Be prepared for winter, our tips on how to prevent frozen pipes

Be prepared for winter, our tips on how to prevent frozen pipes

 

At Unicom, we are always working so the water cycle never stops. We believe the best way to prevent frozen or burst pipes is to be prepared during cold weather. Our winter information gives you helpful advice on how to heat, insulate and protect your home, so we can all play our part to keep the water cycle running smoothly.

Our tips on looking after your pipes in winter:

6 degrees and milder

  • Leave your heating on, using a low setting.
  • If you live in an apartment, leave the heating on low in rooms where the mains pipe supplies neighbouring apartments.
  • If you’re going away, then make sure you have someone who can regularly check for any problems in your home.
  • Ensure neighbours have a key for your home (or contact details for someone who does) in case of an emergency.
  • If your property is going to be vacant over the winter months, turn off your water supply and drain the system – a licensed plumber should be able to give you advice about this – visit www.watersafe.org.uk.
  • Now is a good time to locate your stop valve in your home. You may want to consider fitting an automatic stop valve – they can reduce damage to your property from burst internal pipes.

1C to 5C

  • Your water tank should be fitted with an insulation jacket or alternatively, the top and sides of the tank can be wrapped with suitable insulation material.
  • Don’t place loft insulation under the tank, as this stops heat from the rooms below helping to keep the tank warm.
  • Toilet cisterns, water tanks or pipes in exposed places or unheated outbuildings, should be insulated. Better still drain them for winter if you’re not using them.
  • Buy good quality insulation – the thinner the pipe the thicker the insulation must be. 15mm or 1/2″ pipes need insulation which is 25mm thick, 28mm or 1″ pipe needs insulation which is at least 19mm thick.

0 degrees and under

Pipes are now liable to freeze

  • Dripping water increases the risk of freezing, so have any leaks at taps or valves repaired as soon as you discover them.
  • Cold draughts also increase your heating bills and can cause frozen pipework.
  • Look out for your neighbours, especially the frail, elderly and vulnerable.
  • We recommend that you call a plumber for a professional opinion on any issue with the pipework in your property. However, Scottish Water, one of our wholesale suppliers, have a video on how to thaw pipes if you do experience a frozen pipe scenario and wish to deal with it yourself.
  • If you do have a water emergency please contact us on 0161 465 6613 or you can contact us via the customer zone.

Brexit Fails To Dent UK SME Confidence

Brexit Fails To Dent UK SME Confidence

 

On 23rd June 2016, the UK voted to leave the EU (often referred to as Brexit). In the aftermath, UK Prime Minister David Cameron resigned, the value of the British Pound dropped to its lowest point in over 30 years and US $2tr was wiped from global markets. But new figures have shown Unicom that Brexit has failed to dent UK small to medium-sized enterprise (SME) confidence.

Enduring confidence

The Business Growth Fund (BGF), which provides long-term capital to British companies, recently released its latest Growth Climate Index. The Index, which surveyed 450 respondents, serves as a key indicator of UK business confidence. It found that 90% of business leaders believe that Brexit will facilitate a short-term fall in national economic expansion.

Despite this expectation, 74% of those questioned said that they still believe that the UK is a great place to set up and expand a company. Only 41% of those polled admitted that they postponed vital business decisions throughout the referendum campaign period, despite uncertainty around its result and the economic instability that Brexit would bring.

Negotiation priorities

The Growth Climate Index also asked small businesses about what the UK should prioritise in its upcoming negotiations to leave the EU. Over half (54%) of those polled said that ensuring British companies can still access the single EU market should be the key focus. More than two in ten (22%) said that ensuring foreign companies remain or invest in the UK should be the priority.

Just 10% of those polled said that drawing the best global skills and talent to UK shores should be the priority, while 9% think the main focus of negotiations should be reducing regulatory burdens on businesses. When asked which sector will be most affected by Brexit, 58% of those polled said financial services, with manufacturing and construction following at 16% and 9% respectively.

Strong fundamentals

Commenting, BGF Chief Executive Stephen Walton said: “Business leaders and entrepreneurs are clearly concerned about some of the implications of Brexit, but like me they remain positive about Britain as a place to do business. The fundamentals that make the UK so attractive to growing businesses have not disappeared, and businesses will continue to contribute to the economy and create jobs.”

“It is vital that business continues to make its voice heard to ensure that its priorities are high on the next government’s agenda. Most importantly, we should aim to ensure that Britain remains a pro-enterprise country and that businesses retain the best possible access to the single market.”

Robust business environment

CNN Money notes that the UK is the fifth largest economy in the world, with gross domestic product measuring US$3tr as of early 2016. The UK was ranked seventh in the World Bank’s Doing Business 2017 report, unchanged from the year before despite Brexit uncertainty. Within this context, Walton makes a valid point; the UK is a great place to start and grow a business, even in a post-Brexit world.

Small Business Owners Ask: Should I Give Up, Or Should I Just Keep Chasing Payments?

Small Business Owners Ask: Should I Give Up, Or Should I Just Keep Chasing Payments?

 

Recently, a group of UK-based small business owners drew inspiration from Adele’s recent hit, ‘Someone Like You,’ in order to shed light on the late payments problem that continues to plague small companies up and down the country.

Major problem

New research illustrates just how big a problem late payments are for the UK’s 5.4m small businesses. On average, they are forced to devote 10% (an hour) of their working days dealing with unpaid invoices. Three out of every five (60%) invoices issued by UK-based small enterprises are not paid on time.

Chasing payments

In order to increase awareness of this issue, the Daily Mail writes, the chasingpayments.com website has created a parody of Adele’s 2008 single ‘Chasing Pavements,’ called ‘Chasing Payments.’ The clip sees a group of British small business owners ask themselves, “Should I give up or should I just keep chasing payments,” illustrating the frustration that often comes with handling this task.

Throughout the song’s accompanying video, the small company heads act out the daily struggles that come with hunting down unpaid client invoices. While doing so, they croon lyrical gems such as “I pick up the phone, “To hear the same excuses, “Sorry, Dave’s not answering his phone,” I’m not surprised he’s chuffing useless.”

Has to change

Speaking out, Gary Turner, the Co-Founder of Xero, which runs chasingpayments.com, noted: “The late payment epidemic has to change so small business founders do not spend so many hours chasing debt and worrying about cash flow on the back. With small businesses making up a staggering 99.8% of the British economic engine, this is a critical issue to sort for the UK economy as a whole.”

Funding operations

This parody has drawn attention to a very real problem for UK small business owners. In early 2016, research conducted by Zurich indicated that 41% of British small to medium-sized enterprise (SME) owner managers believe that late payments had a significant impact on their company’s cash flow. Meanwhile, 67% of SME heads suggested that unpaid invoices are leading some UK small businesses to close down.

It is essential that small businesses maintain a steady cash flow. This allows them to meet regular operating costs such as paying staff wages and buying supplies, so when clients pay late, these businesses find it harder to operate effectively. At best, this limits their ability to grow, at worst it can force them to cease trading. By harnessing the cultural power of music, chasingpayments.com has reminded the UK’s small business leaders that they should never stop chasing payments.

SMEs Could Deliver More Apprentices

SMEs could deliver more apprentices

 

In a new report, business lobbying Group the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) has indicated that with appropriate governmental support, the UK’s small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), could take on over two million more apprentices. Unicom comments.

Getting reform right

The FSB recently released a new report called Make or Break: Getting Apprenticeship Reform Right for Small Businesses. Within the paper, the lobbying organisation noted that 24% of its members already have an apprentice. The same number, FSB argued, have the means to take on as many as two million more apprentices, if they are provided with the appropriate incentives by the UK government.

Overcoming barriers

The report also revealed the key barriers preventing British SMEs from hiring more apprentices. This includes the expenses involved in training a new apprentice, which the FSB expects to cause a decline in the number of companies taking on apprentices in future. In order to reduce the costs of training new apprentices, FSB suggests, Whitehall should supply SMEs with a more generous incentive to take on more apprentices than those which are currently being considering.

Make-or-break moment

Commenting on the report’s findings, FSB Chairman Mike Cherry noted: “Smaller businesses are taking on more apprentices than ever before. What’s more, a quarter of our members say they are considering employing an apprentice in the future. This presents a huge opportunity and is great news for vocational training, which has become an increasingly attractive option for young people put off by the rising cost and uncertain returns of a university degree.”Going on, Cherry was quoted by SME Insider, a business news and advice publication, saying: “We are at a make-or-break moment. We need the Government to hit the right balance between incentives and support. While many small firms are committed to apprenticeships, many more continue to be worried about the time and personal commitment required.”

Cherry’s advice

Offering further advice for Whitehall, Cherry indicated that there are three areas ministers should focus on. He suggested that first, ministers supply high growth potential-SMEs with more targeted and localised information. Second, he argued that UK-based small companies require specific and practical guidance on hiring apprentices. Finally, Cherry said that it is vital the Whitehall provides a more generous support package to SMEs which hire apprentices.

Bridging skills gaps

It is becoming clear that UK small businesses are facing skills shortages. Last year, a poll of 893 UK SMEs found that 31% believe that their employees lack the required skills. However, the Guardian points out, despite these skills gaps, many SMEs are still not taking on apprentices.The biggest ‘disincentives’ to taking on apprentices named by the poll’s respondents included cost (49%), regulation (19%) and training (14%). Within this context, Cherry makes a valid point; Whitehall may wish to provide SMEs with more support in order to boost British apprenticeship figures.

How Often Do Employees Speak To Their Bosses In One Day?

How often do employees speak to their bosses in one day?

 

New research from Unicom has shown has shown that the average UK employee speaks to their boss 21 times every day.

Bosses need to communicate with their employees

Unicom is an energy and telecoms provider that is dedicated to providing first-rate service to over 100,000 SMEs across the UK.

As such we understand the importance of communication between employees and their bosses. Recently we surveyed the opinions of 1,000 SME decision makers and owners to determine the role telecommunications played in facilitating this vital communication.

Unicom survey reveals how often employees talk to their bosses

Our research found that on average, employees in the UK speak to their bosses on the phone 21 times every day. Meanwhile 20% of employees speak to their bosses 30 times in one day whilst 10% communicate with their superiors a staggering 60 times per day.

The research also showed when employees take calls. It showed that 31% of people are expected to take calls outside of working hours and after 7pm, 17% check their work phones whilst in the bathroom, almost 20% take a call from the boss whilst having dinner, 27% will accept a call during a film yet only 18% feel like they’re able to refuse a call from their superior outside of the office.

“Mobile communications have revolutionised the way we live and work.”

The Unicom research also showed that people expect to take calls from their boss outside of working hours. 29% said they are OK with this alteration to their work/life balance whilst 19% hate this change but accept it as a part of modern working life.

Unicom CEO Chris Earle commented on the research. Earle said: “Mobile communications have revolutionised the way we live and work and for many of us, striking the right balance is tricky.

“Finding ways to stay in the work loop and be present for friends and family is something we’re all working hard to do. Never the less, mobile phones are an essential business tool that no business can do without.  Unicom’s range of packages enables the small business owner to select the right solution for them and their employees however they choose to actively use their phones.”

 

Star Rewards Scheme

Star Rewards Scheme

 

Unicom employees have been celebrating a fantastic addition to their employee benefits package with the launch of the new Universal Rewards Scheme on August 7th.

Working in partnership with household names such as Marks & Spencer, Boots, Asda and Sainsbury’s we’re bringing our employees amazing benefits like 10% off all shopping at Marks & Spencer, 8 % off at Argos and PC World and 10% off at Boots and House of Fraser. We’ve even got 8% off all shopping at Jimmy Choo and Harrods for those who love a little luxury!

With access to over 1000 offers from major high street stores and online retailers already available to our employees via a dedicated online benefits hub and with new offers added every month we’re working hard to remain one of the UK’s leading employers of choice.

Since the introduction of the scheme just five weeks ago a massive £40,268 has already been spent by our 340 employees with nearly £4000 of savings made!

And these exciting rewards are in addition to the two pay rises we offer every year, quarterly performance bonuses and the chance to earn extra holidays.

Mark Draper, Project Development Manager said; “My team has been working on the introduction of staff benefits for some time and the Universal Rewards Scheme delivers benefits to staff at all levels of the business. With a bit of smart shopping we will each easily save £1,000 per year. I’ve already saved almost £300 when booking my summer holiday!”

When it comes to delivering industry leading employee benefits, Unicom remains at the cutting edge.

We are always on the lookout for exceptional new talent to help us continue to deliver the first class service our customers deserve. If you’re interested in joining the team and you think you’ve got what it takes just click here.

 

Monday, 8th August 2016

Community Support

Community Support

 

Small business telecoms and utilities provider, Unicom, has awarded three charities a total of £1500 through its Community Support Scheme.

The scheme allows community groups and local charities to apply for donations up to £500, providing much needed financial support for those who work to improve the quality of life for local residents.

One charity awarded was Sharnford Youth Club. The club is the only place in the local area open weekly and offers children a place to enjoy a range of indoor and outdoor activities. Unicom’s donation went towards the upkeep of the Club House.

Julie Edge, Chair of Sharnford Youth Club said “Being a small village community centre but with a membership of over 60 children, we are so grateful to Unicom for their support.  The grant money they have provided will go towards much needed window blinds and maintenance of the building in order to keep it looking its best for all our users. Thank you Unicom.”

The second charity awarded was Nantymoel Boys and Girls club, a youth club based in South Wales. The club used the donation to fund an exciting trip out and giving its members something to look forward to, as without the funding they would not be able to go.

Royal Oak and Baguley Boxing Club was the third charity to be awarded though the scheme. The club provides a place for young people in the area to go and gives them something to focus on, keeping them off the streets and out of crime. The funding was used to support a boxing competition they hosted on 8th November.

Charles Roberts who applied for the funding said “We wish to thank you so much for Unicom’s kind donation to our Boxing Club. The money that you generously donated made for a spectacular night for our young and aspiring boxers.”

Unicom’s CEO, Chris Earle, said “Our customers are the many thousands of small businesses around the country that depend on thriving local communities for their living.  And with more than 500 staff across 12 offices nationwide we understand the importance of giving something back to those communities.”

 

Monday, 18th June 2016