News in brief: auto-enrolment, overseas expansion, name blind CVs

Small employers rise to auto-enrolment challenge

Workplace pension scheme NEST has released new figures on small and micro employers, providing the first insights into their behaviour around and experience of auto-enrolment. This comes ahead of the majority of employers of this size meeting their staging dates in 2016 and onwards.

The figures show that the early-staging small and micro employers are “defying expectations” by navigating auto-enrolment waters far more smoothly than anticipated.

The figures suggest that small employers are generally rising to the auto-enrolment challenge. With far simpler set ups, they are meeting their duties without needing to call their pension scheme or use their waiting period as much as larger employers.

Key NEST insights include:

Smaller employers tend to have simpler worker set-up and payment processes than their larger counterparts and as a result are likely to set up with just one group of workers, and one payment source.

Smaller employers are less likely to use their waiting period, compared to their larger counterparts. Almost half (44 per cent) of the employers that staged in the summer of 2014 enrolled their first workers in the three-month period after their staging month, indicating that many were using waiting periods to postpone their duties. This reduced to 29 per cent for small businesses and 26 per cent for micro-sized ones, indicating that they are getting on with auto-enrolment without delay.

Small and micro employers are able to set up and use NEST with less need to call than the employers that staged in the summer of 2014. When comparing the sign up and initial set-up process, small and micro employers say they call about half as much as 2014 stagers. When asked, 27 per cent of small and micro employers say they did not call at all. Calling is even less likely among micro employers, with 41 per cent claiming they did not need to call NEST.

CEO of NEST Helen Dean commented: “This insight and experience shows that small employers are navigating the auto-enrolment waters far more smoothly than anticipated. Many consider the staging of small and micro employers the next big test. Defying expectations, small and micro employers are rising to the challenge and meeting auto enrolment head-on.”

Brave new world: how SMEs are looking beyond the UK’s borders

Turbulent stock markets, uncertainty about interest rates and the lack of demand in the UK has taken its toll on the confidence of UK SMEs. Lloyds Bank's Business in Britain confidence index recently reported that overall confidence has fallen by 15% in the last 18 months.

All this has resulted in UK SMEs increasingly looking overseas to improve their prospects. Partner of Governance, Risk and Assurance at Moore Stephens LLP, Ian Gardner, has identified some likely risk factors of this evolution that small business owners need to keep in mind.

• Outsourcing and delegating authority: while outsourcing may deliver lower costs, SMEs are expected to ensure effective oversight and management of the offshored and outsourced parts of their business and take responsibility for them as if they were in house. Extending the reach for underwriting is often supported through underwriter cover-holding authorities. SMEs need to make sure that conduct by a third party is the same as their own and create a consistent culture with their partners.

• Data security: SMEs should not assume that data breaches are exclusive to multinational organisations. For smaller firms, assuring security over data that is likely to be shared between multiple servers is key. SMEs need to work hard to avoid the pitfalls of banking fraud and cybercrime.

• Distance: for SMEs who are setting up offices overseas, the physical distance to travel and manage the operation is the first base to cover. Different time zones, language barriers and the culture of their colleagues abroad are all factors to be considered.

• Governance: SMEs need to ensure appropriate supervision and oversight of overseas’ businesses, making certain they are aligned with their core values and compliant with regulatory requirements.

Half a million female and ethnic minority job seekers ignored

Almost a half a million female and ethnic minority jobseekers in the finance and IT sectors will not be considered for roles this year purely because of the name on their CV, according to Nottx.com, a ‘name-blind’ headhunting platform.

The service is applicable to any job applicant, regardless of gender or ethnicity, who wants to work in a diverse workplace, but is especially useful to talented female and ethnic minority job seekers. Launched in the UK this week, it comes at a time when – even though employment in finance and IT is on the increase – the proportion of women and minorities working in these sectors has fallen.

There are also inherent barriers to progression for those already in-situ: women with supervisory responsibility in the finance sector are more likely to be promoted to supervisory posts, whereas men with supervisory responsibilities are more likely to be promoted to management.

Nottx, which stands for ‘noticeable transactions’ that allow job applicants to be noticed purely on merit, aims to build on the drive towards ‘name-blind’ recruitment in the civil service announced by the Prime Minister late last year. At the time, he referred to the case of a black woman who had to change her name to ‘Elizabeth’ before she got any calls to interviews as ‘disgraceful’.

Nottx believes name-blind applications should be the norm. A range of studies show women and minorities are habitually discounted through explicit or inherent bias on the part of recruiters and hirers.

Founder of Nottx.com Biju Menon said: “Our service will speak to those who wish to overcome their unconscious bias and ethical companies who are keen to find a pool of diverse talent. We hope to empower women and minorities who have lost confidence in the recruitment process by giving them the opportunity to be noticed completely on their own merit.”

Menon highlighted how name-blind job profiles are also useful to passive job seekers who want to ‘test’ the job market without jeopardising their existing employment.