Posted by John Fairbrother

Business Rescue Specialist - Begbies Traynor

Wed 27th, May

When a General Election occurs it provides people with the chance to reflect on the past five years, and for many businesses, they are struggling more now than nearer the recession.

Looking back at our Red Flag Alerts for the city, 69 per cent more companies in Liverpool faced financial difficulties in the first quarter of 2015 compared with the same period of 2013.*

However the same figures also highlight that some sectors in the region are performing better than others – with the number of bars and restaurants and leisure and culture businesses facing financial troubles falling compared with the same period last year.

This could partly be due to the vibrant calendar of events that are attracting people to the city, such as the Giant Spectacular in August last year which marked the centenary of the First World War.

Over the next year the calendar is just as jam packed, with events such as the meeting of Cunard’s Three Queens and the Liverpool Loves festival continuing to promote our fantastic city.

Business events such as the International Festival for Business also shone the spotlight on Liverpool and its companies, and according to figures released following the event, £300 million of new business and 10,000 new jobs were created across the UK as a result of the festival – so it’s great news that it will be returning in 2016.

With the Election now decided business leaders can now look to the future, assessing their prospects and deciding what they want to achieve over the next five years.

Accessing finance continues to be a key issue for many firms in the region, with the Chancellor announcing in the autumn statement that the Funding for Lending scheme will be extended for another year to help encourage lending to businesses.

For companies that are already experiencing financial difficulties an injection of funding can be the boost needed to for them to continue trading, however some feel that they will be rejected for financial support if they do not have a proven record of success

Many of the city’s re-elected MPs have pledged to encourage job creation within the region. But in order to do so, continued investment in small businesses and the regions enterprises is needed.

Developments in infrastructure also continue to be a key issue, with many local business leaders lobbying for the proposed HS2 and HS3lines to help the city to improve its links with the rest of the UK.

The election of a majority Government will provide some form of stability for companies in the UK but the focus needs to remain on the small to medium sized business community, which is the driving force of Liverpool’s economy.

So while it’s clear that some businesses in the city have yet to emerge from financial difficulties, Liverpool has a range of fantastic opportunities that can help businesses thrive over the coming years. Whichever camp you’re in, speaking with an external business advisor can help firms the make most of expansion opportunities, andprovide expert guidance on how they can begin to prosper.

*1051 business faced significant financial difficulties in the first quarter of 2013 compared to 1781 in the first quarter of 2015. 

Leave a comment

Tue 26th, May

Is your post-election glass half-full or half-empty?

If it’s half-full, no doubt you are relieved that power remains in the hands of those who have repaired much of the economic damage they inherited five years ago.

Your expectations are that the deficit will be kept under control; that growth will remain steady and interest rates low; that the cost of the public sector will continue to be trimmed; that the referendum on European Union membership will turn out to be as damp a squib as UKIP’s General Election performance; and that the Northern Powerhouse will lead to a genuine partnership between Whitehall and Liverpool City region’s local authorities. In your most optimistic moments, you think this region will enjoy a bigger slice of the prosperity which the new government will usher in.

If your glass is half-empty, you are no doubt worried that £12 billion worth of cuts promised by the Conservatives will do serious damage to a Merseyside economy that is still reliant on public spending to compensate for high levels of deprivation. In your blackest moments, you fear we are heading back to the 1980s: that Merseyside will bear the full brunt of the Conservatives’ drive to roll back the state; that local authority leaders will blame the government for all of our ills; and that the ensuing trench warfare will turn us into a pariah and leave everyone much worse off.

The big question is: which of these scenarios is more likely? Our city region has no Conservative MPs to argue the case for more investment in our region. And there are no signs yet that our local authority leaders are capable of the kind of dialogue with the Treasury that has borne so much fruit for Greater Manchester.

On the other hand, devolution for the English regions is being given huge impetus by Scotland’s continuing progress towards an exit from the UK. Giving more power to responsible local decision makers is the opposite of what happened during the 1980s and may be our best hope for avoiding a repetition of that era’s mistakes.

But never mind the omens – the most important challenge for our city region is to adapt to the new reality and find a way to influence and control its fate.

Leave a comment

Expansion of flight routes from JLA is good news for the Cargo industry

Posted by Tom Hughes

Business Development Director, The Parcel Centre

  • T: 0151 486 1919
Thu 21st, May

With Liverpool John Lennon Airport announcing new routes linking Liverpool to the rest of the world, now is the perfect time for us in the business sector to look beyond our sunglasses and sun creams and to the commercial opportunity we are presented.

Over the last three months, Liverpool Airport has seen an increase in passenger numbers but according to statistics, only 10% of passengers flying from Liverpool are business users.

However, the present carriers are working hard to increase this number. The Amsterdam link presents the region with a unique business opportunity.

Through Amsterdam Schiphol, we can access The Far East, including Hong Kong and Shanghai. Aer Lingus have also announced from October the recommencement of its Liverpool Dublin service. The flights are timed for easy onward travel to New York Washington, Boston, and California thru San Francisco.

As a result of the unique agreement with the United States government, you can also clear US immigration in Ireland.

Described by Aer Lingus as “ you can arrive before you depart” regular travellers to the US know the nightmare of clearing immigration stateside.

Utlimately, these services give us the opportunity to do business in the Americas, Far East and some of the emerging markets like Brazil and India.

For us in the Cargo industry, it’s an opportunity to recover the volumes of freight that used to pass through the airport.  Cargo links have now been re established to the Isle of Man and Belfast, however the Amsterdam Schiphol link will vastly increase the number of final destinations available for cargo, which has got to be great news for us, and business in the Liverpool City Region.

This week was Export Week, the perfect time for us to look at doing business with the rest of the world.

Think Samples, Think Freight, Think Export!

 

If anyone would like further information on exporting goods via Liverpool John Lennon Airport please get in touch with me at tom@theparcelcentre.co.uk

Read More
Leave a comment

What factors can affect the Pound on the currency markets?

Posted by Barbara Sutton

Moneycorp

Wed 20th, May

If your company is involved in foreign exchange transactions, you will know that the more help you get the more profit you can make.

It is important to understand that all currencies can be affected by the same underlying economic factors, which are:

 Monetary Policy

 Inflation

 Confidence & Sentiment

 Growth

Using these 4 general factors above you can start to make an informed evaluation of the strength or weakness of a currency and what direction that currency is likely to move, up or down. Using GBP as an example.

Monetary Policy: The Bank of England (BOE) will increase or decrease interest rates to control inflation. If there is low inflation (growth in the economy is shrinking) they will lower interest rates to stimulate growth resulting in cheaper loans and people start spending etc. If on the other hand inflation is too high, the BOE will raise interest rates to bring inflation back down to the 2% BOE target. When interest rates rise the GBP exchange rate will rise, and vice versa, any decisions on interest rates by the BOE can and in most cases will affect the Pound.

Inflation: Inflation plays a crucial role in the value of the Pound. In general, countries with higher inflation compared to that of other countries will see their currency value depreciate. To gauge the levels of inflation in the UK you can follow the Consumer Price Index (CPI) and changes in the prices of goods & services purchased by consumers in a given period, and the Producer’s Price Index (PPI) which shows inflationary changes in raw materials.

Confidence & Sentiment: These are surveys that gauge the market on how the majority of people in the UK are feeling about the economy. Gfk Consumer Confidence and National Consumer Confidence are the two main numbers to review and monitor, more information can be found at:

Growth: The overall level of economic activity in the UK is another key factor that can impact Sterling’s value. The primary measure is Gross Domestic Product (GDP), essentially the value of what the UK produces. Many will supplement this report with more frequent economic indicators such as Retails Sales and the Manufacturing Purchasing Managers Index (PMI) which is an economic indicator derived from monthly surveys of private sector companies. Generally the better a countries GDP figure the stronger its currency will be. Finally it’s good to watch the UK’s Current Account which shows how much the UK is importing (buying) and exporting (selling) and the differences between them. In general a Current Account surplus is positive for GBP, the more money flowing into a currency initiates a rise and a deficit is negative for the Pound for the opposite reason.

During the last UK election in May 2010 the Pound against the US Dollar was at $1.54 on 27th April and dropped to $1.44 just 10 days later. If history repeats itself you can expect there to be some volatility for Sterling against the US Dollar and Euro as well as other currencies before and after the election.

Looking ahead the Pound may have a bumpy ride with the looming general election and a possibility of a hung parliament, continued quantitative easing in Europe and with the added possibility of a Greek exit (Grexit) as well as a number of other factors both known and unknown.

For further information you can get daily and weekly market updates by email, just subscribe here  

 

Moneycorp works in conjunction to the Chamber to help you to save money when involved in Foreign Exchange transactions

Read More
Leave a comment

Recent survey shows manufacturers are recognising the power of exporting

Posted by John Longworth

British Chambers of Commerce Director General

Tue 19th, May

There has never been a better time for British businesses to broaden out their horizons and explore international markets.

Improvements in trade finance, online connectivity, and trade agreements have dramatically increased access to markets worldwide. 

The results of the Quarterly International Trade Outlook (QITO) for Q1 2015 are a testament to this point. Manufacturers are turning to export markets abroad to fuel their growth ambitions as weak industrial growth persists in the UK.

The proportion of manufacturing businesses reporting increased export orders and sales rose in the quarter. This is a credit to the strength and expertise of the UK’s manufacturing sector.

Furthermore, almost half of the manufacturing firms we surveyed added new staff to their labour force – with the vast majority of these new roles being full-time positions.

While the recent strong performance in the economy has continued to build momentum, this has not been accompanied by a corresponding increase in exports. To address this imbalance, we need a clear focus from the government to implement ambitious plans that will help Britain recapture its reputation as a premier trading nation.

Chambers of Commerce are doing their bit to support businesses interested in accessing markets around the world.

Whatever the size or nature of your business, international expansion can be daunting with many hurdles to be negotiated. To take the fear out of exporting, we’re building an international business network of overseas British Chambers and business groups that provide British companies with practical advice each and every day when they start to do business in markets around the world.

By building trusted and proven international networks and removing barriers to trade, we will encourage more British businesses to look beyond our shores. The world is alive with business opportunities, so let’s get behind our British exporters and help them trade the world and shine on the global stage. Only then will we eliminate the UK's stubborn trade deficit - and unlock future economic growth

Contact export@liverpoolchamber.org.uk to find out how your local Chamber can help you trade overseas

Read More
Leave a comment

Ensure a strong relationship with your bank to mitigate risks

Posted by Vince Ferguson

Managing director - Inciner8 Ltd

Mon 18th, May

Inciner8 Ltd is a provider of specialist incineration products to international markets. Established in 2006, the company has since secured sales to over 145 different countries.

Our systems are used for a variety of medical and industrial uses including the safe and controlled destruction of materials exposed to the ebola virus in West Africa for The International Red Cross, DFID and the United Nations. The company has grown to a turnover of £6 million and employs 18 people at its manufacturing facility in Southport.

From the first business plan, export markets were a key target for us and they now account for 90 to 95 per cent of our sales. If we had limited ourselves to domestic markets, the company would employ far fewer people, have fewer sales and a much lower turnover.

Our success has been enabled through the guidance we initially received from the UKTI and the strong relationship we have with our bank. One thing we have done is stick rigidly to our payment terms which mitigate much of the risk of international trading. We demand payment in advance or a letter of credit for our systems and we have never had a single bad debt in the last nine years.

The final thing I would add, would be to say that we have been pleasantly surprised how much currency being a British company has in overseas markets. We have found that Made in Britain is an incredibly powerful asset overseas. We manage our reputation carefully but you can’t buy the kind of recognition being a British company brings - the best thing is, it’s free.

www.inciner8.com

Leave a comment

Employment Partner Zee Hussain explains the issue of mental illness in the workplace

Posted by Zee Hussain

Employment Partner - Colemans-ctts

Fri 15th, May

Mental health problems cost employers billions through lost production and absence; the benefits of good mental health among the workforce can have a large impact on the business.

To deal with mental illness effectively, it is important to address its effects as soon as possible. However, there are certain factors that influence an individual’s mental health that employers cannot control.

Personal relationships, finances and conditions at home are issues that organisations may not be able to help their employees with. However, they can make small adjustments to enable a member of staff to continue doing their job. Monitoring workload, workspace environment and workplace relationships are a good way to start.

Communicating with an employee to create awareness of the issues is key. As an employer, creating a culture in which employees feel able to discuss their problems is important.

Proactive management of employees’ mental health can bring many benefits, including reduction of sickness absence, greater staff engagement and productivity and reduced staff turnover, recruitment and costs.

Legal obligations and mental illness in the workplace

If an employer fails to spot the signs of mental ill health and treats an employee less favourably, they can find themselves in breach of their legal duty and at risk of potential claims of discrimination.

The Equality Act 2010 considers a mental health condition to be a disability. A person is defined as disabled if they have a mental or physical impairment that has a substantial long term (ie, for more than 12 months) effect on their normal day-to-day activities.

Employers have a duty to make reasonable adjustments for employees with disabilities, in order to ensure that they have the same access to everything involved in getting the job done as a non-disabled employee. Therefore, employers are under a positive and proactive duty to take steps to remove, reduce or prevent the obstacles that a disabled worker faces.

Sensitive personal data

When it comes to dealing with mental illness in the workplace, there is something else that employers need to be aware of. The Information Commission Office (ICO) sets out recommended best practices for dealing with sensitive personal data about an individual’s mental health.

The ICO carries a very clear message that businesses must be completely transparent about how they are going to process sensitive personal data concerning a person’s mental health. Unless an individual knows from the outset what their information will be used for, they are not in a position to make an informed decision.

Best practice is to obtain explicit consent from an individual before using or dealing with data about their mental health. Employers will need to train their staff on how to explain the policy and to obtain this consent.

The ICO makes clear that an organisation should not assume that it will be reasonably obvious to an individual who shares information about their mental health and how that data will be processed, and so it should not, therefore, conclude that an explanation is not required.

Practical tips for dealing with mental illness in the workplace

Taking all this information into consideration, what can you actually do to deal with mental illness in the workplace effectively?

  • First of all, putting the individual at the centre of the discussion is vital for agreeing workplace adjustments, in order to understand and meet their specific needs. Using the advice and guidance of other professionals, such as the individual’s GP or asking for support from occupational health and HR, can also be invaluable in finding solutions.
  • It is important to promote awareness of mental health issues in the workplace and create a culture where employees feel that they can talk to managers about any concerns they may have. Effective communication and consultation is key, coupled with an appreciation of mental health problems and a willingness to help other employees. It can help to raise any concerns with the employee – keeping communication channels open is critical.
  • Employers should watch out for any signs and intervene as early as possible. It’s also important to ensure that line manages are well-versed in the importance of dealing with employees exhibiting signs of mental illness.
  • Employers must ensure that clear procedures and policies are in place. They should ensure there is a mental health policy in place and check they are are asking the employee for explicit consent in all cases.

It is clear that mental illness is a difficult topic to address – for employers as well as employees. It is important to start talking about it in a constructive manner and break the taboo. Both employer and employee will benefit from this, and it will hopefully contribute to a more positive work culture.

Original article written for Personnel Today

http://www.colemans-ctts.co.uk/

Need more info? Benefit from our free HR service

Read More
Leave a comment

Posted by Phil Bird

Managing Director - PC Support Group

Thu 07th, May

If you’re in the habit of checking the news online you will have noticed that almost daily now there are reports of data breaches by attackers. Cyber security headlines are all too frequent and alert us to the skill and persistence of hackers.

Many organisations still rely on traditional security controls in the form of technology such as anti-virus software and firewalls, etc. to protect their critical assets but it is now clear that this is not enough. The increasing importance of employee security awareness is often overlooked with companies providing little or no basic awareness training.

Personnel and processes are often disregarded when it comes to improving security, partly because the security risk they pose to an organisation is difficult to measure and track.

These days, this a crucial issue with cyber security, but businesses that (very sensibly) put in place IT software security often struggle to get senior management to address a risk that they haven’t been able to quantify, or even prove exists.

The problem is that as the technical, on-line security of organisations increases, attackers are looking instead to a much weaker area: employees.

Investing in improving security via staff and processes can vastly reduce the chances of undermining the investment in your technology-based solution.

If you think about it – there is so much information regarding an organisations employees available online and the most common way to exploit them is a phishing email that attempts to attract them to click on a link or attachment. Such e-mails can be anything from promises of deals or offers, to false claims of attached invoices or bank statements. Phishing assessments against employees have shown that as many as 60% to 90% of employees are susceptible to these attacks – effectively allowing an attacker to jump right over the traditional security controls.

So… how can you combat this?

How about some practical employee security awareness training?

Managed phishing assessments, for example, can act as a ‘cyber fire-drill’ for employees, regularly exposing them to various realistic attacks but in a controlled environment – it isn’t unusual for businesses to have 80% susceptibility the first assessment, but see a reduction to less than 10% after the second or third assessment.

Now for the processes … what do your computer users do when they do actually detect an attack? Do you have a process in place for them to follow if that happens? When employees fail to report attacks, it results in a greater exposure than your business would otherwise have had.

Regular “controlled” attacks can not only teach staff how to spot them, but also drills the security process to follow – dramatically reducing your exposure to attack.

Action you can take:

  • Teach employees to recognise bogus emails and not click anything they do not fully trust. Not all security technology will stop malicious emails getting through, therefore they must be vigilant
  • Carry out regular phishing assessments or “cyber-attack drills”
  • Have in place a process to report phishing emails and who to notify in case they clicked purposely or by error; ideally to be carried out within 15 minutes

For more information click here.

Leave a comment

Will the recent bridge debate affect legislation made in 2011?

Posted by Graeme Hughes

Graeme Hughes is a solicitor in the Charities and Social Enterprise Department at Brabners LLP.

  • T: 0151 600 3079
Thu 30th, Apr

Last night (on one of the rare occasions that I was able to exercise control over the TV remote) whilst flicking through the sports channels, I came across a poll being run by Sky Sports on whether or not the card game Bridge should be classified as a sport.

The poll had been prompted by a High Court decision to grant the English Bridge Union permission for a full judicial review of its status following Sport England refusal to recognise thecredentials of Bridge as a sport.The English Bridge Union sought recognition form Sport England in order to qualify for lottery funding but Sport England stated that Bridge is no more a sporting activity than “sitting at home, reading a book”.

The result of the Sky Sports poll (which asked “Is Bridge a sport?”) was that 74% of its viewers did not consider Bridge to be a sport.

I suspect however that many voters were unaware of the Charity Commission’s decision to register the Hitchin Bridge Club as a charity in 2011 in which the Commission took the view that the game of Bridge falls within the definition of “sport” contained in the Charities Act 2011.

The Hitchin Bridge Club applied for registration with the Charity Commission in part on the basis that it was established for the charitable purpose of the advancement of amateur sport (the advancement of amateur sport is listed as a description of a charitable purpose in section 3((1)(g) of the 2011 Act).

Section 3(2)(d) of the 2011 Act defines “sport” as meaning “sports or games which promote health by involving physical or mental skill or exertion”.

In reaching its decision to register the Hitchin Bridge Club, the Commission confirmed that it was satisfied that Bridge was a game that involved mental skill or exertion. The Commission was presented with evidence of the health benefits of playing Bridge – the risk of developing Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia is reduced by up to 75% by regularly playing Bridge – and also accepted that Bridge involves a high level of mental skill – a point emphasised by the fact that Bridge is one of the five component games of the World Mind Games (along with Chess, Draughts, Go and Xiangqi).

As a result of this, the Commission accepted that Bridge was a sport for the purposes of the Charities Act 2011 and that the Hitchin Bridge Club (and indeed other Bridge clubs) could be registered as charities on the basis that they were established for the advancement of amateur sport.

The Charities Act definition of sport and the definition used by Sport England do differ. Sport England states that it uses the Council of Europe’s European Sports Charter 1993 definition of sport and also considers if the sport is well established and organised within England and as such it is possible for the Charity Commission and Sport England to take alternative views.

In granting permission to the English Bridge Union for judicial review, Mr Justice Mostyn did refer to the mental exercise undertaken when playing Bridge – an approach akin to that taken by the Charity Commission – and it will be very interesting to see how this case develops and the extent to which the Charity Commission’s 2011 decision is highlighted. 

Leave a comment

Posted by Heather Bailey

HR and employment law consultant at Colemans-ctts

  • T: 0161 876 2521
Wed 29th, Apr

 Many small businesses are often hit particularly hard by staff absence, with some larger SME’s having to shell out tens of thousands per year as a result. Managing sickness can be tricky, particularly where an employee has a medical condition or disability. In this blog, Heather Bailey describes fatal mistakes employers make when it comes to managing sickness in the workplace and what they can do to prevent these mistakes from happening. 

I recently advised on a case which saw Miss K, the employee in this case, who won her case at an employment tribunal.  Ms K has fibromyalgia, a painful condition which causes fatigue and loss of concentration.  She was employed as part-time receptionist by a medium sized GP practice who were aware of her condition. Following a change of medication she experienced a flare up of symptoms which affected her performance at work.

This situation is common with employees who develop or have a long term medical condition. Unfortunately the employer made several fatal mistakes in managing her case that could have been easily avoided.

 

Fatal Mistake #1 They told her to get a sick note 

The employee had asked to reduce her hours on one day to help manage her symptoms of fatigue, this was ignored and she was told to be signed off sick. The employee duly did what she was told only to be later unfairly dismissed for long term sickness. Employers often labour under the misunderstanding that if an employee is experiencing symptoms they need to be off sick, when in fact this is a grey area. If an employee does have a fitnote which recommends adjustments an employer should consider whether these can be put in place, it is only if they are impractical the employee can be sent home sick otherwise the employer can find themselves paying for lost earnings.

 

Fatal Mistake #2 They did not listen to medical advice

The employer in this case did seek an occupational health report, which recommended the small reduction in hours as suggested by the client. The report also suggested that a change in medication would improve her symptoms and suggested a follow up report be obtained. The employer could not show that it had considered any of the recommendations and did not seek a follow up report. Whilst sickness can be a burden on a small employer, obtaining a follow up report a few weeks later would have provided them with the green light to either dismiss the employee fairly or help her return to work.

 

Fatal Mistake #3 They could not show that the required adjustment was unreasonable

 An employer should consider making reasonable adjustments for disabled employees. What is reasonable does depend on the size and resources available to the employer and may take a little creative thinking. Ms K was requesting an earlier finish one of the three days she worked. Being able to leave 2 hours earlier would have given her the rest she needed. Ms K was not the only receptionist and there were other members of staff who could provide cover so therefore the employer came unstuck when it refused to even trial these adjustments.

 

Fatal Mistake #4 They failed to manage the performance and medical issues separately

When Ms K appealed her case, the employer mentioned that the adjustments would not improve her performance which was substandard. If an employee is not performing to the required standard, even with reasonable adjustments, they can be fairly dismissed provided that the correct process is followed. In this case, the employer would have been expected to implement and monitor the adjustments and then issue a series of warnings and a performance improvement plan. However, in Miss K’s case her employer tried to sidestep that process and it cost them dearly.

 

The Final Word

Having an employee off sick can cause a significant dent in the profits of a small business and any savvy business owner will always keep their eye on the big picture. In this case, carefully monitoring the adjustments and an investment of a further medical report would have saved the employer over £30,000 in compensation, lost resources and recruitment.

 

Heather Bailey will be joining us this Friday to host 60 Really Useful Minutes where she will show you how to help safeguard your business from persistent absenteeism.

Read More
Leave a comment

5 minutes with...

Wed 15th, Aug

Neil Bradley, Partner Manager at Growth Partners Plc

5 minutes with...

Fri 10th, Aug

Gordon Millar, Artistic Director and CEO of Unity Theatre

“Recruitment difficulties and tougher trading conditions face firms amid sluggish UK growth”

Mon 06th, Aug

BCC Quarterly Economic Survey - Looking behind the headlines

5 minutes with...

Fri 03rd, Aug

Lorna Young, Marketing Manager, Bike & Go

Channel 4 result a bump in the road

Fri 27th, Jul

Risk-aversion the determining factor in city's bid failure; asset acquisition the key for our future competitiveness

Why Appointing a DPO from within could put you at risk

Wed 04th, Jul

Handing data protection responsibilities to an existing employee...

Suing for breach of contract

Wed 04th, Jul

White Collar Legal's blog on Suing for Breach of Contract

5 minutes with...

Fri 29th, Jun

Christina Smith, Customer Service Executive at Liverpool John Lennon Airport