RSA: UK should adopt France’s partial activity scheme


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Shutterstock Future state support for industries threatened by the coronavirus must be better targeted and take into account the additional risk to jobs linked to automation, which is being introduced more quickly in several sectors in response to the pandemic.

A new report from the RSA (Royal Society for Arts, Manufactures and Commerce) thinktank on long-term employment prospects in the UK proposes a modified employment support program (JSS) that would see the introduction of a two-way system based on the French “partial activity” regime.

[Our proposals] provide the basis for a system that could allow the economy to evolve – both in the short and medium term – without leaving any workers behind ”- authors of the RSA report

Along with the existing JSS system, this would offer an alternative route for companies in the most risky sectors, the RSA said, with reduced employer contributions. He added that, as a condition of long-term support, this path should also require any company with more than 20 workers to set up a works council.

The report, titled Who’s at Risk? Work and Automation in the Time of Covid-19, offers a transition service for workers at risk of Covid-19 and automation. In this context, the government would put in place a program to redeploy the workers most at risk to more resilient sectors. It would be modeled on the Swedish Job Security Councils (JSC). These workers could then receive a transitional basic income to support them financially during their retraining.

To meet the skills needs of workers at risk of automation, the government should introduce personal learning accounts as future-proof roles.

The RSA said: “Some of these policies aim to protect people from the risks of unemployment associated with the pandemic. Others focus on helping them make the transition to more resilient roles. But together, we hope they will provide the basis for a system that could allow the economy to evolve – both in the short and medium term – without leaving any workers behind.

The study’s authors assumed that many of the technological changes introduced in recent months – from automated room service in Hong Kong hotels to Zoom exercises – are likely to be here for the future. long term and that the way we learn and work must be changed accordingly.

It establishes which industries are most at risk and which groups of workers are most exposed jointly to Covid-19 and automation, looking at the breakdowns by sex and age. For example, a high risk industry for Covid automation would be the hospitality industry, but a high risk of low risk Covid automation is in travel, creative arts and entertainment. As might be expected, low risk Covid and automation jobs included scientific research, healthcare and education, and computer programming.

The report stated that “automation anxiety is now rightly back. It’s not just that the pandemic has resulted in huge demand shocks that could mean the economy simply doesn’t need labor for some workers. It is also that our behavior could now adapt in order to accelerate the deployment of a technology that saves labor.

“For business leaders, reliance on human labor can now look like a systemic business risk, while consumers may begin to prefer less labor-intensive services.”

Although the report acknowledges that Chancellor Rishi Sunak modeled the employment support program in part on the French partial activity program, it recommends to the Treasury to modify the JSS in accordance with the French system. French companies that use the partial activity scheme will pay 40% of the replacement salary for the next six months. Employees now receive 60% of their pay for the hours they are not working, up from 70% earlier in the pandemic.

‘However,’ the report states, ‘unlike the UK approach, sectors hardest hit by public health restrictions such as sport, tourism and culture are exempt from these changes, meaning that businesses of these sectors still contribute only 15% of employers. contributions rather than the 40% increase. ”

The French regime is therefore now a two-way system. Additionally, eligibility for this “trail” requires agreement between employers and unions, meaning employers cannot unilaterally make decisions about employee leave. The report applauds the scheme forcing employers to engage in a no-layoff policy to avoid layoffs while employees are enrolled.

The RSA study concluded with a call for greater worker involvement in decision-making, praising the consultation with unions on the design of the UK-originated leave program and noting how in Germany the Kurzarbeit program was founded on “institutions such as in workers, employers and unions”.

He added: “For too long in the UK we have seen good work as something the state, and state alone, must guarantee in situations where employers perform poorly. Certainly, this approach will not serve us well in the volatile, complicated and highly uncertain world of the pandemic labor market. “

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