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Business Environment’s monthly SME news round-up

Changes to wages

Prime Minister David Cameron is on a campaign to transform our earnings. Firstly, he wants to force large firms to reveal differences between the earnings of male and female staff, as he feels it will make them become more equal. He has gone as far as to launch a consultation on the measure.

He’s also considering changes that would allow workers to save towards their own sick pay and unemployment benefits. This would be in the form of ‘flexible financial products’. Workers would build up savings and could draw from them in times of need.

Overall, though, it seems like wages are heading in the right direction. Average earnings are 3.2% higher than last year, according to ONS figures. But many put this down to a lack of skilled workers forcing employers to boost wages as a way to attract the best staff.

Good news, bad news

There is some good news for small businesses in the north of England, as plans were revealed for £400m of European funding.  The Government is working with Local Enterprise Partnerships and local authorities to secure the funding, which will be available later this year. It comes on top of £382.5m invested in the region through an existing scheme.

But big firms are concerned over plans for a levy on larger employers to fund apprenticeships. They claim it would not actually deliver the high-quality training the country needs. The CBI says an apprenticeship levy would do little to help smaller firms either. A survey found over two thirds think they will need staff with higher level skills in the coming years.

Business trends

Companies ready for growth

Chief executives of big, global businesses are confident about the ability of their companies to grow over the next 3 years. They said they are confident about the prospects for the global economy, a new study released by KPMG International reveals.

Small firms hit by late payments

It’s not such good news for small firms, as they are waiting longer than ever to be paid, despite the improving state of the economy. A study carried out by the Asset Based Finance Association found small businesses, with turnover of less than £1m, are currently waiting more than 10 weeks for their money – this is 11 days longer than at the peak of the recession.

Why so few black and ethnic minority directors?

A new study will look at why there are so few black and ethnic directors or senior managers. Business in the Community will seek the views of 10,000 workers to study their experiences of race in the workplace. The charity says ethnic minorities were under-represented at every level at work, taking just 1 in 16 senior management positions even though they represent 13% of the population.

Flexible working on the table

Workers in the City of London are being offered more flexible working arrangements, a new study has shown. Employers are more open to giving their staff the chance to work less routine hours, said recruitment firm Astbury Marsden. A third of men say they have some flexibility over their hours, while slightly fewer women have similar arrangements.