job centre kickstart schem

Kickstart Scheme – A Guide for Employers

[Post updated on 22nd September 2020 following the official launch of the scheme and further information that followed over the course of the month]

In July 2020, Rishi Sunak announced the Government’s “plan for jobs,” with yet further Government investment being ploughed into helping the economy in the wake of the Coronavirus pandemic.

Amongst the announcements was that of the “Kickstart Scheme,” designed to prevent young people at risk of long term unemployment from meeting that fate.

But what is it, what are the benefits for employers and how do you get involved.

We’ve done the research and will continue to update this piece as more information is made available.

What is the Kickstart Scheme?

In short, it’s a £2 billion investment by the government to try and prevent young people in a difficult jobs market from becoming reliant on Universal Credit over the long term.

Essentially, the Government wants employers to create 6 months work placements for those aged between 16 and 24 and at risk of long term unemployment.

The Government is going to pay employers directly to the tune of the minimum wage, National Insurance contributions and pension contributions (based on a 25/week placement).

So, the idea is that a young person at risk of long term unemployment gets a placement and some valuable experience/training while the employer gets additional resource that the Government foots the bill for. 

In their own words:

The government will introduce a new Kickstart Scheme to fund the direct creation of high quality jobs for young people at the highest risk of long-term unemployment. It will give young people the chance to build their confidence and skills in the workplace, and to gain experience that will improve their chances of going on to find long-term, sustainable work. 

Which employers can apply for the Kickstart Scheme?

The Government is encouraging all businesses to apply to take on a young person for 6 months. Upon announcement of the scheme in July 2020, we were given no excluding criteria at all right now. In fact, in his speech, the Chancellor was clear:

And I urge every employer, big or small, national or local, to hire as many Kickstarters as possible.

So it appeared that it will be very open to businesses irrespective of size, meaning micro businesses will certainly be eligible and Sunak promised no cap on the number of placements. 

However, on launch of the scheme on 2nd September where all information was made available, what is clear is that only employers making 30 or more placements available will be able to apply directly with the Government.

How do employers apply for the Kickstart Scheme?

So for micro businesses, it will be essential to form some sort of partnership or collective with other similar employers to apply together.

The Government’s wording around this:

“If your organisation is creating more than 30 job placements as part of the Kickstart Scheme, you can submit your application directly. 

If your organisation is creating fewer than 30 job placements, you cannot apply directly. You must partner with other organisations in order to create a minimum of 30 job placements before applying.”

They then go on to confirm that other organisations can include local authorities, charities, other employers and trade bodies.

So for the smallest businesses in the country, that sort of partnership will be absolutely essential. 

The Government’s initial recommendation was to contact your local DWP partnerships team but this proved difficult for many with thousands of employers all trying to make contact at once. So late in September, the Government finally added a list of organisations who will apply on behalf of businesses with fewer than 30 Kickstart placements available.

You can find that at the bottom of this page:

Do you have to employ Kickstarters after the 6 months?

No. There’s no requirement to employ them after 6 months. 

Though I’m sure you’d be able to offer permanent roles to them should you wish.

However, the main goal of these placement is to give young people skills to make them fundamentally more employable in the long term. The Government published material references things like CV writing skills, interview skills and timekeeping. Though any other valuable skills that could be provided would, of course, be welcome.

Who does the Government pay?

The Government is going to pay the employer directly to the tune of a minimum wage, National Insurance Contributions and Pension Contributions for 25 hours per week.

Bear in mind that the Kickstarters will all be aged 16 to 24 and as such the minimum wage varies.

What do employers have to offer?

There is no formal documentation on this within the Government guidance – no explicit list that is to say. But placements of this nature aren’t intended just as free labour, of course.

You should be offering training, real work experience and helping these young people to build their professional skills.

The guidance suggests that employers should offer “employability support.” But I imagine different businesses can interpret that in different ways.

The guidance says:

“DWP may contact you or the young person during the job placement to check what employability support has been offered. This is to make sure the young person has the best experience from the scheme.”


Are there any negatives?

Yes, of course. Given the people this scheme is designed to helped are all likely to be new to the workforce (possibly just out of school, college or university), they’re not likely to have much work experience.

Don’t forget to consider just how much time and resource you’ll need to put into mentoring, training and supporting this individual. 

So do weigh up carefully if this is something that’s right for your business and have a clear idea from the outset as to what skills you can equip them with.

Are all 16 to 24 year olds on Universal Credit eligible?

So, we don’t get know. The Chancellor said this is for 16 to 24 year olds on Universal Credit “at risk of long term unemployment.” It isn’t yet clear whether that means all 16 to 24 year olds on Universal Credit or whether other criteria will apply.

The material available thus far is aimed at employers rather than the prospective Kickstart employees. It does say the grant will only be paid if you hire someone referred to you as part of the scheme (so you can’t just go handpicking your own Universal Credit recipients). But there’s no confirmed information about whether all recipients will be eligible.

Can you interview prospective Kickstarters?

Yes. Once you’ve made a successful application you can go about receiving applications for your job roles and choose who to apply. So it appears you can implement your usual hiring criteria and process here as long as the panel of applicants you’re choosing from are introduced as a part of the scheme.

What happens if it doesn’t work out with a Kickstarter?

It’s a fair assumption, much as is the case with Apprentices, that you’ll be able to terminate the placement. But again, lots is still to be confirmed even after the publication of guidance today.

Further Resources

There’s a lot still to be confirmed and we will update this post when we have it. In the meantime, additional resources:


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