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Government skills strategy may result in legal disputes

A leading employment lawyer has warned that the Government's skills strategy has the "potential for legal problems" over the compulsion of larger businesses to pay for training.

Under the plans, unveiled this week, large businesses will be expected to fund staff training, although the coalition plans to co-fund some training at small and medium enterprises (SMEs). Employees may also be expected to have a licence to practice certain professions.

Owen Warnock, partner at international law firm Eversheds, said: "Compulsory levys would not only add to an employer’s cost base, but they could also give rise to legal disputes about the interpretation of the regulations.

"There will need to be a means of enforcement and employers will need to set up systems to check licences. It could mean a lot of bureaucracy, but on the other hand it could also help to deliver much-needed skills in shortage fields."

However, the HR community has broadly welcomed the strategy, designed to develop a "skilled workforce to stimulate private-sector growth", including an expansion of apprenticeships.

Ben Willmott, CIPD senior public policy adviser (pictured), said: "A single framework on leadership and management skills will help clarify the business case for investment in these skills and ensure that, over time, more business leaders recognise that only a step change in management capability will deliver sustainable high performance.

"CIPD research suggests that organisations that adopt high performance working practices that are underpinned by high quality people management can expect to receive a 20% increase in productivity and profitability."

The CBI also welcomed the announcement, calling the targets over apprenticeships "ambitious".

Susan Anderson, the CBI’s director for education and skills, said: "It is right that those who have left school without basic literacy or numeracy will continue to have access to state-funded training. There is still an issue around basic skills. About half of companies are concerned about the literacy and numeracy of the current workforce, with a fifth of employers already providing remedial training for school leavers."