The government has published its consultation on how its new small business commissioner will operate. The standout proposals are that ‘SME’ in the context of the commissioner should mean businesses with fewer than 50 employees.
In addition, the proposals focus on bringing some balance into the relationships between big and small businesses. As one section points out, the commissioner should look at a range of issues that contribute to a dispute, and should give particular attention to the following:
- whether a small business was given little or no advance warning of a particular practice,
- whether a larger business has from the beginning of the relationship been open and upfront about their practice,
- whether the larger business has communicated in clear and intelligible language (e.g. including a disadvantageous payment term in the small print of a contract when it was not covered explicitly in the negotiations), and
- whether the larger business acted dishonestly or withheld essential information.
The proposals also include encouragement for SMEs to try to resolve disputes themselves by working with the larger firm. Then ”If the respondent has shown a willingness to negotiate and promptly resolve the issue at this stage, this should be relevant to the question of fairness and reasonableness. Similarly, if the respondent has been willing to negotiate early in proceedings it may show that the larger business has acted reasonably”
‘SMEs are the heroes of economic revival’
The consultation arrives in the week that it was revealed by the government that UK had a million more small businesses, 4,000 more medium-sized businesses and 900 more large businesses, compared to 2010, a total increase of 23%.
Business and energy secretary Greg Clark says, ‘Britain’s businesses are the heroes of our economic revival and it is great to see the number of businesses rise by over a million since 2010.
‘Our job creators don’t always get the praise and respect they deserve but we should be proud of our entrepreneurs, business leaders and innovators. The government is committed to ensuring Britain builds on its success and is the best place to start and grow a business.’