Your spotlight on issues affecting business – March 2019
Small Firms at the Heart of Communities
A Growing Problem: Stress at Work
Cyber Security Concerns
Everyone Deserves to be paid on Time
SME’s Prefer FaceBook
SMALL FIRMS AT THE HEART OF COMMUNITIES
A new report from the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) has highlighted the vital contribution small firms are making to their local communities up and down the country.
Published in late February, ‘Small Business, Big Heart: Bringing communities together’, examines the role smaller firms play within their local jobs markets and the success they bring to their neighbourhoods. The findings show that small businesses are very much part of the fabric of their communities, contributing in a variety of ways such as volunteering activities, support for local schools and youth groups, and a willingness to employ people from disadvantaged backgrounds.
Specifically, the report found that eight in ten small businesses had volunteered and/or contributed to a local community group or charitable cause in the last three years, while more than four in ten had actively engaged with local schools, colleges or youth organisations. In addition, 95% had employed at least one worker from a labour market disadvantaged group; for example, one in three hired someone with a disability or mental health condition, while a third employed someone with low levels of educational attainment. The FSB is now calling on Government to recognise community-minded small firms by implementing a range of positive policy initiatives. These include delivering on its manifesto pledge to introduce a one-year National Insurance Contributions (NICs) holiday for small firms that employ those who are disadvantaged in the jobs market; targeted Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) refunds, and greater support for work experience placements.
A GROWING PROBLEM: STRESS AT WORK
Recent research has once again highlighted the growing problem of stress within the workplace, both for small business owners and across the workforce at large.
According to a survey conducted by accounting software specialist Xero, more than eight out of ten UK small business owners experienced stress in the past six months. In addition, nearly half said they had been more stressed than normal, while one in six admitted to being ‘highly stressed’ and one in ten felt the stress of running a business negatively impacted their mental health.
Another study conducted by HR software provider CIPHR found that more than half of all workers frequently arrive at work already stressed, with the daily commute found to be the single biggest cause of stress. Six in ten workers also felt that starting their day stressed reduced their levels of productivity.
The last few years have clearly seen an increasing focus placed on stress in the workplace and what employers can do to safeguard their employees’ mental health. And this research suggests that issues relating to stress and mental health are likely to remain firmly at the top of the workplace agenda for the next few years.
CYBER SECURITY CONCERNS
Concerns have been raised regarding the increasing threat to cyber security amongst SMEs, highlighting the need for more effective data protection practices.
Latest Government data shows that almost half of all businesses experienced a cyberattack in 2017. SMEs were more likely to be affected, with 66% of SMEs experiencing a breach of cyber security, compared to 41% of large businesses and 46% of micro businesses.
One possible reason for this may be the increase in recent years of flexible and shared office space, which clearly leaves SMEs more exposed to data theft and loss of company sensitive information. In addition, higher levels of connectivity across multiple devices and a rising trend towards BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) may have further exposed businesses to cyber-security breaches.
According to the figures, medium enterprises in the UK spent an average of £15,500 on cyber security, although this figure varies greatly depending on the size of the business and the sector. For instance, businesses in the Information, Communication or Utility sectors spent an average of £19,500 on cyber security, while firms in the Food and Hospitality sectors invested a mere £620 on average.
EVERYONE DESERVES TO BE PAID ON TIME
The FSB has issued a call for Government to help tackle the late payment culture that is still prevalent across the UK business sector.
According to research conducted by the FSB, more than eight out of ten small businesses report being paid late, with a third saying that at least one in four payments they are owed arrives later than agreed. And, ahead of this month’s Spring Statement, the FSB is calling on Government to help fight poor payment practices as part of its ‘Fair Pay, Fair Play’ campaign.
Specifically, the FSB is pushing for the adoption of three key reforms which it feels would help bring an end to the UK’s poor payment crisis. These are to: assign Non-Executive Directors responsible for overseeing a company’s payment practices and prevent late payments; strengthen payment enforcement measures, including the Prompt Payment Code, and allow Government to fine businesses that fail to report payment practices data; and adopt Project Bank Accounts in public procurement.
FSB National Chairman Mike Cherry commented:
“For far too long some big businesses have been allowed to get away with poor behaviour that has seen them use their dominant position to bully and squeeze our small firms. Why do we find ourselves in a situation where some think it is acceptable and fair to not pay our small businesses on time? The truth is that it isn’t fair – everyone deserves to be paid on time.“
SMEs PREFER FACEBOOK
A recent survey of 1,000 UK SMEs found that Facebook is the social media site used most commonly to promote their business.
The research conducted by Lightspeed shows Facebook to be twice as well-used amongst SMEs as its closest rival Twitter. Less popular were LinkedIn, Instagram and YouTube, with Pintrerest being cited as the channel least used for promotional purposes.
Social media is increasingly being utilised as a sales tool, with 54% of business owners saying they have successfully made sales from it. London is leading the charge, with 79% of businesses in the capital successfully boosting sales through social media. Smaller businesses were less successful, however, with just 32% of businesses with ten or less employees stating that social media had helped them generate sales.
Half of all businesses surveyed said they employ someone in a role specifically to drive the business’s online presence. In London, this rises to 70% but falls to just one in five of smaller businesses with ten or less employees.