2010 was the year of the emergency budget. This year we have the budget for growth. But has the chancellor done and said enough? 

Chancellor George Osborne has once again dominated the media headlines following his delivery of the 2011 budget on March 23rd. Some business leaders seem generally happy with the points raised, whilst the CIPD on the other hand has warned that the budget will do little diminish economic pain, especially in the short term.
I personally feel that more could have been done, and that the focus could have been slightly different to ensure a budget of greater overall benefit. A 1% reduction in corporation tax for example has been welcomed by many. However a better approach would perhaps be to maintain the rate of National Insurance – essentially a tax on jobs. Not only would this prevent an additional financial burden for employers, but if the cost to take on new staff remained manageable, unemployment rates would perhaps not rocket by a further 100,000 this year, as the Government has forecast.
A potential three year suspension of new employment legislation for small businesses could also be viewed as questionable. Concurring with the views of Mike Emmott, CIPD employee relations adviser, I feel the Government should instead concentrate on bringing about employment regulations that do good not harm, irrespective of company size. As a responsible employer I look to protect my workforce at every possible opportunity, but on a practical level, extending the time in which a new employee can be dismissed if they’re underperforming for example, would help many organisations regardless of how large or small they are.
Irrespective of personal opinions surrounding Mr Osborne’s announcements though, we should not lose sight of the fact that the budget is just another external factor that companies have to contend with. Clearly this is easier said than done for many businesses, especially SMEs, but if your organisation is well managed you shouldn’t worry.
Ultimately, we must not become overwhelmed by what was discussed last week. Not all of the changes are due to happen immediately – for example the Government is set to consult extensively about the implications of the proposed merging of tax and National Insurance schemes – and there is plenty of help available to guide you through the ones that are.
Companies should not be afraid to ask third party experts for advice where possible, nor should they forget the fact that educative resources such as white papers are also readily available online, usually for free.
As a trusted developer and supplier of technology for HR and payroll professionals, I certainly consider it our duty to share insight and experience where possible, and I would hope other specialist organisations will look to offer their guidance where it is sought too.
Over the next 12 months I expect that we will see an influx of companies keen to hear how they can utilise the functionality of innovative HR software technology to improve workplace efficiencies, reap cost-savings and future-proof their business. So what sort of tips will we be offering?
The chancellor’s promise of 40,000 extra apprenticeships and 100,000 work experience placements has once again highlighted the importance of skills to encourage competitive advantage, business growth and economic buoyancy.
If your company does intend to take on such employees, even if on a short-term basis, your HR department should be ready to deal with their effective integration into the business. The workflow functionality of HR software can ensure that appropriate induction and subsequent employment processes are established and followed during their time with the company, therefore allowing management to concentrate upon the development of this talent.
The nurturing of skills remains important for all employees though, so businesses large and small need to concentrate upon devising and implementing personal development plans for existing staff too. Again this need not be a chore as technology exists to help devise, manage and monitor training regimes.
If the Government does create a unified income tax, our clients can rest assured that that because our software always meets HMRC standards, it will simply be adjusted accordingly in alignment with HMRC guidance. This should go some way to alleviate any headaches caused if the tax and National insurance schemes do merge.
In conclusion, it has been widely acknowledged that times of economic turbulence are not yet over. We therefore need to all concentrate on working hard and continuing to do what we do best. There are signs of optimism as we look beyond 2012, so we must each consider what we can do in the meantime to strengthen our competitive advantage and prepare for business growth.