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Workplace inequality affects economy

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Workplace equality: Could grow economy by 10%

INFLEXIBLE workplace structures, gendered assumptions about childcare, and wide-scale discrimination mean mothers are more likely to be trapped in part-time, low-paid work with fewer opportunities for career progression.

Those are the findings of a National Assembly committee which has been looking at the issue.

The Equality, Local Government and Communities Committee believe such factors are key causes of gender inequality and represent a loss to the economy.
The UK Government’s Women’s Business Council estimates that equalising the employment rates of women and men could grow the UK economy by more than 10% by 2030.

The employment rate for women with dependent children in Wales is 75%, compared to 91% for men with dependent children.

The gender pay gap between men and women in Wales is 15% for all employees (full and part time).

A 2016 survey by the Equality and Human Rights Commission revealed that Welsh employers lag behind England and Scotland in offering flexible working.

The same survey found that 87% of employers in Wales feel it is in the best interests of organisations to support pregnant women and those on maternity leave. But it also found that 71% of mothers reported negative or discriminatory experiences as a result of having children.

Employment law isn’t devolved to Wales but the Committee focused on the levers at the Welsh Government’s disposal including employment of public sector workers and businesses and organisations in receipt of public funding,

“During the course of our inquiry we heard some shocking individual experiences: women who lost their jobs during maternity leave, careers derailed because of the lack of flexible work, and fathers prevented from taking on caring responsibilities because of cultural attitudes,” said John Griffiths AM, Chair of the Equality, Local Government and Communities Committee.

“These stories have directly influenced our conclusions and recommendations.

“Preventing a large proportion of the population from contributing their skills and experience to the workforce is not fair and does not make economic sense.

“In light of technological, social and economic changes, now is the time to modernise workplaces so that they are fit for the future for everyone, not just parents.

“We believe the Welsh Government can set a standard in promoting flexible working, ensuring organisations in receipt of public funding are flexible by default and by reassessing its new childcare offer.”

The Committee makes 34 recommendations in its report, including:

  • That the Welsh Government should advertise public sector jobs (including teaching posts) as ‘flexible by default’, and lead the way by allowing senior roles like Ministers and councillors to be job-shared;
  • Strengthening the obligations on organisations receiving public funding to provide flexible working and report on the retention rates of staff returning from maternity leave;
  • The Committee heard that the Welsh Government’s new Childcare Offer was unlikely to achieve its main aim of increasing maternal employment in the most effective way. It recommended the Government reconsider the target age group and the income threshold; and,
  • the Welsh Government improve advice services in Wales, and that information about rights and obligation at work should be provided to women at an early stage of pregnancy.

The report will now be considered by the Welsh Government.

Business

Ashmole & Co delighted to welcome immensely experienced payroll clerk

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ASHMOLE & CO’S Payroll team has gone from strength to strength with Wendy Davies, from Pembroke, having recently joined as a Payroll Clerk covering the firm’s Tenby and Haverfordwest offices.

Four years ago the accountancy firm had just one payroll clerk and now, with Wendy joining, they are a strong team of seven. Day to day the Payroll team are the hidden heroes for local clients as they administer their pay systems.

Since the Covid-19 pandemic struck Ashmole & Co’s Payroll team have been extremely busy working hard for clients to make sure they are getting all the government support they are entitled to via the Furlough Scheme.

Wendy joined Ashmole & Co at the beginning of November and is already helping local clients with urgent claims to the government’s Furlough Scheme. Day to day she processes clients’ payroll, auto-enrolment and CIS (Construction Industry Scheme) submissions.

Wendy previously worked for the Alexander Partnership Accountants in Tenby for four years as their Payroll Administrator and prior to joining them she was the Personnel Manager for Silcox Coaches for 24 years.

Welcoming Wendy to the team, William Hughes, Partner in the Tenby and Haverfordwest Ashmole & Co offices, said, “We are absolutely delighted to have someone of Wendy’s calibre, with such vast experience in payroll, join our local team. Our dedicated payroll team allows local companies to be relieved of the burden of administering their payroll. It has been an especially difficult time for so many employers having to furlough staff as a result of the pandemic. We are proud to be able to help them safely through the minefield of applying for support to ensure those local employees still have jobs and are paid.”

With Ashmole and Co managing payroll, local clients can concentrate on the core activities of their business. Payroll registration, advice, compliance, investigations, bureau service and CIS contracts are all part of the service Ashmole & Co can provide.

The most rewarding part of the job for Wendy is working closely with clients and making sure they are happy. She admits the Furlough Scheme, and the regular alterations by the Chancellor, have been challenging but she always strives to do the best for her clients. Wendy is married and in her spare time enjoys going for long walks with her husband and dog, especially on the beach. She is looking forward to the time when she can go on holidays abroad again in the sun.

Commenting on her appointment Wendy said, “Having lived and worked in this area all my life I’m delighted to be able to continue helping local companies with their payroll as part of the team at Ashmole & Co.”

Ashmole & Co Chartered and Certified Accountants have been established since 1897 and are one of the largest accountancies and auditing practices in Wales, operating from 13 offices throughout south and west Wales including Swansea, Carmarthen and Tenby.

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Business

Businesses urged to apply for new Covid-19 grants

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BUSINESSES eligible for the new Welsh Government Covid-19 support grants are being urged to apply as soon as possible.

In response to the recent national firebreak lockdown, the Welsh Government has introduced two non-repayable grants.

Grant 1

A grant of £5,000 is being made available for retail, leisure and hospitality businesses that have been forced to close and occupy properties with a rateable value of between £12,001 and £51,000. Applicants will need to be on the Non-Domestic Rate (NDR) rating list on 1st September, 2020, and will need to complete a simple registration form to receive the grant.

Properties that will benefit from the relief as being wholly or mainly used:

  • as shops, restaurants, cafes, drinking establishments, cinemas and live music venues
  • for assembly and leisure
  • as hotels, guest and boarding premises and self-catering accommodation.

Grant 2

A grant of £1,000 is being made available to businesses eligible for Small Business Rates Relief (SBRR) in Wales occupying properties with a rateable value of up to £12,000.

Dependent on meeting the eligibility criteria, Grant 2 applicants that have been forced to close as a result of the national firebreak lockdown will also be eligible for a further top-up grant of £2,000.

Again, applicants will need to be on the NDR rating list for their local authority on 1st September, 2020, and will need to compete a simple application form to receive the grant. Businesses need to declare that they are trading and generating a turnover to be eligible for this grant.

Not-for-profit organisations that meet the eligibility criteria for Grant 2 may apply for the grant including the enhanced top-ups if appropriate.

In relation to self-catering accommodation, properties will not be eligible for the grant unless the following criteria are met:

  • the self-catering accommodation can produce two years of trading accounts directly preceding the current financial year of the business
  • the self-catering accommodation must actually have been let for a period of 140 days or more in the financial year 2019-20
  • the self-catering accommodation business must be the primary source of income for the owner (minimum threshold is 50 per cent).

As the overall discretion allowed by local authorities in the first scheme is no longer there, the Council will need to assess any applications from self-catering units against the strict criteria in the scheme and applicants should only apply if they meet all three.

In addition, for businesses not on the NDR list the Welsh Government has launched the Lockdown Discretionary Grant.

A discretionary grant of £1,500 is available to assist businesses that have:

  • been forced to close as a result of the national firebreak lockdown
  • or are able to demonstrate that the national firebreak lockdown will result in at least a 80 per cent reduction in their turnover for that period

Businesses are not eligible for this grant if:

  • it is eligible for, or has received, the Lockdown NDR Grant from its local authority
  • it has 50 or more employees
  • the business generates less than 50 per cent of the applicants income. The business must be the main source of income.

Welsh Government has announced that the grants will be open to applications from 28th October and will close at 5 pm on 20th November, 2020, or when the fund is fully committed.  All businesses are urged to apply as soon as possible.

Receipt of an application will be acknowledged within 10 working days and the Council aims to process grant finalised applications within 30 days of receipt. Please do not contact the Council to chase progress during this period.

For more information and to make an application from Wednesday (28th October) go to: www.pembrokeshire.gov.uk/business-advice-and-support

Pembrokeshire County Councillor Paul Miller, the Authority’s Cabinet Member for Economy, said: “I would encourage all eligible businesses to apply as soon as they can.

“I have asked officers to consider all applications as sympathetically as possible and where we possibly can offer support, we will.”

 

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Welsh Government releases additional £100M business support

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The latest phase of the Welsh Government’s Economic Resilience Fund has benefited from the release of a further £100million from ministers within 72 hours of launch, due to a massive demand.

More than 6,000 grant applications from small and medium sized businesses and social enterprises were received within 24 hours of the launch on Friday – an unprecedented response, revealing the scale of the challenges facing Welsh businesses.

The Fund aims to complement and fill the gaps left by UK Government schemes such as the Job Retention Scheme, with grants of up to £10,000 for micro-enterprises and up to £100,000 for SMEs and a light touch appraisal system designed to get money to businesses with the minimum of delay – as well as a new loan fund administered by the Development Bank of Wales.

Less than three weeks since the First Minister announced the intention to create the Fund, the Welsh Government has released a further £100 million, taking the grant fund to £300 million. This will supplement this latest phase of support, providing non-repayable grants to microbusinesses, SMEs and those large businesses of critical, social or economic importance to Wales.

The Fund has been warmly received by trade union and business organisations, with the Institute of Directors calling it ‘very welcome news for business owners and managers who are desperate for all the help they can get at this difficult time’. The South and Mid Wales Chambers of Commerce has called ‘the rapid response to date’ of the Welsh Government in supporting the economy of Wales ‘impressive’. The Wales TUC welcomed ‘additional funding to address the gaps’.

Minister for Economy, Transport and North Wales Ken Skates said:  “We knew that even with the help offered by initiative such as the Job Retention Scheme, there was a massive need for quick access to grant funding if Welsh businesses were to survive this unprecedented economic shock. Whilst in order to make the scheme quick and simple we needed to take tough decisions over eligibility – like requiring businesses to be registered for VAT as a way of having to check on their trading history – it is clear from the level of response received that the Economic Resilience Fund is plugging a gap in UK Government support and providing much needed financial reassurance to many businesses at this challenging time. We will continue to review support and consider how we can develop it over the coming days.

“The rate of applications has been massive and unprecedented. This is the second time in a matter of weeks that access to Welsh Government funds aimed at easing cash flow pressures for Welsh business have quickly reached capacity, and we have responded with pace to release a further £100m into this phase of the fund.

“In these difficult and demanding economic times we have worked hard to free up resources to create such a large Fund despite the huge demands on our budget, and to strike a balance between supporting as many enterprises as possible and making a meaningful contribution to each one’s survival, as well as asking each recipient to sign up to the principles of the economic contract.

“Though we applaud much of what the UK Government has done, there is an urgent need to see more of the promised lending guaranteed by the UK Government getting to the front line. The UK Government must continue to support and press the high street banks to be much more responsive to the needs of our businesses at this difficult time.”

Finance Minister Rebecca Evans said: “The Economic Resilience Fund is part of more than £2bn of support that we have made available to help businesses and charities during these incredibly difficult times.

“We know that support for business is crucially important but whilst we are doing everything we can in Wales to plug any gaps and provide the best possible financial support to businesses, it is clear there are further steps that the UK Government needs to urgently take.”

The Economic Resilience offers financial support to help businesses, charities and social enterprises deal with the coronavirus crisis and will be vital in helping organisations manage cash flow pressures. It is a unique additional funding stream for Wales and was designed to address gaps not currently met by schemes already announced by the UK Government, Welsh Government and Development Bank of Wales.

The first stage of the Fund saw the £100 million Development Bank of Wales’ loan scheme fully subscribed in little more than a week. Applications are currently being processed and some businesses have already received funding. It is anticipated that the Development Bank will have processed all applications received within the month.

To ensure that money reaches businesses as quickly as possible more than 120 additional Welsh Government and Business Wales staff have been diverted onto processing applications and supporting businesses and organisations in this latest stage of the Fund.

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