Which party offers the best deal for small businesses?

The general election is now only three weeks away and the parties are fighting for the votes of small business owners.

Election day

The main SME manifesto themes include business tax, zero hours contracts and paternity leave. But which party would offer the best package of measures for your business?

We’ve delved into the manifestos of the major parties and picked out the business-relevant bits so that you don’t have to.

Conservatives

At the manifesto launch, David Cameron called the Conservatives ‘the party of working people’, and the party often claims to be ‘on the side of small business’.

Under a Conservative government, businesses could enjoy ‘the most competitive taxes of any major economy’ and also benefit from a cut in £10 billion of red tape.

Businesses wouldn’t have major concerns about their payrolls increasing under the Tories: Cameron’s party pledged a modest increase to the minimum wage, rising to £8 by the end of the decade.

Other manifesto pledges focus on larger businesses, with companies of over 250 staff compelled to publish their gender pay gap and the controversial “Volunteering Leave” of three days per year per employee proposed for big companies and the public sector.

Labour

Labour’s manifesto message is that the party can be trusted with the economy and that ‘Britain only succeeds when working families succeed’.

They’ve said that they would put small businesses at the front of the queue for tax cuts, reducing business rates in the first budget and then freezing them the following year.

Ed Miliband’s party also wants to tighten the rules on zero hours contracts, abolishing those that are ‘exploitative’ and giving new rights to employees.

Labour’s planned minimum wage raise is a fraction higher than the Tories: they want to put it up to ‘more than £8’ by October 2019.

Other proposed measures that could impact your business include doubling paternity leave to four weeks and increasing paternity pay by more than £100 per week.

Liberal Democrats

The Lib Dem manifesto also promises to prioritise SMEs for business tax cuts. Plus, the party want to push for a Land Value Tax – a charge based on the rental value of land – to eventually replace business rates.

Nick Clegg’s party is pledging enhanced paternity leave and the possibility of zero-hours contract employees requesting a fixed contract.

For companies with more than 250 employees, the Liberal Democrats would make the publication of gender pay gaps mandatory, and by 2020 companies would also have to publish the number of people paid less than the Living Wage.

UKIP

Central to UKIP’s manifesto is the argument that EU membership and high levels of immigration are damaging job prospects for British workers and suppressing wages.

They’ve pledged to allow British businesses to preference British workers and to prevent access to EU schemes that encourage businesses to hire non-British staff.

The manifesto also says that UKIP would cut business rates by 20% for companies that have a total rateable value of under £50,000.

Plus, Nigel Farage’s party want to stop big businesses from deliberately delaying payments to smaller companies and make it easier for SMEs to tender for public service contracts.

They’re also hoping to help the high street by pushing for 30 minutes free parking in shopping areas.

The Green Party

The Green Party want to boost the minimum wage to a living wage of at least £10 per hour.

Natalie Bennett’s party is also keen to close the income gap in companies, with a rule that the highest wage in a business should be no more than ten times the lowest wage.

Who should businesses back?

All of the main parties are fighting to appeal to both small businesses owners and working people, with plenty of promises to reduce business tax but also to give greater rights – and possibly pay – to staff.

But some business leaders are concerned that Ed Miliband is planning to intervene too much in the labour market, and that the Conservative plan for an EU referendum could create instability for businesses.

What do you think? Which party seems to offer the best outlook for your business?

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