The 2018 Budget

Chris Wilkinson from Expert HR Solutions looks at the implications of the 2018 Budget for SMEs. Read on if you want to find out more.

The Chancellor said that Employment Allowance was introduced to incentivise businesses to take on employees. He continued that at a flat rate of £3,000 per employer, it does not provide any real incentive for larger employers, So, from April 2020, we’ll target it at small and medium businesses with an Employer NICs bill under £100k a year.

He said that he had explored all avenues to address the cliff edge effect of VAT registration, but our options are restricted by EU law.  As our future VAT regime becomes clear over the years ahead.  To give small businesses certainty the threshold will be unchanged for a further two years.

The off payroll working rules known as IR35 are designed to ensure fairness, so that individuals working side by side in a similar role for the same employer pay the same employment taxes. Last year, we changed the way these rules are enforced in the Public Sector.  But widespread non-compliance also exists in the private sector.  So, following our consultation, we will now apply the same changes to private sector organisations as well but only from April 2020 and we will only apply them to large and medium-sized businesses. Chris comments that it would appear the Chancellor’s definition of medium sized is a business with more than 50 employees.

The minimum contributions from April 2019 to Pensions Auto enrolment schemes will be 3% by the employer and 5% by the employee, assuming the employee is enrolled in the scheme.

At the same time the National Living Wage will rise from £7.83 an hour to £8.21 an hour for workers aged 25 an over, representing an above inflation rise of 4.9%.  It was also announced that the minimum wage for other age groups will go up; from £7.38 to £7.70 for 21-24 year olds, from £5.90 to £6.15 for 18-20 year olds and from £4.20 to £4.35 for 16-17 year olds.  The statutory rate for apprentices aged under 19 or in the first year of their apprenticeship will increase by 20p an hour to £3.90.

Those businesses with significant road transport costs will be relieved at a further year of freeze on fuel taxes.

 

Cautionary TUPE Tale

 

Yet again employers involved in a TUPE transfer have managed to get themselves into trouble in a TUPE transfer. The law in this area is complex if only because of the number of case precedent rulings says Chris from Expert HR Solutions, we would always advise that both the Transferee and the Transferor companies seek expert advice well before any consultations with staff or their representatives take place he continues. In this case, an employee with work relationship difficulties was dismissed two days before a TUPE transfer was unfairly dismissed.

The employee was employed as a cashier by a wine and beer business (the Transferor). When the company encountered financial difficulties another company (the Transferee) agreed to purchase its stock and take on any employees on the basis that the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations 2006 (TUPE) applied to the transaction.

The Transferee assumed responsibility for the employment contracts of all existing Transferor employees with the exception of the employee, whose employment was terminated.

According to tribunal documents, a Transferor director had met with “six or seven” employees to talk about their future employment in the run-up to the business being sold. The employee was the last to meet with the director, and her employment was terminated on 9th December 2014. The transfer of business took place a couple of days later on 11th December.

The employee brought proceedings before an employment tribunal claiming unfair dismissal, as well as redundancy pay and notice. She insisted the principal reason for her dismissal was the transfer. She added that neither business wanted her to transfer because she had a strained working relationship with a colleague.

The Transferee argued that the employee had objected to a transfer in the 9 December meeting, and the liability for her claims remained with the Transferor. The tribunal rejected this argument.

The tribunal heard that according to the Transferor’s director, the employee stated she was not happy to work for the Transferee and did not wish to transfer. The director regarded this an objection to the transfer, and her employment was terminated for that reason.

But the judge rejected the director’s evidence as she considered there were “significant” discrepancies between his written and oral evidence. The ET ruled in favour of the employee, concluding that she would have transferred but for her dismissal. As such, it concluded the reason for Kaur’s dismissal was the transfer.

The Transferee appealed the ruling, arguing the reason for the dismissal was entirely personal to the employee and not related to the transfer. The EAT dismissed the appeal and upheld the ET’s ruling.

It ruled the ET did not err in finding the reason for Kaur’s dismissal was the transfer notwithstanding the fact there were ongoing relationship difficulties between her and a colleague. In his ruling, Mr Justice Choudhury added: “An issue affecting an employee’s conduct or competence, if suddenly acted upon at the point of transfer, is unlikely to be the sole or principal reason for the dismissal.”

Chris says the judgment should remind employers that a TUPE transfer cannot be used as a way of getting rid of ‘problem’ employees. Nor, he continues can employers pick and choose which employees transfer. It also serves as a reminder that issues relating to conduct or capability must be dealt with as they occur. Finally he says that at expert HR Solutions we always ask employees who are objecting to the transfer to write a letter to the employer stating that they object to the transfer and realise that as a result their employment will terminate on the date of the transfer and that they will not be entitled to any financial compensation. We also advise all such meetings are conducted by two people so that there is a witness to what was said.

If you would like advice about this or any other employment issue give us a call on 01202 611033, your first 30 minutes are FREE.

Dates for your Diary

Or perhaps that should be dates for my Diary says Chris from Expert HR Solutions as many of these will require changes to Contracts of Employment and in some cases to Policies. We thought you might be interested in the Governments current timetable for changes to Employment Law in the UK. Plainly to a certain extent this is dependent on any political changes that may happen and on the outcome of the Brexit negotiations and future Trade Agreements (or not) with the European Union.

If you are a retained Client we will remind you again closer to the event, and in most cases amend your documentation accordingly as part of your retainer.

If you are not a retained client and would like documentation like this to be kept up to date for you why not give us a call on 01202 611033. We are sure you will be pleasantly surprised how little it will cost and more importantly how much time it will save you to get on with what you are good at, growing your own business.

Should Tribunal Fees be reintroduced?

The government has said it intends to bring back employment tribunal fees, scrapped last year by the Supreme Court. Ministers have admitted to getting the balance between access and affordability wrong but it says that these discourage “vexatious” claims. In this blog, Chris Wilkinson from Expert HR Solutions Ltd. tries to explain the arguments both for and against.

With the introduction of fees there was a very significant reduce in the number of cases brought to tribunal. Opponents of the fees argue that relatively low value claims were obliterated because if an employer owes you, for instance, £500 employees felt that it was not worth paying £160 to pursue that claim. Supporters of the fees argue that if this was the issue then that is an argument for changing the system such that the tribunal automatically adds the Tribunal fee to any award in the event of the case being heard against the Respondent.

The argument that some people didn’t have the money to spend on Tribunal claims is surely an argument for making the system to help low earners avoid the fees much simpler say supporters.

Supporters of the fees argue that they deterred a large number of frivolous claims. The facts do not appear to support this argument as the number of cases that were unsuccessful dismissed or withdrawn remained broadly the same before during and after the fee structure was in force. Opponents say this simply isn’t true because lawyers see tiny number of cases where there is little if any chance of success, and that there is already a mechanism for weeding out on worthy claims which tribunal is able to impose deposit and cost orders on claimants. They continue that what the fees did do was allow employers who might previously have settled cases to take a harder attitude because they knew employees could not afford to take them to Tribunal.

It is the case that the large fall in caseload following the introduction of fees was followed by an equal and opposite large increase in cases following their withdrawal. This increase has resulted in an increase in waiting times so supporters argue that you need fair and proportionate fees in order to eradicate frivolous cases and reduce waiting times. One suggestion to achieve this is to introduce a sliding scale of fees similar to those charged by County Courts.

As always if you have any questions about this or any other article published by Expert HR Solutions then call us on (01202) 611033, we look forward to hearing from you.

Brexit and EU Workers

If you employ or are intending to employ EU nationals you need to read this says Chris Wilkinson from Expert HR Solutions. Assuming we do not crash out of the EU with no agreement then the introduction of the new settled status will mark the end of freedom of movement for EU citizens in the UK.

From 1st July 2021, EU citizens and their family members in the UK must apply to hold lawful UK immigration status under a new ‘settlement scheme’. An implementation period will run between 29th March 2019 and 31st December 2020, during which time there will be no change to EU citizens’ current rights. At the end of the implementation period in December 2020, settled status will replace permanent residence status.

EU citizens and their family members with settled status will have the right to remain in the UK indefinitely and have access, as they currently do, to healthcare, pensions and other benefits in the UK.

Until the new status has been passed into law, and we don’t currently know whether it will and if it is then when it will become law the rights and status of EU citizens in the UK remain unchanged. This includes the attainment of permanent residence status after five continuous years of exercising Treaty rights, and the requirement for proof of permanent residence as a mandatory prerequisite for EEA nationals applying to naturalise as British citizens.

EU citizens and family members living in the UK for five continuous years by 31st December 2020 will have until 30th June 2021 to make a settled status application to remain in the UK indefinitely. Those who are in the UK by 31st December 2020 but have not attained the requisite five-year qualifying period will be eligible for ‘pre-settled status’. With this, they are permitted to stay in the UK until they have reached the five-year point, when they should apply for full settled status.

Close family members will be able to join an EU citizen relative in the UK after the end of the implementation period, provided the relationship existed on 31st December 2020 and continues to exist when the individual comes to the UK. This includes spouses, children and other dependants, as well as future children.

Applications will cost £65 for those aged 16 or over and £32.50 for children under 16. Those who already hold a valid permanent residence or indefinite leave to remain document will be able to transfer to settled status free of charge.

For UK employers, the new settled status raises a number of considerations. EEA national personnel may have questions about what to do and whether they qualify for the new scheme, or they may wish to secure permanent residence status before the new system comes into force. Ensuring your workforce has access to up-to-date information will help to inform and reassure them of any concerns.

With the new scheme will come an inevitable need to police EU citizens’ immigration status. We expect this will fall to UK employers as part of their Right to Work

document checks, following an update to the Home Office’s lists of acceptable documents.

From an HR compliance perspective, now is a good time for employers to ensure all relevant organisational policies and processes (recruitment, onboarding) are compliant with Right to Work duties and do not discriminate against individuals on the basis of nationality, and that relevant personnel are adequately trained and skilled to perform the document checks correctly.

If you want help with this or any other aspect of employing people then give us a call on 01202 611033.

Post Brexit Right to Work

 

Chris Wilkinson from Expert HR Solutions says that the latest report on the checks employers have to make on the right to work post Brexit could prove problematic for employers who have become accustomed to working with hard copy documents, as the Immigration Minister Caroline Nokes is quoted as saying: “Government services are digital by default. We would prefer that to be the default route and think that it provides a much quicker and seamless service.”

Traditionally employers have asked to see documents such as passports and biometric cards, were understood by employers and the proposed digital-only settled status system’s success depended on businesses embracing a new way of working Chris continues.

Last month, the government pronounced on how EU citizens who had lived in the UK for at least five years could apply for settled status. The proposal makes the settled status process as paperless as possible, issuing successful applicants with digital codes. Employers can then enter these codes into the Home Office website to confirm the applicant’s immigration status. Chris warns employers that there is a risk of a civil penalty for employers employing someone without the correct immigration status.  He continues that far too often he comes across situations where the employer assumes that because the potential employee has been employed in the UK before the correct checks have been done and the right to work established.

More guidance on how employers were expected to keep records of these digital codes would be helpful.  It might also be the case that the codes could allow employers to view sensitive information about employees, such as details of any criminal convictions, names and addresses they would need to keep any record of these codes in accordance with the GDPR.

Meanwhile, the Home Office accounts for the year ended 31 March 2018, which were published last week revealed the number of staff employed by UK Visas and Immigration had risen to 7,680 full-time equivalent workers, up roughly a fifth (18.8 per cent) compared with 6,467 the year before.

However, Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures, released last week, showed the number of EU citizens immigrating to the UK had dropped in the last year, while the number leaving the country had shot up. In particular the number of people moving to the UK from the bloc to look for work fell by 18,000 compared with the previous year to 37,000.

Any employer that wants help with this or any other employment related question can call Expert HR Solutions on 01202 611033 for a FREE 30 minute consultation.

We are delighted…

Expert HR Solutions

At Expert HR Solutions we are proud to say all our staff and associates are qualified and experienced HR professionals so you know the advice you are getting is amongst the best available to you says Managing Director Chris Wilkinson.  Sadly, he goes on, even with our knowledge and experience we can’t remove the right of every employee to take their employer to a Tribunal.

We have been suggesting an insurance policy that provided legal expense cover but only if the insurer decided there was a better than evens chance of winning the case.  We are delighted because Liam Wyatt from Lansdowne Woodward Insurance Brokers Ltd has managed to find us a policy that guarantees up to £100,000 cover for Employment Practices Liability.  Chris thinks that taking out such cover is a bit of a no brainer, after the withdrawal of Tribunal fees the number of cases has risen back to the same sort of numbers as before they were introduced, that is around 225,000 cases per year.  According to government statistics there are 2,668,810 businesses that are registered for PAYE purposes which means if each case was against a different employer then 1 in 11 employers are taken to Tribunal annually. In most cases costs are not awarded to Employers even if they win the case and if you lose then costs will be awarded against you.  For a five-day hearing this could easily amount to around £30,000 and the average Tribunal award for discrimination cases was just over £21,000.  Based on those figures you would have to pay the likely premium for nearly 200 years to be in negative financial territory.

If you want to know more about how Expert HR Solutions can help then give us a call on 01202 611033, we promise we do not go in for pressure sales and you first consultation is FREE so what have you got to lose.

Bombshell

The Supreme Court has handed down its verdict that notice of termination takes effect neither when the termination letter is posted by the employer, nor when it is put through the employee’s front door, but when the employee reads it requires a change to every Contract of Employment says Chris from Expert HR Solutions.

It centred on the timing of her dismissal and whether the official notice fell before or after her 50th birthday, which had a major financial implication on future pension payments.

The ruling means that in the absence of an express clause in a contract outlining when notice is deemed to be given and take effect, it will be implied that notice will take effect from when it has been received and read by the employee, having first had a reasonable opportunity to do so.. The employee’s employment contract stated that she was entitled to a minimum 12-week notice period, but did not state how that notice should be communicated.

During the consultation when her post was placed at risk of redundancy, which she accepted, she requested that a final decision about this should not be made in her absence and explained when she would be on holiday, the Trust knew about and had approved the holiday.. The Trust sent a letter giving written notice of termination by recorded delivery to her home address, aware that she was away on holiday at the time.  A copy was also emailed to her husband’s email address.

As she was on holiday there was no one at home when the recorded delivery letter arrived so it could not be delivered.  It was collected by her father but not seen by the employee until she returned.

The Employer argued that notice was effectively communicated on 20 April, 12 weeks after the letter was sent, meaning her 12-week notice period expired before her 50th birthday.  The Employee maintained that notice of her termination was not effectively communicated until she read the letter on 27 April, meaning her termination date would be after her 50th birthday.

The High Court and the Court of Appeal upheld her case that the notice period only commenced after she had read the letter and the Supreme Court has now agreed.

In the absence of an express contractual provision, the court had to determine the implied contractual term as to when notice took effect. The Trust argued that a common law rule, derived from landlord and tenant cases, provided that notice was given when the letter was delivered to the recipient’s address.  The Employee relied on the approach of the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) in employment cases that notice only took effect when it had actually been received by the employee and the employee had either read or had a reasonable opportunity to read it. The Supreme Court majority upheld the EAT approach was correct.

The ruling is important for employers and employees as the termination date can be decisive in determining an employee’s entitlement to a bonus or other contractual payment, insurance or employee benefits, or the statutory right to claim unfair dismissal and/or redundancy pay, and increased pension rights.

Chris says that the decision should prompt employers to review their contracts and, for those who have not already done so, to take advantage of the clear steer from the Supreme Court that careful drafting can provide greater certainty of when the notices they give take effect.

How to become a Criminal

A number of very high profile cases are pushing the government to make wilful or reckless behaviour in the handling of company pension funds a criminal offence in the UK, according to a government white paper that announced new proposals to ‘crack down’ on unscrupulous bosses says Chris Wilkinson of Expert HR Solutions.

Is the Protecting Defined Benefit Pension Schemes White Paper a “giant step in the right direction” as some commentators have asserted or a giant step towards criminalising well intentioned employers?  It certainly looks to provide The Pensions Regulator (TPR) with tougher, more active powers to intervene when employers evade their obligations.

Measures outlined in the white paper include giving TPR the power to punish employers that deliberately put their pension schemes at risk by introducing punitive fines and improving the effectiveness and efficiency of their existing powers which protect member benefits and hold employers to account.

The government said it would legislate to introduce a criminal offence that will punish those found to have committed wilful or grossly reckless behaviour in relation to a pension scheme. It would also build on existing processes to support the disqualification of company directors.

A consultation will be carried out over the coming months to ensure this is delivered effectively. As a policy document, the government’s white paper proposals for future legislation are still subject to change.

The planned improvements to TPR funding, information-gathering and anti-avoidance powers will enable them to be clearer about what we expect from employers in relation to scheme funding, and tougher where a scheme is not getting the funding it needs.”

Kate Smith, head of pensions at Aegon, said the measures to protect against a “small minority” of unscrupulous employers were a “giant step in the right direction”.   “It is sending out a loud and clear message that reckless behaviour from employers that puts defined benefit schemes at risk will no longer be tolerated.  Those employers found guilty of deliberately putting their defined benefit schemes at risk can be heavily fined and risk a criminal record,” she said.

However, other experts felt the measures could be slow to introduce and difficult to enforce. Steve Webb, director of policy at Royal London, said the new laws could be reduced to “gesture legislation”.

“With an Act of parliament likely to have to wait until 2019-20 and further detailed regulations needed after that, it could be a long time before today’s paper has any practical impact.”

Chris urges all Companies to take advantage of the likely delay in legislation to ensure they have a Pension scheme in place and that it is properly funded.  He concludes, if you want advice on current legislation why not call us on 01202 611033.

New Ruling on Working Time

Do you have ‘Workers’ who spend time ‘on call’ asks Chris Wilkinson from Expert HR Solutions.  If so the latest ruling from the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) may affect you.  Read on to find out why and what the consequences could be.

The case involved volunteer firefighters who are involved in operations, standby services and other duties at the fire station, which are arranged by roster at the start of each year.  They are paid an annual allowance for their standby work.  The case was originally heard in 2009 when a firefighter brought legal proceedings against his employer for a failure to pay sufficient remuneration for his services as a volunteer firefighter during his years of service.  In particular, he claimed that his standby services should be categorised as working time.  The case was upheld, but the employer appealed, and although the appeal was partially upheld the CJEU was asked to rule on whether the standby services should be classed as working time.

The CJEU established that the firefighter was a worker.  Although he held a voluntary, rather than a professional, status in his country, this did not affect his definition as a worker according to case law. The nature of an employment relationship under national law cannot determine whether or not the person is a worker under EU law.

The court was also asked to rule on whether Matzak’s standby work should be considered to be working time under the directive, despite his being at home while on call, “given the constraints on the worker at the time preventing him from undertaking other activities”.

It found that, if the standby period, in the form of physical presence at the place of work were excluded from the concept of working time, it would seriously undermine the objective to ensure workers’ safety and health by granting them adequate rest periods and breaks.

While the firefighter spent his standby duties working at home, he was obliged to respond to calls from his employer within eight minutes, and to be physically present in the place determined by his employer.  Under such circumstances, it was impossible for the worker to choose where they wanted to be at that time, rendering the working hours within the worker’s normal working duties, the CJEU said.

The obligation to remain physically present at the place the employer determined and the geographical and temporal constraints resulting from the need to reach his place of work within eight minutes objectively limited the opportunities that a worker in his circumstances had for his own personal interests, the court found.  This differed from a worker who must simply be at his employer’s disposal to ensure it is possible to contact him during standby duty.

In effect this ruling means that the greater the restrictions on a worker when on call but not working the more likely it is that the on-call period will be regarded as working time.  This may then have implications in relation to compliance with rest periods, working hours and the national minimum wage.”

Chris advises Employers to consider carefully whether they need to place significant restrictions upon employees’ activities when they are on-call.  If you want help on this or any other employee issue why not give Expert HR Solutions a call on 01202 611033, the first 15-minute consultation is free.