IOSH SMEs policy

In 2015, there were 5.4 million small- or medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the UK, which was 99.9% of all businesses. SMEs provide 60% of all business employment, representing 15.6 million employees and 47% of turnover.

IOSH believes that supporting SMEs and improving their health and safety performance is vital for reducing work-related injury and ill-health and for boosting productivity and sustainability. We urge others to join IOSH in providing this.

The facts

  • In 2016, the UK Prime Minister described SMEs as “…the backbone of the British economy.”
  • In 2015, there were 5.4 million small- or medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the UK, which was 99.9% of all businesses.
  • SMEs provide 60% of all business employment, representing 15.6 million employees and 47% of turnover.
  • We know many businesses struggle to keep afloat in their first years and the UK five-year survival rate for businesses starting-up in 2009 and still active in 2014 were 41.7%.
  • In 2014, there were 351,000 business start-ups, the highest recorded since comparable records began in 2000 in the UK.
  • Between 2013-14, the number of UK businesses ceasing to trade was 246,000, an increase of 3.5% (ONS, 2014).
  • A study for the Better Regulation Executive found that current levels of health and safety compliance weren’t seen as overly burdensome, but, businesses aren't always clear about what is needed by law.
  • The new Fit For Work Service is a Government funded initiative designed to support people in work with health conditions and prolonged sickness absence to return-to-work.

Our position

IOSH believes that SMEs should be given more support to improve their health and safety performance, which is vital for reducing work-related injury and ill-health and for boosting productivity and sustainability.

This support needs to be straightforward, simple and easily accessible, so IOSH has developed free online tools to guide SMEs on health, safety and environment and help them assess and tackle risks. These include for business start-ups, risk assessment, occupational health and seeking external assistance. We also provide a free information helpline.

Also, as part of our 'Li£e Savings' campaign making the business case for good health and safety, IOSH provides free resources and case studies for SMEs. We urge others to give better support to SMEs and commit to providing more resources. For example, in addition to the Fit for Work Service, we’ve called for SMEs in England and Northern Ireland to have free access to workplace visits and advice, similar to Healthy Working Lives Scotland or Healthy Working Wales. We’ve also called for the restoration of proactive regulator visits.

Relevant IOSH consultation responses: