The Government is being urged to help firms recruit workers after research showed employers are facing huge problems attracting staff.
The majority of the businesses surveyed by the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) said they had problems recruiting workers in recent months.
Hospitality firms were most likely to face challenges when recruiting, followed by manufacturers and those in construction, although the public sector was also finding it difficult to take on staff, the BCC said.
Investment in training remains low, according to the report, with fewer than one in four firms surveyed having increased their investment plans over the last three months.
The BCC’s director of policy and public affairs, Alex Veitch, said: “Today’s findings reveal that British businesses are facing the highest level of recruitment difficulties on record.
“Instead of seeing any easing of our extremely tight labour market, this issue only continues to head in the wrong direction.
“While the Government will be celebrating their apprenticeship programme next week as part of National Apprenticeship Week, we urge them to use this time as an opportunity to take a hard look at the reality of how the system is actually working for businesses and apprentices.
“The Apprenticeship Levy is unsuitable for many employers, and the BCC is calling on the Government to introduce flexibility into the levy.
“The burden of childcare is also a major barrier to inactive workers re-entering the workforce. Access to childcare must be simple and affordable; we would like to see the introduction of a flexible family childcare budget that can be used to meet individual families’ needs.
“Finally, Government must hear our calls to reform the Shortage Occupation List to help businesses fill urgent job vacancies when they cannot recruit locally.
“With an anaemic economy and low productivity, Government must take immediate steps to ease the considerable labour pressures on businesses – we can’t afford to wait any longer.”