SMEs slam survey claims that UK firms work Europe's shortest week
Westcountry small business owners have slammed a new report which suggests that they work the shortest week in Europe.
Finance firm Hiscox's survey of 3,000 businesses across Europe and the US concluded that the British SME bosses work the shortest week at 37.6 hours – compared to an overall average of 41.1 hours – and six hours less than their German counterparts.
Regional business owners have dismissed the findings as "nonsense" and "mumbo jumbo."
Ann Vandermeulen, FSB Development manager for Cornwall, said: "Having suffered some of the most difficult trading times in this recession, I know that our members have had to put in exceptionally long hours and graft to survive.
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"Not just in the core business activity, but in all of the form filling, compliance with regulation, juggling cashflow, paying bills and all of the other things that everyone running a business has to do, but that nobody else sees."
The Hiscox report also described British SMEs as having the most "elastic" definition of work – including lunch, networking and attending to emails out of hours as part of their daily chores.
A national FSB spokesperson said: "This report does not mirror the way FSB members run their businesses and is not helpful."
FSB Cornwall chairman Adrian Penter, who runs his own small business, said: "It seems to be a disingenuous slur on British small businesses.
"Fortunately I am too busy to be offended by it. In a lifetime of self employment, my businesses have been a passion, like a child that you nurture day and night. Some may class it as work, some as a vocation."
The South West Tourism Alliance's Alistair Handyside, who runs an award-winning Devon bed and breakfast business with his wife, Lorna, said: "I have never found a job since I started work that was confined to 41.1 hours. Since going self-employed about 15 years ago, the hours put in has risen substantially. Six days and nine to ten hours a day would be about normal.
"Friends who come and stay with us think that all that happens is run a Hoover around on Friday – we wish. Having seen the work that goes in they then have a very different view."
UK businesses also dispute the Hiscox report's suggestion that the mood among SMEs is downbeat, with only one in ten firms planning to recruit and most still having problems accessing finance – despite the introduction of lending schemes.
Ann Vandermeulen said: "Our surveys show that business confidence is growing and that is by no accident but sheer hard work. How about a little praise and support instead?"
Mark Moore, director of small business advice hub Ingenious Britain, also criticised the report, saying: "The SME sector is vital to the UK economy, as they are at the heart of economic growth, providing 60% of private sector jobs and half of private sector turnover. The majority that are in contact with Ingenious Britain work incredibly hard to build and sustain their businesses."