More than 25,000 businesses have been helped under the Start-Up Loan scheme, which provides financial support and mentoring to new entrepreneurs.
Prompt payment code:
The Department of Business has introduced new terms for organisations to pay suppliers within 30 days as the norm as a requirement of the Prompt Payment Code and includes a maximum 60-day payment term. The code gives clear guidance to organisations about payment procedures and sets out fair practices for public authorities and organisations to follow when dealing with suppliers. Around 1,700 organisations and public authorities have signed up to thisvoluntary code. A new Code Compliance Board has been set up to ensure signatories are adhering to the code’s terms and to investigate any complaints from suppliers about non-compliance.
The government is asking food producers and shops to give more information about where their food comes from. Research indicates that almost 80% of people see buying local food as a top priority.
The government has announced a £5m business support scheme to help flood affected businesses in Cumbria and Lancashire. This is equivalent to £2,500 per business provided to local authorities.
The EU has announced a comprehensive support package worth €500m for the benefit of farmers. This is intended to:
- address the cash-flow difficulties
- farmers are facing;
- stabilise markets; and
- address the functioning of the supply chain.
Referring to the basic cost of living in the UK, the Living Wage Foundation has calculated that the current UK living wage is £7.85 an hour and £9.15 an hour in London. Employers can choose to pay the living wage voluntarily.
Naming and shaming:
The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills has “named and shamed” a further 37 employers for not paying the national minimum wage to their employees. As well as this adverse publicity, those that do not comply may also be fined up to £20,000.
From 8 January 2015, in certain circumstances, the Deduction from Wages (Limitation) Regulations SI 2014/3322 limit claims for a series of unlawful deductions from wages to two years. This applies to claims submitted to an employment tribunal on or after 1 July 2015. The Working Time Regulations SI 1998/1833 are also amended to prevent contractual claims for holiday pay being brought in the civil courts to avoid the two-year limit.
The Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Bill will ban exclusivity terms in zero hours contracts. Regulations will deal with employers who avoid the ban and provide for compensation for employees who have been offered a contract with an exclusivity clause.
The Court of Justice of the European Union has ruled that if a worker does not have a fixed or habitual place of work, the time spent travelling between work appointments is working time and cannot be treated as a rest period.
Pay and right to work:
The Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Act 2006, s 15 allows the Secretary of State to impose a penalty on an employer who employs a person aged 16 or over who is subject to immigration control unless:
- the employee has valid and subsisting permission to be in the UK and are not restricted from taking the job in question; or
- they are in a category for which employment is allowed.
- To conduct a right to work check, the employer must:
- obtain original versions of one or more of the acceptable documents;
- check the documents in the presence of the holder of the documents; and
- make copies of the documents, retain the copies and make a record of the date on which the check is made.
Once the relevant documentation has been obtained, the government’s online tool can assist employers to determine whether a person is entitled to work in the UK. The onus is very much on the employer to carry out these checks. The Home Office can only be asked for the immigration employment status of a potential employee if:
- the employer is reasonably satisfied that the person cannot produce their documents because of an outstanding appeal or application with the Home Office;
- they have an application registration card; or
- they have a certificate of application that is less than six months old.
The new national living wage will be introduced from April 2016 and this will be accompanied by new measures to stop employers flouting the rules.
The Pensions Regulator has warned that about 20% of small businesses and around 50% of micro-businesses do not know their auto-enrolment staging dates. The lower and upper earnings amounts for the auto enrolment qualifying earnings band will be increased for 2015/16.
A survey of small businesses with auto enrolment staging dates between 2015 and 2018 indicates that almost 25% may miss their date, risking penalties or fines by The Pensions Regulator.
Freedom Research by Zurich:
Insurance indicates that 90% of pensions claimants taking pension benefits are opting for cash lump sums. The remainder are opting for an annuity or drawdown. Of those accessing their pensions, 80% are taking less than £10,000 and the average withdrawal is £4,000.
A consumer magazine recently carried out its annual check on HMRC helpline waiting times. It made 100 calls to the self-assessment and general enquiries helplines and recorded how long it took to receive a reply. The average wait was 38 minutes, compared to 18 minutes in 2014. Almost one in five attempts left the caller on hold for more than an hour.
The delay was longer the later in the day the call was made. Before 2pm the average wait was 28 minutes, but after 6pm it increased to 61 minutes.
HMRC acknowledged that “Our service levels have not been good enough for many customers at busy periods this year, and improvements have taken longer than we’d hoped.”
Place of supply:
Revenue & Customs simplifies the evidence required to support decisions on the place of taxation for VAT purposes and applies to businesses that fall below the registration threshold. It suggests businesses that have registered for VAT MOSS, but have small levels of trading, should consider whether they need to be registered for VAT purposes.
The Charity Commission has named 14 more charities in its class inquiry into charities that fail to file accounts properly in two consecutive years: “double defaulters”. The commission has also announced the next phase of the inquiry. The announcement comes after the commission published a list of excuses received for not filing accounts on time.
The EU plans to adopt a Trade Secrets Directive in March 2016, which will align existing laws against the misappropriation of trade secrets across the EU. The proposal harmonise the civil means through which victims of trade secret misappropriation can seek protection. This should discourage unfair competition, while encouraging collaborative innovation and the sharing of valuable know-how.