Live Blog | HR & employment experts react to the Chancellor's Spring Budget 2024

Follow HR Grapevine's live updates on the key takeaways for people leaders following the 2024 Spring Budget statement...

06/03/24 Updated at 3:45pm

Skills and workforce measures sorely lacking in Chancellor's Budget, says CIPD

Ben Willmott, head of public policy for the CIPD, the professional body for HR and people development, comments:

“The Government’s focus on boosting research and development and growth in high-tech and green energy sectors, while critically important, is too narrow. This Budget sorely lacked a broad economic strategy to improve living standards and boost productivity across the economy including in sectors like retail, hospitality, transport, logistics and social care which employ millions of people.”

"There is a real and urgent need for a workforce plan for the UK to raise employer investment in skills and support workers’ wellbeing and participation in the labour market.”

“The National Insurance cut will be welcomed by many workers but it’s highly optimistic to suggest that this move alone will get the equivalent of 200,000 more people into full time work and solve for one in five vacancies. The factors affect UK labour market participation are much more complex. For instance, there was nothing in the Budget to reduce rising levels of economic inactivity due to ill health. Health policy is economic policy and requires more ambition from Government and significant changes such as improving employer access to occupational health services and reforms to Statutory Sick Pay.”

“There was also very little to address skills and tackle the hard-to-fill vacancies facing many employers. We urgently need the Government to heed the long-standing calls of employers and business groups and reform the Apprenticeship Levy to reverse the collapse in the use of apprenticeships in SMEs and among young people since 2017. This vital reset would help boost training and development in all its forms and ensure that more apprenticeship opportunities go to the group that most need and benefit from them, young people.”

“The Government is right to prioritise improving public sector productivity. However there needs to be a complimentary focus on improving people management and workforce skills if new technology is to be adopted effectively to improve the delivery of public services.”


06/03/24 Updated at 3:45pm

Focus on getting people back into work should be combined with skills investment

Peter Turner, Chief Commercial Officer at TeamViewer, has spoken about the 'undeniably positive'  changes outlined by the Chancellor to encourage people back into the workforce.

"The lack of skilled workers in the UK and the high turnover in industries like retail and manufacturing means that finding and training new staff is a challenge," he says, adding: "This focus on getting people back to work needs to be partnered with an investment in skills, particularly technology skills, or turnover rates will continue to be high.

"This means prioritising training for those entering our vital industries, as well as reskilling individuals already in work to ensure they advance and feel valued in their roles. Technology, especially innovations like augmented reality, can greatly speed up on the job training, allow workers to progress faster and ultimately improve worker satisfaction. This ensures those re-entering the workforce have the support and skills they need for their roles quickly.”


06/03/24 Updated at 3:15pm

'Bland budget limited to individuals rather than employers'

Neil Armstrong, Tax Director at Baker Tilly Mooney Moore, says:

“Today’s Spring Statement is a bland and beige budget where the chancellor has played it safe and limited himself to minimalistic tax cuts on the individual rather than employers and businesses.

“In terms of personal finance, the national insurance cuts are welcomed and based on a salary of £35,000, the 2% reduction in National Insurance will result in a saving of £448 per annum with the maximum savings for an employee being £754 per annum once these cuts are implemented. The reduction of National Insurance for self-employed business owners from 8 per cent to 6 per cent will also save a maximum of £754 per annum and helps decrease the costs of doing business during these tough times.

“The raising of the VAT threshold from £85,000 to £90,000 will be welcome news for small businesses and hospitality, although this amount will feel small after a seven-year freeze. Locally, the untargeted nature of the Barnett consequential is brought into focus once again and showcases the need for the Barnett formula to be administered in a targeted fashion. The £100 million to be delivered to Northern Ireland is of course always welcome, but without direction the likelihood is that this money will be used to service black holes of debt rather than being targeted towards business sectors in need.”


06/03/24 Updated at 3:05pm

"There is a pool of productivity waiting to be tapped if more women could fully engage at work"

Melissa Blissett, Pay Gap Analytics Lead at professional services consultancy Barnett Waddingham, shares her thoughts on the impact of the Budget on women in work.

Blissett says: "The Chancellor's extension of the threshold of the High Income Child Benefit Charge, combined with the previously announced increase in Government-funded 'free' childcare, should result in more women looking to return to work, and more working women increasing their hours or moving full-time. With International Women's Day on Friday, firms have an opportunity to go beyond the Instagram posts and hashtags.

"It is the perfect moment to conduct a thorough review of the workplace - is the working structure, benefits package, remuneration, and work designed to attract and retain female talent? Are women able to hold roles with greater responsibility, and in turn higher pay? There is a pool of productivity sat waiting to be tapped if more women could fully engage at work - it is the responsibility of employers to harness that, and in turn reduce their gender pay gap, improve team performance, and ultimately boost their bottom line."


06/03/24 Updated at 3:00pm

Combine NI cuts with strong employee benefits to retain staff and aid financial wellbeing

Chris Ronald at Blackhawk Network, B2B VP EMEA, comments:

“The government's intention to get more people into the workplace is welcomed – stimulating growth and employment is a much needed factor in improving the British economy. But there is more to be done. Employers themselves continue to shoulder the responsibility to understand how they improve financial well being support for their staff through this time and how they play a part in maximising productivity. Part of the answer is providing better recognition and support packages for employees that will make an impact genuine impact on their lives.

“Businesses often shy away from reviewing their staff incentives and benefits packages due to the fear of increased costs. However, not all benefits packages need to cost businesses money, instead they can go a long way in helping employees' salaries stretch further. Access to salary sacrifice and voluntary benefits can provide tangible savings across all categories of shopping; most notably for groceries, clothing and larger discretionary purchases of tech. or other household items.

“A strong benefits strategy, coupled with the further reduction in National Insurance and the initiatives around childcare etc that were announced in the Autumn statement, is a significant incentive in getting people in the workplace, keeping them there and giving them better control over their money.


06/03/24 Updated at 2:40pm

Legal expert slams Chancellor's behaviour

Gerard O’Hare, WorkNest's Legal Director has criticised Jeremy Hunt's statement, saying his attitude in Parliament was a warning sign to all employers about professional conduct.

“Jeremy Hunt’s Spring Budget was a ruckus affair - frankly, I’ve attended better behaved toddler parties," says O'Hare.

"From a UK employer perspective, it was a somewhat damp squib. The part which piqued my interest, however, was Mr Hunt’s casual fat shaming of Keir Starmer in a clearly unscripted, and unwise, jibe about Mr Starmer putting on weight. UK employers beware.

"Fat shaming in the workplace poses significant risks for employers from impacting employee mental health and morale, to grievances and even tribunal claims. 'Banter', often used as justification for juvenile behaviour, is no excuse nor is it a get out of jail free card. Regardless of intent, comments or actions that target an individual’s weight create a hostile work environment that can get employers into hot water. Perhaps Mr Hunt should stick to the script next time.”


06/03/24 Updated at 2:40pm

Investments in skills essential to propel the economy forward

Sirsha Haldar, General Manager of ADP UK, Ireland, & South Africa On the Spring Budget Announcement 2024, says:

"The workforce eagerly anticipates initiatives addressing critical concerns such as skills shortages and training. Businesses require government support to prioritise flexible training programs that address skills deficits and drive innovation. Such investments are essential to propel the economy forward and we need to ensure that skills development takes center stage on our economic agenda as we progress."


06/03/24 Updated at 2:35pm

Still more to be done to plug skills gaps

Nikolaz Foucaud, Managing Director, Coursera EMEA, says: “Whilst businesses are no doubt welcoming the government’s decision to make full expensing permanent, there is still more to be done to support staff shortages and fill skills gaps.

“One such area is the Apprenticeship Levy, which has not been reformed in the way many businesses have hoped. Without reform, businesses will still have trouble accessing the funds, meaning both businesses and young people will continue to miss out on some of the opportunities that apprenticeships offer the workforce.

“In today’s fast changing labour market, there is a greater need for a diversified, complementary skilling approach to vocational education. The blend of hands-on apprenticeship experience with the flexibility and versatility of online learning could form the foundation of a potent strategy to empower the UK workforce for a thriving digital future.”


06/03/24 Updated at 2:30pm

Health CEO expresses his concern & optimism for workers' health

Dave Capper, CEO of Westfield Health, has issued the following statement, expressing his concerns about tackling the UK’s long-term sickness and warns that employers must step up.

"The Chancellor said many times in the lead-up to the Autumn Statement that the government was serious about tackling the long-term sickness crisis facing our country. It’s therefore optimistic to see that this has been addressed in the Spring Budget with investment that supports public health. The government’s focus on fully funding the NHS’s productivity plan, announced today by Mr Hunt, is a step in the right direction. With the extra £2.5 billion investment, we hope that the future of many people’s health will improve with shorter waiting times and simpler appointment systems.

However, we wished to have seen more from his policies with further measures to tackle our sickness crisis. Workplace health and wellbeing must be at the centre of any government response to the long-term sickness crisis. Research shows that creating a wellbeing culture helps people thrive and leads to happier, healthier and more productive teams. Failure to recognise this means ignoring the root cause, leading to lower economic growth, wasted potential and a higher benefits bill.

We would like to see the government go further and invest in new initiatives designed to increase wellbeing support for employees in the workplace. We ask that this includes clear guidance for employers on how they can support their employees’ physical and mental health, preferably in the form of a legally binding and regulated framework, as well as clearer routes to access for employees.

Employers must also do what is necessary to support employees with their health and wellbeing. While developing a robust sickness policy is important, businesses must review the bigger picture. Long-term sickness is on the rise, and to keep people in work, a more holistic approach will be key. A strong workplace wellbeing strategy with tailored benefits and support, can significantly improve people’s mental and physical health with easy access to preventative support and treatment.

Wellbeing training for managers is another key area for businesses to invest in. No matter the size of the business, line managers should be able to flag and support their teams through mental and physical health challenges properly to prevent longer-term implications. Organisations should also revisit and revise policies to successfully accommodate workers’ return to work following sickness.”

Additionally, Vicky Walker, Group Director of People at Westfield Health, shares her views on the Chancellor’s announcement to reform Child Benefits and how this will impact working people and their wellbeing.

She says:

“From SMEs to multinational organisations, working parents and carers make up a significant proportion of the workforce. That’s why we’re pleased to hear the Chancellor’s significant reform to the High-Income Child Benefit Charge to apply to household income by April 2026 instead of an individual basis. In the meantime, Hunt has announced the threshold has been raised from £50K to £60K. This means 170 thousand families will have more access to free childcare without charges, supporting parents in the workplace and easing their financial burden.

Childcare is a weighty cost to working parents. It can hold employees back from progression opportunities or even starting a family, while some working parents sacrifice their careers altogether to avoid the burden of childcare costs. These financial worries are closely linked to the mental and physical wellbeing of working parents. They still need more support.

This policy update is a vital step, but employers must also be willing to make reasonable adjustments for working parents to support and improve their wellbeing. Businesses that offer flexible working where possible and trusting employees can significantly help to keep parents in their careers. Small changes, like allowing flexible work hours to attend appointments instead of using valuable annual leave, can also make a big difference.

Employee Assistance Programmes (EAP) should also not be overlooked. Inclusive and well-rounded EAPs are brilliant in supporting people’s mental and physical health. Businesses should look for EAPs which include easy access to vital health and wellbeing services, like advice lines and 24/7 online GP appointments, for employees and their dependent children.

Remember, it's always important to find out what employees want, need and value in the workplace. A quarterly pulse survey can help organisations understand how they’re feeling and tailor workplace benefits for the best return on investment.”


06/03/24 Updated at 2:10pm

'The banter was better than the budget'

Ben Chaplin, Managing Director at Croner-i, says: “Overall the banter was better than the budget, not much substance, big claims around growth and debt and cuts in national insurance that were already known, but obviously welcome.

"Investment in public services in particular NHS infrastructure and IT, more drones and better systems for the police, and more non-court resolutions.

"Businesses will welcome the extension of full expensing to leased assets but we await more details.

"For small businesses the VAT threshold has increased from £85k to £90k, a welcome increase but it hasn’t moved for 7 years so a 6% increase against rising costs for small businesses seems low.

"Encouragement for the UK theatre and film production industries and more encouragement for investment in UK technology via pension funds.

"For individuals, alcohol and fuel duty frozen. The new British ISA looks interesting. The Chancellor claims, on good authority, that the reduction in CGT rate on property sales will actually raise more money.

"Extending the childcare regime and reviewing child benefit limits on a household basis rather than individual basis (but not until 2026!) combined with increasing the limit from £50k to £60k will hopefully encourage more people into the work force.

"Additional resources for HMRC but no more detail than that.

"Overall many will feel that today's budget is a bit of an anti-climax with no real changes to the status quo."


06/03/24 Updated at 2:10pm

No significant changes for 'middle earners'Amanda Lennon, employment partner at Spencer West LLP, says:

"Whilst the National Insurance cuts and extension of the 30 hours free childcare scheme are welcome, there is nothing that will make a significant impact to the so-called “squeezed middle” earners who are not on very low incomes but have less money available to buy what they need than before, due to rising prices.

"I also can’t see from the Budget where the axe might fall in public spending in order to afford the initiatives that have been announced, particularly the National Insurance cuts and increase in the free childcare scheme.”


06/03/24 Updated at 2:05pm

Second cut in NI rates this year raises fundamental questions for state pension funding

Steven Cameron, Pensions Director at Aegon, says: “The further 2p cut in NI after an earlier 2p cut in January will be a welcome boost to take-home pay for millions across the UK, but it calls into serious question the approach to funding the state pension.

“There’s no magic money pot to pay state pensions – they’re funded by the NI of today’s workers. While employer NI contributions remain unchanged, having cut employee NI from 12% to 8% and self-employed NI from 10% to 6%, there is now far less money from NI to pay state pensions. The Treasury needs to confirm how they intend to plug the gap and if this will rely on a transfer from broader tax receipts.”


06/03/24 Updated at 2:00pm

Budget proves need for more wellbeing support

Bertrand Stern-Gillet, CEO at Health Assured, says today's Budget underscores the need for greater investment in mental health support and the wider prioritisation of financial wellbeing for ordinary people.

He comments:

“The cost-of-living crisis is still causing widespread mental distress, with a third of adults feeling anxious due to their financial situation and high inflation. The worries and pressures associated with increasing costs pose a major risk to mental health, and those with pre-existing mental health issues are more likely to be negatively impacted.

“While today’s announcements on National Insurance and extending the Household Support Fund are welcome, the Chancellor needs to take more action to lessen the financial pressure people are experiencing up and down the country to prevent them from developing poor mental health.”


06/03/24 Updated at 1:55pm

Childcare access for working parents a welcome move

Ronni Zehavi, Co-Founder and CEO at HiBob, comments on on the budget recognising childcare as a business issue, addressing the access issues surrounding the support scheme announced last year.

He says:

“I'm glad to see today’s Budget address the access issues surrounding the increased childcare support announced last year, as thousands of working parents and careers were anxiously awaited updates. Despite positive commitments last year, the reality has been that parents are struggling to find childcare settings that accept the new ‘free’ hours for 2-year-olds. Pleased to see recognition that childcare is a business issue – with huge impacts on the overall economy.

“Our research finds that in the UK, childcare isn’t just creating a gap in our workforce, it is also creating a divide, as 78% of child free workers feel they have to work additional hours to compensate for working parents. Further, with women taking on a disproportionate share of unpaid caregiving, one in five working mothers are considering leaving their job due to childcare issues. It's clear the issue of childcare is thwarting the UK’s economic potential, leaving women at risk of being excluded and overlooked in the workplace. Women’s issues need to remain on the agenda – and now, businesses need to take action to support women in the workplace, alongside the government, to level the playing field.”


06/03/24 Updated at 1:45pm

'Tax cut claims don't reflect reality'

Greg Marsh, a cost of living expert, offers his thoughts on what today's budget means for HR and employees. He comments:

“The Chancellor’s claims around tax cuts don’t reflect the reality for employees. When you account for the full six years of stealth taxation which the government achieved by fixing tax thresholds, the lowest earners will be poorer by around £500, and higher earners will be worse off too.

“People on middle incomes of £30,000- £60,000 will be the only winners when taking into account today's cut to National Insurance plus other personal tax changes announced in this parliament. But, even for this cohort, this isn’t enough to undo two years of soaring prices that have eaten into household budgets.

“In the face of this reality, responsible HR leaders must explore ways of getting money back into their team’s pockets. This could include increased auto-enrolment savings schemes or access to tools like Nous that save employees money on their household bills. With huge numbers struggling to afford their essential bills, focusing on financial wellbeing solutions that harness technology to tackle this issue head-on can have a significant impact."


06/03/24 Updated at 1:40pm

Statement over

Jeremy Hunt has finished delivering his speech. Not a huge deal for HR and business leaders to take away from the Chancellor's announcements today, but among the key updates were cuts to National Insurance, putting more money in the pockets of employees, more support for working parents and higher thresholds for the amount a business must make before paying VAT.


06/03/24 Updated at 1:35pm

National Insurance cut confirmed

The Chancellor has just that, from April 6th, 2p will be cut from the National Insurance threshold for employees - dropping from 10 percentage points to 8.

This is worth approximately £450 per year in savings for the average UK employee. 


06/03/24 Updated at 1:25pm

Support for working parents

The Chancellor gives an update on plans to support more working parents by introducing 30 hours of free childcare per week for all children under five years old, from September 2025.

This marks an expansion of existing support which allows for 30 hours of free childcare for three and four-year-olds from September 2024, and 15 hours per week for two-year-olds from April 2024. Parents must earn less than £100,000 year to be elligible. 

Hunt also unveils plans to increase the threshold for childcare benefits from £50,000 a year to £60,000.


06/03/24 Updated at 1:15pm

'Where is the AI legislation?'

Tom Cornell, Senior I/O Psychology Consultant at HireVue, believes the UK’s approach to legislating AI lacks meaningful action, adding that there’s room for improvement before the UK becomes a global influencer in AI regulatory policies.

"The UK Government's white paper, published earlier last year, failed to fully address challenges specifically relating to the use and regulation of AI," says Cornell.

"Instead, the government left regulators to manage AI within the boundaries and guidance of current jurisdictions. Establishing an AI Safety Institute is an encouraging step in the right direction, but the UK has steps to take itself before it can expect to be an influential figure on global AI regulatory policy. Currently, the UK can objectively be seen to be behind in legislating AI, and many would see this take on AI as lacking meaningful action"


06/03/24 Updated at 1:00pm

'Missed opportunity to ease labour shortages'

Victoria Short, chief executive of Randstad UK, says:

“As a big, open, services-led economy, we need to make the best use of talent — more than ever before.

“That's why we wanted the chancellor reduce the costs of sponsoring work visas — while extending them from two to five years, ideally. This would allow employers to see a return on their investment.

“We were also hoping the chancellor might rethink the higher salary threshold for the Skilled Worker Visa: currently, it's robbing the UK of key people during a massive talent shortage.

“Successful modern economies are international and we should be introducing immigration policies that support the labour market. This was a missed opportunity to ease the labour shortage."


06/03/24 Updated at 12:55pm

More investment in business

Hunt announces an increase in the threshold for businesses paying VAT from £85,000 to £90,000 from April 1st, which he says will bring tens of thousands of businesses out of paying VAT and encourage them to invest in growth.


06/03/24 Updated at 12:45pm

The Chancellor is currently outlining several ways the Government is planning to aid families and businesses. He announces a freeze in the price of alcohol duty and confirms that fuel duty will remain at 5p for a further 12 months.


06/03/24 Updated at 12:35pm

Budget underway

PMQs has now finished and the Chancellor has begun the Spring Budget. He describes the difficulty of facing the "most challenging economic headwinds" in recent history.


06/03/24 Updated at 12:20pm

Budget to begin shortly

The Prime Minister is currently holding his weekly Prime Minister's Questions in a packed House of Commons.

Jeremy Hunt is scheduled begin his Budget statement around 12.30pm.


06/03/24 Updated at 11am

National Insurance cuts

Rumours are rife that the Chancellor may favour cutting employee National Insurance (NI) rather than the Income Tax rate, as a boost to make sure work pays. If so, state pensioners may feel they’re missing out as you don’t pay any NI whatsoever once above state pension age.

But against a backdrop of an inflation busting 8.5% state pension triple lock increase this April, the Chancellor could view a cut for those of working age as intergenerationally fair.

Aegon’s Pensions Director Steven Cameron looks at how the numbers stack up:

“As speculation swirls around whether the Chancellor will be able to cut income taxes, the odds are on a small cut in the employee National Insurance rate rather than a cut in the basic rate of Income Tax. National Insurance is paid by workers up to state pension age, so cutting it focuses the benefit on this group, perhaps to make sure it pays to work.

"By contrast, while many state pensioners would benefit from a cut in the Income Tax rate, they won’t gain from a cut in NI as no-one above state pension age pays NI. Some might feel a cut in NI, following the 2% cut in January, means they are missing out again. However, for most, the inflation busting 8.5% increase in state pension from the triple lock could more than compensate.

“The full state pension is increasing by 8.5% this April from £10,600 to £11,502 a year, an increase of £902.40. The current rate of inflation is 4% - so in terms of ‘purchasing power’, state pensioners will be £478 a year better off as a result of the triple lock compared to if their increase had been based on current inflation.

“Individuals who depend entirely on the state pension and do not have private or workplace pensions, or other sources of income, are below the personal allowance of £12,570 so don’t pay Income Tax. However, a significant number of state pensioners receive additional income from private or workplace pensions, as well as other taxable sources alongside their state pension.”

Cameron continues:

“Our analysis shows any state pensioner with an income up to £50,000 a year will see their purchasing power after inflation boosted by more under the state pension triple lock than from a 1% cut in Income Tax. And if workers were granted a 2% tax saving, we calculate the inflation busting triple lock still offers more benefit for state pensioners with incomes up to £36,470.

“So while some state pensioners may be disappointed if the Chancellor cuts NI and not income tax on Wednesday, balancing the books including being fair between generations is particularly challenging. Honouring the state pension triple lock in full is actually more beneficial to most state pensioners.”


06/03/24 Updated at 10:30am

Hunt expected to demand cuts to diversity initiatives

In today's budget speech, Chancellor Jeremy Hunt is expected to unveil directives for local councils to curtail spending on diversity initiatives.

The move comes amidst a backdrop of financial strain, with numerous councils facing fiscal challenges and some teetering on the brink of insolvency.

Councils across England have been grappling with escalating financial pressures, exacerbated by increased demand for services and cuts in central Government funding.

The strain has led to tough decisions, with many councils considering substantial cuts to services and contemplating significant hikes in council tax rates.

However, the Chancellor's plan to target diversity spending as a cost-saving measure has sparked concerns from some advocates such as The Local Government Association, which noted there is a "compelling case" for equality, diversity and inclusion practices.

The directive follows arealier comments from Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove, who noted last year that he believed local authorities should "consider whether expenditure on discredited equality, diversity and inclusion programmes meets this objective".

The Government also announced that it would be reviewing "equality, diversity and inclusion spending in the civil service to ensure it represents value for money". Today's news is likely the continuation of this thinking. 

What effect do diversity cuts have on overall business outcomes?

In short, diversity has proven benefits for business. Research has consistently shown that diverse teams lead to better decision-making, increased creativity, and improved problem-solving capabilities.

According to InStride research, inclusive companies are 1.7 times more likely to be innovation leaders, make better business decisions twice as fast, are 70% more likely to capture new markets and more than three in four job seekers are looking at diversity when deciding whether to accept a job offer.

The call to cut diversity spending raises questions about the Government's priorities and its commitment to fostering equality and inclusion.

'Budget must cover retraining and reskilling' 

Laura Miller, UK HR Country Lead at SD Worx, tells HR Grapevine that she believes an imperative from today's budget is the need for a serious rebalance of skills development among the national workfroce. 

“The working world needs a budget full of ambition to really get to grips with retraining and reskilling," Miller notes. 

"For huge numbers of businesses finding and retaining the right talent is among their most difficult roadblocks. Stubborn skills gaps keep hitting businesses hard, particularly in critical areas like data, AI, cybersecurity and the cloud. In short, all the specialisms needed for modern business survival.

"To add to the challenges, businesses also find themselves grappling with hardened demands from workforces for flexibility, purpose and culture as well as inflation busting pay packets.

"It seems that there’s a mountain to climb in terms of transforming business at speed through tech without forgetting the personalisation and human factor we all still want in the workplace. We need to incentivise businesses to invest in the vital skills and resources needed to take the sting out of the skills gap problem. Times might be tough but to build resilience into the economy we need to really see fresh momentum and optimism behind business investment in this critical area,” Miller concludes. 

'Budget action needed' as 1 in 4 SMEs face down closure

SMEs cannot wait months for a General Election, says Alan Thomas, UK CEO at Simply Business. The leader believes that these businesses are on borrowed time, and need assurances now, as the cost of doing business continues to rise. "The risks to productivity and growth are clear. Even the likes of the national minimum wage increase – which is undoubtedly a positive for the workforce – will leave many small business owners reconsidering their hiring plans," says Thomas.

"A staggering £32bn in late payments is owed to small businesses. But with the right action, small businesses getting paid on time could boost the economy by £2.5billion annually, according to figures from the Department for Business and Trade. We understand that some progress has been made to tackle the issue of late payments, but more needs to be done. Small businesses need more than promises."

With over a quarter of SMEs spending up to 40% more in energy each month than in the previous year, Thomas and Simply Business are calling for the government to extend the Energy Bills Discount scheme beyond March 2024 and provide clarity and protection for non-domestic energy users. "Without this support, many small businesses will struggle to survive to see the next Spring Budget," Thomas concludes.