Companies Often Unaware Of Staff Location 
Almost 50 per cent of small businesses polled recently by YouGov have said that they do not require staff to log their whereabouts when travelling on business for the company.

And only 15 per cent of employees felt ‘very confident’ that their employer had an effective process in place to deal with an emergency, with almost half of those polled stating that they believed that they alone were responsible for their safety when travelling on business.

However, an employer has a legal duty of care towards his or her employees or to anyone performing services for the company. Should a natural disaster occur abroad, all employers should have an emergency process in place.

Speaking of the results, Tim Grant, CEO of Track24, a provider of global crisis management solutions said: "Economic globalisation means more people are travelling for business than ever before.”

He added: “While some of the companies we encounter have basic employee location recording processes set up, normally consisting of a spreadsheet and emergency phone number, many have nothing in place at all.“

The results of the survey also highlighted that only 22 per cent of employees polled would contact their employer first in the event of an emergency while they were working away from home; 45 per cent would contact a family member in the first instance.

Mr Grant explained that, as companies expand their operations, it is important for them to be able to locate employees quickly and identify what they can do to help in an emergency.

"A natural disaster such as an earthquake or a violent episode such as a riot can suddenly jeopardise an employee's safety. If an employer records the location of all employees, while they are working on the company's behalf, they will be able to better respond to an emergency situation," he said.

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Service Sector Slips But Confidence Grows 
The Markit/Cips services purchasing managers' index (PMI) fell to 51.3 in October for the UK service sector, down from 52.9 in September, but confidence hit its highest level since May and input price inflation was at its lowest level for almost a year.

The Service sector accounts for around two-thirds of UK economic activity and employment in the sector showed a “fractional decline”. Output charges have also dropped in an attempt to win new business

Many firms that had won new business said it had been hard to win contracts, as most companies are unwilling to commit to projects at a time of such economic uncertainty.

The survey also revealed that companies have started to use discounting practices for the first time in more than a year to try and establish new business.

Chris Williamson, Chief Economist at survey compilers Markit said: “Another rather disappointing survey adds to fears that the UK recovery continued to lose momentum at the start of the fourth quarter.

“Growth in the vast service sector, which accounts for almost two-thirds of economic activity in the UK, slowed to a worryingly lacklustre pace in October. The sector made a strong contribution to economic growth in the third quarter, but this looks set to wane in the final quarter of the year.”

Howard Archer, Chief UK & European Economist for IHS Global Insight said: “While the services purchasing managers’ survey did not deliver a knock-out blow to fourth quarter growth hopes, the economy is clearly on the ropes and recession is a serious threat.”

Despite slowing growth – anything above 50 marks growth - in activity business, expectations among services companies rose to 68.5 in October, from 63.5 in September.

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Banks Need More Reforms 
According to the National Institute of Economic and Social Research (NIESR) think-tank, the banking industry needs deeper reforms that the ones already lad out by the government-appointed Independent Commission on Banking (ICB).

In a research paper, NIESR Director Dr Andrew Armstrong said: “Deeper and more fundamental reforms of the governance of banking and funding markets are required."

"There is a strong case for full separation between retail and wholesale banking. Full separation, rather than just ring-fencing as proposed by the ICB, would have a better chance of addressing the severe corporate governance issues in banks," he added.

And NIESR added that there is a strong case for a full separation of companies' retail and wholesale banking activities, which is an option the UK has decided against.

In September, the ICB published its final report on reforms for the banking industry, which is dominated by the “big four” of Barclays, HSBC, Lloyds and Royal Bank of Scotland.

The ICB said banks should form separate subsidiaries for their retail and investment activities under the same parent holding company, and establish a ring-fence to limit the extent to which a bank can use money in its retail arm to prop up its investment bank.

The ICB also called on UK banks to store up billions of pounds in extra capital, but gave them until 2019 to implement the new regime.

However, earlier in the week, there was concern that UK banking reforms could be illegal under EU law, which could take the debate to a whole new level.

The revelation that EU law could disrupt the government’s flagship overhaul of the banking and regulatory system will add fresh impetus to calls for a renegotiation or withdrawal from the EU.
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Pension Changes to Leave us Worse Off 
With the state pension age for men and women set to increase to reach 66 by 2020 for those born before April 1960; and 68 by 2044 for those born after April 1960, it’s likely that very few new workers will have considered planning for retirement.

However, from October 2012 UK based companies will be legally obliged to start enrolling staff into workplace pension schemes, which will have an affect on workers salaries – with some experts concerned that this will push millions of low incomes workers further into debt.

Under the proposed changes workers who don’t opt out of the auto-enrolment pension, will be required to make a contribution to the scheme each month – this contribution will start at 1% of their salary.

But the Consumer Credit Counselling Service (CCCS) are warning that even this small amount could have an affect on personal financial situations; with their research showing that a £50 reduction in monthly income amongst those that are financially vulnerable would double the number of people with “no money left” to live off.

The CCCS believe that auto-enrolment onto pension schemes will lead to increased financial pressure, with low incomes workers being left struggling to pay off existing debts.

These comments are contained in a report by the CCCS into the UK’s spiralling debt crisis, which shows that almost a quarter of households within the UK have already fallen behind with payments or are “at risk” of doing so.

A spokesperson for the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) has moved to quell the worries by stating that those earning over £7,475 per annum will be auto-enrolled onto the pension schemes, meaning those on very low incomes will be exempt.

If you’re concerned about what these changes will mean to your finances or if you’d like advice on pensions, contact the accountants Bristol, Yeovil, Taunton at Milsted Landon today.

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UK Growth Up 
According to data published yesterday by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), the UK economy grew by 0.5 per cent in the third quarter of this year, compared with a 0.1 per cent expansion in the previous quarter.

And service industries output jumped by 0.7 per cent in the period, up from 0.2 per cent. Services accounts for more than three quarters of the nation’s total GDP.

The overall growth was better than expected, as most economists had predicted a figure of between 0.3 and 0.4 per cent. However, growth is still below its long-term average and it is feared that the GDP was just playing catch-up after the previous quarter, which as hit by one-off factors such as the Royal wedding.

The statement from the ONS said “As with 2010 Q4 and 2011 Q1 (affected by the bad weather in Q4), it may be wise to look at 2011 Q2 and 2011 Q3 together, rather than separately, On that basis, GDP has grown by 0.6 per cent in the last two quarters and by 0.5 per cent in the last year.”

Notably, the ONS says that there is ‘no evidence’ that the riots in August had any significant impact on GDP during the third quarter.

David Kern, chief economist at the British Chambers of Commerce, said of the data, “The figures for Q3 are better than expected, though they follow particularly disappointing 0.1 per cent growth in the previous quarter, which was affected by special factors.”

He went on to say: “Over the last year growth has been relatively weak at only 0.5 per cent, but it is reassuring that fears of a recession have so far been unfounded. There are still risks ahead. Early indications from the fourth quarter are concerning, and if the situation in the Eurozone worsens there could be serious adverse repercussions for the UK.”

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