Two oil and gas industry bodies have called for the UK Government to delay the introduction of the £3billion apprenticeship levy until 2018.
They said the lack of clarity about the training tax, announced in last November’s Budget, meant employers would not be ready in time for the current start date of May 1, 2017.
They also said the oil and gas sector would be disproportionately affected by the levy, which requires all employers with a wage bill of more than £3million a year to contribute.
Opito and Oil and Gas UK (OGUK) – along with Aberdeen and Grampian Chamber of Commerce − issued the plea following a meeting with Scottish Employability and Training Minister Jamie Hepburn and Business, Innovation and Energy Minister Paul Wheelhouse yesterday.
The UK Government has already set out how the tax will work in England, but Holyrood has yet to explain what will happen north of the border.
At the end of last month, a Scottish Government spokesperson said the levy had been introduced without any consultation with Scotland, despite the fact that skills and apprenticeships are areas devolved to the Scottish Parliament.
The spokesperson also said a consultation with employers to develop a distinctly Scottish approach had just closed and that views were being considered.
John McDonald, UK managing director of OPITO, said: “The oil and gas industry needs a clear understanding of how Scottish Ministers intend to implement the policy and the levy itself needs to be aligned and consistent across the four nations.
“Without that in place, the policy needs to be delayed. This is simply the wrong way to tax this industry and comes at a time when we least need the introduction of another tax, given the current climate in oil and gas.
“We need to act now to ensure that the implementation of the apprenticeship levy is fair and practical and that it will add legitimate value to skills development in the oil and gas workforce.
“We will continue to work with ministers, however, the lack of progress, absence of detail and clarity on a timetable is very disappointing.”
Alix Thom, OGUK workforce engagement and skills manager, said oil and gas companies already had enough to worry about with the crude price collapse, without having to get their heads around the new levy.
Ms Thom said: “There are too many unanswered questions, particularly in the devolved administrations, to allow employers to prepare fully for implementation of the levy in April 2017.”
James Bream, research and policy director at AGCC, said ministers had been unable to provide a clear timescale for the release of implementation plans, saying only that they would be delivered as soon as possible is useful.
Mr Bream added: “We need realistic solutions to ensure this additional money is spent by business to improve skills and productivity.
“To build confidence in the business community, we made it clear that identifying the scale of additional ring-fenced funding is critical.
“Businesses do not expect this levy to be lost into other government pots.”