FSB Weekly Brief Newsletter – Friday 12 April 2024

News 12 Apr 2024

All the week's most important small business news.

Violence against retailers to be made standalone criminal offence
Small businesses welcomed the Prime Minister’s announcement that violence against retail business owners and their staff is to be made a standalone criminal offence. This followed campaigning by the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) after its research found a rise in threatening behaviour, intimidation, and/or assault over the last four years, alongside increased reports of serious organised shop theft, and that 27 per cent of small business owners have experienced threatening behaviour or assault. Commenting on the announcement, Tina McKenzie, policy chair at FSB, said: "It sends an important message to perpetrators: enough is enough, and small businesses are not an easy target.” Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said: “Our local shops are the lifeblood of our communities, and they must be free to trade without the threat of crime or abuse.”

GDP upticks, but small firms need more than flashes of growth, FSB warns
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) reported that GDP rose by 0.1 per cent in February 2024. FSB Policy and Advocacy Chair Tina McKenzie welcomed the increase, saying that small firms have been battling against strong headwinds for some time now. However, she warned that while there are signs of cautious recovery, this is not evenly distributed among sectors; It will take more than flashes of growth to raise spirits in the hospitality and retail sectors, for example, telling Guardian Live: “Government needs to ensure that growth among small firms is nurtured, rather than left to wither. It needs to think hard about how to support existing businesses, especially in sectors that have been the hardest hit.”

Post, Present and Future: postal service must work for SMEs, FSB tells regulator event
FSB's Policy Director, Paul Wilson, represented small businesses at an Ofcom event on the future of the postal service, alongside Royal Mail and the CWU. This came after the communications regulator published a call for input into the future of Royal Mail in January, with options including to cut back on six-day-a-week letter deliveries. Last week, Royal Mail said that while it wanted to protect first-class deliveries for six days a week, it may cut the frequency of second-class deliveries - something FSB branded “too drastic.” Wilson told the audience: "While Royal Mail is in a tough spot financially, small businesses are having a tough time of it too. They rely on Royal Mail and customer expectations won't shift. If next day deliveries stop happening, that's a massive risk. SMEs will have to either relinquish customers or pay more to their competitors, which may not make it viable to sell that product." Watch a recording of the Post, Present and Future event.

New late payment tool gives insight into potential customers’ finances
Late payment campaign group Good Business Pays has developed a new 'financial risk monitor', in collaboration with financial risk analyst Company Watch. The tool gives a more 'real time' picture of how a company's payment terms might be a sign of broader, financial risk, as well as other useful data such as a suggested credit limit, risk rating and a percentage prediction of distress. To use the software, click here and enter the name of the company.

Creative industries: Calls made for new Freelancers’ Commissioner
The Culture Media and Sport select committee has called for Government to appoint a new Freelancers’ Commissioner to advocate in the interests of creative freelancers, backed by FSB. The Committee said that many successful musicians, actors, writers and artists are struggling to make a living due to gaps in copyright law, a lack of support for freelancers and unpredictable streaming revenue. The rise of artificial intelligence (AI) is adding to this. FSB said freelancers deserve fair compensation when AI uses creators' work, so ensuring fair pay for music makers is a positive step.

Register to vote in May elections by 16 April deadline
FSB is reminding its members, and their employees, to register to vote for the upcoming May elections by the deadline of 11.59pm, 16 April. These elections, taking place on 2 May, are Police and Crime Commissioner elections in England and Wales; local government elections in England; parish council elections in England; local authority mayoral elections; combined authority mayoral elections; and Mayor of London and London Assembly elections.

Labour’s plan for high streets, small businesses respond
The Labour Party announced a five-point plan to revitalise high streets across the UK, focusing on community safety, banking accessibility, and business support. Craig Beaumont, Chief of External Affairs at the Federation of Small Businesses, said: “It’s in everyone’s interests for high streets and town centres to thrive and it’s crucial that we see a future policy framework to match that ambition. It’s reassuring to see acknowledgment of some of key issues that impact small businesses on a day-to-day basis from Labour, and we hope this is followed by a detailed roadmap before the General Election. We’re keen to see detail, particularly on things like business rates, late payments and accelerating the banking hub rollout as more branches and ATMs close.” Adding: “The next election needs political parties to adopt new ways to drive growth on our high streets.”

New flexible working laws and Acas Code of Practice
The new flexible working law and updated Acas Code of Practice on handling requests for flexible working came into effect in April. To help support employers and line mangers with the changes, Acas has produced advice and resources covering working from home and hybrid working; making a flexible working request; responding to a flexible working request; flexible working policy templates. View the Acas flexible working guidance. FSB members also have access to fact sheet guidance on flexible working, a template policy and letters on the FSB Legal Hub.

Alternative dispute resolution: feedback sought
Small businesses are invited to share their experience of using Early Conciliation which is a form of alternative dispute resolution to help resolve a disagreement between an employer and employee without the need of an employment tribunal. It is a free service offered by the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (Acas). Before someone can make an employment tribunal claim, they first must refer the dispute to Acas for early conciliation. If you’ve used this service we’d love to hear about your experience, if so, please kindly contact - [email protected]

From ‘Work First’ to ‘Good Work’: Supporting people into good jobs
FSB’s Head of Policy Research, Emelia Quist, addressed a solutions-focused mini-conference, exploring how people can be supported into good jobs, not just any jobs, in Manchester. With the keynote speech delivered by Shadow Minister for Employment and Social Security Alison McGovern MP, the conference was presented by the Metropolis think-tank, Manchester Metropolitan University and the Employment Related Services Association (ERSA). The conference explored how for decades, UK policymakers have promoted a “Work First” approach to - moving unemployed people into any job quickly, with the assumption that once people get “any job,” they will then get a “better job.” Emelia also discussed how small businesses engage with jobcentres. If you’re a small business employer and wish to discuss your experiences of interreacting with jobcentres, please contact [email protected].

Enhancing disabled people’s prospects at work
A new Disability Confident guide for managers, to help them to recruit, retain, and foster the progression of disabled people and those with health conditions in the workplace, was published this week by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) in collaboration with the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) to ensure employers and employees get the most from the Disability Confident Scheme to reduce the disability employment gap. FSB welcomed the step; its recent report found smaller businesses employ disabled people and those with a health condition at a higher rate than medium and large businesses. But, despite this relatively good performance, FSB said more could be done, presenting a 10-point plan for disability employment. Any improvements to the Disability Confident Scheme are welcome.

King Charles presented with new banknotes, featuring King’s image, by Bank of England
Andrew Bailey, Governor of The Bank of England, and Sarah John, Chief Cashier and Executive Director of Banking, presented King Charles III with the new banknotes featuring the King's image, this week. The new banknotes will be issued by the Bank of England on 5 June 2024. You will still be able to use all polymer banknotes that feature the portrait of Her late Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II. Businesses are advised to update banknote machines before 5 June. Check with your machine manufacturer for more details.

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