Covid safety costs SMEs £23bn – business news 10 June 2021.

James Salmon, Operations Director.

Covid safety costs SMEs £23bn. Lifting restrictions “will be fantastic for the economy”.  UK to see ’employment boom’. High vacancy levels lead to calls to end furlough now. Sausage War, retirement crisis, fraudulent furlough cash and more.

Covid safety for small businesses hits £23bn

A survey of 1,500 small business owners by Hitachi Capital found the extra money firms need to spend on Covid infection-control measures will drag out the financial hit of the pandemic. Office risk assessments, signs, sanitising products, professional cleaning and air filtering systems are forecast to cost small business about £4,850 each on average this year, the equivalent of just under £23bn in total.

Haldane: Lifting restrictions “will be fantastic for the economy”

Andy Haldane, the Bank of England’s chief economist, told LBC radio that ending Covid restrictions as planned on June 21st would be “fantastic” for growth and help businesses and workers will get their “mojo” back. Mr Haldane said the full reopening would bring “very significant economic positives, psychological positives”. He added: “I think that would encourage people, their confidence, boost their confidence even further than it is already.” His comments come as modelling from Imperial College shows a “risk of a substantial third wave” of infection and reports that the Chancellor is willing to delay the next stage of reopening.

UK to see ’employment boom’

The UK is expected to see an employment boom, according to Manpower UK. The staffing agency says the UK’s jobs outlook was at a six-year high and growth is the strongest of any European country except Ireland. Hiring intentions were particularly strong in sectors including retail, hospitality, finance and business services and employers are having to hike pay offers to attract staff. Chris Gray, director of Manpower Group UK, said: “The employment outlook has seen the sharpest quarter-on-quarter increase since 2002 and the largest year-on-year record to date. Much of this is likely to be companies making up for hiring freezes and redundancies undertaken over the past 12 months.”

High vacancy levels lead to calls to end furlough now

With figures showing 2.1m people are still on furlough while vacancies soar to over 650,000 many business leaders are saying it’s time to put an end to the scheme. The transport and storage industry had 12% of staff on furlough and 23,000 vacancies; while in administration and support services it was 12% and 46,000; and in education it was 6% and 43,000. In the arts and entertainment industry, there were 26% of workers on furlough and 8,000 vacancies, while in ‘other service industries’ – such as personal services and repairs – the figures were 26% and 11,000.

White-collar workers increasingly demand flexibility on conditions

Recruiters are reporting that professionals are increasingly seeking hybrid working arrangements, and compared with lower-paid workers, are more able to demand it from employers.

Sausage War

Talks between Britain and the EU over trade with Northern Ireland regarding the coming ban on imports from the UK mainland of sausages and beefburgers – the “sausage war” ended without resolution, meaning that exports of chilled meats from the British mainland to Northern Ireland will be banned from the end of the month. Britain said it will continue to move goods across the Irish Sea regardless. The EU has threatened to impose tariffs if it does.

5m over-50s at risk of retirement crisis

A report by the Pensions Policy Institute has found that 5m of the UK’s older workers are currently facing a retirement crisis as they dip below the threshold for an “adequate” income when they leave work. The report found more than 90% of private sector workers using a defined contribution pension are not likely to be able to afford a comfortable retirement, and will be forced to live on less than their expected income.

HMRC set to recover £1bn of fraudulent furlough cash

HMRC has indicated that in excess of £1bn of fraudulent or mistakenly claimed furlough cash is set to be recovered over the next two years. More than £60bn has been claimed by employers since the introduction of the scheme in March last year. Janet Alexander, an official at the tax office, said authorities will launch a small number of criminal investigations relating to serious fraud. It comes after HMRC chief Jim Harra said in September that the amount of fraudulent or mistaken furlough claims could amount to as high as £3.5bn.

Royal Dutch Shell

Royal Dutch Shell will reduce its greenhouse gas emissions more quickly than planned following a legal ruling in the Netherlands, its chief executive has promised. Shell will take “bold but measured steps”, Ben van Beurden said, but would still appeal against the ruling.

UK plan for financial services carve out wins support from EU states

Rishi Sunak’s bid to exempt the City from G7 tax proposals has been backed by several European Union member states, the Telegraph reports, with France rumoured to be among them. Joe Biden is not expected to support the move, however. Tom Clougherty, head of tax at the Centre for Policy Studies, said a carve-out over financial services showed the tax deal was far from clear cut. “To a certain extent it underlines the hypocrisy on all sides,” he said. “You can make grand statements about cooperation on tax and what is right, but deep down there is something a bit more cynical going on, which is Governments grubbing around trying to get their hands on a bit more money, while also promoting their own industries.”

G7 deal a long way off

The Times reports that President Joe Biden’s attempts to overhaul global taxation face stiff opposition in Congress after senior Republicans branded the plans “crazy” and vowed to reject them. Elsewhere, an editorial in the FT is highly sceptical that countries will scrap their digital services taxes and replace them with a newly minted OECD-agreed tax treaty in the space of six months. While Rishi Sunak is pushing for financial services to be excluded, Poland and Hungary have said they will not support the plan unless there is a carve-out to protect substantive business activities in their countries. In France, finance minister Bruno Le Maire said the country would make absolutely sure Amazon would not be able to escape the reforms.

Full picture on gender pay gap in Autumn

Analysis by PwC shows that gender pay gaps within UK businesses are continuing to shrink, from an average gap of 14.3% in 2018 to 12.5% in the year to the end of April. Average gender bonus gaps have also narrowed, to 33.6% from 37.6% since 2017. However, more than three quarters of firms delayed reporting their latest data after the Government’s Equalities Office granted businesses a six-month extension earlier this year. Katy Bennett, inclusion and diversity director at PwC, said: “We know from our own research that women are more likely than men to have lost their jobs or experienced reduced hours or pay as a result of the pandemic and also to be more fearful for their future job security. In reality, with so many companies still to disclose their gender pay gap, it will only be after October that we get a true picture of this year’s reporting. This data will also likely give us a much richer picture of the impact that the pandemic has had on women compared to men.”

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The Credit Protection Association – Prompting Punctual Payments – Ethical, Effective, Efficient, Economical collections

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The Credit Protection Association – Prompting Punctual Payments – Ethical, Effective, Efficient, Economical collections.