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How can small businesses apply for the government’s Kickstart work scheme?

3-minute read

Sam Bromley

11 September 2020

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The government’s Kickstart work scheme pays businesses to hire young people on six-month job placements.

But the funding is more difficult to access for smaller businesses. Here’s how the Kickstart Scheme works – and how to apply.

The Kickstart scheme closed for applications at midday on 17 December 2021.

What is the Kickstart work scheme?

The Kickstart Scheme is part of the government’s coronavirus support package. It’s designed to help young people who are on Universal Credit and at risk of long-term unemployment develop skills and experience.

Businesses can create six-month job placements funded by the Kickstart Scheme, receiving:

  • 100 per cent of the relevant National Minimum Wage for 25 hours a week
  • associated National Insurance contributions
  • minimum automatic enrolment contributions
  • £1,500 per job placement for setup costs, support and training

How businesses can apply for the Kickstart Scheme

What placements should businesses offer through the Kickstart Scheme?

There are specific criteria about the jobs you can offer through the Kickstart Scheme. Placements can’t:

  • be replacements for existing or upcoming vacancies
  • cause current employees or contractors to lose (or reduce) their employment

The placement also needs to be a minimum of 25 hours a week for six months and you need to pay at least the right minimum wage. The person you hire shouldn’t need extensive training before they start.

The government also needs to see how you’ll be supporting people on placement to develop skills. These can include career advice for long-term work, support with CV and interview preparations, and basic skills like time management and attendance.

When one person finishes their placement, someone else can join for another six months. The government also highlights that placements aren’t apprenticeships. But people can move onto an apprenticeship during their placement, or join one after.

Who can apply for the Kickstart Scheme?

The Kickstart Scheme is open to businesses and young people in England, Scotland and Wales.

Any business can apply for the Kickstart Scheme, but the way it works currently favours larger businesses. That’s because you can only apply directly to the scheme if you’re creating more than 30 job placements.

If you’re creating fewer than 30 job placements, you can only apply by joining forces with other organisations.

Businesses creating fewer than 30 job placements

For small businesses, it’s likely that you won’t be creating more than 30 job placements.

You need to partner with other businesses and organisations to create a minimum of 30 job placements, then apply through a representative.

You can partner with:

  • similar businesses
  • local authorities
  • trade bodies
  • registered charities

The government says that representatives need to have “experience of managing partnership agreements with third parties”, as well as “robust financial and governance processes to manage the application”.

You can get in touch with your local employer contact if you need help finding a representative (or with other parts of the application process).

Businesses creating more than 30 job placements

Direct applications are only open to businesses creating more than 30 job placements, which means this option is only likely to apply to larger firms. The BBC reports that Tesco and Network Rail have confirmed they’ll be using the scheme.

To apply directly, you need:

  • the Companies House reference number or Charity Commission number
  • your business address and contact details
  • information about the job placements and where they’ll be based
  • proof that you’re creating new jobs that meet the scheme criteria
  • information about how the organisation is supporting young people to develop skills

After you send your application, it goes to a panel to check it meets the requirements of the scheme. You’ll get an agreement in the post if you’re successful. If you aren’t successful, you’ll get feedback and you can try again.

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Will there be a simpler Kickstart Scheme application for smaller businesses?

The Federation of Small Businesses has criticised the Kickstart Scheme. It said: “30 individuals is just beyond the means of most small businesses.

"Small firms, who are the largest employers across the business landscape, have long expressed interest in this scheme and will be disappointed to find it harder than expected to take part.”

It added that it’s in discussions with the government to address the concerns of small businesses.

Are you planning to take part in the Kickstart Scheme, or would you like to see easier access for small businesses? Let us know in the comments below.

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We create this content for general information purposes and it should not be taken as advice. Always take professional advice. Read our full disclaimer

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