Tax & admin · 21 March 2018

The regulatory changes keeping small business owners awake at night

regulatory changes
Mounting paperwork has become the chief concern for small business owners

Upcoming regulatory changes such as gender pay equality and Brexit are keeping small business owners awake at night, according to new survey findings.

The new British Business Barometer from Hitachi Capital Business Finance has revealed that regulation is the top concern for 28 per cent of growing SMEs in the next six months.

That is up by nine per cent in the past 18 months, and takes in recent or upcoming changes such as General Data Protection Regulation, Brexit, gender pay equality, updates to the Criminal Finances Act and the recent scrapping of Employment Tribunal fees.

It was particularly the case among the professional services sectors, with a third of finance businesses and 35 per cent of law firms saying worries over paperwork were keeping them awake at night.

Similarly, red tape and bureaucracy were now the top concerns for 28 per cent of small businesses in the real estate sector and 26 per cent in the medical sector.

Gavin Wraith-Carter, managing director at Hitachi Capital Business Finance said: “Over the past 18 months, the mountain of paperwork for small businesses has become taller, and the fact this is now their chief concern ahead of other issues gives some insight as to what they are facing on a day-to-day basis.

“With Brexit, there is likely to be tighter control on regulation for many businesses in and outside the UK.”

Read more: Five important employment law issues facing business owners in 2018

Other issues keeping owners awake at night were managing cashflow which unnerved 26 per cent, retaining business which was the biggest worry for 20 per cent of owners, and skills gaps and shortages which affected 14 per cent.

Business rates were a particular concern for 12 per cent, with bad debts agonising nine per cent. A hardy 22 per cent declared that “nothing about my business is currently keeping me awake at night”. However, this was down by 11 per cent in the last 18 months.

Nevertheless, the proportion of small businesses that expressed major concern over economic volatility appears to have stabilised from 21 per cent, 18 months ago to 20 per cent in the first quarter this year.

“The huge positive to draw from the research is that these concerns are clearly not denting small business confidence,” added Wraith-Carter.

“This quarter, two in five enterprises anticipate growth in the next six months, a slight rise from the previous quarter and the quarter before.

“Our research also shows that more small businesses plan to hire staff, invest in new equipment and expand into new markets or overseas. Despite a hike in administrative work, SMEs are still focused on the pursuit of growth.”

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