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Mental Health & Well-being at work

27th November 2018
27th November 2018

The impact of poor physical health in the workplace is plain for all to see – but the effect of poor mental health can be just as, if not more damaging.  A recent letter signed by industry leaders from across business and education highlighted that one in every six workers will experience mental ill health – which includes depression, anxiety, or stress-related issues.

This represents about 5 million people in the UK, so the costs are significant.  Mental health issues are estimated to cost the UK economy nearly £35 billion each year, with 15.4 million working days lost to mental ill health.

What can be done?

There is still a lot of stigma around the issue of mental health, which often makes it difficult for someone experiencing problems to come forward and ask for help.  One of the challenges, then is to make the issue of poor mental health as important as poor physical health.

Mental Health First Aid

Awareness is so important here, and a training programme called Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) aims to tackle these issues.  The aim of MHFA is to try and change attitudes in society around mental health, by developing skills to look after our own and others’ wellbeing.  The outcomes of the training are an increased knowledge of the range of mental health problems, including substance misuse, and an increase in the supportive behaviours towards individuals with mental health problems.

The courses teach people to spot the symptoms of poor mental health, and then offer initial help and guide a person towards appropriate support.  What it is not about is training people to be therapists themselves – but rather, to help people develop listening and responding skills.

To find out more about MHFA, the skills involved and courses available, go to their website here.  There are a range of courses available, including some which focus specifically on young people, and people who are or have been in the armed forces.


National Insurance for the Self Employed

9th November 2018
9th November 2018

Self employed people pay class 2 National Insurance if their taxable profit is over £6,205, at a flat rate of £2.95 per week – which equates to £153.40 per annum. They are also liable for class 4 National Insurance if their taxable profit is over £8,424 and the current rate for this is 9% for profits between £8,424 and £46,350. Profits over this threshold are chargeable at 2%.

Class 2 contributions count towards several state benefits such as the basic and new state pension, employment and support allowance, as well as maternity allowance and bereavement support allowance.

Both of these classes of National Insurance are dealt with as part of your Self Assessment Tax Return and are payable by the 31 January, following the end of the tax year to which they relate; for example, your liability for the year ended 5 April 2018 is due by 31 January 2019.

Class 2 contributions were originally due to be scrapped in April, then the move was delayed by a year and it was recently announced that class 2 national insurance contributions will continue and will not be abolished in this Parliament. The reason the Government are giving for this change in policy is that low earning self employed people would pay more to access the state pension, as it’s estimated that around 300,000 self people earning less than £6,000 a year are paying class 2 National Insurance voluntarily in order to access the state pension. If they were abolished they would have needed to switch to paying class 3 voluntary contributions which are currently payable at a rate of £14.65, therefore they would have been faced with an annual increase of over £600.

Labour have labelled the move as a betrayal of the self employed and the Federation of Small Businesses said it would hit more than 3 million people and believe it will net the Treasury over £350 million annually in the 3 years to 2021.

If you have any concerns relating to your National Insurance record and want to access your state pension forecast, then the best thing to do is to set up a personal tax account with HMRC which provides lots of useful information.

If you need any help at all, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us.

Budget 2018 – Key points

1st November 2018
1st November 2018

This week’s Budget 2018 has brought a few changes in to effect individuals and businesses. We will summarise a few of these now and will revisit some of these topics in our future pieces to give more detail.

  • The personal allowance will rise to £12,500 in April 2019, a year earlier than expected. However, national insurance, for those that pay it, still begins at the lower threshold. The basic rate band is extended to £37,500. In total, this allows earnings of £50,000 before paying higher rate tax.
  • The National Living Wage will increase to £8.21 per hour from next April. The Minimum Wage will increase for age 21-24 to £7.70 per hour, age 18-20 £6.15, under 18 £4.35 and apprentice rate will increase to £3.90 per hour.
  • Selling property you have lived in for the whole period of ownership usually is exempt from Capital Gains Tax if the property is your Principle Private residence (PPR). However, if you sell a property that you haven’t lived in the whole time can bring a charge to capital gains tax on the profit. There are reliefs which can lower this if you have lived in it for part of the period of ownership, one of these reliefs allows you to reduce the profit based on time you have lived in the property and, in addition, the last 18 months could count towards this even if you have moved out by that stage. It has been announced that this 18 month rule is being reduced to 9 months from April 2020. There is also another relief which allows you to reduce the capital gains tax if you have let the property out during ownership. This letting relief which was worth up to £40,000, will also be lost in most cases from April 2020.
  • Capital Gains Tax on residential properties will also be payable within 30 days of completion of sale from April 2020, this brings the tax payable forward by up to 19 months in the most extreme case.
  • Annual investment allowance is going to increase from 1st January 2019 for 2 years. Currently annual investment allowance allows a business to claim 100% tax relief on expenditure on certain plant and machinery used within the business. The current allowance gives 100% tax relief on £200,000 spent on capital expenditure in each financial year. The new allowance will give 100% relief on £1 million expenditure for a 2 year period from 1 January 2019.
  • There is a new capital allowance for qualifying expenditure on structures and buildings. From 29th October 2018 new non-residential buildings will qualify for 2% capital allowances, similar to the old industrial buildings allowance. This will give 2% allowance on the cost of the building as tax relief for 50 years. The unused allowance will transfer with the transfer of ownership.


If you believe you may be affected by any of the above changes and wish to know more please contact Nickie and her team

Cyber security: are your staff aware?

23rd October 2018
23rd October 2018

We recently came across some research conducted by Norton which got us thinking about just how much people know about some of the basics around cyber security and on-line fraud.  Try these simple 4 questions out (and we’ll give you the answers afterwards!):

  • Would you be able to identify a phishing email?
  • Would you know whether the wi-fi network you’re using is secure or not?
  • Do you use a secure password only when you absolutely have to?
  • Are ALL of your devices protected with anti-fraud software?

Some of the answers are surprising.  38% aren’t able to spot a dodgy email from a legitimate one.  And 77% experienced a ‘negative outcome’ after responding to a potential phishing email.

Particularly relevant where staff use their laptops, tablets and phones when they are out and about, 54% don’t know how to work out whether the wi-fi network they are using is secure.  66% do use secure passwords even when they’re not essential – but 40% have at least one unprotected device.  43% feel overwhelmed by the amount of information they need to protect on a daily basis.

Most surprising are the groups of people who are most affected by cyber crime.  Top of the list are those who we would expect to be most tech-savvy – 36% of Millennials have been affected by cyber crime in the past year, closely followed by 35% of frequent travellers.

Does it really matter though?  The total financial cost of cybercrime in 2016 during 2016 came to £1.8 billion.  Each consumer spent 11 and a half hours sorting out cyber fraud.  These are all showing increases on previous years – the problem isn’t going away, it’s just getting steadily worse.

So what does it mean to the average small business?  If you run those 4 questions past each employee, and they can’t answer each positively, then your business is at risk.  Perhaps it might be time to consider using some of the training budget?

Is your Business on Google My Business?

15th October 2018
15th October 2018

We’re all looking for ways to get our websites higher up the Google rankings, but here is a way that helps for definite – use Google My Business (GMB).

Basically, GMB is a free business listing tool, provided by Google.  It helps you control the content which is displayed on Google search result pages, plus other Google products.  If you want customers to find out where you are, for example, then GMB helps ensure that the information on Google Maps is correct.

There is much more to it though.  You can post information on your GMB page which will also show up when people search for you, such as reviews and testimonials from your customers, and pictures of what you do.  Google says that if you include pics on your GMB listing, you’ll receive 42% more requests for driving instructions to your premises, and 35% more click through to your website, than businesses which don’t.

You’ll need to ensure that all of the information included in your listing is as complete as possible, and is correct.  As anyone can ‘suggest an edit’, getting it right first time is important.  It will also be useful if you remember to periodically log in to your GMB account and check everything looks right.

Your cover photo is one of the most important things, as it shows up front and centre on your listing, and appears in the search results.  Make sure, then, that it is of a high quality, and accurately portrays what you do.  You can also add videos, but you’ll need to ensure they meet the strict criteria:  30 seconds long maximum, 100Mb or smaller, and 720p resolution or higher.

Don’t get confused between GMB and Google+.  Google+ was a social network with high aspirations – it claimed “to organise the world’s information” – and set itself up as a Facebook competitor, but had precious few users.  As a result, it failed to meet its objective and achieved very low engagement levels, so Google pulled the plug on this.

Find out more about GMB in this very useful article.  If you’re in any doubt, this is their conclusion: “ We can’t stress enough what a terrific service Google My Business is for SMBs and particularly local businesses.  And when you’ve got your listing up, let us know and we’ll happily tweet about it to help you get your message across.



It’s time to think about self-assessment again…

29th September 2018
29th September 2018

With the new school year having started and everyone returning from summer holidays we are drawing our attention to the next six months and the requirements for self assessment returns that are looming.

If you have a requirement to prepare a self-assessment tax return for the year to 5th April 2018 and haven’t already done so this is now a good time to get your affairs up to date.

Initially if you haven’t yet registered with HMRC to tell them you need to prepare a tax return this should be the first step. This is something you can do online through HMRC’s website, creating yourself a government gateway ID and personal tax account.

If you have self-employed income from business activities you would need to collate all the activity for the year to 5th April 2018 along with any other income or gains you may have. If you started business part way through the tax year and had employment before this, you will need to have your P45 to hand to include the details onto the tax return along with the business details. Similarly, if you have run a business alongside any employment you will need to enter the P60 details. The tax return must represent all taxable income and gains for the whole year.

You can file your tax return in paper format which has a deadline to be with HMRC of midnight on 31st October 2018.

Online tax returns must be submitted by midnight 31st January 2018. If you miss these dates filing penalties will be imposed. Returns that are filed late attract an automatic £100 late filing penalty and these increase if the Return is more than 3 months late.

In some instances, if the tax you owe is less than £3000 and you also have employment income that is taxable you may be able to have the tax deducted through your wages. To apply for this your return must be with HMRC by 30 December.

The tax due for the year is also payable by 31st January, if paid late there will be interest charges applied to the balance unpaid.

If you are not able to pay your tax bill by the due date of 31 January 2018 the worst thing to do is to ignore it. In our experience it is much better to contact H M Revenue & Customs and agree a payment plan rather than ignoring them and waiting for the debt collection letters to arrive.

If you use an accountant to prepare your tax return and haven’t yet sent the information over to them, we would recommend doing this as soon as possible to allow them plenty of time to prepare the figures for you and give you as much notice as possible of the tax payable.

In summary, our message is do not delay!

How small business impacts on the local community

13th September 2018
13th September 2018

We often write about small businesses because that’s what our clients are, what we are, and what our local economy is dominated by.  We’ve just come across a Small Business Community Impact study which is so interesting, we have to share more of it with you!

5 themes come from the research:

  • Small businesses act as an agent to change communities and create significant social value
  • They create opportunities, not just for profitable gain but helping to stimulate further benefits to society
  • There is a lack of recognition of the work and contribution small businesses make
  • Because the business is small it is personal, leading to strong positive community outcomes driven by personal relationships
  • It only takes a small number of key individuals in a community to drive business connections and community outcomes

Some of the other interesting points the study makes include:

Staffing:  30% don’t recruit staff either online or through recruitment agencies, choosing local contacts in preference.  And 36% have kept a member of staff on when commercially they didn’t need them – because of a sense of responsibility.

Training:  78% create training opportunities for their staff – and 28% create training opportunities for the wider community as well!

Business Support:  external business support is not reaching small business.  74% turn to friends and family for help, 72% turn to other small businesses, and less than 2% – yes, that’s TWO per cent – turn to Government for support.

Connections:  in small towns, like around here, 76% of small businesses are part of a business group.  Just 14% work with local government, and 9% work with the Local Enterprise Partnership (possibly an overstatement for this area!)

The report identifies many opportunities for small business, central and local government.  Of course, whether these are taken up by central and local government is debateable and we shouldn’t be holding our breath.  But for us, as small business, we do have the power to take up these opportunities:

  • To engage more with local and national institutions to get better recognition for current social impact initiatives
  • To work with others to explore ways to deliver more social impact in the future
  • To share and promote where the business is creating opportunities in the media and with local institutions
  • Leverage the advantage of being small in attracting staff and customers
  • Get greater recognition for the good works done by business in local communities
  • Work with local organisations to develop better ways of gaining formal recognition
  • Leverage local relationships to drive customers and staff loyalty to the business, as against big business
  • To become a ‘local spark’, to help motivate, connect and inspire the local business community
  • Tap into ‘local sparks’ to engage in more community wide activity


Does any of this resonate with you?  We’d love to hear from you, do let us know what you think – find us on social media to share your thoughts…  Facebook here, and Twitter here.

Why bother with Keywords?

4th September 2018
4th September 2018

It’s a language thing:  the keywords on your website help people find your site through search engines like Google and Bing.  A website that is optimised for search engines effectively speaks the same language as the people searching for information.  Which is what SEO is – search engine optimisation.

As with much to do with the internet, the experts seek to make it complex, so we’re going to try and do the opposite!  Here is a quick and hopefully simple guide to how to develop your list of keywords which you can include on your website in order that you appear above your competitors in searches.

Core Keywords

First, and obviously, think what your customers will be searching for when they are googling.  Depending on your type of business, there may be several searches which will need to be covered by this.  This list then becomes the core element in your SEO keyword strategy.

What works now?

You can discover which keywords already bring traffic to your site using several different tools.  Here’s one with a free trial, which is all you need to get started.  Are these keywords featured on your site?  Could they be better used in your content?

What works for your competitors?

You’ll always need to keep a check on what your competition is doing.  If it works for them, then why shouldn’t it work for you?  Here are some apps to help you spy on your competition.

Finding new keywords

Google AdWords has a very useful tool called Keyword Planner.  Use your current list of keywords, enter that into the Planner tool and it will suggest other keywords for you to use.



Of course, there is more to it than just these first steps.  These will just help you get started and hopefully help you rise up those Google rankings.  It’s also important to keep doing this exercise as things do change, so you will need to change as well to keep up-to-date.  And don’t forget that creating new content is central to achieving success on Google.

Customer Relationship Management systems…

24th August 2018
24th August 2018

What is a CRM

CRM stands for Customer Relationship Management system.  It helps manage data about your customers, supporting your sales and marketing efforts as well as potentially integrating with your other office systems.

Why you need one

Are all of your customer contact details up to date?  Can all of your staff who have contact with customers access details about your customers quickly, easily, accurately and reliably?  Are you able to keep track of every contact your business has with each customer so you know who said what to them and when?  Do you collect information about your customers in one place so you can make the customer feel valued when they contact you?

A CRM essentially takes customer data and turns it into useful management information to help you run your business more effectively and efficiently.

What a CRM does

A CRM can track every interaction you have with your customers.  Every phone call, email, meeting can be recorded.  You can add notes, schedule follow-up actions and organise any next steps you need to take.  By building up the profile of activity and information about your customers, you can ensure that every interaction with them is personal, relevant and up-to-date.

Basic Functionality

  • Contact management: recording every contact made with your customers
  • Lead management: track all your sales activities from first point of contact to conversion
  • Sales forecasting: how are sales going against your forecasts?  Where does additional resource need to be allocated in order to achieve your targets?
  • Email tracking: synchronising email and CRM helps manage activities and schedules

Types of systems

There are basically 3 types of CRM, dependent on the number of users you have and the amount of access the users will require:

  • Single computer systems for one user
  • Client/server systems, with central database, stored on a server
  • Cloud-based systems enabling remote access from any member of staff connecting via their device

Some key points

  • If you currently hold all your customer information in paper format or on spreadsheets, a CRM is worth exploring
  • The more customers you have, the more valuable a CRM can be to your business
  • It is worth investing time in setting the system up properly in the first place
  • Choose a system that can scale up as your business grows
  • Make sure your GDPR policies include any new systems you introduce


Why Buy Local?

20th August 2018
20th August 2018

The recent troubles at House of Fraser highlight once again the pressures faced by high street retailers.  But the pronouncement by their new owner Mike Ashley that he wants to turn HoF into the “Harrods of the High Street” makes us wonder – is that actually what we need?  Might it be better to encourage people to buy local, from smaller independent retailers?

Of course, it doesn’t mean much to us here in Fenland, with the nearest House of Fraser store being 120 miles round trip.  We don’t have large department stores in our market towns, with the retail sector being dominated by small independent shops.  There is evidence that more people are turning to these smaller independent stores.  2016 research from The Leadership Factor found that one in five people were shopping with independent retailers more than they had a year previously.  Interestingly, in the 18-24 year old bracket, this figure rose to 30%.

Spending money in a local shop has a dramatic impact on the local economy.  Research shows that if you spend £10 in a local shop, an additional £50 goes back into the local economy.  The local shop owner puts that money back by paying wages to a local person, spending money in local pubs and restaurants, developing locally owned supply chains and so on.

So whilst online and large retailers may offer benefits such as ease, breadth of choice and not having to move from the comfort of your sofa, there are also many advantages of shopping local.  Aside from the opportunity to buy more unique and innovative products than are available from large retail outlets, and the improved quality of customer service, buying local has a strong, positive impact on the local economy.  And if you’re needing any more reasons why you should shop with your local retailer instead of a chain, here’s 15 of the best reasons to buy local.

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