Auto Enrolment: what you need to know

MM20553 Guest Blogger_Malcolm Goodwin Aviva

Here’s our partner Aviva with some guidance on what to consider when setting up a workplace pension for auto-enrolment.

If you’re due to stage for auto-enrolment this year, you’re not alone. The Pensions Regulator estimates that over 500,000 small and medium-sized companies (SME) will auto-enrol their staff into a workplace pension in 2017.

Any small employer should think about the following things which are key to any business:

  • Retaining your best people: A workplace pension is a very valuable benefit. That can be a really powerful incentive to stay with a company.
  • Attracting talent: A workplace pension that offers a generous employer contribution could be the difference when a candidate receives two job offers at the same time.
  • Being a paternalistic employer: Providing a workplace pension offers staff a chance to plan for their retirement.
  • Allowing staff to retire at the right time: There is no default retirement age anymore so people can just go on working indefinitely. Aviva’s own research found that a third of workers over 50 plan to retire later than they had hoped and on average work for 8 years longer.
  • AE is a legal requirement: All businesses must have a workplace pension. It’s the law now and The Pensions Regulator has the power to fine companies who don’t get their pension set up in time.

Choosing your workplace pension

Pensions aren’t ‘one size fits all’ and the nature of a business, the number and demographics of its employees, payroll set up and its future growth plans all need to be considered when looking for a pension provider.

AE applies to ALL employers, so even if you only have one member of staff, you still need to set up a workplace pension for them.  Many providers will now let you apply for a workplace pension online using streamlined processes that will give you an idea of how much a scheme will cost in just a few minutes.

Contribution rates are going to rise

Currently the minimum contribution rates for an AE pension are 1% of salary from the employer and 1% of salary from the employee (including tax relief).

From April 2018 that will rise to 5% in total, with a minimum of 2% coming from the employer.  Then from April 2019, this will rise to 8%, with a minimum of 3% coming from the employer. These are the minimums though and employers are free to pay in more if they wish.

Embrace auto-enrolment

A workplace pension is now the law, so businesses need to make it work. Putting money away for retirement is not just sensible, but is now essential. The full state pension is currently around £150 a week. If that is your only income from the age of 67, it’s not a huge amount of money to buy food, pay bills and enjoy a decent standard of living.

Find out more about auto-enrolment 

Got any questions? You’ll probably find the answers here.


We’ve teamed up with Aviva to offer you a discount on their workplace pension scheme. Aviva’s scheme is compatible with all types of payroll software, and can be managed online.

Find out more.


Aviva Life Services UK Limited. Registered in England, No. 2403746. Aviva, Wellington Row, York, YO90 1WR. Authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority. Reference Number 145452.





Forecasting made as easy as 1, 2, 3

Forecasting. Just the word can make business owners slightly nervous. But the good news is it doesn’t have to be daunting.  In fact, it could be as straightforward as 1, 2, 3…

  • 1 handy template to make life easier and help you get
  • 2% more profit*, from
  • 3% better forecasting*

* AMR Research

In this post we’ve condensed down some of the main reasons to forecast, and some easy pointers to help make it easier to do. We’ve even created a simple forecast tool to make life easier and help you get started. It’ll do all the calculations for you, and let you see at a glance how your business is doing.

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Then just follow these three steps:

1. Fill out the Expenses Forecast tab to record all of your business outgoings

2. Complete the Sales Forecast tab to help calculate your sales growth

3. View your forecast in the Summary tab – it will help you visualise what’s going on and monitor your figures over time

Why it pays to forecast

From keeping an eye on cashflow, to planning ahead for the future, effective forecasting can make all the difference to your business. But when you’re busy day to day, forecasting can all too easily slip down the To Do list.

However, it could just be one of the most important things you do for your business. Here‘s why accurate forecasting is a very good idea:

  • You’ll know what’s going on with your cashflow, sales and revenue, giving you a clearer picture of your business and increased peace of mind
  • You can set more accurate budgets and targets
  • You’ll uncover new cost savings
  • You can make better informed decisions – about everything from staff and space to your marketing and sales strategy
  • You’re more likely to access finance – as investors will be more confident if you’re planning ahead

What do you want to know_

Business forecasting is so much more effective if you have a clear idea of what you’re trying to find out.

  • Who is your ideal customer, how many of them can you reach? How often will they buy from you?
  • Don’t forget the rule of thumb: 80% of your business comes from 20% of your customers
  • What are your plans for expansion?
  • What are the market conditions?
  • What’s your position amongst competition? Estimate your market share.
  • Are you affected by seasonal trends?
  • What’s the average price of a single purchase?

Expenses are a good place to start

Many people find that forecasting their business expenses is a straightforward place to start. Don’t forget these simple rules:

Fixed costs stay the same every month

Variable costs fluctuate according to sales volume

Sales are also a very useful thing to forecast, helping you make important decisions about your business’ future.

  • Look at historic data and make logical assumptions about the future
  • Don’t get overwhelmed – start with a 2-year plan and build from there

Projected sales: a handy formula

Here’s how you can quickly calculate conservative, expected and optimistic projections:

Number of customers X average sales price X number of yearly purchases

= yearly projected sales


With so many great reasons to start forecasting, plus our free tool to make it easy, there’s nothing to stop you. Start forecasting now and the outlook for your business could be bright!

Like what you’ve read? Why not join us on twitter @npowerbusiness #energytogrow and LinkedIn at npower Business

Time to take a break

We know that lots of you have been beavering away since the start of the year, working hard to keep your business going. So surely you deserve a break by now?

Taking a break from work will reduce your stress levels, and you’ll be more productive when you return rested and refreshed. The same goes for your hardworking staff!

Here’s a selection of our Business Rewards holiday and travel offers that you and your staff will love:

Camping – without the hassle

Camping is one of the most affordable ways of holidaying, but if you’re travelling to Europe, making sure you’ve got all the gear you need soon takes up a lot of space, not to mention weight!

With Eurocamp, all the hard work is done for you – all tents come already pitched and equipped with all the essentials for a comfortable stay. All you need to bring is your clothes and other personal bits to start relaxing as soon as you arrive! We’re offering customers up to 30% off Eurocamp holidays.

Make your getaway with National Express


Whether you’re planning a city break, making your way to a festival, or travelling to the airport, National Express can get you there comfortably and affordably. With 100s of destinations, and fares starting from as little as £5 one way, everyone can afford to get away this summer!
You and your staff can save 20% on National Express bookings, so what are you waiting for?

Timetastic – a nicer way to book time off

Managing staff leave can be an organisational nightmare – especially over the summer when people often want time off at the same time, but your business needs to carry on as usual while they are away. With Timetastic, your staff can easily request any type of leave, and you can view, approve and manage it all from any device. As an npower Business customer, you can try it free for 6 months.


We hope you enjoy these deals. Have fun on your getaway!

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What causes the largest amount of stress in small businesses?

As it’s Stress Awareness Month we took a look at how stress can affect you both physically and mentally, as well as delving into the types of stress that are common in smaller businesses and how to tackle it head on. Things such as financial difficulties, competition, employee turnover and burnout can all affect your ability to successfully run your business. As well as a risk to the business, you’re also putting your own health at risk when stressed and while this may cause you to suffer from milder ailments such as headaches, it can also lead to really serious problems like a cardiac arrest.

According to Business Knowledge Source, a lack of control is the leading cause of stress in the workplace. For small business owners this may include the weather, employee behaviour, supplier prices etc….so the only area you have real control over is yourself and how you react to these unpredictable and uncontrollable factors. Try to recognise these factors and develop ways to handle them when they do occur.

Trying to hide your worries and frustrations as well as failing to communicate comes a close second as another cause of stress in the workplace. Carrying ‘the weight of the world’ can end up with you experiencing a stressful breakdown. Recognise the signs of stress: lack of appetite, poor sleep, unexplained aches and low energy levels. Slow down and seek help if necessary.

Excessive workloads are of course common in small businesses. With such a small number of staff it’s often the case that you’ll be doing two or three people’s roles and probably working much longer hours, which can lead to you feeling rushed, under pressure and overwhelmed.

Stress is usually triggered by your attitude toward things you can’t control. A positive outlook toward your business and your employees can help you better accept their shortcomings and appreciate those areas that do flow smoothly at work. Letting go of unrealistic expectations can really lower your stress levels. For example, you can’t control the weather, so there’s no point in stressing when it interferes with your business plans.

Stress isn’t always negative, a certain amount of it is necessary and can even motivate us. When you’ve got a super-stressful day ahead, look at it as a challenge. Set goals, focus on the most important tasks, encourage yourself along the way and reward yourself, even if it’s just with a mental pat on the back as you cross each item off the list

Find support among your peers who face the same kinds of uncontrollable stress. Join a business network that provides opportunities to share experiences, vent and look for solutions.

Like what you’ve read? Why not join us on twitter @npowerbusiness #energytogrow and Linkedin at npower Business

The survival skills Britain’s SMEs need in 2017

Almost one in five of Britain’s SMEs are missing payday in battle to stay in business

  • 17% of British small and medium-sized enterprises have missed a payday
  • Business leaders are self-financing with 19% of SMEs relying on personal savings for financial support
  • Reassuringly, businesses have a positive outlook with over a third (36%) of SMEs more confident about their growth prospects for 2017 (compared with last year)

npm14468 MM20326 You Gov infographic_v2

LONDON, 28th March 2017: British businesses are feeling the pinch with nearly a fifth (17%) missing payday[1] in order to survive.

Despite being responsible for nearly half of Britain’s economic activity[2], research commissioned by npower Business has shown the shocking extent to which SMEs are struggling to keep their head above water.

In an increasingly competitive and complex economic landscape, SMEs businesses were found to be predominately self-financing with over half (57%) of businesses claiming they don’t rely on anyone or anything for financial support these days. Less than one in five (19%) also rely heavily on personal savings.

As with the Brexit vote, which split the country, business are also split in their confidence for growth over the coming year. Over a third (36%) of SMEs are more confident about their business growth prospects for 2017, compared with last year, mainly due to the economic outlook for Britain and the decision to leave the EU. However, a quarter (25%) of the respondents are less confident about their business growth prospects for 2017, with 67% of these attributing this to Brexit.

SMEs account for more than 99% of private sector businesses in the United Kingdom and provide employment for 16.8 million people[3].Their economic contribution should not be underestimated and that’s why npower Business has partnered with Tim Campbell, winner of the first series of BBC’s The Apprentice, to highlight the importance of these businesses, and the necessity for increased support from each other, larger businesses and Government.

Richard Longbottom, Acting Head of npower Business, said: “SMEs are super powering towns and cities across Britain, helping to determine the success and character of regions across the UK. However, it’s clear from our research that some of these businesses are relying entirely on themselves to succeed. At npower Business, we believe SMEs could do more to learn from each other in the same way that we continually learn from those who we talk to everyday. This is why we are calling on SMEs to share their superpowers and learn from each other to help improve their bottom line.”

Businessman and Apprentice winner Tim Campbell, who is fronting the campaign said: “SMEs are absolutely fundamental to Britain’s economy. Not only do they inject a substantial amount of money into the economy, they create significant jobs throughout Britain.

“Throughout my career, I have witnessed a number of remarkable ways in which SMEs have overcome problematic issues before going on to flourish and prosper. Their capabilities should be recognised and celebrated.”

Follow the conversation on twitter @npowerbusiness using the #BusinessSuperpowers

Find us on Linkedin or on


About the research

All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 1088 SME Senior Decision Makers. Fieldwork was undertaken between 13th– 21st February 2017. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of SME business sizes.


About npower Business

npower Business is one of the leading energy suppliers to the UK business market, serving gas and electricity to more than 195,000 small-to-medium sized businesses (SMEs).  Dedicated to helping UK SMEs, by helping our customers better understand and manage energy, we help them to reduce their energy costs and in turn improve their bottom line. We’re in touch with more than 1000 SMEs and through them, we hear what business owners want from their energy company and the issues they face when running a business.

npower Business is part of npower Group.

About Tim Campbell

Tim Campbell first became known to the British public after being hired by Lord Alan Sugar in the first series of the BBC’s The Apprentice. Since then Tim Campbell, who was awarded the MBE for Enterprise Culture in the 2012 New Year’s Honours List, has gone on to found businesses, speak favour business to global audiences and start the charitable organisation called the Bright Ideas Trust. Bright Ideas Trust has supported over 250 innovative start- ups all started by 16-30 year olds in London.  Whether it be creating wealth and employment or changing the world, Tim believes that business, in the right hands, is the catalyst of modern positive change.

Contact details:

npower press office

0845 070 2807


Golin – Dafydd Wyn

020 7067 0865


[1] Missing payday is defined here as not paying employees or the business owner not paying themselves

[2] Capital Economics, Prospects for SME growth in the United Kingdom: An assessment of the economic performance and outlook for the SME sector in cities and regions across the United Kingdom, September 2016

[3] IBID

Like what you’ve read? Why not join us on twitter @npowerbusiness #energytogrow and Linkedin at npower Business

The ABC of coping with energy debt

Electricity and gas are crucial to the day to day running of most small businesses. Get into serious energy debt, and you risk being cut off.

With npower’s energy debt ABC, it’s easy to avoid this stressful situation and keep your business running:A. Acknowledge the problem

Maybe you’ve missed a few payments or ignored some letters.  Don’t panic, just get your head out of the sand.

The first thing to do is look at your cashflow. Have you got delays on money coming in? Could you cut down on your outgoings?

If you don’t already have a money management system, there are lots of free online accounting and tracking tools that will help you analyse your spending.

B. Bring in the expertsNow you know what’s causing the problem, get in touch with your energy provider and explain the situation. If you’re an npower Business customer, speak to our dedicated team of advisors who are experienced in helping customers with energy debt. They will work with you to create an achievable payment plan, and help you make progress with tackling the problem.

Stop non-essential spending and get in contact with your late payers. You’ll find lots of free letter templates for chasing late payments online.

C. Control your cashflowOnce you’ve got a plan in place and you’ve tightened up on your spending, you need to stay in control.

Set aside a bit of time every week to look at your income and outgoings, including any direct debits.  If you don’t already manage your npower account online, that can help you keep on top of your energy payments. npower will never adjust your direct debit without telling you in advance, so you’ll know exactly what your energy cost is.

For more advice on managing business finances, take a look at our article: Master your business cashflow.

Struggling to pay for your energy? There are organisations that can help you. Both Business Debtline and Step Change provide free, impartial and confidential advice on debt and cash-flow issues for small businesses and the self-employed. Get in touch via their websites or give them a call. You’ll be glad you did.

Business Debtline: 0800 197 6026

Step Change: 0800 138 1111

Like what you’ve read? Why not join us on twitter @npowerbusiness #energytogrow and Linkedin at npower Business

What goes into your business energy bill?

We know that you can sometimes be a little surprised by your energy bills, and wonder where some of the costs come from. That’s why we wanted to clearly explain what makes up your bill.

Watch this video to find out more about your Business energy.


Like what you’ve seen? Why not join us on twitter @npowerbusiness #energytogrow and Linkedin at npower Business


What’s next for your business?

Do you remember that dream you had when you first decided to open your business? That reason for opening, that passion and that goal to work towards? Some business never reach that dream goal and sometimes this can be down to inadequate planning and figuring out ‘what’s next’ for you.

As time management and planning expert Alan Lakein put it: “Planning is bringing the future into the present so that you can do something about it now.” This motto is great when creating a yearly plan for your business, but what happens after that? It’s always good to plan ahead and see what you want your business to look like in five or even 10 years’ time.

A small business is often the largest asset belonging to its owner. Yet many owners only think about the future when it comes to what’s next for their business and don’t put it into practice.

We asked some of our case studies what’s next for them. Here’s what they said:

Like what you’ve read? Why not join us on twitter @npowerbusiness #energytogrow and Linkedin at npower Business

How do you plan?

A few weeks ago 2017 seemed such a long wait, now it’s here and you need to make sure you’ve planned for the year ahead.

Sometimes being asked what your business plan is for the next year can be pretty daunting, especially if you’ve just jotted down some bullet points on an old post it note. Even if you have, it doesn’t matter because at least you have a plan. Not every business plan is pages and pages long, some are a paragraph on the back of a photo that a business aspires to be like, and some are 40 pages long. It all depends on the business type and size.

Every business plans for the future in different ways. Some take a look at the market in their area of expertise and some companies carry on doing what they know best – why change something that works!
Sometimes planning not only for the next 12 months but for the next five years is a great thing to do, not only looking at the immediate future but also looking at what your business could look like in years to come.

We asked a few different businesses how they plan for the future and this is what they said:

Like what you’ve read? Why not join us on twitter @npowerbusiness #energytogrow and Linkedin at npower Business

Not well? Stay home!

Illness is a huge problem for businesses of all sizes, with staff absence costing UK employers billions of pounds each year. Slogging into work when we feel unwell often feels like the right thing to do, especially in a small business where there are less people to cover the work.  By coming in and soldiering on, many of us feel like we’re doing the company a favour and helping to keep things running.  However, the real effect of doing this is very different:

  • Making our colleagues (and customers!) ill too – infections can spread far more effectively
  • Work is affected – whether it’s productivity or quality, we’re not functioning on all cylinders
  • You’ll feel bad for longer – taking more time to recover and generally feeling
  • Loss of energy and motivation – resting and recovering properly will allow you to return to work refreshed and raring to go

Together this results in the average adult taking over 9 days off work each year.  Changing our attitude to calling in sick can help to remedy the problem and reduce the £23bn cost to UK businesses*.

Winter compounds the problem – we all spend more time indoors, and colds and other viruses are rife. So how can small businesses help themselves?

  1. Communication – most importantly make sure everyone understands and believes that taking a sick day won’t affect their career or standing in the company.
  2. Organisation – Establish who can cover whose work if someone is ill, so staff don’t feel as pressured to turn up for work. Document procedures so everyone know what to do if a key person is away.
  3. Hygiene practices – basic actions like clean hands, and keeping your distance if you think you’re coming down with something
  4. Work life balance – over worked and exhausted people are more prone to illness. Do what you can put an end to self-sacrificing behaviours
  5. Healthy living – if you can afford it, little touches like office fruit encourage people to get their five a day.  Why not treat everyone to juice or smoothies as a weekly breakfast vitamin boost? You could also encourage your team to get involved in healthy social activities like lunchtime runs, walks or gym sessions to keep people fighting off germs all year round.

Setting an example is also important. If people see their boss working long hours, skipping meals (or eating junk food) and putting their health and wellbeing at the bottom of the agenda, they’ll think that’s what you expect of them too. Show them what a proper work-life balance looks like, and encourage them to look after themselves. They in turn will feel valued and appreciated, which goes a long way to gaining their loyalty to your company long-term.

Here’s to the best of health for your and your staff in 2017!


Like what you’ve read? Why not join us on twitter @npowerbusiness #energytogrow and Linkedin at npower Business