Government policy fails almost one million temporary workers


960,000 temporary workers could benefit from better skills training if government let them access the training funds their agencies pay to the Treasury. 

Courses which could lead to significant pay rises and higher productivity would be unlocked if money paid for the Apprenticeship Levy could also be used on other high quality qualifications as part of a skills levy.

The REC has launched a petition calling for the government’s Apprenticeship Levy to be changed to a flexible training levy. Just 670 REC members already have £104 million of Apprenticeship Levy funds between them going unspent, because it can’t be used to support the temporary workers on their payrolls. CEO of the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA) Matthew Taylor, who wrote the Good Work Plan for the government, which sets out their vision for the future of the labour market, also supports re-examining the design of the levy.

The REC has also launched a new research report Training for Temps, which provides evidence and statistics to back up the importance of reform. 

Neil Carberry, Chief Executive of the Recruitment and Employment Confederation said: “The Apprenticeship Levy was designed with the best of intentions, but everyone knows it is not working as intended. It’s time for reform.”

“As we redesign the levy, keeping support in place for apprenticeships matters, but we must end the scandal of locking temporary workers out of the system. Employers are paying a levy for them – but can’t use it to support their development. 95 per cent of REC members who pay the levy cannot use the funds available to them to train their staff. 

“Our monthly Report on Jobs survey tells us that there are skills shortages in areas that training temps using levy funds could help to address, like hospitality, and health and social care. Recruiters are already doing what they can – but the contribution the recruitment industry could make on skills and progression would be hugely amplified if the government broadened the scope of the training Apprenticeship Levy funds could pay for. Letting agencies access the levy funds HMRC takes from them to provide quality training to temps would be transformational for career progression, productivity and inclusion. It would be a win for government, employers and temporary workers themselves. 

“One of our members told us they would use a reformed levy to enable their staff to ‘secure longer-term sustainable employment and build their personal resilience’. We should be helping these well-intentioned employers unlock productivity in their workforce by using the levy to train temps.”

Commenting on the new REC research report outlining the case for reform of the levy, Matthew Taylor, CEO of the RSA, said: “This persuasive report identifies a weakness of apprenticeships as they are currently structured; namely that they cannot be accessed by employment agencies and the employees they place. As the report argues, this is particularly frustrating given these employees are among those who would most benefit from additional training”

“As the government continues to evaluate and review the apprenticeship system I hope it will give proper consideration to the well-made argument in this timely report.”

Robyn Holmes, founder and Managing Director of recruitment agency Prime Appointments, said: “The Apprenticeship Levy is a frustration for us. We pay £30,000 annually into a pot but it can’t be used to help our temporary staff get work. For example, the care sector is rightly very onerous with compliance so requires training. A lot of people want to become a carer but can’t afford to do the training. We would be delighted to use our levy to be able to train them. It would enable people to go out and do a job that is important for society and one they love.”

Employment agencies are often in the unique position of employing temporary workers in order to provide staff to other companies. This makes them eligible to pay the government’s Apprenticeship Levy, despite in many cases being small businesses at their core with only a few directly employed staff. The government’s existing policy doesn’t acknowledge that more employers rely on skilled temporary workers and more employees want to do temporary and flexible work. 

The REC’s petition urges the government to reform the levy so that temporary workers can train in courses such as LGV driving and healthcare support, addressing key shortages and helping them grow their careers. These quick interventions are cost-effective and increase pay and progression opportunities for workers, but aren’t supported by the existing levy which is designed to promote training only for people in permanent, longer-term roles. 

Temporary workers, whether they choose to work this way for the flexibility benefits it brings or because they are temping while looking for a permanent role, will often benefit more from investment than managers and senior staff, who are more able to access training under the current system. 

See below a table of skills shortage areas and the training that could be funded by a reformed levy to ease the demand.


Teaching assistant 

Supply teacher

Health and Social Care

Healthcare assistant (HCA) training course

Level 2 Certificate in Healthcare Support Services 

Mental health and wellbeing 


Forklift truck drivers

LGV drivers

Counterbalance forklift drivers\


Management Training Course

Technology Software Training – AutoCAD Essentials Course 


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