Reasearch identifies where staffing and working patterns are costing businesses

Reasearch identifies where staffing and working patterns are costing businesses

New research* by NatWest Rapid Cash reveals the employment challenges facing SMEs across the UK’s regions, and how current and future job market trends are creating new opportunities for employers and employees.

According to the research, 34% of UK SMEs are struggling with the costs of staffing. Businesses in Northern Ireland are struggling the most with 57% facing staffing costs and late payments. Staffing costs are also heavily affecting businesses in the North East (50%), North West (44%), and South West (41%).

This has led to more vacancies across the job market, with the shortage of candidates particularly affecting the Healthcare, IT and Technology sectors.

Rising operational costs and a squeeze on cash flow mean that offering higher wages cannot be the sole way for companies to fill their vacancies. Employers and recruiters need to find new ways to attract (and retain) the best candidates.

Health and wellbeing benefits have always been valued by employees. But the post-pandemic shift towards hybrid working has increased the focus on work that fits around people’s lives, not the other way around.

Will the four-day working week work?

On Monday 6 June, more than 3,300 workers at 70 UK companies started working a four-day week with no loss of pay. The trial is based around a 100:80:100 model – 100% of pay for 80% of the time, in exchange for a commitment to maintain 100% productivity.

The report’s researchers asked workers and employers for their views on this new working pattern:

  • The top five regions for workers who believe a four-day working week will bring better standards of living are: (1) Scotland – 82%; (2) East of England – 81%; (3) Northern Ireland – 80%; (4) Yorkshire and the Humber – 77%; (5) East Midlands – 76%.
  • 21% of employers in the North East disapprove of the four-day working week; versus 5% in London, 14% in Northern Ireland, and 13% in Wales.
  • 83% of job hunters in Northern Ireland, 80% in East of England, and 74% in East Midlands are in favour of a four-day working week.

But the report has also identified potential issues for employers, related to implementing and paying for a reduced working week:

  • 82% of employees in Wales, 76% in Yorkshire and Humber, 75% in the South East and 76% in the East of England would not opt for a four-day working week if it meant taking a pay cut.
  • 75% of employers in the North West, and 76% in the South East are financially and operationally prepared to offer a four-day working week to employees. However, 66% of employers surveyed in Yorkshire and Humber, and 100% in Northern Ireland are financially and operationally unprepared to do so.

Natalie Kerr, Chief Commercial Director at NatWest Rapid Cash says:

“Recruiters clearly see the four-day working week and personal wellbeing gaining popularity among employees. But many businesses are reluctant to provide a better work/life balance due to increased operational costs.

“At NatWest Rapid Cash, we believe the most effective way for SME employers, and recruiters, to meet staffing challenges is to strengthen their working capital. Cashflow is key when it comes not only to staffing but also to having the flexibility to adopt new models of working, and to make the most of growth opportunities.

“NatWest Rapid Cash has been designed for just this, helping businesses improve their cashflow by unlocking capital in unpaid invoices.”

The post-Brexit landscape, pandemic, conflict in Ukraine and subsequent cost-of-living crisis have all led to operational challenges for SME businesses. And with a four-day working week predicted to have a significant impact on the job market, it will be the companies with the finances to embrace change that will achieve their business goals.

*Survey carried out by Censuswide on behalf of NatWest Rapid Cash during May 2022 – with a sample size of 500 recruitment agencies, 500 SME employers, 2,000 office workers. The topics discussed include the four-day working week, its effect on the recruitment industry, employee productivity, mental health, standards of living, the UK economy, personal finance, work-life balance, and business finances.

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