SME news in brief: apprentices, FSB, self-employed, stress

SME news in brief
SME news in brief

CBI calls for radical rethink of apprenticeships

The Government must collaborate with business to ‘radically rethink’ the design of the apprenticeship levy, if it is to deliver the quality skills training needed to support a more prosperous society.

This is the message from CBI director-general Carolyn Fairbairn, who claims that businesses are committed to raising skill levels and supporting the government’s ambition to boost apprentice numbers, but that there are growing concerns among firms about the current design and viability of the system.

The CBI is calling for:

  • A stronger role for the new Institute for Apprenticeships - include measuring and managing the system around the levy;
  • More flexibility in how firms can spend the levy – including on existing training and high-quality support for apprentices;
  • The digital system which manages levy spend must be ready and able to support the delivery of apprenticeship training which businesses need, in full and from the start.

Rise in self-employed means problems down the line

The UK’s dramatic shift toward self-employment could be saving up long-term retirement problems for the future.

A report from the Federation of Small Businesses found that less than a third (31%) of self-employed people are saving into a private pension, with 15% suggesting they do not have retirement savings of any kind.

A quarter (27%) plan to rely on their business to fund their retirement, although with many self-employed individuals earning a low income this is unlikely to be a viable solution for all.

FSB national chairman Mike Cherry said: “It has never been easier to go it alone and self-employment now stands at the highest level since records began. This should be celebrated as it brings freedom and flexibility to millions of people.

“Yet policymakers have been slow to respond to the boom in self-employment and are therefore playing catch up. If we do not act now to adapt to this changing workforce, we will only be shoring up problems for the future.”

Digital Marketplace encourages SMEs to sell to government

The government has launched a new framework on the Digital Marketplace that hopes to transform how businesses sell services to government.

A total of 1,261 companies, of which 92% are small and medium-sized enterprises, can be found on the new Digital Outcomes and Specialist framework. The government and wider public sector will use this to access a wide number of digital service suppliers across the country.

Specialist companies and individuals will be able work together with the government to build and deliver great digital services, providing specialist expertise in areas such as design, development, product management and user research.

Matt Hancock, Minister for the Cabinet Office and Paymaster General said: “The Digital Marketplace is rethinking the way government works with companies. It is the best way yet devised to get small businesses to solve problems for government. Already over a quarter of government spend on contracts is going to SMEs and we are committed to opening up more business to smaller companies to support a thriving economy.”

Significant numbers drinking and overeating due to work stress

More than one in four (27%) of employees have put on weight in the past year as they struggle to cope with workplace stress.

Research from MetLife Employee Benefits shows 34% of employees say they are turning to comfort eating to alleviate the demands of work while 23% admit they have turned to alcohol to help. The impact is not just felt by the individual – 29% of employees questioned say they are arguing more with family as a result of work pressures.

MetLife Employee Benefits has launched a report explaining how a focus on organisational resilience awareness and training can help employees overcome negative feelings and deal more effectively with stressful situations.

The report includes a foreword by leading expert Dr Brian Marien of Positive Group, who writes: “The growing recognition that resilience training and strategies have a positive role to play in the workplace is a welcome development but we need to turn up the volume on the message so that more organisations can learn about the genuine business benefits on offer.”