FSB pushes for tax break in bid to boost employment levels among disadvantaged

Chancellor Philip Hammond
The Federation of Small Businesses is hoping chancellor Philip Hammond will give its members a tax break for hiring disabled, long-term unemployed and ex offenders

The Federation of Small Businesses has urged chancellor Philip Hammond to follow through on his “vital” pledge to help get the disabled, long-term unemployed and ex-offenders into the labour market by handing SMEs a tax exemption.

With unemployment at a 42-year low, the Conservative Party has the opportunity to fulfill its 2017 election manifesto promise to incentivise small businesses hiring disadvantaged people, by offering firms a one-year National Insurance holiday, the FSB said.

The same deal could be applied to the employment of ex-armed service personnel and individuals with long-term mental health problems, the lobby group claimed.

Chairman Mike Cherry said that the disadvantaged “feel as though the system has given up on them” and “firms are not sufficiently encouraged to provide them with job opportunities”.

Labour MP David Lammy has argued criminal records should be sealed from potential employers in some cases to help ex-offenders re-enter the workforce

Mr Cherry added that small firms already disproportionately support the disadvantaged in work but “there’s more work to be done”.

Few big businesses have thrown their weight behind schemes to recruit ex-offenders with Pret a Manger, Virgin Trains and Timpsons rare examples of firms stepping up plans to hire candidates with criminal records.

Last month Labour MP David Lammy published a report suggesting that criminal records should be “sealed” from employers in certain cases to help reintroduce ex-offenders back into the labour market.

The FSB also called for existing business investment incentives to be protected, telling the chancellor that maintaining the Enterprise Investment Scheme and Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme, two government venture capital programmes, will help position the UK as a hub for emerging firms.

The schemes have dispelled “myths about equity finance” and provided businesses across the country access to funding necessary to boost economic growth, Mr Cherry said.