Could tax return day be a tipping point for local property experts?

It’s coming up on the fast track: January 31, 2017.

This is the looming deadline when the UK’s self-employed population must pay their dues to the taxman.

This means that agents working for some online agents but also for a number of high street agents – typically on a self-employed or commission-only basis – may have to find thousands of pounds to settle up with HMRC. (It is worth noting that not all online agents use self-employed local property experts and, for example, eMoov’s are fully employed.)

Hoever, for those working in the industry on a self-employed basis, January is typically crunch time. For those who have been struggling to make self-employment viable, a huge tax liability may be the trigger that sends them back into the comfortable world of PAYE and the security of a regular monthly pay cheque.

Of course, people retention should be a concern for agency bosses year-round, not just in January. But particularly at this precarious time of year, any business that relies on a largely self-employed workforce needs to focus on making it financially worthwhile to stay. If they do not, we are likely to see the market flooded with job-seeking refugees from the online set-ups in the first quarter of 2017.

Here are some things business owners can do to lock in their contractors and staff:

  • Offer a financial stake in your business – This could take the form of shares, a profit-sharing scheme, bonus pool or share option plan that allows members of your team to buy shares at a discounted price. They will be more committed if they ‘have skin in the game’.
  • Competitive rate of pay – It may sound obvious, but the rates you pay should be in line with market rates and reflect your employee or contractor’s skills, experience and the work you expect them to do. While self-employed workers don’t have the advantage of benefits such as holiday or sick pay, it costs nothing to recognise someone’s efforts. Showing appreciation by feel-good gestures such as a guaranteed parking space for the week’s top performer or a simple congratulatory email can mean a lot.
  • Motivational programme – More relevant for employees than self-employed workers. Team activity days, nights out and overseas incentive trips are always popular morale-boosters, but a structured year-round recognition programme will usually result in greater longer-term benefits. Peer-to-peer recognition where workers are empowered to thank a colleague has the dual benefit of not only making the recipient feel appreciated but also making the person who nominated them feel good too. But, whichever way you choose to do it, having a system that recognises individual contributions is vital.
  • Celebrate long service milestones – Even if in the property business we tend to be talking about two years rather than 25.
  • Career prospects – Create opportunities for career progression and ensure each individual has a personal career development plan so they do not feel trapped in their current role.
  • Foster a healthy work/life balance – While you may be willing to work all hours – it’s your business, after all – such unstinting devotion should not be expected of your workforce. For a healthy workplace environment, set clear performance targets and be realistic about workload expectations. Where practical, allow flexible working practices such as the opportunity to work remotely or different hours on certain days.* Joshua Rayner heads up recruitment company Rayner Personnel

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