The Labour Party has pledged to enact an Employment Bill within its first 100 days in office that will bring significant changes to employment laws and employee rights. Named the ‘New Deal for Working People’, it promises employees their rights from day one and aims to tackle longstanding issues of worker rights and employment insecurity. The bill proposes banning zero-hours contracts, abolishing fire and rehire practices, and eliminating qualifying periods for basic rights.

While these measures aim to enhance worker protections, their potential impact on businesses requires careful consideration. The proposal has been the subject of much debate, with the party facing lobbying pressure, criticism about loopholes and concerns about power imbalances, but how do businesses feel? To gauge business sentiment, we surveyed 1,200 business decision makers via the Business Opinion Omnibus.

What do businesses make of the ‘New Deal for Working People’?

Overall, the findings reveal low levels of awareness with 36% of businesses entirely unfamiliar with the bill’s contents. Even among those with some knowledge, understanding of the specifics is limited.

Beyond this, the survey indicates that a substantial portion (79%) of businesses anticipate being directly affected by the changes. This includes businesses currently using zero-hours contracts (21%), those with unionised workforces (17%), and those that may need to introduce more flexible working arrangements, allowing staff to ‘disconnect from work’ (34%).

Concerns voiced by employers centre around potential risks associated with outcomes such as stricter dismissal procedures and expanded sick pay entitlements. In response, 70% of businesses indicate they will implement changes to manage this exposure. These adjustments could include:

    • Reduced hiring activity (22%) or offshoring operations (10%) to circumvent UK employment regulations

    • Increased reliance on outsourced labour (32%), achieved through a combination of subcontracting (20%) and / or using more freelancers (17%)

    • Investment in technological solutions (15%) to automate tasks currently performed by human employees

    • Enhanced scrutiny during the recruitment process (31%), involving more thorough reference checks, prioritising candidates with greater experience, and potentially even trying to review past sick leave records

Sentiment and scale appear to be intertwined, with larger businesses (250+ employees) more likely to foresee potential upsides, such as a more content and productive workforce, while concerns are most pronounced among the smaller businesses (under 50 employees) which often lack the resources to readily adapt. Perceived downsides include higher labour costs (59%), higher recruitment costs (45%), hesitancy over expanding the business by taking on more staff (40%), more litigation (18%), and more industrial action (10%).

The inherent advantages enjoyed by larger businesses are particularly relevant here. These entities possess the resources to navigate potential delays in recruitment, handle disputes, restructure to manage increasing costs or even relocate operations overseas.

We can also see hot spots of discontent by sector, suggesting industry specific concerns. Businesses operating within the retail, wholesale, and construction sectors appear particularly apprehensive.

How might this play out?

The ‘New Deal for Workers’ has potential to significantly reshape the UK employment landscape, creating a business and employment environment closer to that of Europe. Those in work will enjoy more protections and may be happier, but there may also be unintended consequences such as higher unemployment among younger people yet to find their first role, with neither the experience nor the track record to demonstrate that they do not pose a risk to employers.

With loop-holes and work arounds featuring in mainstream news commentary, a broader concern has to be around the creation of a two-tier labour market, especially given that 17% of businesses may attempt to circumvent the new regulations by misclassifying employees as freelancers. This practice would deny these workers the legal protections and benefits they are entitled to.

There are already concerns about how AI and automation could replace some in the workforce, and these changes could accelerate the adoption of new technology to replace employees, as shown by the 15% of businesses who would look to technology to replace employees. This could be a particular pain-point for SMEs as they will not have the same resources or capital to manage these changes.

Ultimately while some businesses perceive potential benefits, a significant number express understandable concerns, but the impact will likely be most keenly felt by smaller businesses. We will continue to monitor the situation closely to assess the evolving impact of these proposals on both businesses and workers.

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The move marks our successful evolution from small market research agency, established in 1991, to the global full-service insight consultancy and member of The BVA Family that we are today.

Insight that makes a difference

Matt Costin, CEO, said: “Demand has never been higher for reliable and creative insight, where organisations can see the benefits on their bottom line. We pride ourselves on our heritage in delivering research which makes a real difference to businesses and, we hope, the wider world. This refresh will help us to further develop our brand around our  mission to help everyone that we work with to ‘be better’.

“We achieve this by unlocking hidden drivers, navigating the irrational and communicating insights with impact, which inspire change. To do this, we lean on our expertise and capabilities in four core areas: sector knowledge, data science, behavioural science and visual design.”

Inspiring performance and purpose

Caroline Ahmed, CCO, added: “This brand refresh is the outcome of a collaborative effort by colleagues in BVA BDRC and The BVA Family, to convey our goal of inspiring performance and purpose – something that has always been at the heart of our DNA. For our clients, this means insight to make smarter decisions, so that they can transform and grow. For our colleagues, this means a culture of aiming high and never giving up, where we are all able to thrive and do our bit to make the world a better place.”

Introducing ‘be better’

The appearance of Liz Truss at the 2023 Conservative party conference and, at a bookshop near you, served to remind us that her legacy is far reaching. For mortgage intermediaries, she may be gone, but the impact of the mini Budget has yet to be forgotten.  

Intermediaries taking part in our quarterly Project Mercury survey currently report little, if any, difference in confidence in the wider mortgage industry than in the final quarter of 2022, just after former Chancellor Kwarteng stood up behind the dispatch box to trigger the growth in interest rates which has only now started to moderate.   

The hope now is that mortgage rates will start to come down from some of the dramatic highs which are making their presence felt in both the owned and rented markets. Concerns are growing amongst intermediaries about the health of the market and the impact on their clients as deals expire and there is a lack of low-cost options to replace them, leading to tense conversations and stressed negotiations. 

We have found that product transfers are becoming the main source of business, as clients have few options available when, for example, they are coming to the end of a cheaper fix, but one they have only just managed to afford with Cost-of-Living issues. The lender retains the client, but, possibly without even realising, has a higher risk client on a rate that is now close to being unaffordable. 

Some intermediaries have also forecast that in the medium-term stretched customers may be looking at borrowing for debt consolidation, and at that point they may find they have to re-mortgage. 

The FCA’s Consumer Duty rules, which came in at the end of July, have caused added stress at a difficult time across intermediaries, adding to paperwork and to the feeling that they are being portrayed as scoundrels. There is very much a mood of shooting the messenger, which is unfortunate, but understandable.  

What we have seen is that, while the bureaucracy of the new regime is painful, it does protect the intermediary if there is a complaint from a client or some other kind of dispute. Anything which helps to define best practice can only be helpful for the sector and added regulation increases barriers to entry, which helps to set intermediaries above others in the property market.  

While we wait for the mortgage market to improve, there are some signs of hope in the mood of consumers. In our Moments of Truth study we found that currently 36% of consumers now expect their financial situation to be better in the next six months, against 22% who thought it would be worse. This is a significant improvement on October’22 when only 19% expected it to be better and 53% expected it to be worse.  

While the topline mood is positive, the detail reveals the usual devils. One in five consumers are earning less than their expenses and another two in five currently meet their expenses but have no savings, putting around 60% in the position of being vulnerable to a shock. 

Efforts are being made to conserve cash: half say they will cut back on energy usage and restaurants with a third cutting back on holidays and entertainment and a quarter planning to use their car less and dip into their savings. 

Looking ahead, two in five expected to have less savings in 12 months time, a similar proportion will have about the same as now and just over one in five expect to have more savings. 

A striking point for mortgage intermediaries was that very few said that they would discuss their financial situation with their bank. This presents an opportunity for the intermediaries to bring their specialist knowledge to bear, but also makes it more likely that, by the time a mortgage deal is up for renewal, the consumer’s finances may be in a more parlous state than they might have been with earlier help and intervention.  

With 1.5 million mortgages renewed or renewing in 2023, we will continue to navigate the ongoing turbulence and watch inflation figures for signs that pressure can be lifted. Brokers’ expert knowledge will be needed more than ever as people try to hold onto their homes.  

Not just a bit – a lot.

Twice as much, in fact.

This was the headline finding from our multi-award winning research for Channel 4 around Contextual Moments – Channel 4’s new AI driven TV advertising technology that enables the broadcaster to place a brand’s ads next to relevant scenes in a linear TV show.

It could be a potential game changer at a time when the estimated number of ad messages people are subjected to daily ranges from 500 to 5,000. What’s more, it seems most people remember relatively few of them (explicitly, at least). How many ads that you saw yesterday can you name? See what I mean?

When we designed the research – which involved force-exposing 1,800 respondents to one of three 30 minute C4/E4 programmes and testing nine adverts contextually and non-contextually against control groups – Channel 4 and BVA BDRC instinctively knew that relevant context would be beneficial to advertisers, but we didn’t know in what way or by how much.

Specifically what we found was 62.4% of those exposed to the TV spot recalled the ad (when prompted with screenshots) if it had been previously been shown to them alongside an adjacent contextual moment, whilst only 31.1% recalled it if they’d seen the ad next to programming that was not contextual.

For example, 57% remembered an ad for Samsung tablets if it was shown in a break close to when Sheldon brandished a tablet at Leonard in The Big Bang Theory (his notorious ‘roommate agreement’ which you’ll know if you’re a viewer); but this drops to a mere 30% amongst those exposed to the same ad during Catastrophe (a UK Comedy) or Tried and Tasted (a food programme) where no tablets were shown.

A whopping 67% remembered an ad for NHS Smokefree during Catastrophe shown near a scene where characters discussed quitting smoking, but dropped to a mere 34% amongst those who saw it during The Big Bang Theory or Tried and Tasted where quitting smoking was not mentioned…

The significantly higher recall for the ‘contextual ad’ held true for all nine ads tested.

But why does context have such a dramatic effect? Durham University helped us make sense of the findings, and hypothesised that it relates to semantic priming, which works by making recently accepted content more accessible; activated neural networks effectively just need reactivating – a lesser chore for our brains – which makes memory encoding significantly easier.

We also developed an innovative Erroneous Recollection research technique based on an experiment into schematic processing conducted by psychologists W.F. Brewer and J.C. Treyens whose test found that a significant number of subjects ‘recalled’ seeing books in a room that they had been told was a professor’s study, even though there were actually no books.

Our hypothesis was that the placement of an advert near a strong enough Contextual Moment could trigger incorrect ‘recall’ of the advertised brand appearing in the programme.

Those exposed to a Contextual Moments spot ad were indeed – on average – significantly more likely to erroneously ‘recall’ seeing the brand in the programme, so we were able to accept our hypothesis.

OK, so it works – but does recall actually matter?

It’s rare that ad recall in and of itself is a core campaign objective, and there will doubtless be behavioural economists who will say explicit recall of an ad doesn’t necessarily relate to its success.

However just looking at campaign normative data we hold it’s clear that there is a correlation between ad recall and impact:  when recall is above average, we see 46% greater positivity towards the advertiser amongst the exposed sample than when it’s below. Similarly consideration is 97% higher amongst those with above average recall and top-of-mind brand awareness is a whopping 214% higher.

This was also evident in our study. We found that adverts placed with a corresponding Contextual Moment also proved more effective on branding measures, with Contextual ads enjoying:

The painter Kenneth Noland once said, “For me context is the key – from that comes the understanding of everything.” We like to think he’d have approved of our work.

In 2017 two customer service assistants at the world-famous London Underground changed the wording on a station whiteboard that directed passengers to a Craig David concert in a move that would one day bring them to the attention of Michelle Obama.

They replaced the words “Keep Right” with a poem they had written instructing people how to get to the concert. The poem used lyrics from the artist’s songs.

Their simple action had a monumental outcome. The whiteboard poems went viral and the two employees became Sunday Times bestselling authors. They have more than a million followers on Instagram, including the former US first lady.

This story encapsulates everything about our North Star for CX: harnessing the power of emotion to influence human behaviour.

Getting emotional: CX in the digital age

While traditional customer experience has focused on the functional, nuts and bolts side of CX for a smoother customer journey, the digital age requires so much more.

The internet has saturated the market with products and services that are often indistinguishable from the next. To stand out, businesses need to connect to the humans buying their goods and make their experience as memorable as possible.

Numerous studies in behavioural science have also shown that it’s the customer experience, and more specifically, the memory of the experience, that creates attachment to a brand.

Human connection therefore requires CX to be built around human traits like emotions and feelings – attributes not generally associated with corporate conditions! When engineered in the right way, however, as the Transport for London whiteboard example proves, emotion can connect with people in a truly powerful way.

XPASS gets to the heart of human connection

In the world of business, human connection provides the foundations for profitable relationships and maximises return on CX investment.

But achieving it is no easy task.

Drawing on behavioural science can boost your chance of success. Our Emotional Activation Model, XPASS, helps keep emotion at the core of CX every step of the way.

Learn more in our eBook

This free eBook looks at how XPASS can be put to work for better customer experience outcomes in any sector. You will learn how: