Recent news about rising bills and help from the government has tended to focus on individual households – but what should you do if you’re struggling to pay the costs for your small business?
Offices can guzzle up a lot of gas and electricity, as there is more space to heat and lots of appliances to keep running. In fact, many businesses have come together to call on Chancellor Rishi Sunak to do more for business owners who are facing difficult bills.
What help is available from the government?
The government have responded to these calls by extending their scheme to support high energy usage businesses – those in manufacturing, for instance, who use a lot of gas and electricity to power their equipment. Steel and paper manufacturers are some of those covered by the scheme. However, there is no indication that other types of business can expect something similar any time soon.
Instead, energy regulator Ofgem suggest that companies who are struggling try applying for other, more generic types of business support funding. Many local councils will have various grants available to help businesses that can show they will use the money wisely. You’ll need to make the case that paying for essential power will help your business to grow and thrive.
It is also worth looking at the different charity grants that are available, as well as schemes offered by energy suppliers to help businesses become more efficient. While this won’t directly pay your bill, it will allow you to reduce the amount of gas and electricity you use – and therefore pay less for it.
Talk to your suppliers about a payment plan
When individuals get into debt, the first piece of advice is always to speak to the company directly. The same goes for small businesses. If you’re upfront about your problems with the energy company, they may be able to help you. This can include figuring out a payment plan that reduces your monthly bill until your able to pay more, or potentially giving you access to a hardship fund.
Remember, your energy can be disconnected quickly – within 30 days – if you simply fail to pay your bills. Speaking to the company first can help you avoid this! Have a budget in mind when you call, and be prepared to talk through your company’s income and outgoings.
Reducing your bills
Finding a way to reduce your bill could also help you manage the costs. Firstly, check that your current bill is accurate. Have you provided recent meter readings? Are there any discrepancies with the amount that you’re being charged? If you have a reason to believe the bill is wrong, call your supplier straight away. Make sure you’re submitting meter readings every month, and consider switching to a smart meter if you haven’t already (your supplier should provide one for free).
As we mentioned above, better efficiency will also help to lower your costs. This means switching off computers and appliances when they’re not in use, switching to energy efficient lightbulbs and checking that your office is well-insulated. The same tips and tricks used to improve energy efficiency at home can also work in the office – although make sure you’re not asking your employees to make any unfair sacrifices!