Employers looking to take part in the government’s £2 billion Kickstart Scheme should now find the process easier, following changes designed to encourage greater and faster take-up.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced the initiative in his Summer Statement in July 2020, saying it could create hundreds of thousands of new, fully subsidised jobs for young people.

The scheme aims to provide a step on the employment ladder for people aged 16-24 who are claiming Universal Credit and at risk of long-term unemployment, with the job market for this age group particularly badly hit by COVID-19.

The government funding covers 100% of the National Minimum Wage or National Living Wage, depending on the young person’s age, for 25 hours a week for six months of employment. It also pays the employer’s associated National Insurance Contributions.

Additionally, participating businesses get £1,500 per Kickstart employee, to cover set-up costs and to support the employee’s development and employability skills. The government also provides £360 per placement to cover admin costs.
There are strict rules attached. The Kickstart jobs must be brand new roles. They must not replace existing or planned vacancies, or cause existing employees, apprentices or contractors to lose work or reduce their working hours.
What has changed?

The application route for some businesses has been ‘clunky’, leading to delays. This is being blamed for the smaller than expected number of young people starting new Kickstart roles.

While businesses planning to create more than 30 Kickstart posts were able to apply direct to the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), those creating fewer than 30 roles had to apply through a so-called Kickstart ‘gateway’. These intermediaries include organisations such as local authorities, charities and trade bodies. They already have a Kickstart Scheme grant agreement with the DWP and can add employers and job placements to their grant agreement.

However, this process has caused logjams, prompting the government to remove the minimum number rule. Now, all employers can apply online direct to the DWP if they choose. The option of using one of the 600 gateways remains and might still be an attractive option for businesses looking for a locally based gateway or one that is sector-specific.
Work and Pensions Secretary Thérèse Coffey said: “By removing the threshold of a minimum of 30 jobs for direct applications, we are making it even simpler to get involved.”

Of course, another limiting factor to take-up has been the ongoing lockdowns. The government is hopeful that more Kickstart posts will be created as the economy opens up.

Employers can spread the start date of their Kickstart job placements up until 31 December 2021, although the government is under pressure to extend the scheme into 2022.