NEWS AND OPPORTUNITIES
GDP falls in March amid record trade deficit
ONS figures show that GDP fell 0.1% in March and the UK's trade deficit, at £25.2 billion, is at its greatest since records began. Responding to the news, FSB National Chair Martin McTague said: "Our economic recovery is stumbling when it's barely had a chance to come out of the gate. We hear a lot from politicians about the cost of living crisis, but very little about the cost of doing business crisis which underlies it." FSB is calling on the Government to help small businesses weather the storm, by extending direct support on energy costs to the small businesses caught between consumers and corporates, enabling firms to reclaim the cost of sick pay, and going much further in alleviating the pressure of regressive business rates.
Queen's Speech: Ambitions must be matched by action
The Government's legislative agenda was set out in the Queen's Speech on Tuesday (10 May). FSB welcomed many of the bills announced in the speech, but we are calling for the ambitious aims on everything from late payment to trade and ensuring small businesses are able to bid to be involved in public sector supply chains to be supported by swift actions. Martin McTague said: "It was good to hear a pro-enterprise address today, but it's now time to turn kind words into action. Firms need the Government to deliver quickly on levelling-up commitments through plans for devolution, infrastructure investment and regulatory reform."
FSB partners with Google to upskill small businesses
FSB announced this week that it will be working with Google to offer up to 500 Google Career Certificate scholarships - worth up to £87,000 to each business - to help further develop the tech talent needed to grow in business. The initiative, which will launch later this summer, will enable small business owners to upskill their workforce for free as they look to grow their businesses in a post-pandemic world. Commenting on the initiative, Martin McTague said: "Despite increasing adoption of digital technology and new ways of working, the overall digital capability of small firms still requires improvement. We've always said that both Government and industry have a part to play in upskilling digital in small businesses and this initiative from Google and the Government is a positive step." More details will be published on the skills hub on FSB's website in the coming weeks.
Third of small business owners hit by Covid-linked mental health decline
The Covid pandemic, and the lockdowns and worsening late payment culture which accompanied it, had a significant negative impact on the mental health of small business owners, our research found, with a third (34%) stating that their mental health declined over the course of the pandemic. FSB Policy and Advocacy Chair Tina McKenzie said: "Whether it's the migrant entrepreneur suffering post-traumatic stress, the aspiring start-up creator wrestling with depression as they struggle to find work, or the thousands of business owners who feel isolated and hopeless because of late payment, policymakers should reflect on the challenges faced by entrepreneurs during this Mental Health Awareness week. By building on, and promoting access to, the support that's already available to business owners and their teams, the Government can make a real difference to mental wellbeing."
Have your say on costs
Please take part in the new FSB Big Voice ten-minute survey about your experiences of rising energy costs and changes to the National Living Wage. Your views form the foundation of our advocacy efforts to bring beneficial changes for our members (survey closes 19 May).
Help for seafood exporters
The Government is putting £1 million towards helping seafood exporters, with global exports of seafood worth over £1.6 billion in 2021. The funding will "identify new overseas buyers and connect them with UK seafood companies, promote UK seafood at international events, [and] increase expertise on British seafood produce in our Embassies and Consulates overseas."
Freight guidance updated
HMRC's guidance pages on Moving excise goods as freight under the Northern Ireland Protocol from 1 January 2021 and on Clearing goods entering, leaving or transiting the UK have been updated.
T Level webinars
The Department for Education is holding a series of webinars for employers on how T Levels can help their business, with How might industry placements work for your legal, finance and accounting roles? on 18 May; Choosing and building a strong relationship with a T Level provider on 24 May; and The role of the line manager and mentor - hosting young people in the workplace on 31 May.
Ban on exclusivity clauses for low-paid workers
Exclusivity clauses banning workers from working for multiple employers will no longer be allowed on "contracts where the guaranteed weekly income is on or below the Lower Earnings Limit of £123 a week", the Government has said. The clauses have been banned for people on zero hours contracts since 2015.
VAT penalties and charges guidance
HMRC has published guidance on the upcoming changes to VAT penalties and VAT interest charges, which will cover VAT periods starting on or after 1 January 2023.
Green finance call for evidence
The Green Finance Strategy is due to be published later this year, and the Government has issued a call for evidence to inform its findings, which will aim to "set out how the UK can better ensure the financial services industry is supporting the UK's energy security, climate and environmental objectives".
Australia and NZ trade bill
The Trade (Australia and New Zealand) Bill has been introduced to Parliament. Once passed, the Government hopes it will boost trade between the UK and Australia by 53%, worth £2.3 billion, and between the UK and Aotearoa New Zealand by 60%, worth £800 million. FSB's Head of International Affairs, Lucy Monks, will give evidence to the International Trade Committee on the NZ agreement next Wednesday (18 May).
Acas blog on loneliness at work
With the theme of Mental Health Awareness Week 2022 being loneliness, Acas has published a blog on loneliness at work.
Future labour market review launched
The Government is to look into the future of the UK labour market via a review led by Mark Warman MP. He said: "Businesses big and small have evolved how they work hugely in the last two years, and employees today need different skills and protections to thrive. Getting that balance right will provide tangible economic and social benefits to both companies and working people."
FSB networking next week
We're holding a free networking event for anyone in engineering, manufacturing, or transport on 18 May.
FSB SUPPORT AND INFORMATION
- Our Sustainability Hub has everything you need to help you on your journey to net zero.
- If you are a UK business which trades with Europe, keep track of the latest changes and developments via FSB's Transition Hub.
- Our #BusinessWithoutBarriers hub on disability and health conditions has free guidance and resources to help small businesses make their workplaces more inclusive, and to help disabled entrepreneurs identify opportunities and support.
JOIN BIG VOICE AND MAKE YOUR BUSINESS HEARDBig Voice is FSB's unique online research community for members. By responding to one of our surveys, members give us the evidence we need to engage with politicians around the world on the subjects that matter to you.