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  • BBC Business News: Asia shares higher ahead of holiday
    Asian shares headed higher on Thursday but investors were cautious ahead of a Good Friday public holiday tomorrow in some major markets.
  • Business Matters: 70% of managers don’t believe mental illness warrants time off work

    In surprising data from a research by AXA PPP healthcare highlighting the stigma surrounding mental ill health in British businesses employers were asked how they would react if an employee they manage was suffering from a mental health issue and only one in five said they would worry about the employee’s capability to do their job and one in six said they would worry about the consequences for themselves personally, such as it reflecting poorly on their management style or having to pick up additional work.

    This is despite 1 in 4 of managers acknowledging that they have experienced a mental health problem themselves – a finding that mirrors exactly the response of employees when asked the same question.

    When asked if they would be honest with their line manager when calling in sick because they were suffering from stress, anxiety or depression, only 39 per cent of employees said they would tell the truth. For those that stated they would avoid telling the truth, 15 per cent said they were afraid they would not be believed, 1 in 4 were afraid of being judged and 23 per cent preferred to keep their health issues private. Seven per cent said they feared their line manager’s reaction to being told the truth.

    There was considerable scepticism about the seriousness of employers’ commitment to dealing with mental ill health at work. Forty six per cent of employees surveyed thought their employer didn’t take mental health issues seriously. Just 12 per cent of bosses thought their industry was affected by mental ill health and felt that it was doing enough to address it.

    Despite this negativity, over half  of employers thought that attitudes towards mental ill health in the workplace have changed for the better in the past fifteen years. This compares with 30 per cent who said that they had not seen any change.

    Dr Mark Winwood, director of clinical psychology at AXA PPP healthcare, says: “Stress and mental health issues affect one in four people on average in any given year and one in six at any given time. With this rate of occurrence, we need to work harder to eliminate the stigma surrounding mental ill health. Businesses are well placed to lead the way to changing this harmful prejudice by giving their employees the necessary tools and support to enable them to discuss mental health in an open and unbiased way.

    “Lack of understanding breeds fear so improving employees’ awareness and understanding of mental illness is one of the most important things a company’s senior management team can do and a critical first step is to challenge the stigma surrounding mental ill health in the workplace.

    “Employers can begin by introducing a number of small but important changes such as promoting an open and honest culture where the facts about mental ill health are freely communicated and discussed. I have seen that senior managers who have been open and felt able to share their own experiences of mental health challenges and worries have often succeeded in developing an environment that is more accepting. Training and supporting managers to deal with employees affected by mental ill health will also help to give them the confidence to provide effective support where and when it is needed.”

    Image: Stressed Businesswoman

  • BBC Business News: Leaders prepare for election debate
    The leaders of seven political parties gear up for a live, two-hour televised general election debate later.
  • CNN Business: Do Chinese investors trade way too much?
    Don't do this: People in China trade way too frequently, potentially hurting their performance.
  • Business Matters: The election: Just what can the parties do to win over SMEs?

    But considering that one third of private sector turnover in the UK comes from small businesses, according to ONS, and that in 2014 over 99 per cent of UK private sector businesses can be classed as SMEs (Parliament statistics), it makes sense to place this debate in the context of small and mid-sized companies.

    Seeing as innovative SMEs have been praised as “growth engines” of the UK economy in the political arena, what can the incoming government do to reward and support entrepreneurship, and, in turn, further economic growth?

    Simplify capital allowances
    If small firms are to drive the economic recovery, they need tax investment incentives that are simple to claim. The capital allowances system is over-complicated, and as a result, doesn’t provide the support that UK businesses need to encourage them to invest.

    While there have been some improvements in establishing who is eligible to claim capital allowances (in which the majority of SMEs would qualify), it still remains unclear when capital allowances need to be claimed, and who should begin the process of claiming this tax relief. Should it be the property agent? The lawyer? Or the accountant? This needs to be clarified swiftly.

    Restructure the rates of Capital Allowances
    Similar to the AIA, it is high time the capital allowances rates were revamped. Capital allowances should be relieved at different rates for SMEs and larger companies, as per the structure for R&D relief. This is a fairer way of distributing the tax relief, and allowing SMEs to continue acting as a lifeline of the UK economy.

    Publicise capital allowances
    The HMRC’s somewhat MI5-like attitude towards this tax relief means many smaller businesses aren’t taking the next step in their evolution and purchasing their own premises. This is because they are under the false impression they aren’t able to afford the costs and capital expenditure necessary to operate fully. In reality, there are lucrative tax reliefs available which could make owning a commercial property possible.

    Since the implementation of the Finance Act 2012 last April, which stipulated that capital allowances needed to be claimed prior to or at the time of purchase, it’s been estimated that commercial property owners have lost a potential £1.6 billion of tax relief – and this is mainly due to lack of awareness.

    Enhance the Annual Investment Allowance (AIA)
    Retaining the annual investment allowances at its current rate of £500,000 or even an increase to £1m, would benefit SMEs. The Chancellor in last month’s Budget accepted the AIA needed to be addressed, as the reduced rate of £25,000 was simply not feasible. A higher rate will encourage capital expenditure by businesses that have experienced stilted growth since 2008.

    The main political players are good at playing lip service to SMEs, and, rightly so – they are boosting the economy. But the elected party needs to go further than rhetoric, and practice what they preach. Without a government that fully supports this sector, all the ambition and entrepreneurial spirit in the world won’t get small business owners very far.

  • BBC Business News: VIDEO: Takeda's foreign boss sets to work
    Asia's pharmaceutical giant Takeda has its first foreign boss in its 200-year history. Christophe Weber tells the BBC about his priorities.
  • BBC Business News: VIDEO: India sports stars crowdfunding plan
    India's cricket stars can earn millions of dollars, but now other sports players are finding new ways to up their income.
  • CNN Business: Facebook's new app Riff = Snapchat + Vine
    Riff, Facebook's latest app, let users collaborate on video projects together.
  • CNN Business: The tragic history of the Getty family, in pictures
    The Getty family may be as famous for its fortune as the misfortune that has dogged its name for years. Here is a brief history of the players in the tumultuous Getty saga.
  • CNN Business: Why we can't ignore alarm bells in U.S. markets
    Billionaire Sam Zell is the latest to sound the alarm bells for stocks.
  • CNN Business: Lew: China's currency not ready for prime time
    Read full story for latest details.
  • Business Matters: 1 in 4 of us have an ongoing difficult relationship at work

    The CIPD is warning that mangers have a key role to play in diffusing tensions early on as workplace conflict can have a major impact on employee wellbeing and business outcomes, with as many as one in ten employees leaving their organisation as a result.

    The report, Getting Under the Skin of Workplace Conflict, found that conflict manifests itself in a number of ways at work, the most frequently cited one being lack of respect, according to 61 per cent of respondents. Alarmingly, one in every 25 respondents who had experienced conflict at work in the last year, said that they had experienced the threat of or actual physical assault at work. The CIPD is urging employers to build a business culture that supports positive working relationships and channels which mean that any workplace conflicts can be dealt with early on before it escalates and becomes unmanageable.

    When conflict does arise at work, it’s most often perceived as being with line managers or other superiors rather than with direct reports, highlighting the important influence of the power balance in how conflict is experienced. In other words, the junior person in the relationship is more likely to identify the issue as a problem, while the senior person either didn’t identify it as a problem in the first place or sees it as having been resolved. The most common cause of conflict is a clash of personality or working style rather than a conflict of interest as such. Individual performance competence and target setting are also among the issues most likely to spark conflict, with promotions or contractual terms of employment being less influential.

    The report found that there is a clear power differential at play with employees being most likely to perceive a lack of respect, bullying or harassment from their boss or other superiors and as many as 1 in 4 said that their line manager actively creates conflict.

    Jonny Gifford, Research Adviser at the CIPD, comments: “All too often, employers brush workplace conflict aside, putting it down to a difference of opinion, but it’s clear that it has a serious impact on our working relationships, wellbeing and productivity. Line managers have a crucial role to play here. For the most part they are seen as a positive influence in helping to create strong, healthy team relationships, but . Tthere’s still a clear case for developing managers and providing them with the skills they need. We need managers who can both build robust teams, where challenges can be made in a non-threatening way, and nip conflict in the bud before it has the chance to escalate. These are not generally seen as part of a core skills set for line managers and that view needs to change.”

    The CIPD’s report found that in some instances, conflict has become unworkable, resulting in one in ten people leaving a role either by moving to a another role in the organisation, resigning or being dismissed. There are other impacts as well; individuals feeling stressed is the most common one, followed by a drop in commitment or motivation. One in seven cases, said that there had been a drop in productivity and in 6 per cent of cases, stress levels escalated to a point where an individual went off work sick.

    Gifford continues: “Both ongoing difficult relationships and isolated incidents at work can have major ramifications for employees’ personal wellbeing and morale and serious implications for the organisations through demotivation, absence, and employee churn – , not to mention the time it can take management and HR to resolve disputes.

    With one in ten people leaving their role as a result of it and one in seven saying it affects their productivity, interpersonal conflict is something that no business can ignore.”

    When it comes to dealing with conflict, the most common approach tends to be informal, with individuals discussing the matter with their manager, HR or Personnel team, or the other person involved. We also look to our friends and family for support and advice – women are twice as likely as men to do this – but this does not seem to bear any relation to how well the conflict is resolved.

    The CIPD has the following advice on tackling conflict management in the workplace:
    More scope for mediation: In the CIPD’s survey just 1.5 per cent of employees who had experienced conflict used mediation as a tool to resolve interpersonal conflict but 46 per cent of employees surveyed overall thought that it was an effective approach to dealing with workplace conflict and more than one in ten felt that they personally had had a relationship that would have benefitted from mediation. This points to an unmet demand for alternative forms of dispute resolution (ADR).

    Line management matters: Line managers have a key role to play in creating good working relationships at work and would benefit from particular training on managing and resolving conflict within the team as well as understanding how they need to protect their team in conflict situations resulting from external influences, e.g. suppliers, the general public if in public-facing roles, etc.

    Develop a suite of options for conflict resolution: While the survey supports the value of more informal approaches to resolving conflict, it also confirms the importance of having formal grievance and discipline procedures. However, in some cases, such as in conflict rooted in personality differences, they do not seem to help. Employers should therefore provide a range of options to help resolve different types of conflict.

  • BBC Business News: Fiancee and cat tracked by home cam
    The girlfriend and cat watched by home cam
  • BBC Business News: Is teff the next 'super grain'?
    Will Ethiopia's teff be the next must eat 'super grain'?
  • BBC Business News: Greece made 'unrealistic promises'
    The Greek government made "completely unrealistic promises" to voters that it cannot now fulfil, the former European Commission president tells the BBC.

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