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!
The Omicron Variant – New Measures Announced
Eluned Morgan MS, Minister for Health and Social Services announced at the weekend that the government is taking further action to move four more south African countries onto the red list for travel following the identification of the new coronavirus variant, which may be capable of evading the protection provided by vaccines.
The Omicron variant (also called B.1.1.529) has been linked to Angola, Malawi, Mozambique and Zambia. These countries have moved onto the red list from 4.00am, Sunday 28 November 2021.
This means travellers from these destinations will not be permitted to enter Wales but must enter through a port of entry in England or Scotland and go into a managed quarantine facility for 10 days. They must also take post-arrival PCR tests on day 2 and day 8.
Similar action is being taken across the UK.
Job Vacancies Booming and Applicants Now Call the Shots!
In their recent labour market review the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show that in October there were 29.3 million employees, up 160,000 on the revised September 2021.
It is possible that those made redundant at the end of the furlough scheme will be included in the RTI data for a few further months, while they work out their notice period. However, responses to the ONS business survey suggest that the numbers made redundant were likely to be a small share of those still on furlough at the end of September 2021.
The number of job vacancies in August to October 2021 continued to rise to a new record of 1,172,000, an increase of 388,000 from the pre-coronavirus pandemic January to March 2020 level, with 15 of the 18 industry sectors showing record highs. Both single month vacancies and Adzuna’s online job advert estimates reached record levels of vacancy numbers in October 2021.
There are a number of actions you can take to make your business attractive to new staff. In addition to reviewing your pay and conditions to be as competitive as possible, these include:
- Tasking recruitment as a permanent process;
- Regularly asking existing staff, customers and suppliers for introductions;
- Offering incentives for referrals;
- Make sure you are running constant online social media and local advertisements;
- Embracing flexibility in hours and location in your business;
- Introducing a “Golden Hello” and loyalty bonusses for length of service (typically one to three years);
- Advertising testimonials from existing staff;
- Using government initiatives for apprentices;
- Make your company and the job sound as attractive as possible by outlining the position to sound prestigious and challenging. These two factors are big incentives for bright potential candidates;
- Knowing that job satisfaction comes from feeling respected and having the opportunity to learn new things and excel in the face of obstacles when advertising the role; and
- Convey your businesses personality so potential employees get a feel for what it would be like to work for you;
Recruiting new employees is tough just now so be different! For example, some employers are now offering “Wellbeing leave” in addition to the usual holiday package. If you want to recruit more you have to get serious about the process and be on it 24/7, 365!
Useful guidance on the procedures for recruitment can be seen in the ACAS guide “Recruiting staff” which can be seen here: Recruiting staff (acas.org.uk)
Reimbursing Fuel for Company Cars From 1 December 2021
As the result of recent increases in fuel prices, HMRC have increased the advisory fuel rates that apply for the reimbursement of employees’ private fuel for their company cars. The same rates apply when the employer reimburses employees for fuel used for business journeys in their company car.
The new rates apply from 1 December 2021, but you can continue to use the previous rates for up to 1 month from the date the new rates apply. Note that the electric car reimbursement rate also increases from 4p to 5p a mile.
Where there has been a change, the previous rate is shown in brackets: –
|1400cc or less||13p
|1600cc or less||11p
|1401cc to 2000cc||15p
|1601 to 2000cc||13p
Note that for hybrid cars you must use the petrol or diesel rate which may differ significantly from the actual fuel costs. The advisory electricity rate for fully electric cars is 5 pence per mile (was 4p).
Employees should carefully consider whether it is advantageous having private fuel provided for their company car. Remember that the P11d benefit for having private fuel provided for a company car in 2021/22 is £24,600 multiplied by the CO2 emissions percentage for that vehicle, rising to £25,300 for 2022/23.
For example, a director driving a Mercedes Benz E200 saloon company car (CO2 emissions 169g per km) would be assessed on 37% x £24,600 = £9,102 for 2021/22. If they are a higher rate taxpayer that would mean £3,641 tax. That is an awful lot of private fuel!
On top of that there would be 13.8% Class 1A NIC payable by the employer = £1,256 (15.05% next year = £1,409).
Made Smarter Innovation: Sustainable Smart Factory
UK registered businesses and organisations can apply for a share of up to £20m for digital innovation projects that will improve the resource efficiency and energy efficiency of manufacturing processes in factories. The Competition closes 26 January 2022.
The Made Smarter Innovation programme, delivered by Innovate UK, part of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), has launched a new collaborative research and development competition focusing on sustainable smart factories. The £20 million Sustainable Smart Factory competition presents an opportunity to launch a wide range of projects that bring a significant benefit to the planet, helping to achieve net zero.
Consortiums of UK registered business and organisations can apply for a share of up to £20 million for digital innovation projects that will reduce the carbon emissions of manufacturing processes in factories. The aim of the competition is to support the development of digital innovations to improve the sustainability of manufacturing processes, resulting in either reduced material or reduced energy consumption.
Applications are encouraged from consortiums comprising a mix of manufacturing and technology development capabilities working together on innovative developments or novel applications of digital technologies. Projects can:
- range from £1 million to £8 million
- run for up to two years
- tackle themes such as reducing in-process material losses, better sequencing manufacturing operations to reduce energy consumption
Start Up Energy Transition Award 2022
The Start Up Energy Transition (SET) Award is an international competition for startups and young companies worldwide who are working on ideas affecting global energy transition and climate change.
In the last four years, the award has received more than 2,300 applications from 102 countries. SET is powered by the German Energy Agency (dena), in cooperation with the World Energy Council.
The five categories of the fifth round of the SET Award cover the entire clean energy spectrum:
- Clean Energy Generation
- Demand-side Innovation
- Energy Distribution and Storage
- Smart Mobility & Transportation
- Quality Energy Access & SDG-7
Benefits of participating and prizes in the SET Award 2022 include:
- joining the global platform of innovation leaders
- the top 100 ranked applicants will be featured to stakeholders across the globe, and also receive a free ticket to the SET Tech Festival
- 15 finalists will receive return flights to Berlin and accommodation for 2 representatives of the start-up to attend the SET Tech Festival
- category winners will receive up to €10,000 prize money
The closing date for applications is 31 January 2022.
Working Minds Campaign Launches
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) are calling for a culture change across Britain’s workplaces where recognising and responding to the signs of stress becomes as routine as managing workplace safety.
Work-related stress is now the number one cause of employee sickness absence, with major factors causing work-related stress including workload pressures – tight deadlines, too much responsibility and a lack of managerial support. Employers, particularly smaller ones, are not aware of their legal duties or how to spot the signs of stress.
Working Minds raises awareness about how to recognise and respond to the signs of stress and reminds employers of their legal duty to protect workers and support good mental health to help people to stay well. The organisation also provides small businesses with relevant information and practical tools.
HMRC Webinars – November and December 2021
There are a number of webinars available this November and December from HMRC that will help employers with payroll, give the self-employed an understanding of key taxes that affect them and help those individuals and businesses trading outside Northern Ireland get to grips with import and export procedures. The webinars are free and last around an hour.
SBC Late Payments Survey
The Office of the Small Business Commissioner (SBC) has a remit across late payments and changing the culture of late payments in the UK. Small firms complain about late payments as one of their top concerns and cite them as the reason they are in debt.
The SBC would like to hear from small businesses to get a clearer picture, if possible, of how small firm growth and productivity is being held back by poor payment practices.
The survey closes on 15 December 2021.
New Laws and Code to Resolve Remaining COVID-19 Commercial Rent Debts
New laws and a Code of Practice are being introduced to resolve the remaining commercial rent debts accrued because of the pandemic.
The Code sets out that, in the first instance, tenants unable to pay in full should negotiate with their landlord in the expectation that the landlord waives some or all rent arrears where they are able to do so.
From 25 March 2022, new laws introduced in the Commercial Rent (Coronavirus) Bill will establish a legally-binding arbitration process for commercial landlords and tenants who have not already reached an agreement, following the principles in the Code of Practice.
The Bill will apply to commercial rent debts related to the mandated closure of certain businesses such as pubs, gyms and restaurants during the pandemic. Debts accrued at other times will not be in scope.
These laws will come into force in England and Wales, and Northern Ireland will have a power in the Bill to introduce similar legislation.
New Requirements for Importing Animal and Plant Goods from 1 January 2022
From 1 January 2022, pre-notification will be required for imports to Great Britain of most products of animal origin, animal by-products, high-risk food not of animal origin and regulated plants and plant products from the EU.
Businesses (or a representative acting on their behalf) importing these goods from the EU may be required to pre-notify authorities on the relevant IT system that their consignment will be entering Great Britain.
Plan It With Purpose: Achieve your Sustainability Goals
Enterprise Nation is partnering with Aviva and Smart Energy GB to help businesses implement sustainable best practices that deliver a positive impact on the planet, society, and the economy.
The programme has been designed to support small and medium businesses and business owners by increasing their understanding of environmental and social issues in the UK, showcasing relatable role models, building sustainable ventures, plus encouraging change through tailored resources, action plans and recommendations.
Sustainable Tourism in Wales’ National Parks Survey
Audit Wales wants to hear from tourism businesses in and around Wales’ National Parks about the challenge of managing sustainable tourism.
As businesses working in and around the National Parks, it’s important that your voice is at the heart of their research. They want to hear from you to find out how the National Park Authorities:
- are working to support sustainable tourism;
- engage and involve you in their work on sustainable tourism; and
- support you to become more sustainable.
The survey should take less than 5 minutes to complete, please submit your response by 20 December 2021.
Support Package to Train Staff and Help Welsh SMEs Grow
A £45 million package of funding that will help small businesses across Wales to grow and support thousands of people to train to work in key sectors is being made available by the Welsh Government.
As part of the package, £35 million will help small and medium sized businesses (SMEs) in Wales relaunch, develop, decarbonise and grow to help drive Wales’ economic recovery. Administered by local authorities, it provides an opportunity to kick-start and grow the economy following the impact of the Coronavirus pandemic and the UK’s departure from the EU.
Businesses will be invited to identify ways in which investment will help them re-launch their business, develop it in innovative new ways, and create new jobs.
New Package of Support for Unpaid Carers
Last week, Deputy Minister for Social Services, Julie Morgan, outlined how £7m Welsh Government funding will support unpaid carers in recognition of the vital support they provide to the people they care for.
The support package will allocate £5.5 million to local authorities to provide targeted support to unpaid carers; £1.25m for the Carers Support Fund – last year, this fund successfully helped almost 6500 unpaid carers to cope with the financial impact of COVID-19; £20,000 to fund online mental wellbeing support sessions; and £230,000 for the Family Fund to support over 600 further low-income families with seriously ill or disabled children.
Robotics Workshop to be Established in Tech Valleys
A high-tech robotics workshop is to be established in Wales’ Tech Valleys to help inspire local students to become the next generation of engineers, helping to provide a pipeline of talented new recruits for local advanced manufacturing businesses, Economy Minister, Vaughan Gething, has announced.
The workshop will be set up at Coleg Gwent with a pilot hub at Tredegar Comprehensive School, thanks to a £600,000 investment by the Welsh Government.
The initiative is part of the Welsh Government’s £100 million Tech Valleys programme, which aims to establish the South Wales Valleys and Blaenau Gwent in particular, as a globally recognised centre for the development of new technologies.
Specialist equipment at the workshop, and associated training, will help Coleg Gwent equip learners with the training to meet the future skills needs of cutting-edge industries.
The pilot hub at Tredegar Comprehensive School will see students from the local area experience taster sessions using the workshop, helping to raise the aspirations of young people who may not have previously considered career opportunities in robotics engineering.
The initiative is part of Welsh Government efforts to create more and better jobs closer to home, helping more young people feel confident in planning their future in Wales.
Small Scale Development Programme
The Arts Marketing Association’s (AMA) Small Scale Development Programme (SSDP) launches in Wales for the first time this November, in partnership with Creu Cymru and with thanks to funding support from Arts Council Wales and sponsorship from Ticketsolve.
SSDP helps organisations identify robust business models and new ways to develop their audiences for long-term sustainable success. It has run successfully in England for several years and is launching in Wales in response to requests from AMA’s Welsh members.
Through this programme AMA will help leaders of small organisations in Wales plan for the future using a tried and tested methodology. The programme will include a series of 6 online workshops throughout January — March 2022.
It will cover marketing strategy framework, brand, understanding audiences, setting objectives, bilingual and accessible marketing, communications and more, bringing together leading experts and mentors to help coach small organisations through the process of becoming more resilient, sustainable and relevant to their audiences.
See: SSDP Wales 2022 – Arts Marketing Association (a-m-a.co.uk)