On Valentine’s Day, CEO of The Cambridge Satchel Company, Julie Deane OBE, published her Self-Employment Review, imploring the government to make ten key changes to recognise “the economic potential of the self-employed”.
These recommendations serve as a blueprint for the country’s leaders to improve business conditions and enable small businesses to grow and to thrive.
The independent report called for a number of changes, including more flexible finance and pensions solutions for the self employed, an increased availability in shared workspaces, enhanced maternity and adoption allowance and better advice and education for potential entrepreneurs.
I support all of these suggestions and particularly agree a curriculum that better prepares young people for starting a business would be very welcome. Statistics from our recent On The Money study found that only a third of the UK’s small business owners have any formal training or background in financial management.
Interestingly, Deane’s report also highlights that few self-employed people actually realise there is a shortfall of support in this area. It may be the case that business owners simply don’t know what they don’t know when it comes to finance. It is only when they’re introduced to easier, more efficient techniques that they see how much can be saved and how much easier it is to make informed business decisions.
As our research revealed, the issue here is that this lack of financial knowledge can lead to cash flow issues, unexpected charges or fines, and in some cases, even redundancies.
It’s clear then that the government must support future generations of entrepreneurs. But as almost half of self-employed people fall into the 50+ age bracket, changes to the curriculum alone won’t solve the problem for our current generation of businesspeople and we must ensure that they are also fully supported through subsidised training and mentoring schemes and other initiatives.
Another recommendation in Deane’s report is that policies likely to impact the self-employed should be subject to Impact Assessments. This is something we strongly support. As of April this year for example, dividend tax will increase to 32.5%, affecting many small business owners across the country. Though Impact Assessments may not absolutely guarantee the protection of small business owners from being adversely affected by policy changes, they will add a layer of security afforded to larger businesses.
Finally, Deane has called for continued technology support to entrepreneurs in rural areas and for those over 50. Although internet use by over 55s has increased year-on-year, almost tripling in the past decade, a sixth of small businesses still don’t even have a website, suggesting some entrepreneurs are not entirely comfortable with the digital world. A skills-swap programme between digitally savvy younger business owners and those with more life experience is a great idea to ensure all self-employed people in the UK improve their chances of business success.
In all, Deane’s report lays out a number of encouraging suggestions. It is my hope that the government heeds her advice and demonstrates true support for the self-employed.
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