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Business Development & Marketing Cash Flow & Forecasting Finance General

How will work patterns change once Coronavirus restrictions have eased?

work patterns changingWhen working life resumes properly once Coronavirus restrictions have eased people may find that their work patterns are substantially different from previously.
While, sadly, some SMEs will not have survived others may find that their agility and perhaps new innovations introduced during lockdown will have given their businesses a new lease of life for the future.
Those who have shown consideration for their employees, suppliers and customers will have built up a level of goodwill that will stand them in good stead for the future.
I shall examine in another blog those businesses, sectors and processes that may benefit from the changed landscape but in this blog I am focusing on the likely changes to business work patterns and the relationships between employers and their stakeholders.
Because, of course, employers are also people, they will have discovered that they and their families are no more immune to the health risks of the pandemic than any of their employees.
This may well result in an increase in empathy between people at all levels and result in closer and more considerate working relations.
Indeed, an article in Forbes highlights this among the many beneficial changes in work patterns likely to be the result.
It identifies key positives that could result including increased support from businesses for employees: “Companies have been forced to consider employee wellbeing more holistically—in terms of not only the physical, but also mental and emotional wellbeing.”
Employees may find that their employers are much more aware of their different family responsibilities and more understanding of the ways family and friends are critical to life and happiness.
At a more basic level, if employees are to return to their workplaces, their health and workplace safety will be a high priority, suggesting an end to hot-desking, for example, leading to safer workspaces.
Desks could become spaced out, partitions could go up, cleaning stations stocked with hand sanitizer and antibacterial wipes will become the norm, and workers may seek out new places for focused work.
At a more basic level, safe travel to work may mean more people cycling or walking and less use of public transport, which is something that employers may have to take into account.
Dealing with the crisis, Forbes argues, could result in more effective leaders, especially those who “communicate clearly, stay calm and strong, demonstrate empathy, think long-term and take appropriate decisive action.”
Arguably, it says, relationships with teammates will also be stronger and closer after people have faced a common enemy.
New work patterns will also allow for more diversity and flexibility where businesses have discovered that it is perfectly possible to run effectively with employees working remotely, perhaps also having discovered new skills and strengths among their employees as a result.
Similarly, the new “normal” may have made it clear how few physical meetings are actually needed compared to pre-pandemic working life. This may well lead to employees’ work patterns involving far less bureaucracy and offering more opportunities for them to innovate and suggest ideas for future development.
It may also lead to greater use of new technology based on the new skills learnt while in isolation lockdown at home.
Savvy SME owners will be those who assess the good things that have come out of the crisis and incorporate them into more flexible work patterns for those valued employees who have stuck by them in difficult times, to the benefit of both the business and all those who work in it.
 

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Accounting & Bookkeeping Cash Flow & Forecasting Finance General HM Revenue & Customs, VAT & PAYE

Quarterly digital tax returns – watch this space!

tax and calculationsQuarterly digital tax returns – watch this space!
The then Chancellor, George Osborne, announced in the March 2015 budget a proposal to radically change the tax system away from annual paper-based returns.
This would apply to everyone, both businesses and sole-traders, and require them to submit quarterly tax returns entirely online.
That was the plan and lengthy and comprehensive consultation was promised before the system would be finalised.
Indeed, this comment appears on the HMRC Roadmap website page, last updated on August 15 2016 : “We do not underestimate the scale of these reforms and are introducing them gradually between 2018 and 2020, because we know how important it will be to get them right and to give individuals and businesses time to adapt.” Quite so!
However, since then there have been a number of delays and changes which have made it hard for SMEs in particular to work out just exactly what will be expected of them and when.
In July, following the changes in Government personnel after the EU Referendum, Accountancy Age reported that HMRC had cancelled a Stakeholder Conference planned for July, as well delaying the issuing of consultation documents, of which there are six relevant to different groups of taxpayers.
HMRC also plans to hold regional and online consultations, but as yet there appears to be no detail.
All of this with a consultation period supposed to be completed by 7th November this year.

So what is going on?

Already as a result of feedback, changes have been made to the proposed plan including possibly introducing a threshold of £10,000 annual turnover, below which all unincorporated businesses and landlords will be exempt from keeping digital returns and submitting quarterly updates, deferring the start of Making Tax Digital for some other small businesses, giving them extra time to get used to digital record keeping and quarterly updating, exempting digitally excluded businesses from digital record keeping and quarterly updating and introducing simplifications, for example extending cash basis accounting to more businesses.
Consultation questions have now been published by HMRC, and appear to be comprehensive, asking among other things for comments and information about the likely additional costs they will face in buying software, in training, and in business and advisors’ time.
We would advise SMEs to make themselves aware of the proposals and ideally respond to the consultation if they wish to have some influence over what will be a radical change for many of them bearing in mind that the 7th November deadline has not been extended – as far as we can ascertain!
In due course we will post notes for SMEs to make sure they are prepared but for the moment we don’t yet know what impact the proposals will have. However, SMEs should be aware that if the quarterly filing of accounts as originally proposed is implemented, compliance will involve a significant investment in both time and money.