Whoever is appointed to fill the role of the Small Business Commissioner (SBC) is likely to take up the new government position in October.
The government has published a document on the role, entitled Small Business Commissioner: Policy For Secondary Legislation – Government Response and Draft Regulations, which outlines what the commissioner will be tasked with.
This includes publishing advice and information for small businesses, and helping such businesses find dispute resolution services. The commissioner will also be able to name and shame businesses with bad payment practices.
The commissioner has also been tasked with signposting to appropriate services, such as ‘sector ombudsmen or regulators, existing independent advice services, approved alternative dispute resolution (ADR) providers or the Commissioner’s own complaints handling function’. The job also covers the consideration of complaints by small business suppliers about payment issues with larger businesses that they supply.
The government has stated that it ‘is committed to tackling unfair payment practices, including late payment, to make the UK the best place in Europe to grow and start a business, and increase transparency around payment practices’. This will please contractors, who may have faced problems with late payments in the past.
Likely to be based in Birmingham, the government has now started the hiring process for the role.
The position has faced some scepticism already however, with the Mail on Sunday this week reporting that just 2% of freelance workers believe the new role will be effective.
One factor vital to the role’s success, according to The Association of Independent Professionals and the Self Employed (IPSE), is the power to ensure that workers such as contractors and freelancers are able to fight poor payment practices.
“The announcement ensures the Commissioner can aid as many small businesses as possible as well as giving them much needed momentum when it launches later this year,” said Simon McVicker, IPSE Director of Policy and External Affairs. “The civil service must have adequate resources to deal with the heavy initial workload and make the Small Business Commissioner an immediate success. The Commissioner must be firm with businesses which take liberties with payment terms and this has a severely detrimental effect on the self-employed workforce.”
McVicker added: “Late payment affects the self-employed person’s ability to do their job (both personally and professionally). The self-employed population are dependent on prompt payment to facilitate their ability to pursue further work and pay rent or business overheads. Poor payment culture cannot stand in the way of their ability to continue to work and the Commissioner must hold larger businesses accountable.”