New National Minimum Wage rates set to come into effect

New National Minimum Wage (NMW) rates are set to come into force on 1 October.

Rates will increase by between 3% and 4.7% for individuals under the age of 25 and apprentices.

The NMW for 21 to 24-year-olds will increase from £6.70 to £6.95 an hour, whilst 18 to 20-year-olds will benefit from a new NMW rate of £5.55 an hour, up from the previous rate of £5.30.

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For 16 to 17-year-olds, the NMW will rise from £3.87 to £4.00 an hour.

Meanwhile, the NMW rate for apprentices will increase from £3.30 to £3.40 per hour.

For those aged 25 and over, the Government’s National Living Wage (NLW) of £7.20 applies.

NMW rates are reviewed annually. From April 2017, the Government intends to align the NMW cycle with that of the NLW. This means that any future NMW increases will occur in April of each year, instead of October.

The Low Pay Commission (LPC) has been commissioned by the Government to make recommendations for the NMW and NLW rates for April 2017.

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Many consumers ‘do not trust companies to use data responsibly’, survey suggests

A recent survey of 2,500 people by the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM) found that 57% do not trust companies to handle the personal information they collect responsibly.

Some 51% of those surveyed said that they had been contacted by organisations that had misused their data, while 92% stated that they did not fully understand how information that companies held about them was being used, and that they were ‘highly sceptical’ about marketing practices.

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Lengthy and confusing online terms and conditions were cited as having contributed to trust issues, with only 16% of respondents saying that they always read these before agreeing to sign up for something.

Overall, the survey revealed a disparity between the methods that companies use to collect data, and public trust in those methods. For example, 71% of consumers said they did not feel comfortable with businesses tracking their location through their smartphones, yet a fifth of businesses are already collecting geo-location data. Similarly, a significant number of people do not like sharing data from their social media profiles, yet some 44% of businesses are collecting it.

Chris Daly, Chief Executive of the CIM, stated: ‘People are nervous about sharing personal data.

‘Fear of data breaches and misuse has them on high alert.’

The CIM has called for organisations to be ‘simple and clear’ about their policies if they wish to improve trust and confidence in their use of personal data.

Business groups react to Shadow Chancellor’s conference speech

Business groups have reacted to Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell’s speech to the Labour Party conference in Liverpool, in which he set out his positions on a number of key business and economic matters.

Mr McDonnell’s announcements included pledges to create a ‘real living wage’ of at least £10 per hour, to ‘end the social scourge of tax avoidance’ by doubling the number of relevant HMRC staff and to be an ‘interventionist government’ with a ‘comprehensive industrial strategy’ for investment.

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He also promised to rewrite the Takeover Code to ensure that every takeover proposal has a clear plan in place to pay workers and pensioners, and to repeal the Trade Union Act.

Commenting on the Shadow Chancellor’s speech, Carolyn Fairbairn, Director General of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), said: ‘Firms will back the commitment made to a manufacturing renaissance, supported by investment in infrastructure, skills, innovation and exports, taking advantage of historically low interest rates. But this must be fiscally responsible and based on balancing the books over the economic cycle. We look forward to seeing the detail.

‘It was also good to hear a pledge to seek access to the single market as part of the EU negotiations, and a recognition of its importance to several sectors including financial services.’

Meanwhile, Mike Cherry, National Chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), said: ‘FSB welcomes the high-profile announcement from John McDonnell that the opposition will look at expanding the Employment Allowance, which was arguably one of FSB’s biggest wins in recent years. We call for this to be expanded further to help small firms tackle low pay and boost jobs.’

Businesses paid ‘record amount’ of corporation tax in 2015, figures suggest

Small businesses in the UK paid a record high of £32.4 billion in corporation tax during 2015, data from Funding Options has revealed.

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Figures from the online business finance supermarket revealed that businesses in the UK paid 8% more in corporation tax during 2014/15 compared to the year before.

UK businesses have been required to pay more in order to compensate for the reduced tax take from North Sea oil and gas.

Funding Options is calling for the Government to reduce the corporation tax rate for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

Conrad Ford, CEO of Funding Options, stated: ‘Reintroducing a lower corporation tax rate for small businesses would be a major and deserved boost to UK SMEs.

‘Small businesses in the UK benefitted from a lower rate of corporation tax for over 40 years until 2015. This was an effective way of helping small businesses to compete with larger rivals, and would be so again.

‘Small businesses are an engine of growth and new jobs – the Government should be doing all it can to foster a business culture that allows SMEs to thrive.’

Workplace pension enrolment at record high, data reveals

The number of individuals with a workplace pension reached a record high in 2015, new data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) has revealed.

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The figures show that total membership of occupational pension schemes in the UK rose to 33.5 million in 2015 – a rise of 10% when compared to the figure for 2014.

Active membership of occupational pension schemes totalled 11.1 million: 5.5 million of these were in the private sector, with 5.6 million in the public sector.

However, the average total contribution rate for private sector defined contribution schemes was just 4.0% of pensionable earnings in 2015. The ONS stated that this is ‘broadly comparable’ to the previous year’s figure.

Experts have warned that this contribution rate needs to change to ensure that workers have enough for a comfortable retirement.

Commenting on the data, Frances O’Grady, General Secretary of the Trades Union Congress (TUC), stated: ‘Automatic enrolment has made a good start by bringing millions more people into workplace pensions.

‘But it is a job half done. Too many women and lower-income workers still miss out.

‘And we should be very concerned about plunging pension contributions. Millions who are doing the right thing by paying into a pension remain at risk of falling into hardship in old age.

‘Next year’s review of automatic enrolment must be used by the Government to provide a long-term plan for how workplace pensions will provide a decent retirement income for low and middle-earners.’

Businesses meet with Chancellor to discuss Autumn Statement proposals

The Chancellor, Philip Hammond, has met with representatives from British businesses to listen to their views ahead of the forthcoming Autumn Statement.

The roundtable events, which took place at the Treasury and Downing Street, also provided the opportunity for discussions in regards to leaving the EU.

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Those who attended the meetings came from a cross section of leading business groups, including the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) and the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC).

Senior executives from John Lewis, Rolls Royce, BAE Systems and Cisco were also in attendance.

Strategies for boosting UK economic growth and productivity were discussed, and the Chancellor informed business leaders that the Government intends to ‘offer support to firms through any period of adjustment while Britain forges a positive and powerful new role for itself in the world’.

Mr Hammond said: ‘My message to businesses is clear: in our negotiations to leave the EU, we will work hard to get the best deal for Britain and that includes ensuring that British companies can continue to trade with the single market in goods and services.’

Carolyn Fairbairn, Director General of the CBI, commented: ‘Business wants the openness of the UK’s economy to be preserved – specifically access to markets, skills and trade – and to see an ambitious Autumn Statement that drives investment and growth, and delivers jobs and prosperity for all of the UK’s regions.’

Meanwhile, Mike Cherry, National Chairman of the FSB, stated: ‘Small businesses are ready to work with Ministers, and at the meeting they raised key issues with the Chancellor around infrastructure, regional investment, skills and tax – and delivering the business rates reforms announced in Budget 2016.’

Small business confidence ‘falls into negative territory for first time in four years’

A survey conducted by the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) has revealed that small business confidence has dipped into negative territory for the first time since 2012.

The FSB’s Small Business Index for the third quarter of this year – the first data gathered since the UK’s vote to leave the EU – revealed that business confidence has now fallen for the third quarter in a row.

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The FSB surveyed 1,035 small firms between July and August, and discovered that concerns are growing that the domestic economy will weaken.

However, the FSB also found that there are ‘many positive signs’ of small businesses proving resilient in spite of the ‘fragile economic outlook’ for the longer-term.

Mike Cherry, National Chairman of the FSB, said: ‘This persistent downward trend in UK business confidence reflects underlying issues that predate the Brexit decision.

‘We look to the party conferences and upcoming Autumn Statement to green-light infrastructure projects at local and national level, to simplify the tax system and to help reduce the costs of doing business.’