August small business round up – latest SME news
This month’s SME news round up includes news about employee absence rates, increased time-off rights, flexible working and a government push for SMEs to increase exports.
Leave work behind on holiday
The UK’s workers should be enjoying holiday time free from the worries and stress of work. However a new survey has found that working while on holiday is becoming the new normal. Nearly two thirds (65%) of business bosses check work emails while three-quarters have made or taken a work call according to a survey by the Institute of Leadership & Management. The good news for those not in senior management is that business managers say they do not expect staff to check their emails while on holiday and actually try to discourage them from doing so. With modern technology making it too easy to stay reachable, HR experts advise that it’s important to take holidays seriously – turn off your notifications and enjoy your downtime.
Sickness absence rates plummet
The average number of sick days taken by UK workers has halved since 1993. Government figures have revealed that workers took an average 4.1 days off sick in 2017, compared to 7.2 days on 1993. Sickness absence rates have been falling since the economic downturn in 2008. One explanation is that sickness may have fallen due to improved health over time. However, there are also concerns about increased presenteeism where employees show up for work despite being ill. The TUC said that rather than’ throwing sickies’ people are more likely to go to work when ill.
Government encourages SMEs to look to overseas markets
The government intends to lend more support to SMEs to bolster overseas trade. Currently, UK exports account for 30% of GDP, equating to about £620bn worth of goods and services. In its new Export Strategy, the government wants to boost exports to 35% of GDP. The Department for International Trade reckons that around 400,000 businesses believe they could export but currently do not sell abroad – the DTI aims to provide practical assistance on exporting so that British firms can meet potential growing overseas demand for British goods and services. Some have criticised the plans for their lack of detail but the government insists that post-Brexit opportunities are out there for the taking. (Reuters)
New rights to unpaid time-off agreed
Employers should prepare for legislation approved this summer which gives workers increased rights to unpaid time off. The Time Off for Public Duties Order 2018 comes into force this autumn, on 1 October 2018, and entitles employees to take a reasonable amount of unpaid time off work for a range of voluntary civic duties. The latest rights extend those that already exist under the Employment Rights Act 1996 and now includes further duties in the criminal justice system – for example, lay observers, independent prison monitors, immigration and other visiting committees. Businesses will need to keep track of staff exercising the new rights, especially what time off is allowed and on what terms, in addition to the significant and varied number of other rights to time off e.g. family-related reasons.
Working 9 to 5 out – flexible working in
The trend towards flexible work looks set to continue. New research has confirmed that British workers want shorter hours and more flexible working. The study conducted this summer found that more than half of employees (58%) in full-time employment would like to start work and finish work earlier than the typical 9 to 5. Another finding was that 48% would prefer to work a longer day in exchange for a shorter working week. The preferred move away from traditional working patterns presents challenges to managers needing to keep track of hours worked for accurate payroll. On the other hand, there could be employee engagement benefits: 69% of those already working flexibly said it encouraged them to stay in their job longer and 57% said it improved their motivation.
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