Tag Archive | "redundancy"

SMEs display pessimism about hiring intentions this year


The results of a recent survey of SME owners on their hiring intentions for 2012 provides a disturbing outlook for 2012.

1,000 SMEs were questioned by Huddlebuy, the discount site, and two thirds of them said they are not planning to employ any new staff this year.

Job seekers in the North of England, the Midlands, Scotland and Wales will find it extremely difficult to find work as 70% of small businesses said they would be unlikely to employ new staff in 2012. In the south, 60% of SMEs are not planning to increase their headcount this year.

Economists expect unemployment to increase significantly over the coming months and could reach 2.9 million by the summer. The public sector is making redundancies twice as quickly as originally predicted and the private sector is unable to create enough jobs to absorb them.

The biggest concern amongst business leaders is the UKs youth unemployment rate, which is currently standing at 22%. This is expected to rise further as business confidence falls and the number of entry-level vacancies drops.

The deputy director-general of the CBI, Neil Bentley, said action is needed now to prevent a lost generation of youngsters. The government’s £1 billion youth contract will create apprenticeships and placements but more still needs to be done.

The MD of Pertemps recruitment, Carmen Watson, said training providers should focus on getting young people ready for work and into appropriate roles. Employers also have a role to play and they should ensure new employees receive the mentorship they need to get used to a new working environment.

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More than eight out of ten accountants wants to jump ship


Accounting firms could find themselves without key members of staff as more than eight out of ten employees, including accountants for contractors, are considering changing job.

Definitive Consulting, a City recruitment specialist, recently surveyed senior executives and discovered that although 65% thought their employer successfully retained staff during the economic crisis, less than 10% said they have been very successful at keeping employees happy and engaged since the recession ended. And only 8% were very confident that their employer would make the correct people decisions whilst the recovery was still ongoing.

As a result of these negative feelings, 82% said that unless they are guaranteed a salary increase and a bonus, they will move to a new employer within 12 months. Out of those, 22% said they were ready to move immediately and 43% said they plan to change jobs within the next six months.

Almost two-thirds of the survey’s respondents said their employer doesn’t appear to be following a clear employee retention plan. Instead they are reacting to circumstances and making high counter-offers to encourage employees to withdraw their resignations.

The report went on to point out that employers seem to have learnt from the 2001 downturn when redundancies led to a skills shortage and high wage inflation. Instead, firms implemented salary and bonus freezes, long term leave and secondments to reduce costs during the economic crisis.

The MD of Definitive consulting, Darren James, said this strategic approach seems not to have extended into the recovery period. Employers need to stabilise the situation as a matter of urgency to stop key employees jumping ship.

Employers may want to bear in mind that the small business community values the advice of accountants highly. 48% of respondents to an unbiased.co.uk survey said that accountants helped them save money, 47% said they helped make sense of the UK’s complex tax system and one in five admitted they were their most valuable source of advice.

More than a quarter of the small business owners questioned said they had more time to focus on running their business if they used an accountant and 10% said they had more free time to spend with family.

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Will the base rate remain at 0.5% for the rest of 2011?


Savers and online accountants who have been hoping to see the Bank of England’s MPC raise interest rates sooner rather than later will be dismayed to learn that the Institute of Directors has said there is no case for rates to rise this year.

It said that it would be an unprecedented move to raise rates when the broad money supply was not experiencing double digit growth. Furthermore, a rise now could plunge the UK back into recession.

The BCC and the CBI both supported the decision to keep the base rate at its historic low 0.5% at the last MPC meeting.

David Kern, the BCC’s chief economist, said the MPC was right to keep the base rate down in order to help the fragile economic recovery and relieve some of the pressures both individuals and businesses are currently facing.

He went on to point out that the MPC is concerned about the current high rate of inflation and the prospect that it may rise further in coming months. However, it would be a major mistake to tighten policy at this stage. Increasing the base rate prematurely could damage economic growth and lead to more redundancies.

He added that the MPC could consider increasing the quantitative easing programme if the economy were to weaken any further.

The CBI’s chief economic adviser, Ian McCafferty, said the MPC was in a difficult position and will have to draw a fine balance over the coming months. However, he feels that if inflation reaches 5% by the autumn, the MPC might consider a change of policy before the year ends.

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24% of employees are seeking out new horizons


The latest ‘Employee Outlook’ survey from the CIPD suggests that UK workers are feeling increasingly insecure about their jobs.

21% of employees now think it is likely that they will be made redundant as a result of the recession, a rise of one percentage point on the previous quarter.

Not surprisingly, the highest level of concern is found in the public sector, with 30% of employees believing they are likely to lose their job. 27% of those in voluntary sector share the same sentiment but only 19% of private sector workers express concern.

Job satisfaction fell five points during the quarter to +34. Employees in the voluntary sector are most satisfied whilst those in the private sector are least satisfied.

The survey also discovered that 24% of respondents were looking for a new position with a new company, up from 19% in the previous quarter.

Research from staffbay.com suggests that figure could be even higher. It claims that since the two consecutive bank holidays, there are now four times the normal level of people looking for new employment.

The founder of the online recruitment platform explained that bank holidays give us the chance to reflect on our career path and back to work blues hit people strongly enough to encourage them to apply for new positions.

However, according to the latest Reed Job index, there was a 2% drop in vacancy numbers last month. Since December 2009, 25% more job opportunities have been created in the private sector and year on year demand is 22% higher.

Demand in banking and leisure and tourism fell back last month whilst customer service, engineering, IT and manufacturing were among the sectors to record an increased job demand.

The bank holidays may have played a part in the drop in demand as UK businesses experienced a disjointed period with the two long weekends, suggested the MD of reed.co.uk, Martin Warnes.

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Business confidence weak in areas reliant on public sector


Small businesses and contractor accountants are now less confident in their ability to create new jobs, according to research conducted by the FPB.

The end of last year was hard for the small business community and more of them than expected reduced their headcount. The immediate outlook is a little more encouraging and fewer SMEs expect to cut their payroll. However, business confidence is still weak in areas that depend heavily on the public sector. In Northern Ireland, confidence levels are at -25% and in Wales -11%.

22% of small businesses intend to hire new employees this year but this figure is well down on the 30% who were optimistic of growing their workforce when asked last December.

Two thirds of those planning to hire, expect to take on ready-trained employees whilst a third think they will have to devote time to training their new recruits.

37% of respondents to the survey expressed concerns about whether new employees would be able to fit in, 36% worried about the cost and amount of time needed to comply with employment regulations and a similar percentage said the lack of specialist or technical skills amongst new-hires made them anxious.

John Walker, the chairman of the FPB, said it was worrying that more small businesses than anticipated had to make staff redundant, especially with female and youth unemployment edging towards 1 million.

Small businesses need the government to give them a hand if they are to pick up the fallout from the austerity drive, he pointed out.

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680 people apply for 440 voluntary redundancies!


440 jobs are to be lost at Official Receiver offices throughout the UK, according to the Public and Commercial Services Union.

What might surprise you is that 680 people have applied to take voluntary redundancy since the cuts were announced to staff. That would suggest that at a large portion of the workforce is dissatisfied! This theory seems to be backed up by the high percentage of absenteeism last year.

There are 36 Official Receiver offices in the UK that deal with bankruptcies and company liquidations. The department expects to see a decrease in bankruptcies this year but personal insolvency experts disagree saying they will remain at record levels as the government spending cuts take effect.

The latest headcount at the Insolvency Service, taken at the end of last March, was 3,132 including agency workers and contractors.

Meanwhile, R3, the insolvency trade body, has condemned the government for not taking action against company directors who are guilty of dishonest and fraudulent activities. The number of disqualified directors has dropped by 25% in the past eight years.

R3 claims that insolvency practitioners submitted in excess of 7,000 reports to the Insolvency Service in 2010 and yet fewer than 1,400 of these resulted in a director’s disqualification. It is therefore calling on the Insolvency Service to increase its efforts to weed out dishonest company officials.

The trade body blames a lack of government resources for the service’s failings and expressed concern that more complex cases could be overlooked. Steven Law, the president of R3, said the trade body would like to help the Insolvency Service implement an effective system that ensures all cases are pursued.

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Contractor accountants need a financial contingency plan


Contractor accountants and other professional freelancers must be prepared for financial changes, especially in these times of economic uncertainty.

The MD of the Debt Advice Foundation, David Rodger, said that everybody should have a Plan B, even if they believe their job is secure.

Rodger pointed out that redundancy might have a massive financial impact on a person’s household budget so having the foresight to plan ahead can lessen the chance of future difficulties.

This is simple to do, he says. Set yourself a realistic budget so that you do not overstretch your finances or spend large amounts on credit and keep a “rainy day” fund to tide you over if you have the misfortune to lose your job.

Contractor accountants working through umbrella companies might find that they are in and out of work due to the nature of freelancing. It is therefore vital for them to have a reserve cash fund in case work dries up for several weeks at a time.

The threat of more job cuts in 2011, coupled with the increase in VAT, could mean that more people fall into financial difficulties. The Money Advice Trust has already forecast that the number of people seeking advice on debt is going to reach a record high soon. Surprisingly, only around 16% of people who currently have money troubles seek advice.

However, consumers are showing signs of concern when it comes to debt, according to quarter four data from R3. 47% are worried about their credit card debt, 28% about their overdraft and 23% are concerned about meeting mortgage repayments.

Last week, the government launched a consultation into the regulation of consumer credit. It wants to transfer the responsibility from the OFT to a new authority; the consumer protection and markets authority. The government hopes this would provide more protection for consumers and remove regulatory burdens on businesses.

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Private sector can absorb public sector fallout


In what seems to be a contradiction of other recent reports, the latest quarterly job survey from the CIPD and KPMG claims that public sector redundancies will be more than offset by new private sector jobs.

The latest Labour Market Outlook recorded a figure of +11. This figure is a based on the number of employers planning to increase their workforce compared to those who plan a decrease. Whilst the public sector recorded a negative figure of -44, the private sector registered +39. In the summer the balance was +2 and we have now seen three consecutive quarters with a positive balance.

The chief economic adviser for the CIPD, Dr John Philpott, said there are now encouraging signs of increased buoyancy in the private sector job market. However, he did point out that it remains to be seen whether this will continue after the pre-festive season jobs surge and he didn’t go as far as to rule out a rise in unemployment next year.

Sectors that expect to increase recruitment levels during the final quarter of the year include manufacturing (+51), IT private sector services (+71) and consultancy (+44). Decreases are expected in central and local government (-95 and -65 respectively) and transport and communications (-39).

41% of public sector bodies will be making redundancies before the end of 2010 and these are expected to affect 14% of their employees. Whilst the average cost of making an employee redundant is £12,000, in the public sector it is £19,600 as opposed to £9,350 in the private sector.

Obviously everybody hopes that the latest LMO data is concrete evidence that we are witnessing a sustained improvement that will enable the private sector to absorb the public sector fallout.

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Contractor accountants could benefit from skills shortages


Over 50% of people working in accounting and finance departments think the economic outlook is good at the moment and staff growth has gone up by 30%.

However, on the downside, many are warning that another wave of redundancies is inevitable.

Poolia, a specialist recruiter, conducted a survey that found financial departments are more positive about the economic outlook for next year although they do still have concerns over staffing levels.

57% expect to see revenue growth next year, 40% predict an increase in projects and more than 30% anticipate increasing recruitment.

The general manager at Poolia’s finance and accounting practice said that there will a race for talent next year but the long term outlook will remain challenging. Companies cut back on vital trainees during the recession and now find themselves in need of experienced workers. However, there is currently a shortage of people with the right skills to meet this demand. 38% of firms are struggling to recruit skilled employees at managerial level and 40% reported problems finding transactional clerks. This lack of supply could lead to more opportunities for contractor accountants.

George Osborne is reasonably confident that the government has taken the correct measures to secure a sustainable economic recovery. While speaking to reporters at the G20 summit in Seoul he said that economic data had been on the optimistic side for the past few weeks and that gave him cause for confidence.

The Bank of England on the other hand is erring on the side of caution saying the outlook remains uncertain. Mervyn King expects the recovery will continue but its strength will depend on developments in the world economy.

Inflation will remain high next year due to the VAT rise, rising energy bills and an increase in the cost of raw materials, but should fall below the 2% target in a couple of years.

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Rainy day savings are making a comeback


The recession has fuelled an increase in rainy day savings, according to Jonathan Davis, an economist at Jonathan Davis Wealth Management.

In fact a recent survey from Mintel found that around 43% of Britons have prioritised saving for a rainy day this year, up from just 15% last year.

Davis said the credit crisis was a wake-up call for a lot of people, who realised that for the last ten years they have based their life on debt.

This is a little like closing the stable door after the horse has bolted but it is still encouraging that people are now looking to give themselves a financial cushion in case of a disaster such as redundancy. Savers should have a reserve fund equal to at least six months average spending, to get them through unforeseen difficulties, advised Davis.

Although rainy day saving may be on the increase, few people are saving for their retirement and this is of paramount importance, the expert added.

Savers may not be so happy to learn that the Bank of England has forecast that inflation is going to stay above its 2% target well into next year. Currently the CPI is standing at an annual rate of 3.1%, meaning a basic rate taxpayer needs a savings account that pays at least 3.8% in order to protect the value of their investment.

Now could well be the time for contractors to sit down with their contractor accountant and take a good look at incomings and outgoings and decide how to maximise your assets.

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Many businesses are upbeat about government spending cuts


95% of British business leaders and contractor accountants have a clear conscience about making staff cuts in the next few months according to statistics from Abbey Legal Protection.

While that leaves just 5% of bosses stressing about downsizing, 31% of employees are concerned that their job might be in jeopardy.

Andrew Hawes, one of the co-founders of manufacturing consultancy Newton, said that most CEOs recognise that cuts are inevitable and tough measures need to be taken to ensure their firm survives.

We are still waiting to hear the results of the government’s Comprehensive Spending Review but almost three quarters of SMEs and contractors agree that public spending cuts are essential.

The FSB intends to inform the Conservative party conference that the coalition should reduce the budget for ‘direct’ business support to £500m from the current £1.9bn and concentrate on micro business spending.

The lobby group thinks that business support receives too much funding and of that, micro firms only receive 5% of the money. It would also like to see the NICs holiday for new businesses extended to all firms, an increase in the VAT threshold to £90,000 and the privatisation of the Capital for Enterprise finance initiative.

Meanwhile, leading players in British industry have differing views of the upcoming spending cuts.

Babcock, the defence group, believes the clampdown in the public sector will lead to more projects being outsourced. It says it has a healthy pipeline of bids both at home and abroad and an order book currently standing at £12 billion.

Smiths, on the other hand, said it will be increasing investment in new products with a higher margin as it warned of the short to medium term challenges of achieving sales growth.

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Spending cuts hit the Treasury


The Treasury is set to lose around 25% of its workforce due to the Chancellor’s spending cuts.

The good news for the existing Treasury workforce is that this will be achieved by natural wastage with no further recruitment, as opposed to mass redundancies.

By the middle of this month, George Osborne will have settled the budgets for some of the government departments, including culture, environment, justice and transport, as well as scaling back the role his own department and the financial services function play. He’s even proposing to move staff to smaller desks in order to squeeze more people into his HQ thus saving money on rent.

Over the next four years the Treasury department will lose about 350 staff members through natural attrition bringing the number down to 1,000.

The Chancellor’s willingness to impose cuts in his own department should strengthen his hand when it comes to negotiating with other departments.

One of George Osborne’s colleagues said they would be focusing on macro analysis and spending control rather than attempting to second guess the moves of other departments.

The comprehensive spending review will cut between 25% and 40% from the majority of other government departments. The biggest challenges facing the Chancellor will be defence and welfare. Transport could also be a problem as Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London, is battling with Philip Hammond, the Transport Secretary over Crossrail and upgrades to the Tube. Hammond also wants to see a cut in the £1 billion that subsidises free travel for children, the unemployed and injured war veterans.

Meanwhile, a treasury spokesman said the department would not get drawn into the spending review negotiations of individual departments; each of which have been told to reduce their admin costs by about a third over the next four years.

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1,700 jobs on the line as HMRC plan 130 office closures


HMRC confirmed last week that it plans to close 130 offices saying that the move is part of an ongoing programme designed to deliver a more efficient use of taxpayer money. This will be of little comfort to staff as it is believed that as many as 1,700 permanent positions are in danger.

The Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) are outraged at the plans, warning that the services delivered to contractors & freelancers, SMEs and the general public will be severely affected. Most contractor accountants are in agreement.

The government plans to close in excess of two hundred offices and shed as many as 25,000 jobs by 2011. The cuts will affect offices throughout the UK. Since 2006, 20,000 jobs have been lost in HMRC according to the PCS website.

The union is calling on the government to focus on tax revenues rather than saving money through office closures and redundancies.

The General Secretary of the PCS, Mark Serwotk, said that the amount of uncollected tax that has been written off has almost doubled in recent years. This has come at a time when HMRC staff, including inspectors and specialist units, have been let go. Accoding to Serwotk, the government should be paying more attention to lost revenues through offshore tax schemes and widespread tax evasion, rather than slashing jobs of the very people that could help reduce the public deficit.

In 2004, as many as 200,000 civil servants reportedly stayed in protest against the government’s proposed sweeping job cuts, in what amounted to the biggest ever civil service strike. Could we be set to see a similar scenario because of this latest announcement?

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