Mon - Fri 09:00-17:00 0203 410 0260

Business Review April 2023


The latest Lloyds Bank Business Barometer shows confidence among the business community is rising, adding to signs which suggest the UK could now be set to avoid recession.

Data from the bank’s March survey revealed a headline confidence figure of +32%; this represents an 11 percentagepoint increase from the previous month and is the highest recorded level since May 2022. The growth in confidence has been driven by an improvement in firms’ assessment of trading prospects, along with greater optimism regarding the state of the broader economy.

Commenting on the findings, the commercial bank’s Senior Economist Hann-Ju Ho said, “Business confidence has seen a surge with economic optimism and trading prospects bolstering firms. With hiring intentions improving, we may see employment growth picking up in the coming months.”

Official data released at the end of last month also confirmed that the UK avoided recession last year, with revised fourth quarter growth figures showing the economy expanded by 0.1% in the October-to-December period. Data from the latest S&P Global/CIPS UK Purchasing Managers’ Index suggests the economy is likely to have expanded in the first quarter of this year as well, raising hopes that the UK will not now enter recession during 2023 either.


Research from the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) suggests small firms are being held back from international trade due to excessive and complex customs procedures.

According to data published in the FSB’s Customs Clearance report, almost one in ten small firms who used to trade internationally have ceased doing so in the past five years with the volume of paperwork most commonly cited as a key reason for having stopped. Soaring costs and supply chain or logistical issues were the next two most frequently mentioned factors that are preventing UK small firms from trading internationally.

In light of the findings, the FSB is urging the government to put the right structure in place and provide clear guidance on navigating customs procedures so that under-resourced but ambitious small firms can thrive and flourish in the global marketplace.

FSB Policy Chair Tina McKenzie said, “Small businesses are eager to grow their businesses overseas, but our findings show there are undeniable tariff and non-tariff barriers that prevent these firms from reaching their full potential and deter potential high-growth exporters. Our members consistently tell us the costs, time and the administrative burden of trade are the reasons why they give up overseas markets.”


A recent study conducted by the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) and Xero has vividly highlighted the rural-urban public infrastructure divide between small firms across the UK.

The survey of more than 900 SMEs sought to explore the suitability of local trading environments for UK small businesses. It found that firms based in rural areas were much more likely to report higher levels of dissatisfaction with the quality and availability of local resources.

This was particularly true in relation to public transport. For instance, 58% of SMEs in rural areas said they do not believe they have reliable and wellconnected trains, compared to just 39% of urban-based SMEs. This divergence was even greater for buses and trams, with 79% of businesses in rural or countryside areas saying they do not have a reliable service in comparison to 42% of those based in urban areas.

There was also a notable disparity when it comes to connectivity, with only 56% of rural-based SMEs agreeing their area has reliable broadband compared to 82% of urban-based firms. The BCC is calling on the government to ‘urgently prioritise the development of public infrastructure’ in order to provide a boost to local economies across the UK.

Shutterstock/Fabio Principe


New research undertaken by online learning platform Coursera has highlighted the ways in which changing work patterns are creating an increasingly challenging environment for managers.

Figures released by the Office for National Statistics show that levels of homeworking unsurprisingly peaked during the pandemic, when almost half of all working adults were working remotely. However, the latest available data indicates that homeworking is proving resilient to downward pressures such as the end of COVID restrictions, with more than four out of ten people still working away from the office at least once a week.

Coursera’s survey of 1,000 people managers from eight countries, including the UK, found that this shift to remote and hybrid working has created difficulties for managers, with just over a third of respondents believing hybrid work has changed leadership for the worse. The most commonly cited challenge for managers in a hybrid world was found to be the impact on their own work-life boundaries.

Other challenges highlighted by the research included: team morale and company culture being neglected; communicating with credibility; prioritising incorrectly, and micromanagement. Coursera concluded that the findings suggest ‘a growing sense of urgency within businesses recognising the immediate need to provide high-quality leadership training.’


Although last year did see a record number of new businesses founded by women, research suggests female entrepreneurs continue to face ‘astonishing’ levels of gender bias within the small business sector.

Data contained in the latest Rose Review has revealed that more women launched businesses in the UK last year than ever before. In total, 151,603 companies were founded by female entrepreneurs during 2022; this was up from the previous year’s figure of 145,271.

However, despite this growth, a survey conducted by Simply Business shows that female business leaders still face significant issues with gender bias. Indeed, just over eight out of ten female entrepreneurs said they had
experienced sexism, gender inequality or unequal access to opportunities while running their own business, with a third categorising the issue of gender bias and inequality in business as “severe.”

Commenting on the findings, Baroness Karren Brady said, “The level of gender bias and inequality within the small business sector revealed is quite frankly astonishing. Sexism and bias, whether conscious or unconscious, must be called out for a genuine chance of equality in business. We must inspire women to get into business and help abolish the challenges they face daily.”



Research conducted by Indeed suggests the childcare measures announced by the Chancellor in last month’s Budget could encourage a significant proportion of parents to either enter or re-join the workforce. In total, the survey found that almost two-thirds of parents with children aged between one and two are planning a return to work as a result of the decision to extend the provision of free childcare.


A recent survey conducted by BusinessComparison suggests that few people are now choosing to pay by cash because they actually prefer to do so. According to the poll of 2,000 UK consumers, less than half of all respondents said they had used cash within the last week and only one in six of them had done so because they preferred to pay with cash.


‘Eggucation’ has scooped this year’s Simply Business award for Britain’s Best Small Business Name. The Sheffield-based chick hatching business, which provides ethically-sound enrichment experiences for schools across the UK, pipped Grimsby craft specialist ‘It Started With A Stitch’ and Brixham locomotive engineers
‘Leaky Finders Ltd.’ Eggucation’s Founder, Deb Howe, said the business’s witty name is “easy to remember, unique and most importantly, always brings a smile to people’s faces.”

Shutterstock/NDAB Creativity


A recent survey commissioned by global employment law firm Peninsula Group has revealed that almost half of all UK bosses have noticed an increase in the number of people in their workplace experiencing mental health issues.

The research also suggests that wellbeing is an increasingly discussed workplace topic, with more than four out of ten employers saying they have witnessed people talking more about their mental health within the last 12 months. Despite this, less than one in eight employees had actually spoken to their employer, and one in seven of those who had confided said nothing was done.

Other data from the survey suggests support currently being offered may not sufficiently match needs. For instance, while two thirds of employers were confident employees would talk to them and

disclose mental health concerns, less than one in ten bosses actually said they would feel comfortable discussing their own personal mental health.

Another anomaly highlighted in the data relates to the provision of mental health days in addition to personal leave entitlement. Indeed, although a quarter of employers had noted an increase in sick leave due to mental health issues, nine out of ten said they still did not offer mental health days to their employees.

Commenting on the survey’s findings, Peninsula Group Chief Operations Officer Alan Price said, “With 17 million working days being lost in the UK due to work-related stress, depression, or anxiety in 2021/22, it should be clear to any employer that mental health is an area they need to take very seriously. And that message seems
to be getting through.”


HubSpot’s 2023 Hybrid Work Report suggests the new frontier in the future of work is creating ways for employees to connect with their company’s culture, purpose and each other.

Research conducted for the report found that over a third of employees believed relationship-building and establishing connections was the biggest challenge for hybrid workers. Furthermore, despite current cost-of-living pressures, half of all surveyed employees said they would prioritise great relationships at work over
a 10% pay increase.

UK&I HubSpot General Manager Flavia Colombo said, “People clearly care about getting on with others in the workplace. Companies need to help employees find meaningful ways to connect both in-person and online by providing tools and support that work on a personal level. If failing to do so we will see a bigger impact on employees’ engagement, belonging and loyalty to their organisation and it will lead to higher attrition rates.”

All details are correct at the time of writing (12 April 2023)


All Images and content shown are reproduced with permission from Quilter Financial Planning.