Weatherproofing a business

24 Dec 2014

Operating a business in the UK has always meant accounting for the climate, which can go from droughts in the summer to the highly disruptive flooding seen during recent winters.

As recommended by the Forum for Private Business (FPB), creating a ‘bad weather’ policy may help protect your business from unforeseen circumstances and difficulties arising in the coming months. Your policy should prepare you to answer these questions:

  • What actions can your employees expect the business to take in bad weather?
  • Will absences due to weather be paid?
  • Are some staff able to work from home?
  • Who is responsible for informing employees and customers should your premises be closed?

Other important factors to consider are the IT systems in place, such as company laptops, phones and cloud computing, which you can set up to allow for easier communication and remote working if necessary.

Health and safety guidance should also be taken into account when deciding what actions you or your employees will take – from travelling to work to clearing snow and ice from your premises.


Employment forecasts indicate positive 2015

22 Dec 2014

According to the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), 50% of British businesses are planning to hire extra workers in the new year.

The CBI employment trends survey shows that, providing there are adequate skills to fill the places, employees may also see an average pay rise in line with the retail price index, and more permanent jobs would be created.

Katja Hall, Deputy Director-General of the CBI, said: ‘It’s a concern that the UK’s growing skills gap is now seen as the number one workforce threat to the long-term health of its economy.

Meanwhile, an analysis by Radius Equity shows that the gender pay gap has narrowed in 2014, to its smallest since records began. More than 1.2 million women are now in the upper tax bracket, an increase of 17% on last year, beating a 13% increase in the number of men.

However, the figures do show that the number of men earning more than women remains more than double, a total of 3.18 million.

UK retail enjoys ‘Black Friday’ boost

19 Dec 2014

High street retailers have reported huge success in the wake of the national ‘Black Friday’ phenomenon which saw shops of all kinds offer sale prices in late November.

Official figures show a 6.4% increase in November compared to the same month in 2013, the highest annual increase since May 2004. On a monthly basis sales rose by 1.6%, with growth in all areas..

Friday 28 November – nicknamed ‘Black Friday’ after the US annual Thanksgiving sales tradition – was also the busiest day on record for online retailer Amazon UK. Its website recorded orders for more than 5.5 million goods, with about 64 items sold per second.

UK economist at Capital Economics, Maeve Johnston, said: ‘The underlying picture remains very strong. Even if retail sales volumes shrink by 1% in December to offset spending brought forward into November, they would be still 1.6% higher in the further quarter than in Q3.

‘This could boost quarterly GDP growth by 0.3 percentage points in Q4, although some of this boost may be offset by higher imports’.

However, there are fears amongst some economists that a sharp decline in prices, as shops attempt to offer better discounts than their competitors, has caused a potentially hazardous sales boom. Falling oil prices may also have contributed to the increased expenditure.

Carney unveils Bank of England shakeup

18 Dec 2014

The Bank of England (BoE) is due to cut interest rate policy meetings to eight per year, while policymakers’ discussions will be transcribed and published.

Governor of the BoE, Mark Carney, said: ‘The Bank has immense responsibilities for monetary stability, financial stability and for micro-prudential regulation. And with these responsibilities comes the need for effective transparency, genuine accountability and robust governance’.

The changes will mean that, from 2016, the current monthly meetings of the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) will be reduced to eight per year. Current policy is to destroy interest rate meeting recordings after the minutes have been published; this will change to allow for full transcripts to be published beginning in 2023. The MPC will also hold joint meetings with the Financial Policy Committee (FPC) four times per year from 2016.

Behind the decision to hold MPC meetings every six weeks is the benefit of bringing them in line with the European Central Bank and the Federal Reserve.

Mr Carney said this decision was ‘the most significant set of changes to how we present and explain our interest rate decisions since the MPC was formed in 1997’.

He added: ‘These changes will enhance our transparency and make us more accountable to the British people’.

Petrol prices ‘set to fall further’ as inflation reaches 12-year low

17 Dec 2014

UK inflation fell to a twelve-year low in November, fuelled largely by a significant drop in the price of petrol – a trend which is set to continue, according to the RAC.

Recent figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) have revealed that CPI inflation fell to 1% in November, from 1.3% in October.

The RAC has predicted that based on current trends, petrol prices will continue to fall, reaching less than £1 a litre by early 2015.

The average price of a litre of petrol now stands at 116.9p, while diesel costs an average of 122.33p a litre.

The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) welcomed the news of a fall in inflation. David Kern, Chief Economist at the BCC, said, ‘These figures will make it easier for the MPC to resist calls for higher interest rates. The UK recovery is still facing challenges, so a prolonged period of low interest rates will help to underpin business confidence and support investment’.

However, some experts have warned that a further fall in inflation could have an adverse impact on the economy.

HMRC campaign targets legal profession

12 Dec 2014

HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) has announced that solicitors are being targeted in its latest high-profile campaign to reclaim unpaid taxes.

Solicitors have been given until 9 March 2015 to voluntarily come forward, with full disclosure of any unpaid tax by 9 June 2015. Any charges a solicitor is liable to pay will be lower if they volunteer this information to HMRC rather than awaiting an investigation, when penalties could be as high as 100% of the tax owed.

Similar tax campaigns have focused on medical and health professions, electricians and plumbers, tutors, coaches and online traders. Other campaigns have focused on claiming unpaid VAT from SMEs, a project which has reportedly raised an extra £3.8 billion in tax receipts this year alone.

Solicitors who are self-employed or work within a partnership are being targeted, as well as those who work within a law firm.

Head of campaigns at HMRC, Caroline Addison, said: ‘Information gathered by HMRC has allowed us to identify solicitors who thought they could operate without declaring income and paying the taxes that others have to pay.

‘If you have not declared all of your income, you need to put your tax affairs in order. Take this chance to come forward and put things right in a straightforward way and on the best possible terms’.