SME news in brief: Brexit, FSB, Enterprise Act, family businesses, pensions

Survey suggests EU referendum could be a close run thing for SMEs

Around 46.1% of SMEs would prefer to leave the EU, according to a new survey. However, it must be noted that the sample size was only 400 businesses, which were surveyed by five independent chartered accountancy firms based across the country in Lincolnshire, Essex, Middlesex, London, Buckinghamshire, Lancashire and Yorkshire.

The study also found that around 13.7% of small businesses believed there was still not enough information about the upcoming referendum on Thursday 23 June 2016 to make a decision, while the remaining 40.1% said they would like the UK to remain in the EU.

There was little geographic correlation between those wishing to remain and those wishing to leave. This was evident in two of the practices in the neighbouring counties of Lancashire and Yorkshire who recorded completely different results.

‘Crunch time’ for political campaigns

The UK’s small business owners have voted in major elections in London, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland, as well as local elections in England and Police and Crime Commissioner elections.

The Federation of Small Businesses has challenged all the major parties to back small businesses at the heart of their campaigns.

National chairman for the FSB Mike Cherry said: “It’s now crunch time and we would encourage small firms to vote tomorrow and make sure their voice is heard and reflected in a debate that will no doubt affect their future.

“This is an exciting time of change and we want to see newly elected candidates and those serving second terms to champion the UK’s 5.4 million small firms more than ever and make sure they have the right support to continue propelling the UK economy forwards. Small firms need stability, certainty and a comprehensive vision for the future from leaders. We look forward to working with those elected tomorrow and making sure they deliver on their promises for small firms.”

Enterprise Act in place will benefit businesses

The Enterprise Bill has received Royal Assent and has become the Enterprise Act.

It is hoped that the package of measures in the Act will help the government deliver on many of its commitments, from cutting red tape and tackling late payment to boosting the quality and quantity of apprenticeships.

Business Secretary Sajid Javid said: “The Enterprise Act will help deliver the growth and security that benefits every single person in the country. It is proof that this government is delivering on its commitment to back the business owners who are the real heroes of our economic recovery.”

The Enterprise Act includes measures to:

  • Establish a Small Business Commissioner to help small firms resolve issues such as late payment
  • Include the actions of regulators in the government’s £10 billion deregulation target and increase transparency through annual reporting requirements
  • Extend the successful Primary Authority scheme to make it easier for businesses to access consistent, tailored and assured advice from local authorities, giving them greater confidence to invest and grow
  • Protect and strengthen the apprenticeship brand, introduce targets for apprenticeships in public sector bodies in England, and establish an Institute for Apprenticeships – an independent, employer-led body that will make sure apprenticeships meet the needs of business
  • Create a legal obligation for insurers to pay claims to businesses within a reasonable time.

Succession planning is a nightmare for family businesses

Issues around succession planning make up four of the top ten worries keeping family business owners awake at night.

This is according to research from Close Brothers Asset Management (CBAM), conducted by Family Business United.

The survey of family businesses found that management succession planning was a worry for 39% of business owners, while 35% cited engaging and developing the next generation as a concern. Ownership succession and developing responsible future owners was stated as a worry by more than a third (34%) of business owners. The same number also highlighted identifying and maintaining family values as an ongoing concern.

Understandably, the day to day running of the business came in as the top worry for family business owners, with 40% saying that continuing to develop and remain a profitable business was a key concern. Personal finances also stood out, with worries about planning for later life highlighted by 38% of owners.

Businesses fined for failure to comply with auto-enrolment expected to increase

Employers around the UK are still struggling to get set up for auto-enrolment pensions. This is according to Smith and Williamson pension specialist Ian Hill, who claims that the number of employers fined for failure to comply is continuing to rise and is expected to grow significantly as more employers reach their staging dates.

The Pensions Regulator has reported that 806 employers have been issued with a Fixed Penalty Notice (FPN) for failing to comply with a statutory notice or a specific duty over the past three months. With 82% of all FPNs having been issued within the last 6 months there are signs that as the smaller employers are reaching their staging date they’re increasingly finding problems.

“The regulator states that over 95% of employers have staged correctly. However, they are basing this assertion on information available up to 31 March but there are still hundreds of thousands of employers yet to reach their staging date. The regulator would also have no idea whether a scheme was compliant for a number of months after the staging date,” said Hill.