Around 4 in every 5 businesses have seen their costs increase this year through changes in employment legislation, according to a survey released today (Friday) by the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC).
BCC’s annual workforce survey of over 1,400 businesses and held in partnership with Middlesex University, reveals that pensions auto-enrolment, the National Living Wage and the Apprenticeship Levy have increased the cost base of businesses, and could lead to reduced opportunities for investment and wage growth.
The rise in the National Living Wage (NLW) in April of this year has increased employment costs for one-in-two companies (50%) in the UK. There appears to be a North/South divide, with firms in the North of England
(55%) and the Midlands (51%) more likely to be impacted by the National Living Wage than firms in the South (43%).
For the UK to remain an attractive and competitive environment going forward, action is needed to prevent unsustainable rises to the cost of doing business. The BCC is calling on the government to ensure no new upfront costs or taxes – which sap investment, growth and recruitment potential – are imposed on business for the remainder of this parliament.
Key findings of the survey are:
Denise Rossiter, Chief Executive of Essex Chambers of Commerce said:
“Businesses are under increasing pressure from the burden of employment costs, and this will influence the choices they make and outcomes for employees. Higher employment costs impact on the bottom line and reduce the resources available to invest in the business and its people.
“The BCC’s survey shows that two thirds of businesses will need to take action in response to proposed increases in the National Living Wage over the next three years. Firms are most likely to respond by raising prices or adjusting employee pay growth and wider benefits. Increasingly, manufacturers are looking towards greater use of technology and automation. There comes a point at which rising employment costs can no longer be absorbed through reduced profits.
“At a time when employers across the country are facing acute skills shortages, it is vital that they have the resources and flexibility to invest in their workforce and the future needs of the business.
“Employment is just one element of the high upfront cost of doing business in the UK. It is the cumulative impact of all of these changes, and the pace at which they are being introduced, that causes the greatest concern and poses the biggest risk. There is little scope for firms to absorb any further costs without there being damaging effects on competitiveness, growth and opportunities for people in the workforce. The government must ensure that there are no upfront further costs or taxes on businesses and entrepreneurs for the remainder of this parliament.”
David Williams, Director Corporate Engagement at Middlesex University London, added:
“Businesses are facing the challenge of maintaining profitability while remaining price competitive. This is a tough balance to achieve during what is an uncertain period, and we are seeing many start to tighten their belts and pull back investment.
“We need to up our productivity to enable us to compete globally in a post-Brexit Britain, so it is important when making difficult choices, the development, upskilling and retention of the workforce is high on the list of investment priorities, and that businesses get the support they need to do this.”