessions where suggestions for enhancing the delivery of redundancy support were discussed.