Today’s stats from uSwitch have shown that private sector employers are more than just dubious about hiring someone from a public sector background.
55% think that employees of the public sector have had it too easy and ‘unrealistic expectations of the workplace’.
Despite an encouraging 72% of small business expecting to grow, just 2% would seek a public sector worker and only 11% think a public sector worker, put simply, could do the job better that one from a private business.
It will serve as more bad news for a work force that is already facing stringent spending cuts and widespread redundancy.
It also puts paid to the government’s expectation that private industry will be able or willing accommodate the new levels of unemployed public sector workers.
So, the question remains… Would you employ a public sector worker? And if not, why not? Vote on our poll or leave a comment.
New paternity leave laws take effect this Sunday, which, ironically enough, is Mother's Day. The new laws will allow new mothers and fathers to divide their parental leave between them, meaning fathers will be able up to 6 months off. Some think this will mean fairer jobs and others think that businesses will not be able to support the legislation. We ask five people what they think…
‘Parents worry taking leave after a child will affect their career’. So far, so familiar. But what’s so interesting about uSwitch’s research was that it was reporting Dad’s concerns, as Britain makes radical changes to maternity/paternity leave provision allowing, for the first time, a Mum to transfer up to 26 weeks of her maternity entitlement to her partner.
This change has the possibility to revolutionise how we use maternity leave in this country and eventually how employers come to view women, which I could tactfully describe as ‘of a certain age’. If Dads (and Mums) embrace these changes it could help end a culture where many still feel employing a women is a liability and perhaps, one day, we stop hearing so many stories on Mumsnet from women whose careers have ground to a halt once they have kids.
But how easy will it be for parents to make the most of these changes?
As uSwitch highlight the current level of statutory pay, £124.88 per week, just doesn’t give a real choice. Many Mumsnetters plan their budgets based on the larger income, more often than not the man’s. If you can’t afford to make mortgage payments the opportunity for extended paternity leave still feels a out of reach.
But perhaps most importantly attitudes need to change. As uSwitch found 26% of Dads were concerned that their career would suffer if they were to take the full paternity leave break, while nearly a fifth, almost 20%, were fearful of losing their job altogether.
We recently asked Mumnsetters similar questions and over 84% felt having children had made it harder to progress in their career. And 86% rated flexible ‘family friendly’ working hours as a priority.
So Mumsnet is launching a year-long campaign, working with employers like BT, Pizza Express and Talk Talk to help develop and highlight Family Friendly attitudes practices.
We want to see workplaces where parents don't have to deny that their kids exist and firms to state on the door that employees don't have to feel bad about asking to go to sports day, and if we start to feel good about the kids we already have, it might just help encourage Dads to think about taking paternity leave too.
We know that being family friendly is good for business too. Companies shouldn’t spend time and money training staff only to see them walk out the door once they've had children because their workplaces don’t fit with family life.
The new paternity rules, which are due to come into force on 3 April, will mean that more small businesses could be in the dark about when their employees will come back to work – adding to the burden of organising workloads.
The intricacies of balancing family life with work have always amounted to a juggling act and the issue is rarely out of the spotlight. This is why the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) believes that family leave should be tailored to suit each individual, as a one size fits all approach fails to adapt to the needs of a new parent. The uSwitch research clearly demonstrates this with half of the men surveyed saying they couldn’t afford to take time off.
Research by the FSB has shown that maternity and paternity leave is one of the most complicated issues in the employment field – half of small businesses rated maternity leave as very complex to administer. While small firms are the most flexible employers – with the majority only employing a handful of staff – they find it difficult to plan and forecast when someone on maternity leave will return to work.
Allowing parents to choose how they receive their statutory pay – and in return telling their employer upfront how long they will take off – will give small firms more clarity on when that invaluable and skilled member of staff will return to work.
At the Forum, we’re not opposed to the principle of parental leave being shared equally between mums and dads.
What we are opposed to is the fact that, from April 3, business owners will have to deal with a sizeable administrative burden created by the new legislation.
Employers will be the ones who will have to do all the relevant checks and liaise with the other parent’s employer to prevent abuse of the system. Business planning will be severely affected too – companies will have to make alternative staffing arrangements at very short notice, and recruiting a short-term replacement is rarely a straightforward process for a small company. It’s expensive, it’s time-consuming and productivity almost always drops until the replacement is properly bedded-in.
We believe that if the Government wants to introduce vote-winning, family-friendly policies, it should do the leg work required to implement them. It could create a Government agency (or empower an existing one) to deal with all the admin and simply provide the business with the start and finish dates of their employee’s leave period - perhaps together with a subsidy to cover the cost of recruiting covering staff.
We’re even more critical of the additional possibilities Nick Clegg recently announced (which could come into force from 2015) of parents being able to continuously switch leave back and forth between both parties for just weeks or even days at a time on an ad hoc basis. There was even talk of grandparents and close family friends getting involved too!
This would be nightmarish from a business owner’s point of view. Recruiting stand-in employees for just a few weeks or months at a time – at short notice and especially for highly skilled roles – would be incredibly difficult and expensive for most SMEs who, as is so often the case, would suffer a hugely disproportionate impact in comparison with their big business competitors.
The changes coming in into effect this year will be time-consuming and difficult, but hopefully manageable. The changes proposed for 2015 would be incredibly ill-advised and would cause immense disruption to smaller businesses across the UK.
I’d be a fool to say the new paternity leave rules are anything but a positive step, but in my opinion it is just that, a small step – in the right direction maybe, but still leaving a long way to go.
We got the vote, we got equal pay legislation, yet decades later we still have only one in five female MPs and a large, lingering gender pay gap. If changes in the law take so long even to impact on the world of work and politics, they are going to be even slower to change attitudes in the home, where inequalities and gender roles are far more deep rooted.
As the research from uSwitch shows, just because they can, doesn’t mean all new fathers will be changing out of their business suits into milk stained t-shirts or downing tools in favour of a bottle and weaning spoon. Prejudices and gender stereotypes still exist, whether we like it or not. As long as men still feel themselves caught in the role of breadwinner and employers and co-workers begrudge dads the time off, the new legislation will do little to change this.
'The latest changes to paternity laws coming into force in the UK are welcome. The recent findings of a survey by uSwitch.com confirm that fathers are invariably pressured with managing a hectic 'work/ life' balance.
It is also notable and welcome that the British government in particular, has been pushing hard this past year for greater fathers rights. In particular Prime Minister David Cameron and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, both of whom are fathers, have displayed leadership on the issue.
Fathers appear to be constrained by the longer term effect of taking paternity leave, particularly in relation to their job security and career progress. The net result of not taking up greater paternity leave could mean better financial security for a family in the long term. Balancing work and family life is something that fathers appear to be increasingly aware of. Although, given the high levels of unemployment in the UK, taking paternity leave might not be an attractive option at this time. uSwitch should be congratulated for investigating the impact of new paternity laws affecting fathers in Britain.'
This open letter to Ofgem by James Constant, Director of uswitchforbusiness.com, reveals why Ofgem’s recent review of gas and electricity providers has left small businesses in the cold.
Now that energy regulator, Ofgem, has got tough on behalf of consumers it’s time that it did the same for Britain’s small businesses.
In its Retail Market Review (published 21/3/2011) Ofgem admits that the steps it put in place in 2010 to help micro businesses escape the pitfalls of poor quality contracting practices in the UK energy market have been insufficient, inadequate and all too easily circumvented. The fact is that these steps were never enough to overcome the ingrained problems that have long existed and Ofgem simply ignored the wider SME market altogether.
It is often trumpeted that the UK stands as a testament to deregulation of EU energy markets and even in the last 24 hours we have heard commentators excitedly promoting the veneer of competition.
The reality is however that all too many business energy customers are rolled onto new contracts with an almost total lack of visibility and transparency. Some 70% of the business energy market regularly remains with the incumbent supplier, being unable to afford the time or simply unaware that they have the power to switch supplier and the ability to save significant sums of money in these challenging economic times. We need to make the life of businesses simpler not more complicated.
Ofgem’s contention that it would ‘prefer to implement reform wherever appropriate with the cooperation of the supply companies’ cannot be read without a hint of irony. The market has been crying out for a firm hand by the regulator, who in the first instance should be prepared to hold suppliers to account against their supply licence conditions.
As a priority, Ofgem now needs to ensure:
- Transparency of contract terms including Contract End Dates being printed on every customer bill
- Complete freedom of movement at the end of the agreed contract term without contrived termination windows
- An end to the re-sell tactics of incumbent suppliers which often prevent a customer leaving even though they have a legally binding contract in place with a new supplier.
More needs to be done by Ofgem, suppliers and third party intermediaries to create a genuine market with the customer in control. But British business owners also have a role to play in not allowing themselves to be manipulated and by exercising their rights to save money.
Only then can we collectively deliver a market we can genuinely hold up as an example to the rest of Europe. More importantly, our businesses will have a market where they are not treated shabbily simply because they have more pressing concerns than trying to get through the minefield of business energy switching.
James Constant, Director, uSwitchforbusiness.com
The tragic Japanese crisis and uncertainty in the Middle East are already having an impact on Britain’s small businesses. According to our data, within the last week business energy prices have increased by 7% on average, hitting SMEs seeking a new business energy contract.
Meanwhile, according to the FT, European electricity prices saw their biggest jump since 2003 this week (Month Ahead Wholesale Prices have risen by 28% since Friday following Japan’s terrible earthquake).
Libya’s reliable provision of oil has not yet been replaced, which is directly impacting on gas and power prices.
Japan has lost 1/5 of its nuclear generation capacity and naturally it needs to switch to other sources; by switching to oil further pressure is placed on the balance between demand and supply. Japan is already a significant user of world LNG supply and this will place greater demands on that market to replace the lost capacity, further increasing the impact on energy markets. Even the announcement of factory closures will not be guaranteed to relieve the pressure.
In Germany Angela Merkel, a hardcore nuclear supporter, has demanded the switch-off of ¼ (7) of their nuclear reactors in response to nervousness about the technology given what’s happened in Japan. Again, that energy needs to be provided from elsewhere and cross-border energy markets will need to replace the lost capacity.
Here at home Chris Huhne has underlined that uncertainty by announcing an independent review of nuclear power.
Gas looks the clear winner but increased global demand for the commodity has natural consequences.
Extreme events = extreme volatility = nervousness = price rises
We have already seen moves across the UK business energy market this week as suppliers rush to pull prices; the replacements are significantly higher in price and furthermore there is no obvious end to the uncertainty as world events continue to evolve…
Customers locking in now can at least minimise potential future exposure, clearly none of us can predict the future either of geo-political issues or commodity markets but more than ever there is a major risk of increases in energy cost impacting on your business. Don’t get caught out.
- What The End Of Nuclear Power Would Actually Mean For The World (businessinsider.com)
- Japan’s nuclear crisis could force up LNG prices for years (guardian.co.uk)
Linzi White, Operations Manager for our sister company uSwitchforbusiness.com, talks British Gas profits and what they mean for small companies:
If you have caught any part of the financial news over the past couple of days, you will probably be aware that British Gas have announced their year-on-year profits, and for those that haven’t, British Gas’ profit-line is looking very healthy, despite these hard economic times.
British Gas has announced a 24% increase in profits on the residential side of its business, whilst British Gas Business announced a 27% increase in year-on-year operating profits, attributing its success to its ‘customer segmented volume-to-value strategy, which focuses on delivering high and differentiated levels of service to retain and acquire high value small enterprise, medium enterprise and multi-sites customers'.
These announcements may understandably attract cynicism from some, particularly from residential customers as highlighted by the Chief Executive of the watchdog Consumer Focus, Mike O’Connor, who said; “we need successful energy companies but consumers may look at these profits and at recent [residential] price rises and question how one justifies the other.”
However, price changes in the business energy market happen on a smaller scale and fluctuate more frequently, so business customers are not at the mercy of major price hikes or falls in the same way, especially as business contracts mean fixing prices for the term of the agreement.
So how does this announcement affect business customers and what does it mean? For customers who are still largely in the dark about getting the best energy deal, the news will have little impact.
Along with the reassurance that British Gas Business, one of leading energy suppliers, is here to stay, the announcement reveals that the business energy switching market is expanding, and customers are moving around.
The way in which British Gas Business has identified a customer facing strategy that has contributed to their growth is testament to how the industry is starting to appreciate the differing needs of businesses and, in turn, businesses are starting to respond to the services available.
However, there are a large number of business customers who are unaware of the benefits of looking at their business energy bills and taking stock of the financial impact this could be having on their own profit figures.
So how can small business get involved and take more control of their energy overheads?
Well, it’s not just British Gas Business that can offer more tailored solutions for businesses. uSwitch for Business have a wide range of suppliers on their panel, and can help all sizes of SMEs to find a supplier and energy tariff to suit their needs; whether that be price, green energy solutions, service levels, or additional benefits; the dedicated team of sales advisors can talk you through the ins and outs of business energy and find you a great deal.
So take a moment to look at your energy bills – whether you’re in a contract, out of contract or just moved premises, uSwitch for Business can talk you through your options and help you increase your profits by saving you money.
- The draft Energy Bill: a five-minute summary
- 60% increase in business energy costs as average turnover falls by 6%
- Business week in brief: 11th May 2012
- Ed Miliband and the Queen talk energy
- Interview with Steve Fitzsimons of new business energy supplier, Hudson Energy
- Business week in brief: 4th May 2012
- The see saw of corporate profit
- Business week in brief: 27th April 2012
- EDF Energy’s Business Customer Commitments: four key pledges
- Businesses buck the trend when it comes to smaller energy suppliers