News in brief: pensions, entrepreneurs, EU

News in brief
News in brief

The Pensions Regulator calls on SMEs to organise employee pensions

Up to half a million small and micro employers must act this year to meet their new workplace pensions duties or risk a fine, the Pensions Regulator has warned.

Research shows that most employers want to do the right thing by their staff but that smaller employers are more likely to leave things to the last minute. As the regulator deals with smaller employers, it is expected there will be more who, despite the message to prepare early, leave it too late or do not take action at all. Failing to prepare in time risks avoidable compliance action.

Executive director for automatic enrolment Charles Counsell said: “We are concerned that a minority of smaller employers are leaving things too late and struggling to comply on time. We are helping employers avoid this by alerting them in good time to their duties and giving them the tools they need to meet them. Employers should start planning 12 months before their duties start and make our website their first port of call.”

Employers should start planning by using the regulator’s online duties checker which is part of a new online step-by-step guide. The checker tells employers specifically what duties apply to them and this means the regulator can send them information suitable for their circumstances.

Entrepreneurial Centre in Edinburgh due to open mid-February

The Chief Secretary to the Treasury Greg Hands met recently with a number of inspiring Scottish entrepreneurs when he visited the brand new Entrepreneurial Centre in Edinburgh.

The site, which is situated at RBS’s headquarters, will host a number of entrepreneur support organisations including social enterprise Entrepreneurial Spark and is due to open in mid-February. In the first six months it will support over 80 entrepreneurs and their businesses through free facilities, mentoring, networking opportunities and workshops.

Entrepreneurial Spark is the world’s largest free business accelerator for early stage and growing ventures. They have 10 sites across the whole of the UK, including three in Scotland where it has already made a significant impact by support almost 400 companies, securing £20 million investment and helping to create more than 1,000 new jobs.

Hands said: “The government understands that small businesses are crucial to our economy, creating millions of jobs and driving productivity, which is why we want Scotland and the rest of the UK to be the best place in Europe to start and grow a business. I am looking forward to meeting the entrepreneurs supported by Entrepreneurial Spark in Edinburgh.”

Industry experts respond to Chancellor’s speech on the economy

“This year, quite simply, the economy is mission critical,” Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne said in a recent speech addressing business leaders in Cardiff.

Confederation of British Industry director general Carolyn Fairbairn has commented on the speech, claiming the Chancellor is right to highlight that there is no room for complacency in 2016.

“It is more vital than ever that UK businesses are supported to grow, compete and prosper,” said Fairbairn. “Firms want relief from the building cumulative burden of government policy, including the apprenticeship levy, national living wage, an out-of-date business rates system and the administrative challenge of pensions enrolment.”

However, World First chief economist Jeremy Cook has warned that with the “spectre of the EU referendum looming large” there is the potential for a volatile Sterling to hamper growth.

“SMEs are the driving force of UK plc but our recent research shows that over half believe the strength of Sterling is impacting their profitability and margins. Not only is the deadweight of a strong pound offering little help to exporters but it also leaves many businesses dangerously exposed to exchange rate fluctuations,” said Cook.

Cook went on to say that it is important that more is done to educate businesses on the benefits of managing their exposures more effectively to boost profitability.

Businesses less concerned about EU referendum than this time last year

Businesses are less concerned about the UK’s position in the EU than they were 12 months ago, according to a survey of Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW). The figure stood at 41% in 2015 compared to 50% in 2014.

Key findings:

• Low UK inflation is expected to have a positive impact on more than a third of companies (36%) but more than half (52%) would be negatively impacted by any interest rate rise in 2016

• Any changes in the regulatory and tax environment are expected to have a negative impact on businesses, ranging from the increase in the national minimum wage (29%) to an increase in the standard rate of VAT (53%) and a hike in income tax (51%)

Commenting, Stephen Ibbotson, ICAEW Director of Business, said: “Next year will throw up a number of changes for businesses and they are rightly concerned about them. The reliance on domestic sales for UK growth is highlighted by the negative impact any interest rate increase would have. New year resolutions for more exports continue to be challenged with slow growth in the Eurozone and developing countries.”