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Autumn statement reaction

Many businesses will be indifferent to today’s announcements. There are some good incentives around investment (if they have the profits to invest), and good news on some of the rate reliefs offered for the high street and hospitality, but then you’ve got the minimum wage increase and the impact of measures like employees controlling where their employer’s pension contributions are paid, which could be quite an administrative burden.

“Many businesses will be indifferent to today’s announcements. There are some good incentives around investment (if they have the profits to invest), and good news on some of the rate reliefs offered for the high street and hospitality, but then you’ve got the minimum wage increase and the impact of measures like employees controlling where their employer’s pension contributions are paid, which could be quite an administrative burden.

“The tax reliefs are a positive, but we’ve seen HMRC opening a lot of enquiries into claims for things such as R&D tax credits. So for businesses to access the full relief they’re likely to need to seek professional advice.

“Many SMEs will also be impacted by enforced wage rises and potential administrative challenges around employer pension contributions, although we’ll need to see more detail on this to know what it entails in reality.

“The changes to National Insurance contributions between employees and those who are self-employed is likely to increase status disputes, especially for those working in the gig economy. As we’ve seen in recent days with the Supreme Court ruling that Deliveroo drivers are not employees, this issue is one that will continue to rumble on as people seek to clarify employment status. Combine this with IR35, another area that SME’s need to be wary of and HRMC is keen to enquire into, and we’re likely to be talking about this for some time to come.

“Cutting the main rate of national insurance from 12% to 2%  does give some respite for workers, but does it really stimulate the economy or just ease the pain caused by rising prices and interest rates? That remains to be seen.

“Overall this appears a positive set of announcements for all, but are they enough to really make a difference? It’s that fine balance of giving too much given the economic position and national debt, having said that, the government will have seen a boost to tax coffers given rising prices and wages which has allowed them to give some of that back. Individuals are still however carrying a significant tax burden, but hopefully this sets us on a path to reduce that. Is he leaving the path open to some more headline grabbing tax cuts next April? I would think so.”

Kate Palmer, HR Advice and Consultancy Director at Peninsula
“There are three main updates impacting the world of HR and employment that have been announced in this year’s Autumn Statement. The increases to the National Living Wage and the National Minimum Wage in April 2024, which were revealed yesterday, were reiterated. Employers will need to prepare for these increases, particularly given that because of the lowering of the qualifying age for the National Living Wage to 21 years old, it could mean that businesses end up paying out the increased rate to more staff in their organisation. Employers need to start reviewing what this means for them.

“An injection of £50m funding for apprenticeships could help businesses facing recruiting and retention difficulties. We will have to wait to see how exactly this funding is going to be spent though.

“Whilst the National Insurance cut relates to the main rate for employees, if it means that staff have more pay in their pockets at the end of the day, then this could indirectly benefit companies. It may ease some of the pressures that employers could be facing trying to support their employees through the current cost-of-living crisis. Again, we will have to see what impact this will actually have in practice.

“It is crucial that organisations correctly categorise the employment status of those who work for them from the start. Whatever the paperwork says the key is what is happening in practice. Businesses should be prepared for any such decisions to come under examination so need to carefully consider this so that they don’t start off on the wrong foot with anyone who is working for them. ”

Bertrand Stern-Gillet, CEO at Health Assured
“The back to work plan announced today with ‘treatment not time off as the default’ sounds promising on paper, but the reality could be very different. I will be interested to see what support the Government is planning to put in place for small organisations employing people coming back into work from long-term sickness. It could be somewhat naïve to look at working from home as a miraculous cure for all those with mental health and mobility conditions.

“While the benefits of working from home have been heavily touted, the reality is often very different for many. A study released today by the HSE found that 1.8 million people this year have reported suffering workplace-related ill health with around half of these cases down to stress, depression, or anxiety.

“For those already struggling with poor mental health, this plan could have a devastating impact if the correct support mechanisms are not put in place, including an occupational health provision.

“We’ve all seen the devastating impact that working alone in isolation has had on the mental health of some people in the country. No employer should take a blanket approach to remote working. Instead, each employee should be considered on an individual basis, looking at their specific circumstances and requirements. Only in this way will employers be able truly to carry out their duty of care.

“While it’s right that the Government is looking for ways to support people back into work, it’s important that they ensure the proper support is in place both for the thousands of people this will impact as well as the organisations and employers hiring them.”

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