A roundtable discussion was hosted last week by the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self Employed, at which the government’s proposals for a Small Business Commissioner were discussed by an expert panel. The appointment was suggested as part of the Enterprise Bill, which is currently being debated in parliament, and the discussion was focussed on the increasing need for some official recognition of the need for additional support for small businesses and the self-employed.
The increasing need was highlighted by recent research conducted by IPSE which revealed that more than 70 per cent of the disputes that self-employed individuals had with their clients were around late payment, with only a third reporting that they were satisfied with the way that the dispute had been resolved. Joining the discussion alongside representatives from IPSE were Mark Brennan, the Australian Small Business Commissioner, delegates from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and David Morris, the government’s ambassador for the self-employed. They touched on matters such as what lessons the UK could learn from the Australian system and how any system could deal with the worst late-payers who persistently fail to make payments on time.
Chris Bryce, Chief Executive of IPSE, is encouraged by the idea of an independent Small Business Commissioner providing a body which would be in a position to help some of the most vulnerable small businesses and individuals. Having the Commissioner in the post will allow the issue to be tackled without resorting to the court system in the first instance, and one which has the power to name and shame businesses which refuse to co-operate on the issue of payments could be a powerful incentive to get their houses in order.
Mr Bryce believes that a Small Business Commissioner could possibly be responsible for bringing about a wide scale change in the culture in which businesses pay late without consideration for the small businesses, freelancers and the self-employed. He believes that the government should consider adopting a system similar to that in Australia which is both powerful and cost-effective.
Mark Brennan is pleased that the UK is considering a system similar to the one which his department operates, praising IPSE for their role in putting pressure on the government to provide independent professionals with a voice in government and applying pressure to politicians to garner them more support.
David Morris is keen to highlight the fact that the appointment of a Small Business Commissioner is a sign that the government are aware of the importance of supporting small businesses and their commitment to helping them to resolve disputes and continue to contribute to the UK economy.
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