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Almost two thirds of UK employers plan to hire in second quarter

The number of private and public sector firms planning redundancies has fallen, finds CIPD.

In an online study of 1,006 senior human resource (HR) professionals in the UK – conducted by YouGov for the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) – almost two thirds (65 per cent) of them plan to hire employees in the second quarter of 2012.

Some 74 per cent in the finance, insurance and real estate sector said hiring intentions are strong, as do 77 per cent in the voluntary and not-for-profit sectors.

The survey, carried out between 28 February and 26 March 2012, found that the immediate jobs outlook has turned positive for the first time in more than a year, driven largely by a decrease in redundancy intentions.

Eight out of ten (79 per cent) employers cite cost cutting as the main reason for offshoring jobs. However, the survey also highlights the potential risks of offshoring, with 26 per cent of employers that have offshored jobs overseas now looking to relocate operations back to the UK.

The survey also found that proportion of employers planning to make redundancies in the three months to June 2012 has decreased to 32 per cent from 37 per cent in the previous 3 months. The number of private sector firms planning redundancies has fallen from 31 per cent to 25 per cent during the past three months. The number of public sector operations planning redundancies has fallen to 45 per cent from 49 per cent during the same period.

Since the Autumn 2011 report, employer intentions to offshore UK jobs to other parts of the world in the 12 months to March 2013 has increased from 6 per cent to 8 per cent. Thirteen per cent of respondents said the manufacturing and production sectors and 17 per cent said consultancy services sectors are most likely to offshore jobs during the same period.

India (52 per cent) and Eastern Europe (25 per cent) remain the most popular destinations for offshoring jobs, the survey respondents said.

Of those who intend to offshore jobs, 41 per cent of respondents said these would be in IT support and 29 per cent in productions/operations. Finance and accounts (23 per cent), call centres (21 per cent) and HR (21 per cent) are other popular functions employers plan to offshore.

Gerwyn Davies, the report author and public policy adviser at the CIPD, said:

The jobs market is desperately seeking good news, so this latest set of positive figures is very welcome. However, any short-term jobs recovery may not be sustained because of the zigzagging economic backdrop. News of a double-dip recession may cause some employers to reassess current staffing levels, especially while labour costs are rising and productivity is falling.

The current economic situation facing recruiters looks unusually difficult to read, which may lead to swings in confidence for the rest of the year. Overall, this may suggest greater volatility in the labour market during 2012 compared to the slow, gradual rise in unemployment recorded during the past year.

The continuing pressure on employers to cut costs is highlighted by the increase in employer intentions to offshore UK jobs to other parts of the world. However, the survey also highlights the dangers facing employers that focus too narrowly on costs at the expense of quality when offshoring, with around a quarter of employers now planning to relocate jobs back to the UK. Employers need to weigh up the wider impacts when considering offshoring decisions, such as the potential adverse impact on customer service or employer brand.

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Q&A: What are tax credits and how do they work?

All you need to know about the government's plan to cut tax credits.

What are tax credits?

Tax credits are payments made regularly by the state into bank accounts to support families with children, or those who are in low-paid jobs. There are two types of tax credit: the working tax credit and the child tax credit.

What are they for?

To redistribute income to those less able to get by, or to provide for their children, on what they earn.

Are they similar to tax relief?

No. They don’t have much to do with tax. They’re more of a welfare thing. You don’t need to be a taxpayer to receive tax credits. It’s just that, unlike other benefits, they are based on the tax year and paid via the tax office.

Who is eligible?

Anyone aged over 16 (for child tax credits) and over 25 (for working tax credits) who normally lives in the UK can apply for them, depending on their income, the hours they work, whether they have a disability, and whether they pay for childcare.

What are their circumstances?

The more you earn, the less you are likely to receive. Single claimants must work at least 16 hours a week. Let’s take a full-time worker: if you work at least 30 hours a week, you are generally eligible for working tax credits if you earn less than £13,253 a year (if you’re single and don’t have children), or less than £18,023 (jointly as part of a couple without children but working at least 30 hours a week).

And for families?

A family with children and an income below about £32,200 can claim child tax credit. It used to be that the more children you have, the more you are eligible to receive – but George Osborne in his most recent Budget has limited child tax credit to two children.

How much money do you receive?

Again, this depends on your circumstances. The basic payment for a single claimant, or a joint claim by a couple, of working tax credits is £1,940 for the tax year. You can then receive extra, depending on your circumstances. For example, single parents can receive up to an additional £2,010, on top of the basic £1,940 payment; people who work more than 30 hours a week can receive up to an extra £810; and disabled workers up to £2,970. The average award of tax credit is £6,340 per year. Child tax credit claimants get £545 per year as a flat payment, plus £2,780 per child.

How many people claim tax credits?

About 4.5m people – the vast majority of these people (around 4m) have children.

How much does it cost the taxpayer?

The estimation is that they will cost the government £30bn in April 2015/16. That’s around 14 per cent of the £220bn welfare budget, which the Tories have pledged to cut by £12bn.

Who introduced this system?

New Labour. Gordon Brown, when he was Chancellor, developed tax credits in his first term. The system as we know it was established in April 2003.

Why did they do this?

To lift working people out of poverty, and to remove the disincentives to work believed to have been inculcated by welfare. The tax credit system made it more attractive for people depending on benefits to work, and gave those in low-paid jobs a helping hand.

Did it work?

Yes. Tax credits’ biggest achievement was lifting a record number of children out of poverty since the war. The proportion of children living below the poverty line fell from 35 per cent in 1998/9 to 19 per cent in 2012/13.

So what’s the problem?

Well, it’s a bit of a weird system in that it lets companies pay wages that are too low to live on without the state supplementing them. Many also criticise tax credits for allowing the minimum wage – also brought in by New Labour – to stagnate (ie. not keep up with the rate of inflation). David Cameron has called the system of taxing low earners and then handing them some money back via tax credits a “ridiculous merry-go-round”.

Then it’s a good thing to scrap them?

It would be fine if all those low earners and families struggling to get by would be given support in place of tax credits – a living wage, for example.

And that’s why the Tories are introducing a living wage...

That’s what they call it. But it’s not. The Chancellor announced in his most recent Budget a new minimum wage of £7.20 an hour for over-25s, rising to £9 by 2020. He called this the “national living wage” – it’s not, because the current living wage (which is calculated by the Living Wage Foundation, and currently non-compulsory) is already £9.15 in London and £7.85 in the rest of the country.

Will people be better off?

No. Quite the reverse. The IFS has said this slightly higher national minimum wage will not compensate working families who will be subjected to tax credit cuts; it is arithmetically impossible. The IFS director, Paul Johnson, commented: “Unequivocally, tax credit recipients in work will be made worse off by the measures in the Budget on average.” It has been calculated that 3.2m low-paid workers will have their pay packets cut by an average of £1,350 a year.

Could the government change its policy to avoid this?

The Prime Minister and his frontbenchers have been pretty stubborn about pushing on with the plan. In spite of criticism from all angles – the IFS, campaigners, Labour, The Sun – Cameron has ruled out a review of the policy in the Autumn Statement, which is on 25 November. But there is an alternative. The chair of parliament’s Work & Pensions Select Committee and Labour MP Frank Field has proposed what he calls a “cost neutral” tweak to the tax credit cuts.

How would this alternative work?

Currently, if your income is less than £6,420, you will receive the maximum amount of tax credits. That threshold is called the gross income threshold. Field wants to introduce a second gross income threshold of £13,100 (what you earn if you work 35 hours a week on minimum wage). Those earning a salary between those two thresholds would have their tax credits reduced at a slower rate on whatever they earn above £6,420 up to £13,100. The percentage of what you earn above the basic threshold that is deducted from your tax credits is called the taper rate, and it is currently at 41 per cent. In contrast to this plan, the Tories want to halve the income threshold to £3,850 a year and increase the taper rate to 48 per cent once you hit that threshold, which basically means you lose more tax credits, faster, the more you earn.

When will the tax credit cuts come in?

They will be imposed from April next year, barring a u-turn.

Anoosh Chakelian is deputy web editor at the New Statesman.