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Media comment: We must support people to thrive in the new normal

13 October 2020

Dear editor,

This morning’s news that UK job losses rose at the fastest rate since records began, coupled with the biggest rise in unemployment in over a decade, show the devastating effects the pandemic has had on jobs and businesses. With further restrictions likely to be imposed over the winter months, we must brace ourselves for further disruption. 

Back in April, a survey suggested that a fifth of firms did not have enough cash to survive even the next four weeks. Our own research certainly confirmed that firms’ top lines have taken a knock during the pandemic with revenue for SMEs down 6.6% on average over the last six months. Many continue to anticipate challenges with a third of SMEs expecting to make some employees redundant in the next three months.  

Yet there is cause for optimism. SMEs have also been prompt to adapt and quickly tailored their business and operating models to the new, rapidly changing business environment with 37% of businesses asking their employees to take on new responsibilities and expand their skillset. In the face of the biggest economic hurdle in decades, having the right skills isn’t just “a nice to have” for businesses – it is essential for survival.  

If we are to get the economy back on its feet, remain competitive on the global scene and sustain growth, we need to better support all workers to reskill and upskill throughout their careers and encourage them to now start adapting their skillsets to the post-pandemic ways of working. This includes changing the Apprenticeship Levy to an Apprenticeship and Skills Levy for all workers to ensure businesses have the talent they need now and in the future; continuing to invest towards higher level apprenticeships to raise the skill levels of the UK workforce; and introducing a rebuttable right to retrain to empower workers to request further training and development.  

Yours sincerely,

Andrew Harding, FCMA, CGMA
Chief Executive — Management Accounting
The Chartered Institute of Management Accountants, part of the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants