Welcome to our round up of the latest business news for clients. Please contact us if you want to talk about how these updates affect your business. We are here to support you!
The best way to predict the future is to create it!
The latest Office for National Statistics (ONS) survey to June 2021 showed that the UK gross domestic product (GDP) is estimated to have increased by 5.5% in Quarter 2 (Apr to June) 2021, revised from the first estimate of a 4.8% increase. However, the level of GDP is now 3.3% below where it was pre-pandemic at Quarter 4 (Oct to Dec) 2019, revised from the previous estimate of 4.4% below. The increase in GDP was expected as the UK moved out of lockdown, however, more worrying for businesses is the rise in inflation and therefore a possible rise in interest rates that accompanies growth in GDP.
The news is not that positive right now and the TV and the press are currently full of worrying stories about global bottlenecks and supply chain problems, energy bills rising, HGV drivers and staff shortages. We have also seen rising prices, queues at the petrol pumps and now a flatlining post Pandemic economy.
The end of the stamp duty holiday, higher VAT in the hospitality industry and less generous universal credit payments mean the most immediate task facing the government is to prevent the economy from going backwards over the coming months.
All the negativity in the press can lead to us feeling “out of control” and uncertain about in what direction we should take our business. We firmly believe in our clients and their aims, hopes and ambitions and in remaining positive, we also believe the best way to predict the future is to create it!
There is an old saying “A sailor without a destination will never get a favourable wind”.
It is easier to get to your destination with a plan. We all know this simple truth. If you are driving from A to B it helps to know where A is and the directions you need to take.
Planning ahead is the single most important exercise any business owner can do. If you have a vision of what you want your business to look like when it is “complete” then you are in a position to drive your business towards the vision and you can monitor how you are doing as you go along. If you do not have a plan then you could get blown around like “flotsam in the sea”, without any control.
If you agree it is hard to accomplish anything without a plan, let’s start thinking about how we can make it successfully through the coming winter and make our business more resilient to factors outside of our control. Here are our thoughts:
- Take time to review your personal objectives – the business is there to provide you with what you want from life, and this is the most important element of any plan.
- Look at where the business is now its strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats and get a clear understanding of its position in the marketplace, the competition, the systems and the way things are done and the improvements that could be made.
- Focus on what the business is to look like when it is “complete” or running profitably and successfully. Then you can determine priorities – the big issues that need to be focussed on – this is the plan!
- Write down the plan and define what it must achieve, and the actions needed. Monitor how it is doing towards the vision each month and what actions have been completed and what needs to be done to keep the business moving towards the plan.
- Allocate responsibility for taking the actions.
- Monitor, review and adjust regular activities to keep the business on track towards the plan.
It is also a good idea to look at where you are now and plan for a range of scenarios “good and bad” so that you can be flexible about the direction you should take.
Please talk to us about helping you with forecasting and planning for the next few months. We have helped many clients with “what if” scenarios and their future planning.
New Export Support Service launched
UK businesses exporting to Europe can now access one-to-one advice via the new Export Support Service (ESS).
The Export Support Service is a new government helpline and online service where all UK businesses can get answers to practical questions about exporting to Europe.
It gives access to cross-government information and support in one place.
All UK businesses can use this free service, no matter the size of your business or in which part of the UK you are based. The Department for International Trade (DIT) will continue to work with businesses and business representative groups from all sectors, in all parts of the UK, to help make the service as useful as possible for businesses.
You can access the Export Support Service online or by calling 0300 303 8955 where you will be put in touch with a member of the export support team.
The Kickstart Scheme provides funding to employers to create jobs for 16 to 24 year olds on Universal Credit who are at risk of long term unemployment. Employers of all sizes can apply for funding until 17 December 2021 which covers:
- 100% of the National Minimum Wage (or the National Living Wage depending on the age of the participant) for 25 hours per week for a total of 6 months
- associated employer National Insurance contributions
- minimum automatic enrolment pension contributions
Employers can spread the job start dates up until 31 March 2022. You will get funding until 30 September 2022 if a young person starts their job on 31 March 2022.
Further funding is available for training and support so that young people on the scheme can get a job in the future.
Applications to the Kickstart Scheme are closing soon.
After 17 December 2021 you will not be able to:
- apply for a new Kickstart Scheme grant
- add more jobs to an existing grant agreement
The Department for work & pensions (DWP) will process applications submitted before this time or that are already in progress.
Check which expenses are taxable if your employee works from home due to coronavirus
The HMRC guidance has been recently updated to reflect the fact that employees can no longer be furloughed using the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme. The scheme ended on 30 September 2021.
If any of your employees are working from home due to coronavirus (COVID-19), either because your workplace has closed, or they are following advice to self-isolate, then HMRC accepts there are non-taxable types of equipment, services or supply.
For example – if you provide a mobile phone and SIM card without a restriction on private use, limited to one per employee, this is non-taxable.
Broadband – if your employee already pays for broadband, then no additional expenses can be claimed. If a broadband internet connection is needed to work from home and one was not already available, then the broadband fee can be reimbursed by you and is non-taxable. In this case, the broadband is provided for business and any private use must be limited.
Laptops, tablets, computers, and office supplies – if these are mainly used for business purposes and not significant private use, these are non-taxable.
Reimbursing expenses for office equipment your employee has bought – if your employee needs to buy home office equipment to allow them to work from home, they will need to discuss this with you in advance. If you reimburse your employee the actual costs of the purchase, then this is non-taxable provided there is no significant private use.
Employers can continue to pay their employees £6 a week to cover the additional expenses of working from home and the amount would be free of tax and national insurance. This is to cover the additional costs of electricity, heating and water whilst working from home. It has been confirmed that the amount may be paid regardless of the number of days that employees work from home.
HMRC guidance can be seen here: Check which expenses are taxable if your employee works from home due to coronavirus (COVID-19) – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)
Webinars designed to help small and medium-sized enterprises work with the defence sector.
The Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) has announced dates for a new series of webinars designed to help small and medium-sized enterprises work with the defence sector.
They are free to attend, and businesses do not need to have worked previously with Dstl or in the defence sector. Attendance is welcomed from equipment and material manufacturers, engineers, innovators, researchers, academics, and others who have a genuine interest and ability to work with Dstl.
Webinar dates and times:
- Cyber: 19 October 2021, 10am to 11:15am
- Defence S&T Futures: 19 October 2021, 1pm to 2:15pm
- Advanced energetic materials: 16 November 2021, 10am to 11:15am
- High speed and hypersonic science and technology: 14 December 2021, 10am to 11:15am
- Directed energy weapons science and technology future roadmap: 16 December 2021, 1pm to 2:15pm
- Space: 18 January 2022, 10am to 11:15am
- Artificial intelligence: 20 January 2022 1pm to 2:15pm
Consultation on the UK Marine Strategy Programme of Measures
The Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA) has opened a UK-wide public consultation has been launched on the Marine Strategy which has been developed with input from scientific experts and policy-makers across the 4 UK administrations.
The aims of the Strategy are consistent with the UK government and devolved administrations’ vision of “clean, healthy, safe, productive and biologically diverse oceans and seas”. This requirement to monitor and assess the state of the UK seas is enshrined in UK legislation and demonstrates the combined commitments of the four UK Administrations to work together to monitor and protect what are some of the most biologically diverse and productive seas in Europe. They will also continue to collaborate internationally with those countries that share our seas, particularly through OSPAR, our regional seas convention, to protect and conserve the marine environment of the North-East Atlantic.
The target audiences for the consultation are groups or individuals who use the sea for whatever purpose, or have an interest in it, business users of the sea and national and local interest groups.
You can find out more and complete the survey here: UK Marine Strategy Part Three: Programme of Measures – Defra – Citizen Space
Advice for UK visa applicants and temporary UK residents
Following recent lockdown changes the guidance for visa applicants and temporary residents has been updated and applicants and temporary residents are expected to take all reasonable steps to leave the UK where it is possible to do so or apply to regularise their stay in the UK.
Applicants and temporary residents are allowed to access Visa and Immigration services as these are considered an essential public service. They must follow current COVID-19 rules for where they live, in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
For the full guidance see: Coronavirus (COVID-19): advice for UK visa applicants and temporary UK residents – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)
Cash and other assets of a dissolved company – discretionary grant available
Guidance on how to apply for a discretionary grant where a dissolved company can be restored. (Company has been dissolved for less than six years) has been updated.
Cash and other assets of a dissolved company automatically pass to the Crown as Bona Vacantia by law under Section 1012 of the Companies Act 2006. The Bona Vacantia Division (BVD) of the Government Legal Department is responsible for this function.
The Discretionary Grant application enables sums of money to be recovered without making an application to restore the company to the Companies Register. A maximum limit of £3000 can be recovered and only one grant payment will be made in respect of each dissolved company.
All grants are discretionary. No-one has a right to a grant.
You must be one of the following in order to be eligible for a Discretionary Grant:
- Former shareholders provided all shareholders of the dissolved company apply and there are no existing creditors of the company
- Former liquidators
- Former administrators
- Former company voluntary arrangement (CVA) supervisors
For the full guidance see: Apply for a Discretionary Grant (DG2) – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)
New Directors’ Disqualification Regime to Directors of Dissolved Companies
The Ratings (Coronavirus) and Directors Disqualification (Dissolved Companies) Bill, currently going through Parliament, contains implications for directors of dissolved companies.
The main provisions of the Bill are that the Insolvency Service will be able to retrospectively:
- investigate the conduct of directors of dissolved companies; and
- bring disqualification proceedings against them under the Company Directors Disqualification Act (CDDA) 1986.
Where a Court is satisfied that the conduct of a director of a dissolved company renders that director unfit to be concerned in the management of a company, penalties could include:
- disqualification from acting as a director for a period of two to 15 years; and
- the payment of compensation to creditors.
The breach of a director’s disqualification order can lead to imprisonment for up to two years and/or substantial fines.
In the notes to the bill the three main complaints about the conduct of former directors are detailed:
- allowing or causing a company to be dissolved, effectively shedding its liabilities, with a new company continuing its business, which is sometimes known as phoenix from the ashes scenarios or “phoenixism”;
- using the dissolution process as a short-circuit to avoid the costs and implications of a formal insolvency process; and
- the avoidance of investigation of conduct under the Company Directors Disqualification Act (CDDA) 1986.
The reason for the retrospective nature of this bill is the UK governments concern that company directors who have taken out Government-backed loans for support during the coronavirus pandemic may seek to dissolve the company rather than repay the loan.
All company directors should be aware of this new legislation and if you have any queries about loans taken during the Pandemic please contact us for a confidential discussion.
Mental health: a decade of change in just 2 years
Last week UK Health and Social Care Secretary Sajid Javid spoke at the Global Mental Health Summit 2021. He commented that around 1 in 5 adults in Britain experienced some form of depression in the first 3 months of this year. That’s over double the figure before the COVID-19 pandemic and almost half of adults have reported that their wellbeing has been affected.
As a result, the UK has seen more people seeking help, both here and around the world, at a time when health systems were already under the greatest of strains.
A survey by the World Health Organization (WHO) showed that the pandemic disrupted mental health services in 93% of countries worldwide.
The government hosted a public consultation from 13 January 2021 to 21 April 2021 on a set of proposals to reform the Mental Health Act. They received over 1,700 responses. The report below is the government’s formal response to this consultation. The Welsh response is currently being translated and will be uploaded as soon as possible.
Incentives for businesses to recruit apprentices further extended by Welsh Government
The Apprenticeship Employer Incentive Scheme is a key part of Welsh Government’s Covid Commitment to support businesses and workers in recovering from the impacts of coronavirus.
The incentives have already seen more than 5,500 new apprentices recruited since August 2020.
The incentives had been due to close 30 September 2021 but will now continue to support businesses until 28th February 2022. Under the scheme businesses are able to claim up to £4,000 for each new apprentice they hire under the age of 25.
The £4,000 incentive will be available to businesses that are employing a young apprentice for at least 30 hours per week. Welsh businesses could also receive £2,000 for each new under 25 year old apprentice they employ for less than 30 hours a week.
For workers aged 25 and over, businesses can access £2,000 for each new apprentice they hire on a 30 hour or more contract, and a £1,000 incentive for apprentices working less than 30 hours.
Payments are restricted to ten learners per business. Dedicated funding is also available to recruit disabled people.
FSB Celebrating Small Business Awards 2022
The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) Celebrating Small Business Awards recognise and celebrate the huge contribution that smaller businesses and the self-employed make to the UK.
The competition aims to recognise each and every person, company or family that owns, runs or works in a smaller business.
The categories are:
- International Business of the Year
- Environmental Award
- Micro Business of the Year
- Start-Up Business of the Year
- High Growth Business of the Year
- Family Business of the Year
- Young Entrepreneur of the Year (aged 30 and under)
- Wellbeing Award of the Year
- Community Award – area only
- Business & Product Innovation Award
- Digital/E-Commerce Business of the Year
- Self-Employed/Sole Trader of the Year
The closing date for Welsh entries is 20 February 2022 with the final taking place on 8 April 2022.
Healthy Working Wales Covid-19 Commendation Event
The Healthy Working Wales (HWW) programme, delivered by Public Health Wales on behalf of Welsh Government have announced their virtual Covid-19 commendation event taking place on Wednesday 8 December 2021.
This event will celebrate employers across Wales, who have demonstrated innovation, creativity and dedication to their staff wellbeing in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
There are six categories to enter:
- Best Mental Health Initiative
- Best Physical Wellbeing Initiative
- Best Covid-19 Company Response
- Corporate Social Responsibility – supporting the community or customers/service users
- Sustainability – Visionary Commendation for Sustainability
- Equality, Diversity and Inclusion
The submission portal is now open to receive written or video entries. The deadline for submissions is Friday 15 October 2021.
SME Innovation Funding Call
AgorIP is inviting small to medium businesses to apply for support and funding! They can help you bring new technologies and ideas to the market and facilitate the commercialisation of your research.
AgorIP is a unique innovation project working to bring ideas and inventions to life. Part Funded by the European Regional Development Fund through the Welsh Government and Swansea University, AgorIP can help SMEs to realise the potential of their ideas, products, or research. With experts here to help take IP to the marketplace and make it a commercial success.
The funding call is for innovative and technology transfer projects to come forward and apply for support, assistance, and potential access to funding which will be managed by a designated Technology Transfer Manager at AgorIP.
Grants of up to £5,000 Available to Support Women Songwriters and Composers
Grants of up to £5,000 are available to support the development of outstanding women, trans and non-binary songwriters and composers of all genres and backgrounds at different stages of their career.
The funding is available to support touring, recording, promotion and marketing, community projects involving high-quality music creators, music creator residencies and live performances featuring new UK music.
The funding is being made available through the Performing Rights Society (PRS) for Music Foundation’s Woman make Music Grants Programme and the closing date for applications is 18 October 2021.
Countries taken off the red list
South Africa, Mexico and Thailand are among 47 countries removed from the international travel red list from today, 11 October.
The changes – agreed on a four nation basis – leave a smaller red list consisting of Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Panama, Dominican Republic, Haiti and Venezuela in place to protect public health.