Business News Northern Ireland - 20 November 2023

Business News Northern Ireland – 20 November 2023

Welcome to our round up of the latest business news for our clients. Please contact us if you want to talk about how these updates affect your business. We are here to support you!

 

Flexible Working Will Become the “Default” for Employees

Following a recent UK Government consultation and Royal Assent of the Employment Relations (Flexible Working) Act 2023, flexible working will become the default for millions of employees who will be able to request flexible working from day one of their employment in 2024.

Flexible working doesn’t just mean a combination of working from home and in the office – it can mean employees making use of job-sharing, flexitime, and working compressed, annualised, or staggered hours.

The UK government states that the new measures will give employees greater access to flexibility over where, when, and how they work, and the government hopes it will lead to happier, more productive staff. Flexible working has been found to help employees balance their work and home life, especially supporting those who have commitments or responsibilities such as caring for children or vulnerable people.

Some experts have argued the legislation leaves employers open to grievances if they do not follow proper procedures and that this is yet another layer of administration. All employers are advised to take steps to prepare an updated flexible-working policy which can be released from the date the changes come into force.

The right to request flexible working legislation currently supports all employees with 26 weeks continuous service to make applications to change their work location, working hours and/or working pattern.

The new legislation means the following measures are adopted:

  • make the right to request flexible working a day one right;
  • introduce a new requirement for employees to consult with the employee when they intend to reject their flexible working request;
  • allow 2 statutory requests in any 12-month period (rather than the current one);
  • require a decision period of 2 months in respect of a statutory flexible working request (rather than the current three); and
  • remove the existing requirement that the employee must explain what effect, if any, the change applied for would have on the employer and how that effect might be dealt with.

See: Employment Relations (Flexible Working) Bill 2022-23: Progress of the Bill – House of Commons Library (parliament.uk)

 

Inflation is Down But Managing Your Cash Flow is Essential Right Now!

UK inflation fell to 4.6% in October, due mainly to a fall in energy prices, but in general, supplier prices remain volatile. High interest rates and a stagnant economy mean managing your business’s cash and understanding the flow are now vital tools in maintaining resilience and being able to adopt flexible strategies for success.

Cash flows are a reflection of all the cash that is flowing in and out of a business. Owners can look at the direction of the cash flows for insights about the health of specific products or services and overall market patterns.

Some types of business are more likely to run into cash flow problems, while other types appear to be more resilient. If you are a business owner, you might be wondering which category your business falls into. No matter how inventive or simple your business model is, you can still have problems with cash flow. Here are our thoughts on managing the flow of cash in your business:

The first stage of understanding and predicting how funds flow is to perform a health check on your accounts. Look at your latest profit and loss statement and check that your income is sufficient to cover your expenses. If your profit is falling behind your expenses and cash flow is slowing down, you might need to take action. Prepare a cash flow statement so you know where the money goes.

Next, create a yearly budget, look where cash could become tight, and identify months where you can save to cover off the quieter times. Look at those quieter months and think about flexible work scheduling, new products or services, or other activities to tide you over.

Finally make sure you collect your money from those who owe you quickly. Reward customer loyalty by offering early bird discounts, set credit limits and payment terms to ensure customers follow the rules. If you take on new customers make credit checks. Penalise late payers and request up front deposits or payment.

Please talk to us about preparing a cash flow statement and annual budget so that you can work on your business for maximum success!  

 

Find a Grant Service

Find a grant is a UK government service that allows businesses to search all UK government-funded grants. Businesses can use the website to browse or search for available grants, check if they are eligible and find out how to apply for each grant.

Anyone can use the UK government Find a grant service to find and apply for grant funding. Each funding opportunity has its own eligibility criteria and scope. There is no cost to use this service.

You can also sign up to get updates about new grants.

See: Home – Find a grant (find-government-grants.service.gov.uk)

 

Volunteering: Guidance for Employers on How to Manage the Risks

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has guidance on how to manage the risks to volunteers.

The guidance explains how health and safety law applies to volunteering.

There is also information on:

  • when to report incidents involving volunteers; and
  • including volunteers in your risk assessments.

The pages provide some specific advice for volunteers who manage non-domestic premises such as village and community halls, as well as guidance on charity retail and fundraising.

See: Volunteering: How to manage the risks – HSE

 

Latest HMRC Tax Webinars

Listed below are a number of live HMRC webinars that will give the self-employed an understanding of key taxes that affect them and also help employers with payroll. The webinars are free and last around an hour.

Webinars for the self-employed

Capital expenditure and revenue repairs (IFP1)
Tue 28 Nov at 1:45pm

Cash basis and property income allowance (IFP3)
Thu 30 Nov at 11:45am

VAT – the basics and the VAT return
Tue 12 Dec at 9:45am

Finance costs and travel expenses (IFP2)
Wed 29 Nov at 9:45am

VAT accounting schemes
Fri 1 Dec at 1:45pm
Mon 18 Dec at 9:45am

Car expenses for the self-employed
Wed 13 Dec at 9:45am

Capital allowances and vehicles
Wed 13 Dec at 11:45am

Business expenses for the self-employed
Thu 14 Dec at 11:45am

Employer webinars

Company directors – payroll and you
Tue 21 Nov at 1:45pm

Getting payroll information right
Mon 27 Nov at 9:45am

Expenses and benefits for your employees – travel
Tue 5 Dec at 11:45am

Expenses and benefits for your employees – company cars, vans, and fuel
Thu 7 Dec at 9:45am

Employer filing obligations
Wed 13 Dec at 1:45pm

Taxing employees’ benefits and expenses through your payroll
Thu 14 Dec at 9:45am

 

UK and Florida Sign Pact to Boost Trade

The UK and Florida sign the 7th UK-US state level Memorandum of Understanding to boost trade and investment. Business and Trade Secretary Kemi Badenoch and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to boost trade and investment between the UK and Florida.

Florida has a GDP of over £1.1tn – the fourth biggest of any US state and roughly the same size as Spain. The MoU is designed to help make it quicker, easier, and cheaper for UK and Florida firms to do business and is targeted at sectors in which the UK and Florida have particular strengths such as space, fintech, AI, and legal services.

The MoU is the first the UK has signed which focuses on the space sector. Florida is home to the NASA Kennedy Space Centre and has world-leading capabilities in launch infrastructure, manufacturing, and satellite development, presenting huge opportunities for the UK’s growing space industry – now with an income worth over £17.5 billion and employing nearly 50,000 people.

The UK now has MoUs with seven US states – Indiana, North Carolina, South Carolina, Oklahoma, Utah, Washington, and Florida – with a combined\AQ GDP of £3.3tn, just under the GDP of Germany. The UK is also actively engaging with further states including Texas, California, Colorado, and Illinois.

See: UK and Florida sign pact to boost trade – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

 

USA Export Toolkit for Smaller Businesses

The Department for Business and Trade has launched a toolkit to help small businesses export to the USA.

The toolkit designed for small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) looking to trade between the two countries. It helps SMEs find support in the UK from the Department for Business and Trade and other sources to help their business grow and export, particularly to the USA.

See: Export advice for SMEs doing business in the UK and overseas – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

 

Heat Pump Ready Programme Stream 2 Wave 2 competition

The Department for Energy Security and Net Zero (DESNZ) Heat Pump Ready (HPR) Programme Stream 2 Wave 2 competition will support applied research and development projects, focused on driving down the lifetime costs of domestic heat pump deployment, and improving the domestic consumer experience and acceptability of heat pumps through technology, tools, business model, and process innovation.

It aims to develop solutions that:

  • improve the ease of heat pump deployment in homes that are ‘complex to decarbonise’ by addressing physical, material, locational, technological, regulatory, or social challenges;
  • develop innovative solutions to enable heat pumps to be deployed in ‘distress purchase’ situations when a new home heating system is required urgently;
  • improve performance and/or reduce costs of domestic heat pumps with low global warming potential (GWP) refrigerants (below 150 GWP), while ensuring safety; and
  • reduce the lifetime costs or improve the overall lifetime performance of domestic heat pumps or improve the domestic consumer experience of using and living with a heat pump.

The HPR Programme is funding the development of technology and tools which are expected to be nearing commercialisation by the end of their projects. The solutions supported in Stream 2 Wave 2 must be:

  • hardware at Technology Readiness Level (TRL) 5/6/7 at the start of a funded project, with the expectation that technology developed through the competition projects will reach TRL 7/8/9 by the end of the project; and
  • software at Discovery/Alpha phases at the start of the project but should not be at Beta or Live phase – software is expected to reach Live phase by project completion.

Up to £10 million of grant funding is available in total through the competition. The maximum possible grant funding for a single project is £1.5 million and successful project teams will be required to provide private sector funding alongside the grant funding provided from the HPR Programme.

Applications are open until Monday 8 January 2024.

See: Apply for Heat Pump Ready Programme: Stream 2 – Wave 2 opportunities – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

 

Creative Catalyst Challenge Fund

Creative UK is accepting applications for the Creative Catalyst Challenge Fund, offering businesses an opportunity to access grant funding of up to £250,000.

Supported by Innovate UK, this fund is designed to empower creative minds to channel their innovation towards addressing specific climate challenges within the industry.

The focus of this grant is to support research and development that:

  • combats waste;
  • promotes decarbonisation; and
  • minimizes the creative industry’s impact on the environment.

The deadline for applications is midday, Monday 27 November 2023.

See: Creative Catalyst Challenge Fund – Creative UK (wearecreative.uk)

 

Call for Input on New Trade Negotiations with Turkey

The Department for Business and Trade has launched a call for input on an updated free trade agreement (FTA) with Turkey.

The deal would replace the existing UK-Turkey FTA, which was rolled over from when the UK left the European Union but doesn’t cover key areas of the UK economy like services, digital, and data.

The consultation seeks input on:

  • what you think about the UK’s current trading arrangements with Turkey;
  • where the UK could make changes or improvements; and
  • where you are facing challenges or constraints when attempting to trade with Turkey.

The UK government will use this information to help inform their approach for starting negotiations on a new FTA with Turkey in the future.

This is an opportunity for businesses, organisations and individuals to help shape and refine the UK’s negotiating aims ahead of the talks.

This call closes at 11:45pm on 5 January 2024.

See: Trade with Turkey: call for input – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

 

British Goods Remain Eligible for Reduced or Zero Tariffs to Mexico

The UK has secured an extension to arrangements that were due to expire, helping British manufacturers access lower or zero tariffs when selling their products to Mexico.

The arrangement will come into effect from 1 January 2024 and will remain in place until a new UK-Mexico Free Trade Agreement enters into force.

The deal will provide welcome certainty for UK businesses, helping them to continue avoiding high tariffs imposed by Mexico and maintain their competitive edge in the market. The announcement is particularly welcome news for the automotive and food and drink sectors, with road vehicles accounting for almost £300 million in exports to Mexico, almost 20% of all goods exported.

Mexico is the 14th largest economy in the world and second largest in Latin America, and its demand for imports is forecast to grow by 42% between 2021 and 2035 as its economy continues to grow. With a population of over 130 million people, its market is larger than France and Italy combined.

See: British businesses avoid tariff cliff edge with Mexico – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

 

Innovate UK Agri-Food Accelerator

Innovate UK is looking for UK-based innovators from underrepresented groups or who have struggled to access funding in the past and who would want to fast-track their agri-food innovation ideas.

This opportunity is open to people who identify with a community considered underrepresented by Innovate UK in the innovation ecosystem. This includes:

  • disabled, including, and not limited to mental health conditions, learning disabilities, neurodiversity, and physical disabilities;
  • ethnic minority groups;
  • LGBTQIA+;
  • non-binary and all marginalised genders;
  • people with primary caring responsibilities;
  • people from low socioeconomic backgrounds;
  • people from non-traditional educational routes into innovation;
  • women; and
  • younger (aged 18-30) and older (aged 60+) people.

A cohort of up to ten participants will be selected to take part in six training sessions. Some sessions will run in person and online, and others online only, so everyone can access them.

The training sessions will help you:

  • understand the agri-food innovation sector better;
  • learn how to get support when applying for funding through Innovate UK and beyond;
  • improve your access to partners and markets; and
  • expand your business.

Each session will be facilitated by a member of the Innovate UK Knowledge Transfer Network (KTN) agri-food team, and/or a member of the Innovate UK Transforming Food Production team.

Some topics covered during the training sessions will be tailored to the needs of the cohort. The programme will be finalised when participants have been selected.

The deadline for applications is 24 November 2023.

See: Innovate UK AgriFood Accelerator – Innovate UK KTN (ktn-uk.org)

 

New Programme Helps British SMEs Lead the Way on Net Zero Air Travel

Cutting-edge British aerospace companies are set to benefit from a new multi-million pound SME Programme that will secure high-skilled jobs and help the UK lead the way on greener air travel.

The Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI) SME Programme will offer UK-based small and medium-sized firms the chance to bid for a share of £10 million total funding per year towards their innovative research projects.

The Programme was announced by Industry Minister Nusrat Ghani at the ATI’s 2023 Conference in Birmingham. It will be delivered in partnership with the ATI and Innovate UK.

The new Programme will open to applications in February 2024 and aims to give SMEs the best opportunities possible to apply for funding to develop innovative technologies supporting the Government’s commitment to Jet Zero.

This is the plan to achieve net zero carbon emissions for commercial aircraft by 2050, while also keeping the UK’s aerospace industry competitive in the sustainable design, manufacture, assembly and operation of future aircraft.

The Programme will allow SMEs in the UK aerospace sector to bid for grants of up to £1.5 million each, helping to boost high-skilled jobs in the industry across the UK.

It also builds on the Government’s commitment to backing UK aerospace R&D to succeed, as demonstrated by the ATI Programme, for which government provided £685 million in 2022.

Support for organisations engaging with the SME Programme will be delivered by the ATI Hub. This will include sessions with ATI technologists, themed innovation workshops and guidance on preparing for a pitch-panel presentation.

The ATI Hub can also generate new connections between start-ups, SMEs, bigger and tier one organisations which could become consortia applications to the SME Programme.

See: New multi-million pound Programme helps British SMEs lead the way on net zero air travel – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

 

Shop Front Revitalisation Scheme for Mid and East Antrim

Mid and East Antrim Borough Council, supported by the Department for Communities, has launched a Shop Front Revitalisation Scheme to help local businesses make their shop fronts visually attractive and appealing to residents and visitors.

The grants scheme is part of the Mid and East Antrim Revitalising Town Centres 2023/24 Programme and is for eligible businesses in the town centres of Ballymena, Larne, and Carrickfergus.

The scheme is open to the following types of business (with shop front onto the street or outdoor public footway):

  • independent retailers (engaged in the retail sale of goods);
  • independent private coffee shops, cafes, bars, and restaurants;
  • independent hair and beauty businesses;
  • independent health and fitness related businesses;
  • independent service providers such as estate agents, financial advisors, mortgage, and insurance; and
  • business owners whose premises front onto public streets.

The applicant must be the owner or lessee of the subject premises and must provide proof of same.

The grants programme will offer grants ranging from £500 to £4,999 for businesses to help support the improvement of the overall appearance of commercial properties that front onto the streetscape in each of the town centres.

This will be complemented by additional investment by the Council and the Department for Communities in the infrastructure and life of the town centres – to make them safer and more attractive, and to increase footfall.

The council’s grants portal opened on the 8 November 2023.

See: Shop Front Revitalisation Scheme for Mid and East Antrim (nibusinessinfo.co.uk)

 

Operational Excellence Workshop Series – Mid Ulster

Invest Northern Ireland’s Operational Excellence Workshop Series gives Northern Ireland businesses access to expert insight from operational excellence coaches who are experienced in efficiency improvement practices including lean, six sigma, and supply chain efficiency.

The operational excellence coaches also have a wealth of commercial experience and expertise in a diverse range of manufacturing and service businesses.

In partnership with Mid Ulster District Council, the free series of workshops, held across venues in Dungannon, Cookstown, and Magherafelt, will focus on improving operational efficiencies. Each workshop will cover a different theme and will provide an opportunity for tailored advice and networking.

Workshop details:

 

Operational Excellence | Identifying & Quantifying Wasteful Processes

Date: Thursday 23 November 2023
Time: 9:30am to 1pm
Venue: The Junction, Dungannon
Cost: Free

Register for this workshop

 

Operational Excellence | Organising the Workplace for Improved Workflows

Date: Thursday 30 November 2023
Time: 9:30am to 1pm
Venue: Royal Hotel, Cookstown
Cost: Free

Register for this workshop

 

Operational Excellence | Make Value Flow

Date: Thursday 7 December 2023
Time: 9:30am to 1pm
Venue: Loughry College, Cookstown
Cost: Free

Register for this workshop

 

Operational Excellence | Managing Change in Your Business

Date: Thursday 14 December 2023
Time: 9:30am to 1pm
Venue: Seamus Heaney Home Place, Magherafelt
Cost: Free

Register for this workshop

 

Views Sought on Changes to Rate Reliefs

The Department of Finance has launched a 14-week consultation on a range of rates reliefs and allowances.

The consultation follows a direction from the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Rt Hon Chris Heaton-Harris MP, directing Northern Ireland departments to launch public consultations on measures to support budget sustainability and raise additional revenue.

The Department is seeking views from those who may be directly affected and from the wider body of ratepayers. There are seven proposals for changes to rate reliefs: four are in the non-domestic sector, and three are in the domestic sector.

The non-domestic rating support schemes which are being consulted on currently benefit over 9,200 ratepayers and include:

  • Non-domestic vacant property relief,
  • Industrial derating,
  • Freight transport relief, and
  • The exemption for student halls of residence.

See: Views sought on changes to rate reliefs | Department of Finance (finance-ni.gov.uk)

 

Support Measures Announced for Businesses Impacted By Floods

A number of support measures have been announced to help businesses in Northern Ireland impacted by recent flooding. The Northern Ireland Civil Service has released information on the support measures that will be available to businesses impacted by recent floods.

The support measures include rates relief for flooded business premises and one-off grant payments of £7,500 for affected businesses.

 

Grant Support of £7,500

It is estimated that up to 200 businesses will be eligible for the £7,500 grant support, to assist with the immediate response, clean-up costs, and to make properties more resilient to future floods. The grants will be administered by the local council.

 

Rates Relief

The rates relief measure will include 100% relief for non-domestic rates on flooded properties for the period between 1 November and 31 March 2024. In addition, any business that relocates to temporary premises while their flooded property is being repaired will be eligible for 100% rates relief on the new premises for three months.

 

Further Support

Proposals for further schemes to support the longer-term recovery of the affected towns are being considered by government departments and local government. More information on those schemes will be released in the coming weeks.

See: Emergency rate relief for businesses affected by recent flooding (nibusinessinfo.co.uk)

 

Go Succeed Business Support Service Launches

A new support service from local councils in Northern Ireland can help you to start, grow or scale a business.

Northern Ireland’s 11 local councils, in partnership with the UK Government through the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC), have launched the new NI Business Support Service, Go Succeed.

Whether you’re a budding entrepreneur just starting out, are looking to grow your business, or are planning to scale up, Go Succeed industry experts will provide tailored support and guidance to help you achieve your business goals.

 

Support to Start

You have a great idea but you’re not sure how to turn it into a business, or you have already started out in business and require mentorship on your next steps. Go Succeed Start experts will help you to create a business plan, seek funding, and put all the foundations in place to get your business up and running.

 

Support to Grow

Your business is already established and is now ready to expand, but growth is slow and you’re not sure how to progress. Go Succeed Grow experts have seen it all before in just about every sector, so they’ll provide tailored support to help shorten the journey to business growth.

 

Support to Scale

Your business is ready to go to the next level locally and internationally, but you need guidance, support, or resources to achieve your ambitions. Go Succeed Scale industry experts will help tailor your plans to penetrate new markets, identify investment opportunities, and scale up your operations.

See: Go Succeed – NI Business Support (go-succeed.com)

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