Some of Northern Ireland’s leading businesses have expressed their concerns about the risks of the current Apprenticeship Levy which is due to be introduced in April 2017.
More than 80 members of the local business community attended a Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry (NI Chamber) briefing with the Department for the Economy, hosted by recruitment specialists, Cpl Northern Ireland.
The levy will affect all firms across the whole of the UK with a payroll of over £3m and will be 0.5% of a company’s salary bill, paid through PAYE, alongside income tax and National Insurance on a monthly basis.
“Businesses are overwhelmingly positive about apprenticeships, and recognise that workplace training can help boost skills, business growth and productivity,” said NI Chamber CEO Ann McGregor.
“However, NI Chamber members have fundamental concerns about the proposals on a number of fronts.”
With the levy due to be introduced in just 6 months, she said it was clear that a lot of businesses had limited awareness or understanding of the potential impact.
“It is important that the NI Executive seek greater clarity from HMRC for Northern Ireland employers, particularly on how the funding raised can be accessed post collection,” she said.
“From a business perspective it appears almost as another form of ‘payroll tax’ and it is not clear what the benefits to those businesses that do pay will be.”
With the challenges already stacked up against local business, she said the levy had the potential to act as a disincentive to growth unless its impact were demonstrable.
“We do not think the practicalities of the levy have been fully thought through, particularly from a devolved perspective.
“The Executive must also provide assurance that the monies they receive from the levy will be ring-fenced for apprenticeship/skills funding only. It is also important to understand how the levy will complement existing apprenticeship and training policy in Northern Ireland and incentivise the provision of high quality apprenticeships in the region.”