Julie Duffy from Health@Work looks at the research into sickness absence

Posted by Julie Duffy

Health@work

Wed 22nd, Jul

Recent research into sickness absence found that direct costs of sickness absence, including statutory sick pay, cost of replacement staff and loss of output was estimated to generate a bill of £11.6 billion for the UK economy every year. The report also highlighted that the North West has the highest sickness absence rates of any other area in the UK. So what can employers do?

It’s been said that “If being active were a pill we would be rushing to prescribe it!” Indeed, if exercise were a pill we would not be able to manufacture it fast enough! A remedy that will boost your immune system, lower the risk of heart disease, cancer, high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity and osteoporosis? If I told you the same pill will also boost brain power; improving concentration and productivity, reduce depression, improve feelings of well-being and improve endurance and strength, without any negative side effects (or cost!), who would not want a piece of that?!

At a recent event organised by Liverpool & Sefton Chambers and health@work, over 40 local businesses had the opportunity to learn about the benefits of promoting physical activity in the workplace as well as practical advice on the support available. The following actions are just some of the things that businesses can do for little or no cost at all to start to embed physical activity into the ethos of their organisation:

  • Develop a physical activity policy and appoint a physical activity champion from your existing staff body to act as a source of support to colleagues
  • Provide information on the benefits of physical activity generally and more specifically during the working day
  • Set up a staff travel survey and produce a travel action plan with help from Liverpool and Sefton Chambers of Commerce 
  • Join the Merseytravel Employers Network and get free resources to encourage active travel as well as information on grant schemes for workplace improvements.
  • Investigate cycle to work schemes through Giant Liverpool and Cycle Scheme
  • Establish fun workplace challenges and incentivise physical activity
  • Promote upcoming events, like Race for Life, Santa Dash etc and display walking and cycling routes
  • Explore flexible working options to make it easier for staff to be physically active during the day

 

The Workplace Wellbeing Charter is now a nationally recognised award endorsed by Public Health England and a fantastic starting point for anyone wishing to improve workplace health. The City Council would like to see every business across Liverpool accredited with the Charter and are willing to fund 120 organisations to take part this year. If you would like to be one of them, give health@work a call 0151 236 6608.

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Posted by Giles Lever

Ambassador to Vietnam

Thu 16th, Jul

With a population of 90m, of whom 25% are aged 10-24, Vietnam is an exciting and dynamic although sometimes challenging market, full of long-term potential. 

After two decades of rapid growth from a low base, Vietnam achieved lower middle income status in 2009.  Growth was more subdued in the early years of this decade at around 5%, but picked up again in 2014 to almost 6% and looks set to strengthen in 2015.  

Import demand is expected to grow by around 250% between 2010 and 2020 - faster than any other emerging economy - and Vietnam also boasts the fastest-growing middle class in South East Asia. 

The British government sees the four primary sectors in Vietnam for potential UK commercial interest as Healthcare/Life Sciences; Mass Transport; Energy; and Education

We also have three secondary sectors: Food & Beverages; Retail/Consumer Goods; and Advanced Engineering.  In all these sectors, we see a combination of UK comparative advantage and also strong growth. 

However, other sectors are also well served by the local British Chamber, which this year became part of the Global Accredited Network of the British Chambers of Commerce. 

Infrastructure has been identified by the Vietnamese government as one of its priorities in its Socio-Economic Development Plan 2011-2015, in particular in transport with opportunities not just for infrastructure firms but also financial and professional service providers.

Prospects are good for conclusion of an EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement in 2015, which should open up significant further opportunities for UK companies.

Similarly, Vietnam has implemented a 10-year-long modernisation policy which has opened the need for products and services which UK businesses can take advantage of. Particular sectors that offer great opportunities include consumer goods including plastics, dairy products, raw materials, unfinished iron and cotton.*

*Export Britain. Visit http://exportbritain.org.uk/market-snapshots/vietnam.html for further Vietnam statistics.  

If you want to find out more, contact export@liverpoolchamber.org.uk.

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Posted by Zee Hussain

Employment Partner - Colemans-ctts

Tue 14th, Jul

The recent budget unveiled a raft of new changes to boost the economy. Whilst with any budget, there is always concern with both winners and losers, changes such as corporation tax reductions and lower National Insurance for small businesses will certainly help businesses. To follow is a brief outline of some key changes.

  • National Living wage (NLW)

From next April, the NLW will rise to £7.20 and then to £9 an hour by 2020. While this is a promising move, the impact on both the employee and the employer may be rather different.While there will be a happy boost in earnings for 2.7 million workers, costs will increase notably for some businesses. The government has advised there will be reductions to Corporation Tax and an increase in the Employment Allowance. Employees will be sure to welcome this increase, however, businesses, particularly small businesses, are advised to watch this space closely – the big question lies with whether they can truly afford this increase.

The NLW applies to workers over 25 and coincides with the announcement of benefits being cut to those already in work. These cuts, however, will not apply to Maternity pay and disability benefits.

  • Employment Allowance

This will increase by a further £1000 to £3000. Businesses will have their employer National Insurance bill cut by another £1,000 from April 2016, as the Employment Allowance rises from £2000 to £3000. This means, next year, businesses will be able to employ 4 people full time on the National Living Wage and pay no National Insurance at all. As a result of the allowance, on a positive note, 90,000 employers will see their employer NIC’s liability reduced to zero. This has been introduced to try and offset the increase in wages, however, the question arises if thiswill really go far enough. The Employment Allowance will only allow employers (who are currently paying minimum wage) to offset the cost of the Living Wage increases up to 2,000 hours. After that, the business will be a net loser unless it is profitable enough to benefit from the reduction in the rate of corporation tax.

  • 3 million new apprenticeships

These will be created by 2020 and funded by a levy on larger employers.This suggests that firms that are committed to training will be able to get back more than they put in. The definition of large is usually taken to mean more than 250 employees. In practice, this may be an issue for large businesses who are not using apprentices but will still be taxed.  Should businesses who are already expending time, money and resources on apprentices also be taxed?

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Mike Stott, DSG, comments on last week's budget

Posted by Mike Stott

Associate Tax Partner, DSG Chartered Accountants

Mon 13th, Jul

Well, what a day.  It takes me back to four or five years ago when there was a hive of activity running up to, during and after budget day.  Last week, I attended a Chamber of Commerce round table budget discussion, had an interview for TV, an interview for radio and then a fast walk, at HS2 pace, back to the office for a meeting with a client.

This was the first wholly Conservative budget in 19 years.  I must admit that I seem to remember Labour’s 1997 July budget having more of an impact on me than this budget.  In saying that, there were two announcements which I wasn’t expecting today: 

-The reduction in the headline rate of corporation tax from 20% to 18%.  10 years ago, countries with headline rates of corporation tax of 18% were treated with suspicion and UK companies with overseas subsidiaries in such jurisdictions were subject to additional tax compliance and potentially additional tax.  Now we seem to be one of the lowest rates in the developed world.

-A change to the taxation in dividends, which is likely to result in an increase in the tax arising on dividends. 

In both interviews, I was asked the question how I think employers will react to the implementation of a national living wage?  Obviously, this will be an additional cost to employers who employ lower paid employees, at a time when those employers are likely to be incurring further cost in the form of auto-enrolment pensions for their employees.  It is a fairly hefty increase, and will continue to rise until 2020.  We haven’t worked out the numbers yet but there will also be savings for employers in lower corporation tax, although this will only be of benefit to those companies with taxable profits, and an increase in the Employment Allowance. 

The Chancellor announced he would give more resource to HMRC to help him achieve £5billion in extra tax through a focus on “tax avoidance, evasion and aggressive tax planning”.  This is an interesting choice of words and perhaps sheds some light on the Government’s desire to clamp down on “aggressive tax planning” even though aggressive tax planning is perfectly legal.  I think that a better choice of words might have been “legal but immoral with no commercial substance” tax planning.  Given the changing landscape on tax planning, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Government focus on areas which were once deemed to be perfectly acceptable forms of tax planning. 

I hadn’t heard it said for a good few years that “The devil is in the detail” when commenting on the budget.  I have heard the phrase used, and have also used it a number of times today.  It is definitely the case with this budget.  Right, I had better go and read the detail...

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Members react to "Emergency" budget

Wed 08th, Jul

Members of Liverpool & Sefton Chambers of Commerce, who watched the Chancellor outline the first Conservative budget in 18 years, had mixed views on what he had to say to the local business community.

Whilst most of the key elements had already been well trailed in the media, the Chancellor still managed to surprise the House with his announcement to introduce a new national living wage for all workers aged over 25, starting at £7.20 an hour from April 2016 and set to reach £9 by 2020 - giving an estimated 2.5 million people an average £5,000 rise over five years.

Those watching the budget unfold at the lunchtime event hosted by Hill Dickinson, generally welcomed the overall direction of the proposals to support inward investment particularly the cut in corporation tax to 19% in 2017 and 18% in 2020.

There was also agreement around proposals to encourage more people into employment, although some uncertainty at this stage as to how those jobs would be created and what additional support there might be for business growth. Details behind the Chancellor’s pledge to create 3m new apprenticeships whilst instigating an apprenticeship levy were also queried although sentiment towards increasing the quality of such qualifications were welcomed.

The Chancellor once again reinforced his support for the “Northern Powerhouse”, announcing further investment (£30 million) including the creation of an “Oyster” style smart card for the northern regions, but with no mention of any rail investment in the North, including HS2 or HS3, there were some concerns as to how the need for greater connectivity would be achieved.

Summing up, Jenny Stewart, CEO of the Chamber, said that whilst the Chancellor’s overall message around reducing the deficit, improving the economy and improving our skill base was a positive one, the lack of detail around investment in infrastructure, manufacturing industry and exports was disappointing.

“Going forward there are some fantastic opportunities for this city region if we play to our strengths, building a strong brand and working together to create a long term vision for the next 25 years”.

 

Were your expectations met by the Chancellor? Share your thoughts by contacting policy@liverpoolchamber.org.uk

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Mike Stott reflects on his two days per week secondment with a North West plc

Posted by Mike Stott

Associate Tax Partner, DSG Chartered Accountants

Tue 07th, Jul

I am nearing the end of my two days per week secondment to a North West plc as their in house specialist.  In September, the secondment will have lasted two years and I can’t believe how quickly that two years has passed.

While there, I have worked on a broad range of issues – from “bread and butter” quarterly tax accounting and annual tax compliance, to customs duties and international taxes.  There have been busy times but I have thoroughly enjoyed it.  I will miss the finance team that they have there but all good things must come to an end.

Over the past 2 to 3 years, DSG has experienced an increase volume of tax work from larger companies.  This new work has come to us for a variety of reasons:

  • A Big 4 audited plc required a firm which could prepare their tax disclosures for the statutory accounts
  • Maternity cover for an in house tax specialist
  • We demonstrated our capability on corporate tax which led to a request for assistance on employer taxes
  • Previous experience of the quality of our team 

Underpinning all of the above is our very competitive pricing.  

While our pricing is competitive, clients deal with a team which has bags of experience and commercial awareness.  Half of our tax team are ex Big 4 with experience of advising large corporates across the North West. 

I believe that we are a credible alternative to larger accountancy firms for providing tax advice to companies across the North West.  If you have any questions you can email me or telephone me 0151 243 1257.

Looking for a specialist accountant in Liverpool, Southport or North Wales?

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Posted by Ian Mcgee

Natwest - Relationship Director

Mon 06th, Jul

Bank closures, daily withdrawal limits, a referendum and a resignation. It was an eventful week for Greece and another lies ahead. The country remains the current top economic concern but two venerable institutions were last week warning of other risks that lurk both at home and in the global economy. Like Greece, debt plays a big part.

Slow motion. We've all had that moment, when we've knocked the glass, seen it fall slowly to the floor, but remain ignorant to the extent of the damage to come. The context, framing and wisdom of yesterday's vote is already a debate for historians. It's happened. Now we see the consequences. Politics, not economics will decide the eventual outcome for both Greece and the euro. Whatever the direction for both, something has changed irrevocably.

Mo' money mo' problems. It’s hardly a beach read but the Bank of England’s twice-yearly assessment of risks to the UK's financial system provided plenty to think about. Top concern was the global economy and in particular the deteriorating situations in Greece and China. Household debt is judged to be the UK‘s key economic weakness and the buy-to-let mortgage market also came in for scrutiny. It’s therefore unsurprising that the Bank is seeking more powers over mortgage lending criteria and performing more demanding stress tests of UK financial resilience.
 

The bigger picture. The Bank for International Settlements, dubbed the central bank of central banks, was also talking financial stability last week in its annual assessment of the global economy. It describes global economic growth as unbalanced, too reliant on debt and delivering too little by way of productivity growth. Meanwhile low interest rates leave hardly any room for central banks to move. The remedy? Policy-makers need to focus less on short-term economic tinkering and near-term inflation targets. Instead they should pursue policies that address structural issues by making labour and product markets more flexible, providing an environment conducive to entrepreneurship and getting more people into work.

Steady. The UK economy grew by 0.4% in Q1, slightly faster than first thought but slower than the pretty rapid growth in 2014. Notable was the growth of business investment, which went alongside strong growth in companies’ profits. 

Not coining it in. At 5.8% of GDP the UK current account is close to a record high and has deteriorated over the past year. The problem is that the income the UK earns from investments in businesses abroad has fallen while the inverse (i.e. what foreign businesses earn on their investment in the UK) has risen. 

Confidence. Business is good according to the latest survey of purchasing managers. The UK is a prime example. The services and construction PMIs were around 58, well above the 50 threshold that separates growth from contraction. And even though manufacturing was a mere 51.4, the sector is still growing. In the Eurozone, you would not be able to tell there is a crisis. 

Hardly news. Unemployment in the euro area held steady at 11.1% in May.Seven euro states have a rate above 10% while eight are below 7%. It’s not just the Greece crisis that causes the euro area existential angst: such varied job market performance illustrates that this is not a natural currency union.

The way it is. The US unemployment rate fell to 5.3% in June and the economy added 223k jobs. Average hourly earnings were up 2%y/y. It’s all good news and a sign that underneath some disappointing growth figures of late the US economy remains in decent shape. But it’s unlikely to prompt the Federal Reserve into raising rates anytime soon.

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Zee Hussain looks at recent childcare initiatives proposed by both the new government and businesses.

Posted by Zee Hussain

Employment Partner - Colemans-ctts

Fri 03rd, Jul

The last few years have seen significant changes to employment law with the Conservative Government stating that supporting working parents is a priority. Hardly a day has gone by since the elections that ‘support for working parents’ has not been top line media. However, are parents really supported in the workplace?

Gender Pay Gap

The gender pay gap is clearly still prevalent, and the UK is one of the worst offenders compared to our European cousins. The most significant factors said to be contributing to the gender pay gap is part-time work, education, the size of the business and the fact that women are still under-represented in managerial and high-paying professions. The government proposes to introduce equal pay reporting for large employers but some employers are already ahead of the game and are already offering benefits to help retain women in senior positions such as through targeted training and development, career break opportunities, and enhanced maternity pay and benefits.

Working dads

Working dads still face discrimination in the workplace. Despite family-friendly rules also applying to men, it still seems that the cultural assumption that women will be the primary carer is side-lining working dads. The case of Pietzka v PriceWaterhouseCoopers demonstrated that whilst the employer had award-winning policies to encourage an inclusive working environment, this did not extend to a senior employee who wanted to take an active role in his daughter’s upbringing. Mr Pietzka faced ridicule and was passed over for promotion as he had applied for flexible working.  Fortunately, some employers are taking a more positive approach and have embraced the changes designed to encourage working dads to be more involved in childcare. Whilst partners of pregnant women can now take unpaid leave to attend antenatal appointments, the energy giant Centrica, is considering offering paid leave and introducing support networks for working fathers.

Shared Parental Leave

2015 has already seen the introduction of Shared Parental Leave which enables parents to be involved at an early stage of a child’s life. Recent reports have highlighted that often both parents cannot afford to take Shared Parental Leave as the current statutory rates of pay cause a significant decrease in the household income. Whilst the government has pledged to review the living wage, some employers are using this as an opportunity to attract staff by offering enhanced Maternity, Paternity and Shared Parental Leave packages meaning working parents can actually enjoy their time off rather than worry about work or money.

Increased childcare provision

During the Queens speech, it was announced that childcare provision for working parents with children aged between 3 and 4 will be doubled to 30 hours per week. However, due to cuts in fees and resources, nurseries have expressed concern and many have already faced closure in recent years. Therefore, employers have still faced absenteeism when private child-minders or family have let an employee down. To address this, some City employers have adopted emergency childcare provisions so employees can access childcare at short notice without needing time away from work. This approach has clear benefits to for both parties.

Awards

It is not only large employers who are leading the way for working parents. Smaller companies are also awarded for their inclusive and innovative approach to working parents which can often be challenging given the demands on the legal sector. Whilst SMEs can sometimes be concerned about adopting flexible working patterns when developing their business, this example shows that a little creativity and forward planning can help SMEs retain the skills needed to avoid losing staff and clients to larger competitors.

At the end of the day, having and raising a family is part of every day life for many people and supportive employers are rewarded with a happy and productive workforce and reduced staff absence. It is clear that the UK may be taking proactive steps to lessen the burden on our working parents, however, the country still has some way to go before catching up with those countries renowned for making it easier for workers to have and raise a family.

Click here to find out more information.

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Expanding Heathrow will keep Liverpool and the whole North West at the heart of the global economy

Posted by Robin Tudor

Head of PR & Communications, Liverpool John Lennon Airport

  • T: 0151 907 1636
Fri 03rd, Jul

We have welcomed the recent Airports Commission recommendation that of the three schemes shortlisted for expanding aviation capacity in the UK, the proposal for a new northwest runway at Heathrow Airport, presents the strongest case and offers the greatest strategic and economic benefits.

Capacity constraints in the South East have meant that the opportunity for regional airports such as Liverpool to re-establish regular flights to a London hub airport has simply not existed for some time.  However the renaissance of the Liverpool City Region has meant that the demand for improved global connectivity is greater now than at any point in the past 20 years. With so many developments and improvements to showcase across the region and more demand for international business and leisure travel, the lack of global connectivity via the UK’s hub airport hinders the region’s greater potential for success in an internationally competitive market.

We will soon have an interline service from LJLA to Amsterdam Schiphol Airport operated by Flybe, Europe’s largest regional airline who will start operating this new route in early September opening up worldwide connectivity once again. Then in October, Aer Lingus will commence flights from Liverpool to Dublin, with onward connections on their long haul services to the US to also enhance access to global markets from Liverpool. Links to an expanded London Heathrow Airport would complement these services, with ample demand for the growing range of destinations that will be available via the UK’s hub airport.

An expanded Heathrow would offer the opportunity for UK airports such as Liverpool, to further grow their networks, something that is crucial for generating growth across the whole country, not just London and the south east.

We have been a supporter of this proposal for some time as has The Chamber, recognising Heathrow Airport’s expansion plans as the best proposal for the country and have been working with Heathrow to generate support from other stakeholders across the region.

Expanding Heathrow will keep Liverpool and the whole North West at the heart of the global economy and they intend to create the world’s best connected, most efficient and most environmentally responsible hub airport at the heart of an integrated transport system. Heathrow is ready to connect Liverpool to global growth at the earliest opportunity and will now work with the government to deliver it.

There is still a long way to go before this proposal becomes a reality and we now urge the Government to make a decision and give the go ahead for this important expansion of Heathrow, so that we too can benefit from the opening up of access to the UK’s hub airport for improved worldwide connectivity.

Airlines are more likely to invest in a service to LJLA, if they are certain that the corporate demand exists and that the market will support a potential new route. Let us know your demands.

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Employers are being encouraged to embrace the right to request flexible working hours.

Posted by Mark Williams

DTM Legal - Trainee Solicitor

Wed 01st, Jul

The end of June marked the first anniversary since the right to request flexible working was extended to any employee with 26 weeks continuous service regardless of caring responsibilities. An employee can bring one flexible working request within a 12 month period.

It coincides with the start of a sporting summer that includes Wimbledon, the Ashes, the Open Golf Championship, the Tour de France and the World Athletics Championships – none of them entirely compatible with the traditional 9 to 5, Monday to Friday working routine.

But what are the real advantages of flexible work schedule for employees? Surveys and research have found that flexibility results in reduced absenteeism and tardiness and increases the ability to recruit outstanding employees.

Practically, when an employer receives a request that request should be discussed with the employee as soon as possible, potentially accompanied by a work colleague or a trade union representative if they wish.

The request should be considered objectively and dealt with in a “reasonable” manner by the employer, carefully balancing the benefits of the requested changes in working conditions for the employee and the business against the business rationale and any adverse effects the changes may have on the business, including the cost and logistical implications of granting the request.

The employer must notify the employee of the decision, including the decision on any appeal, within three months from the request being made by the employee.

Employers are permitted to reject a request, but only for one of  eight business reasons

  • Additional costs
  • An effect on the ability to meet customer demand
  • An inability to re-organise work among existing staff
  • An inability to recruit new staff
  • A detrimental impact on quality
  • A detrimental impact on performance
  • Insufficiency of work during the period of work proposed by the employee
  • An effect on planned structural changes to the business

An explanation of these reasons, including how they apply, must be given to the employee.

There are other matters to consider and care must be taken not to discriminate inadvertently against employees because of their protected characteristics under the Equality Act 2010.

Need advice? Contact DTM legal.

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Michelle Cameron, Senior Policy and Communications Advisor at the Chamber

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