News in brief: pensions, asset financing, wages, apprentices

News in brief
News in brief

Number of SMEs fined over pensions laws on the rise

The number of employers fined for failing to comply with new rules on workplace pensions is on the rise, according to Smith and Williamson pension specialist Ian Hill.

The Pensions Regulator has reported that 1021 employers have been issued with a Fixed Penalty Notice for failing to comply with a statutory notice or a specific duty in the final three months of 2015.

Hill said: “The regulator states that over 90% of employers have staged correctly. However, these statistics represent only 12,000 small and micro employers entering auto-enrolment but with a further 500,000 small employers set to stage in 2016 this number is expected to rise substantially. ”

Asset financing market looks strong for 2016

Asset financing for new businesses increased by 12% in 2015, the market’s second consecutive year of double-digit growth, according to the Finance and Leasing Association (FLA). In addition, the value of new business in December 2015 was up by 18% compared with the same month in 2014.

New finance for commercial vehicles grew by 42% in December, and by 14% in 2015 as a whole. Further strong growth was also reported by the IT equipment finance sector as new business grew by 23% in December and by 38% in 2015 overall.

FLA head of research and chief economist Geraldine Kilkelly said: “2015 was another strong year for the asset finance industry, with new business reaching its highest level since the onset of the financial crisis. Our latest industry confidence survey suggests growth in new business of up to 10% in 2016.

“The asset finance industry funded almost 32% of UK investment in machinery, equipment and purchased software in 2015.”

Businesses called out for not paying new National Minimum Wage

More than 90 employers who have failed to pay their workers the National Minimum Wage have been named and shamed by the government.

Between them the companies named owed £1,873,712 in arrears, and span a range of sectors including hairdressing, social care, hospitality and security services.

Business Minister Nick Boles said: “Our policy of naming and shaming employers who ignore the law means there are consequences for their reputation as well as their wallets.

“In April we will introduce a new National Living Wage which will mean a pay rise of over £900-a-year for someone working full time on the minimum wage and we will enforce this equally robustly.”

On 1 October 2015, the National Minimum Wage (NMW) rose to £6.70. Employers should be aware of the different rates for the National Minimum Wage depending on the circumstances of their workers.

Banks must become more customer-centric to remain competitive

Around 55% of bank executives believe that non-traditional players in the finance market pose a threat to traditional banks, according to a report by PwC. The report identifies the development of a customer-centric business model as the highest priority for banks if they are to remain competitive with the disruptive FinTech innovators over the next five years.

Powa Technologies CEO and founder Dan Wagner comments: “FinTech companies have recognised the value of offering a completely new proposition to consumers. In contrast to their traditional competitors, many of them giant and overreaching, successful Fintech start-ups are specialising in just one or two aspects of financial services. They remain agile and responsive to customers, tailored specifically for the age of the ‘digital native’.”

FinTech products offer services ‘anytime, anywhere’ and send a clear message of convenience to their customers. Traditional banks will continue to struggle if they cannot adopt this model.

Apprenticeships receive additional funding

The Skills Funding Agency has announced an additional £25m for colleges and training providers to deliver apprenticeships for 16-18 year olds.

This funding follows the Chancellor’s announcement in the autumn statement that the government is committed to delivering 3 million apprenticeships by 2020.

The government has also announced a £67.8m growth on 19+ apprenticeships and £11m for 19+ traineeships in December 2015. This investment means that the government has committed over £100m in growth in the 2015 to 2016 funding year.

However, because the government is prioritising funding for apprenticeships, it is unable to allocate any extra funding for 16-18 traineeships.

Note: a traineeship is designed for young people who are looking to move into an apprenticeship or job, and aim to provide young people with essential skills they may be lacking, like maths and English. Traineeships may be unpaid and are not subject to National Minimum Wage laws.