The Association of Independent Professionals and the Self Employed, IPSE, held an expert roundtable yesterday (Thursday 24 September) to discuss the Government's proposals for a Small Business Commissioner, which is part of the Enterprise Bill currently passing through Parliament.
The need for a Small Business Commissioner is made clear by new research from IPSE, which shows that almost three quarters (71 per cent) of disputes self-employed workers had with clients were because of late payment, and that only about a third (37.9 per cent) who were in dispute with their agency were satisfied with the way their dispute was resolved.
IPSE was joined by Mark Brennan, the Australian Small Business Commissioner, representatives from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and the Government's ambassador for the self-employed, David Morris MP. The meeting included a discussion on the lessons the UK can learn from the Australian Commissioner and how the service would tackle the worst offenders of late payment.
IPSE Chief Executive Chris Bryce said:
"A Small Business Commissioner will give businesses in the UK an independent body to help defend and settle their disputes outside the court room. The Commissioner should be the first point of call for all business disputes, and have the power to name and shame clients who unreasonably refuse to cooperate on payment issues. If set up in the right way it will provide a cost effective and easy to use resolution service.
"It is essential that the Commissioner plays a central role in driving a culture change amongst businesses that pay late and which treat the smallest of small business and the self-employed poorly. For this to happen it is crucial for the Government to provide a Commissioner that resembles the Australian system, which is easy to use, cost-effective and powerful."
Australian Small Business Commissioner, Mark Brennan, said:
"It's heartening and pleasing that the UK has looked at Australia's experience when establishing a Small Business Commissioner for the business community. I commend IPSE for the pivotal role they have played in progressing the agenda for the establishment of a Commissioner."
David Morris MP, Government ambassador for the self-employed, said: "The development of a UK Small Business Commissioner is another example of the Government backing small businesses to grow and create more jobs and opportunities. The Commissioner would help small businesses handle disputes over late payment and other supply chain practices which hit them especially hard. Whoever the Government appoints as Commissioner must have credibility and gravitas."