Salary Expectations Of Women Half As Bullish As Men

Men working in finance feel they are ‘worth’ and extra £12,000 on top of their current salaries for the work they do, while women in the same field would expect just over half that amount at £7,000 according to new research on salary expectations by the Association of Accounting Technicians (AAT).

The gender pay gap remains, with men working full time were already seeing earnings of around 18% more than women, which rose to 23% when reaching senior membership levels according to a survey of 2,000 employees in the finance sector.

Women’s salary expections far lower than men’s

Salary expectations for each sex vary considerably, and on average men felt they should be paid an additional £11,963.51 on top of their current pay to achieve the real value of the work they do, with one in 15 suggesting an additional £40,000 a year would be a fairer reflection of their working contribution.

The average woman felt her salary was £6,854.43 lighter than it should be, with just 1% of women thinking they deserved an extra £40,000 a year, proving their salary expectations are far lower. Almost half of women working in finance thought they should see an annual increase of up to £3,000, compared with just 29% of men.

Olivia Hill, Chief HR Officer at AAT, said: “These latest figures suggest that men working in finance are far more positive about their worth and value in the workplace, and subsequently are more confident of asking for a pay rise, which many are receiving. There is also a suggestion that women may have less awareness, or desire, to reach the more senior levels of their company and reap the associated financial benefits. Women need to feel more empowered to redress the balance and ensure they are receiving fair recompense for the hours they put in at the office. The finance sector needs to consider equality and diversity in more depth if it is to continue to attract the best talent.”

Men are significantly more likely to ask for a pay rise too, with more than a quarter asking for a pay rise in the past year, while just 18% of women had. Nearly half of men in the sector (47%) had received a pay rise in the past year, compared with 40% of women.

Professor Sir Cary L Cooper CBE, 50th Anniversary Professor of Organizational Psychology and Health at Manchester Business School said: “Both businesses and employees themselves need to take greater responsibility to narrow this unconscious gender bias and barriers to opportunity that may be preventing some women in finance from realising their true value. Women should be encouraged to give thought to whether they are being paid fairly for their contribution at work, and indeed whether they are keeping pace with their male counterparts.”

Budget 2016 – What It Means For Small Business

The Chancellor has had a turbulent time since he delivered his Budget last week, and while he has made a u-turn on plans to severely cut disability benefits, some of his other measures have been welcomed and applauded by the business community.

This Budget was certainly a good one for small business, with major changes that offered them reductions in rates and taxes, and it is important for companies to make the most of them.

So, to make life easier, The Business Powerhouse editorial team has put together your quick guide to the changes in the Budget:

Rates down for small business

Business rates have been the bane of an SME’s life as they have reached record levels – but thankfully, the Chancellor has listened to the groundswell of complaints and business rate relief has been more than doubled from £6,000 to £15,000. This – according to the Government – will mean more than 600,000 small businesses will pay no rates at all.

Another bugbear was the linking of business rates to the retail price index (RPI) rather than the historically lower consumer price index (CPI) – again, the Government has been listening, and in future CPI will be used to set the rate rises each year.

Corporation tax cut

A ‘business road map’ has been outlined by the Chancellor, and he is proposing that the level of corporation tax is cut from the current 20% to 17% by 2020.

While this sounds good, there is a little more to it and it appears that businesses could be paying more than £7 billion more as a result of the Budget changes, with an additional £1 billion each year even after the changes announced, according to the Chartered Institute of Taxation.

John Cullinane, Tax Policy Director, at the Chartered Institute of Taxation, said: “Rumours of the death of corporation tax have been much exaggerated. There has been much talk recently of problems with corporation tax and whether it can be sustained in today’s global economy. The announcements show that the Chancellor is still confident he can increase the tax base to more than offset planned rate reductions in the years ahead.”

Extra flexibility on offsetting past losses

Many companies have different divisions that do slightly different things, and in the past it has not always been possible to offset losses in one area of the business against profits in another, even though the profits and losses were all part of the same firm. This, for example, might have been the case in an agricultural business.

Now, from April 2017, these rules are changing, and there will be fewer restrictions on a firm’s ability to use losses created within different parts of the business being offset against other profits.

Tina Riches of accountants Smith & Williamson, said: “It is welcome news to hear that the UK will bring its system more into line with its G7 neighbours, so that some of these restrictions will fall away from April 2017. It means that far fewer SMEs will end up with trapped unusable losses in the future. For companies with profits over £5m there will be some restrictions on this, but the Government only expect this to affect about 1% of UK companies.”

Loans to small company shareholders will see a tax rise

Not great news for small business – close companies, which are considered to have five or fewer shareholders. They already have to pay a tax charge of 25% on loans made to shareholders, but as of April 1, 2016 this will rise to 32.5%, and is most likely to affect family-run firms.

If this is something that you think may affect you, then you would be wise to speak to, or find an accountant sooner rather than later.

Extension to CGT Entrepreneur’s Relief

To date, to benefit from Entrepreneur’s Relief, you have had to not only invest in the company in question, you have to work for it as well. But these rules are changing to expand the reach of this relief to business angels who do not deal with the business day-to-day.

Michael Steed, President of the Association of Taxation Technicians, said: “Until now ‘external investors’ (business angels) in unquoted trading companies have been able to obtain both income tax relief on their investment and CGT exemption on the subsequent disposal of their shares by using either the Enterprise Investment Scheme (EIS) or the Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme (SEIS). Both can work well in the right circumstances but both are governed by very tight qualifying conditions.

“[The Budget] announcement opens up an alternative route for prospective investors. By enabling investors to qualify for Entrepreneurs’ Relief (previously only available to individuals who worked in the company in which they were investing), any gains (within a £10 million lifetime limit) on qualifying share disposals after three years will be subject to a CGT rate of 10% instead of what will, from April 6, 2016, be the new 20% rate.

“It will be interesting to see whether this extension to Entrepreneurs’ Relief for external investors prompts a shift away from EIS and SEIS. Much will inevitably depend on the how the legislation is structured and on the complexity of anti-avoidance provisions. If the provisions can be kept simple, they have the potential to provide a very attractive alternative to EIS and SEIS.”

Business Rates To Cost Firms £400m More In 2016/17

Businesses are set to pay a massive £400m more in rates in 2016/17 as the tax rate levied on commercial property reaches its highest ever level, according to CVS Surveyors.

The business rates specialist has warned that from April 1, 2016 the ‘uniform business rate’ will hit 49.7p in the pound – the highest level since the rate was introduced back in 1990 – and is set to cost businesses an additional £188m collectively in the coming tax year. Companies with small business properties will suffer too as the Government is also ending the business rates discounts that have been applied, which will add a further £284m to bills, creating a total addition of £400m to business rates.

The position is getting so bad that a quarter of the 250 UK business owners surveyed by CVS Surveyors said they have considered other forms of employment or make staff redundant because it is becoming so costly to run their business. One in five said business rates represent one of their biggest business costs.

Mark Rigby, Chief Executive at CVS, said: “The news that the business rates levy has reached its highest ever level will be yet another source of frustration for commercial occupiers feeling the squeeze. This is a hangover from a range of poor Government policy decisions which are causing pain for businesses, from SMEs to major multi-nationals.

“To add insult to injury, the Government’s use of out-dated measures of inflation will stop firms getting a reduction in their business rates this year.  What could have been positive news for firms is instead yet more pressure on overheads.”

The insistence of the Government that business rates must link to the retail price index (RPI) which for the year to September 2015 was 0.8% added £188m to the cost of business rates for firms. Had this been linked to the consumer price index (CPI) which stood at -0.1% for the same period, businesses would have seen their rates fall by £23m.

Mr Rigby said: “The link to RPI is costing firms money and is another sign that the current rates regime is clunky, archaic and not geared towards serving businesses.

“Switching to CPI is easily done and would mean less volatility and more clarity for businesses across the country. Fundamentally the business rates system needs to be fairer and more transparent and we call on the Chancellor to address this in his Budget.”

The Rateable Value is the Government’s calculation of the rental value of a business’s property, so the 49.7p rate will mean they have to pay almost half their rateable value in business rates. The figure has gone up by 20% since 2010, while economic growth as a whole has risen by just 12.2% in the same period. The rate rises each year during a five-year cycle, but the Government has delayed the next revaluation until 2017, so this will actually be a seven-year cycle, meaning the rate has risen higher than ever before, said CVS.

Business Owners Spend £6,000 Passing Time Between Meetings

hands-typing-2Businessmen and women heading to London for meetings are spending almost £6,000 waiting around in between their appointments, wasting up to three hours a week, amounting to 156 hours a year, as well as £5,824 by hanging around at cafes, bars, restaurants and hotel lobbies, according to research from The Clubhouse.

It also found that 16% of the £700 spent per week in London (excluding travel) is unnecessary, with much being wasted on snacks, teas, coffees, and newspapers or magazines.

Indeed, the findings show business people spend £30 on tea and coffee per week alone, as well as £20.50 on snacks, £20.72 on breakfast, £49.14 on lunch and £382.84 on overnight accommodation.

Adam Blaskey, founder and chief executive officer of The Clubhouse, said it is hardly surprising so many entrepreneurs visit the capital for meetings as it is the “epicentre of British business”.

He added: “Our research has identified a growing trend in the number of entrepreneurs and business people coming to London to do business but who are currently squandering large sums of money and wasting valuable time in uncomfortable, noisy and expensive locations.”

In response to the need for better places to wait around between meetings, The Clubhouse was launched to provide a place where business associates can meet one another and has two locations in Mayfair, and has 250 companies already signed up. It is also somewhere to work in between appointments to increase productivity by reducing the amount of time wasted hanging around. The Clubhouse already has 250 companies that are already members.

There are a number of clubs and satellite offices available for people who travel to London and other major UK cities such as Edinburgh, Manchester and Cardiff for meetings. Alternatively, they can meet with clients by hiring meeting rooms at hotels, through venue finding websites, or by renting office space. For those who regularly travel to London for work, it might be worth hiring a desk in a fully-managed office building for a certain number of days per week.

There is also the option to find desk-sharing companies that allow business people to ‘hot desk’ at different places, allowing them to find a desk to work at or hold a meeting wherever they are in the UK. This is particularly useful for businesses with clients in several locations, so are not restricted with regards to where they can meet them.

Workers With A View Outside Are More Productive

Bosses who want more productive employees should sit as many of them as possible facing a window to the outside world, according to the latest research.

Working in an office where you face a wall or are stuck in a cubicle means employees are less productive than their counterparts who have a desk with a view according to research from Web-Blinds.com. More than two thirds of the 1,294 business owners polled said their workers who faced a window were more hardworking and productive than their counterparts who faced a wall, door or other desks.

Kirsty Martin, spokesperson for Web-Blinds.com, said: “Ensuring all staff members feel motivated and happy within their job is a crucial element for all employers not wanting a high staff turnover. All too often, individuals may feel they have no other choice than to leave a position if they do not feel part of a positive work environment.

“I can completely understand why those who have a view of the outside from their desks get more done. Sometimes spending eight hours a day, five days a week in the same space can be suffocating and restricting; being able to see outside and benefitting from natural light could give employees the focus to work harder and smarter.”

Even the employees that have a desk with a view of the outside world agree they are more productive than their shut-in colleagues, with 69% saying they believed they were more hardworking as a result of the position of their desk. Yet just under half of those surveyed said they had a desk opposite a window, and nearly two thirds of these workers said they would be happier in their office environment if they did have a desk with a view.

 

 

Photo credit: schoschie via Visual hunt / CC BY

Six Steps To Make Your Business A More Secure Retailer

The words ‘secure’ and ‘retailing’ have rarely been seen in the same sentence of late, due to the fact that the retail industry has emerged as a favourite playground for hackers.

This is underscored by the British Retail Consortium’s Retail Crime Survey, which found that the majority of retailers see cyber attacks as a critical threat to their business, with nearly two thirds targeted by hackers in the last 12 months. It is no wonder that the same survey showed that one third of consumers do not trust retail information security.

In our own survey, the 2015 Cloud Security report, it was also observed that the types of attacks hackers will use depends on a business’ online presence and how that business interacts with its customers. In the case of retail, there are many touchpoints for a customer, including a significant presence online, where customer details, buying behaviour, loyalty data, financial and credit card information are all stored, and are highly valuable to cyber criminals.

These hackers are looking to exploit any weakness they see to obtain this data and monetise it as quickly as possible through a readily available secondary market of criminals specialising in committing fraud. Offloading these stolen ‘goods’ has never been easier with the advent of the ‘dark web’ and online auctions and stores to sell these goods in an anonymous way.

As hacker techniques are becoming more widespread and sophisticated, it is important to have a comprehensive security strategy in place. This is particularly pertinent given that IDC found that it takes on average 205 days for companies to detect attacks. The impact of these breaches can be catastrophic, especially in retail where brand reputation and loyalty are the keys to success.

While securing a retail business can seem like a daunting task, there are six steps that can be taken immediately to help retailers take some of the power back and not feel helpless against cyber attackers. It is important to add here that these steps are in no particular order. They are each significant, so choosing any as a starting point will put retailers well on their way to being a secure retailer.

  1. Secure web applications

This may seem obvious, but for retailers that use the internet to attract consumers to their goods, securing these applications is vital, especially if they collect any kind of consumer data like passwords and email addresses. Crucially, it’s not just the payment and personal details sections that need securing.  Any script or click through need protecting as well.

 

  1. Create access management policies

In short, know who has access to what information within your organisation. If lower level employees have no reason to be able to access critical business information, do not allow it. It can be a lengthy process to sort this one out depending on what kind of information your organisation keeps, but there are tools out there to help identify critical information and make sure that only the few who need to know it can gain access to it.

 

  1. Adopt a patch management approach

Yes, there’s “Patch Tuesday” where Microsoft acknowledges the latest patches available – some are important, some less so. Do not ignore them.  Prioritise the fixes and make the changes; and try and do so in a timely fashion. Make this someone’s job, because once these are public, there may well be nuisance attackers that will still try and take advantage of the vulnerabilities – we always talk about the path of least resistance when it comes to cyber attackers; generally, the easiest way in to an organisation is going to be favoured over something more sophisticated. Attackers know that organisations are fighting this uphill battle when it comes to patching these vulnerabilities. Do not be caught out.

  1. Review logs regularly

Security logs contain records of login/logout activity or other security-related events specified by the system’s audit policy making them a goldmine of information, but are often one of the most under-used facets of security. A hacker’s attempt to get into your system will leave a digital trail that is obvious if you know what you are looking for. Creating a process which takes into account the revision of these logs to review the data against application, system and network level threats and having steps in place to respond accordingly helps organisations to identify and remediate attacks in a more timely way. This can either be the job of a person or set of people on premise or as part of managed service. There is also plenty of technology out there to help with this task.

  1. Stay informed on the latest vulnerabilities, and build a security toolkit

Any security professional worth his or her salt will know that understanding the anatomy of an attack is the key to combating it. When they are kept up to date on all the latest threats, it will go a long way towards building best security practices around this knowledge. There are plenty of free resources to help, including blogs, newsfeeds and forums. Using the information can help towards building an arsenal of security tools that will be vital in the protection of the organisation.

  1. Understand your Cloud Service Provider’s (CSP’s) security model

The majority of retailers will have some sort of cloud aspect to their IT infrastructure, and increasingly this is the ecommerce website that is the storefront for the retailer and interaction with customers.

It is important to acknowledge and understand that CSPs are clearly on the hook for securing their foundational infrastructure – which they do very well – but the ecommerce applications hosted on that infrastructure are the responsibility of the retailer. This includes all the security monitoring, vulnerability scanning, network threat detection and so on.  There is nothing more critical than understanding where each of the party’s responsibilities lie, that way there is no blame game if the worst happens

Traditionally, in the retail sector, security has been evaluated in terms of “risk” to the organisation and security policies have been put in place to minimise that risk.  What retailers should instead be focusing on is reducing the threats, which are tangible and can be mitigated now; and this need not be an insurmountable task.  By focusing on the continuous monitoring of systems and adopting an approach which takes into account people, processes and technology as in the above steps, retailers can start addressing the actual threats posed to the organisation and crucially reduce the window of opportunity for criminals to take advantage.

Richard Cassidy, is technical director EMEA at Alert Logic

Companies Face Fines Of £185,000 By Ignoring ESOS

Business could find themselves with a very steep bill if they fail to take part in the Energy Savings Opportunity Scheme (ESOS) assessment.

Qualifying businesses must show they have complied or intend to comply with their ESOS assessment by the deadline of this Saturday (December 5, 2015). If they fail to do this or contact the Environment Agency (EA), they face fines of up to £185,000.

ESOS is a mandatory check that takes place every four years for businesses that meet the qualifying criteria. During these assessments, the energy used by their buildings, transports and industrial processes are thoroughly looked at to determine whether any energy-saving procedures can be undertaken to improve efficiency.

The EA asserts that 10,000 companies may fail to notify their compliance by the deadline and risk the hefty fine, as it has only received 850 surveys so far. However, this figure could be a lot higher as many organisations might qualify without realising it.

David Llewellyn, chief executive officer at Servest, said employee numbers as well as company turnover both count towards whether a business qualifies or not. Those that have a turnover of £39m a year or employ more than 250 members of staff meet the criteria.

Businesses simply need to show their intent to comply by this Saturday, with the actual process of the assessment taking up to three months to go ahead. To do this, a lead assessor needs to be allocated by each company to start collecting data for the test.

Mr Llewellyn said: “With only approximately 850 lead assessors registered, of which we understand about half are in-house, there is limited spare capacity to support those who have not yet started the process.”

Companies that appoint a lead assessor soon may be able to defer enforcement action until the end of January. Therefore, those businesses that have yet to confirm a lead assessor have been advised by Servest to do so immediately, as this could help save them from paying a huge fine, even if they fail to submit their intention for compliance by the deadline.

Despite the substantial bill acting as a deterrent, the ESOS was set up as a way to save organisations money as well as energy. According to the government, savings of around £1.6 billion could be had by simply instigating energy-saving measures in workplaces and improving the efficiency of work buildings, travel and processes.

To submit your notification for the ESOS, click here.

Five Things To Consider When Starting Your Own Business

Starting a business takes a lot of time, thought and consideration, but once you have done your research, you have the potential to make a real success of your venture. Before taking the leap into entrepreneurship, however, here are some things you need to consider first.

Do you possess the right skills?

You might be a fantastic cake-maker, but you need to do more than this if you want to succeed at a wedding cake company. For any business, you cannot just rely on the quality of your product or service. Unfortunately, without these other talents, no-one will find you and you will not be able to achieve real success.

Therefore, ask yourself whether you possess sales, marketing, administrative, PR, IT and accounting skills. You can, of course, outsource some things, particularly as the company expands. However, to maximise profits in the early days, you may have to undertake all of these jobs yourself, so it is important to make sure you are knowledgeable about each area.

Knowing your USP

Your parents, friends and partner might love your idea, but it is not them you need to convince to buy it. Make sure you are confident your product or service will be saleable by really understanding your market.

You need your business to stand out, so spend time thinking about your unique selling point (USP) and ensure this is attractive to those you are trying to pitch to.

The best way to do this is to take part in focus groups, so you can gauge what members of the general public think and whether they ‘buy into’ your USP. Their feedback will be invaluable and can really help shape your business plan.

Create a solid business plan

Whether you need a business plan to get a loan from the bank or not, it is wise to have a comprehensive report on what your company intends to do, who it will market to, and what you predict it can achieve.

Support your plan with research, statistics and information, so it is as realistic as possible, and include estimations of what your outgoings, incomings, total returns and profits will be over the next few years. Do not forget expenses such as running costs, transport, rent, staff, utilities and your own salary, and discuss how you plan to invest money back into your business in the future.

Make important decisions

You cannot start your business without being 100% confident about important decisions, such as the name of your business. Pick one that really sums up what you offer, is catchy and can easily be remembered. Check it does not already exist by looking on www.companieshouse.gov.uk and make sure you can get a URL for it to create a website as well.

Decide whether you plan to be a sole trader, partnership, limited liability partnership, limited company or plc. Each have pros and cons, depending on your situation, so make the decision carefully.

Work out where you will work – whether from home, in an office, on the move or from a company car – and make sure your budget and lifestyle can fit in with this arrangement.

Get your finances in order

Aside from finding capital to set up your venture, you will need to sort out your accounts as soon as you begin trading. This means registering with HMRC, signing up for your tax return, and paying your National Insurance Contributions.

If your business will hold data on customers or clients, register with the Information Commissioner’s Office for £35 per year. It is wise to seek advice from a solicitor or accountant if you are unsure of how to handle business levies, expenses and profits, although it is wise to have an understanding of these yourself to save you money.

For more information about setting up your own business, visit https://www.gov.uk/topic/business-tax/self-employed, www.greatbusiness.gov.uk or take a look at our website where you can find advice on all aspects of running your own enterprise.

Small Businesses Face Trouble Over Auto-enrolment

The number of compliance and fixed-penalty notices sent to businesses who have not yet complied with all of the terms of pensions auto-enrolment have shot up, revealing that small companies are struggling to understand their responsibilities to enrol their employees in pension schemes.

Following The Pensions Act 2008, all employers have to set up a workplace pension for their staff members with different deadlines given depending on the size of the business. But figures from The Pensions Regulator show many enterprises are failing to enrol themselves by the set deadline. Its quarterly bulletin reported 469 compliance notices were sent out between July 1st and September 30th.

The figures also show that 107 fixed-penalty notices of £400 were sent for failure to comply with employer duties, and 85 unpaid contributions notices were handed out. In the previous quarter 119 compliance notices, 50 unpaid contributions notices, and 68 fixed-penalty notices were given between April 1st and June 30th.

This reveals a huge jump in the number of companies requiring compliance notices to remind them about auto-enrolment and setting up a workplace pension for their employees over the last few months.

Sean McSweeney, auto enrolment specialist at pensions consultancy Chase de Vere, said: “Many employers are struggling with the challenge of implementing pensions auto-enrolment.

“We expect the numbers to increase considerably in the months ahead as smaller employers reach their staging dates.”

Most of the notices have been given to companies with more than 50 workers, and many more businesses of this size will approach their deadlines for auto-enrolment over the next few months.

Mr McSweeney confirmed several businesses have come to Chase de Vere in a panic, as they have missed their deadline and need help with the procedure. Some employers still believe auto-enrolment is optional, but it is actually obligatory and they could face steep fines if they do not comply with the legislation and meet the strict deadlines.

Each business has a separate staging date, depending on the number of employees they hire. Those with more than 250 workers had to sign up to the scheme by February 2014. However, companies with 30 workers or less have until April 2017 to enrol their staff.

After the enrolment, companies have to pay one per cent of their employee’s qualifying earnings into the pension scheme until April 2019 when this will increase to three per cent. The recent “Workie” TV advert was launched by the government to remind businesses to sign up to the pension scheme by their deadline.

Mr McSweeney added that he hopes the campaign will work to help stop small employers “sleepwalking into trouble”.

Despite his concerns, around 5.4 million people have been enrolled into workplace pensions since 2012 according to the Chancellor’s Spending Review.

British Firms Lose £57bn A Year Due To Unhealthy Staff

Companies are losing £57 billion a year as a result of poor productivity from staff members that are not well.

Britain’s Healthiest Company (BHC) looked at 32,538 employees in the UK, and revealed 23.5 days are lost per employee for each year due to under performing or taking time off because they are ill.

Last month, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) reported the median gross annual earnings for full-time employees was £27,600. With the BHC calculating the cost of lost productivity at 7.85 per cent and 31.11 million people are in work, this amounts to £57 billion a year wasted simply as a result of poor productivity in the workplace.

Shaun Subel, Director of VitalityHealthy, which conducted the study along with Mercer, the University of Cambridge and RAND Europe, said these findings are a “wake-up call” for businesses to encourage the health and wellbeing of their staff members.

The research showed 36 per cent of employees have a chronic condition that is strongly linked with their lifestyle, and 61 per cent have two risk factors. Surprisingly, two-thirds of those who have three or more risk factors believe their health is in good condition. However, this simply makes it more difficult for them to change their lifestyle to improve their wellbeing.

Despite this, the study found companies that invested in a culture of wellness saw their proportion of staff with good or excellent health increase.

Indeed, a quarter of firms with the biggest budgets for health promotion experienced an eight per cent year-on-year rise in the number of staff with improving health, as well as a 16 per cent decline in the amount of productivity lost.

Chris Bailey, partner at Mercer, stated: “Employers have a unique role to play in influencing employee behaviours around health and wellbeing.

“By creating an environment of making the right health-based decisions and supporting sustained lifestyle changes, employers can reduce their lost productivity and health create a virtuous circle of healthy, engaged, productive employees.”