The BPIF responded after the ministers moved to clarify complicated guidance on health and safety and vowed to end confusion to make it as easy as possible for employers to take on work experience students.
MPs Mark Hoban, Vince Cable, Matthew Hancock, Oliver Letwin and Michael Fallon posted an open letter to employers on the Department for Education (DoE) website pledging their commitment to put an end to “this kind of health and safety bureaucracy”.
As part of the measures the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has revised its guidance, while the Department of Health has issued guidance on how Ofsted will review health and safety. The Association of British Insurers has also spoken out to reassure employers that they don’t need special insurance policies to cover students on work experience.
New steps include making it clear if workplace risk has been assessed for young people it does not need repeating for each student and insurers will treat students as employees for insurance purposes, while offering work experience will not affect premiums.
Other changes include removing hundreds of thousands of low-risk businesses from unnecessary health and safety inspections and, from October, changing the law so “responsible employers” are no longer liable for an accident in the workplace, if it was “totally outside their control”.
BPIF membership director Dale Wallis said employers tended to keep young workers away from print kit and forklift trucks and plonk them in the office to do admin “at a time when we need people in the print room to watch, learn and see how the exciting machinery works”.
He said: “This announcement is great news; printers have said they are reluctant to take on work experience or work placement students because of risk assessments. So the relaxation is fine, but I hope it is not seen as the go ahead not to do anything.
“That could leave employers open to action no matter how relaxed guidance or advice is. Current legislation is that employers must carry out suitable risk assessments. If you relax too much it could go to a civil action. This is not a total relaxation: the law is still in place.”
Employment minister Mark Hoban said: “Too often in the past the crazy cornucopia of confusing rules discouraged employers from taking on young people. That’s why we have been working across government to make sure the rules are clear and easy to understand.”
Skills minister Matthew Hancock said: “The new guidance radically reduces the burdens placed on schools and local businesses. ‘Sensible questions’ will replace the mountains of paperwork which has resulted in many businesses refusing to offer work experience.
“It makes clear that it is not the responsibility of schools to check health and safety on work placements, and that companies need do no more than they would do for one of their own employees.”