Since its inception back in 2000, Inspired Energy has been working tirelessly to build the most complete utilities management solution available – a solution that can meet the diverse needs of businesses of all sizes and across all sectors.

Posted by Inspired Energy

Mon 20th, Jan

Since its inception back in 2000, Inspired Energy has been working tirelessly to build the most complete utilities management solution available – a solution that can meet the diverse needs of businesses of all sizes and across all sectors. Our growth has been careful and strategic; through acquisition and investment, we’ve become not only one of the largest utilities consultancies in the UK but also the best in the business.

Today, Inspired Energy plc serves more than 2,800 clients. With more than 500 dedicated team members, we have the scale and expertise to help businesses with every aspect of utilities management; from cost control and procurement through to innovative research and renewable generation projects. And our service isn’t just for large industrial and commercial organisations: during our acquisition trail, we have also gained expertise specific to the SME market.

In fact, we now have a utilities solution that stretches across the entire market, including specialist teams for education, healthcare, churches and the public sector; all backed by a unique, best-in-class software platform. It’s been quite a journey. Let’s take a look at how we got here:

INSPIRED ENERGY – THE FIRST TEN YEARS

Our business was founded almost twenty years ago. We had ambitious plans in place from the outset: our aim was to consolidate a fragmented and confusing TPI marketplace and our focus was making utilities management easier and more valuable for the businesses who sought our help. Our determination saw its first significant rewards in 2011 when we became the first and only publicly quoted TPI, following a successful AIM debut in November 2011. We were proud to discover that we were the only business in the North West to achieve successful flotation that year.

OUR ‘BUY AND BUILD’ GROWTH STRATEGY

In April 2012, we began building our business in earnest, with the acquisition of Direct Energy Purchasing. DEP’s sector specialisms included energy procurement services for healthcare and speciality-retail clients. The acquisition provided us with the opportunity to reach new marketplaces. It also increased our average client size, as well as broadening our geographic reach and diversifying our supplier offering. The investment delivered a range of valuable benefits to the clients of both businesses. It received such strong support from our shareholders that we were certain our acquisition journey would continue.

REACHING SMALLER BUSINESSES

In 2013, our new capabilities and larger team enabled us to establish the EnergiSave division of Inspired Energy. EnergiSave was created with the specific needs of SMEs in mind – and the hard work of the EnergiSave team meant that from the very first year of trading, performance of the new division has exceeded all expectations.

To bolster our new EnergiSave service and ensure we were able to offer SMEs the market-leading, comprehensive solution they needed, we invested in the acquisition of KWH Consulting and Simply Business Energy only one year later in 2014. The newly enlarged EnergiSave was able to provide SMEs with more competitive energy contracts from a broader variety of suppliers. Simply Business Energy already had agreements in place with most major suppliers and had also developed a fully automated, operational online quoting platform for SME customers looking to switch their energy supplier. Acquisition of the business and the platform meant we could enhance our group’s offering while also streamlining back office functions throughout the SME division.

NEW REGIONS AND NEW CAPABILITIES

Between 2014 and 2019, we’ve made a further thirteen business acquisitions. Each time, our aim has been to build a business our clients can depend on for every single aspect of their utilities management – one that can offer truly expert advice but is also flexible to their specific needs.

Since our growth journey began, we have strengthened our service offering through the acquisition of the experienced teams of engineers and analysts at Wholesale Power UK and STC Energy. We have also expanded into the Irish marketplace through the acquisition of our Irish counterpart Horizon Energy Group, and we have broadened our capabilities to better serve specialist marketplaces through the acquisition of Flexible Energy Management (public sector), Churchcom (churches) and SquareOne (education and manufacturing). Since then, we’ve also increased our team of procurement experts and added telecoms to the mix through the acquisition of Informed Business Solutions. In 2018, we further enhanced our technical and data management capabilities, carbon reduction expertise, cost auditing competence and overall service-offering with the acquisition of SystemsLink 2000, Energy Cost Management, Inprova Energy and Professional Cost Management Group. Then, in 2019 we invested in water specialist business WaterWatch UK, ensuring a truly rounded utilities offering. Now, whatever the utilities project at hand, we have the scale, the software and the specialist teams to get it right for every business, regardless of sector or size.

THE GROWTH TREND CONTINUES

Our mission to build a total utilities solution for our customers is ongoing. Last year, we secured a 40% stake in Ignite Energy, with a two-year option to acquire the remainder of the business. We believe that Ignite’s specialism in energy efficiency projects and optimisation services will bring significant benefits to our existing customers, particularly those pursuing ambitious carbon reduction goals.

Our energy marketplace is changing at pace and it’s important that Inspired Energy is properly equipped to help businesses navigate new risks and reap any potential rewards. From negotiating best-in-class electricity, gas and water supply contracts to complying with the latest carbon legislation and implementing new on-site energy generation projects, we intend to remain the go-to consultancy and to keep on growing our experienced and expert teams.

Talk to us about a complete utilities solution for your business. Call 01772 689 250, email partnerships@inspiredenergy.co.uk or visit www.inspired-referral.co.uk

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It’s hard to believe that two decades have passed - but 20 years ago the world was celebrating a momentous non-event. We remember it well!

Posted by Helen Roughley

Marketing Manager at The PC Support Group, a multi-award-winning IT support and telephony provider.

Thu 09th, Jan

Never mind the fanfare as the new millennium dawned in 2000. As memorable as those amazing fireworks on Sydney Harbour Bridge were, around the globe governments, national infrastructure providers, business leaders and IT professionals were giving thanks that the widely-predicted devastation caused by the infamous Millennium Bug had been avoided.

 

Two decades on, we actually have a lot to thank for the panic it caused in 1999. That’s because, despite accusations that the potential effects of the bug had been overstated, the risks were, in fact, very real – and they forced businesses, legislators and regulators to get serious about protecting IT infrastructure and systems, and to establish robust industry standards and compliance regimes.

 

Cybersecurity was suddenly big news – and remarkably many of the basic principles and methods established 20 years ago to protect us against attacks remain relevant to this day. You could say with some justification that true global cybersecurity was born in 1999!

 

Those basics have become today’s essentials, and include:

  • making cybersecurity a Board-level responsibility
  • having a forensic knowledge of how your data is gathered, managed and stored
  • understanding your risks and vulnerabilities
  • having cybersecurity plans, policies and budgets  – and regularly reviewing them
  • keeping software up to date
  • educating employees on safe working and how to avoid falling victim to cybercrime.

 

At The PC Support Group, we’ve developed a comprehensive, award-winning portfolio of services, solutions, advice and guidance to help keep your business – and your clients – safe. These include:

 

  1. Security surveys and testing – to help identify and manage vulnerabilities
  2. Managed internet firewall protection – that meets the Payment Card Industry Security Standard (PCIDSS) compliance regulations
  3. Managed antivirus services – ensuring detection, protection and removal
  4. Robust, monitored data backup services – keeping all your data in a safe and secure location
  5. Multi-Factor Authentication – for extra security in addition to usernames and passwords
  6. Data encryption – keeping data safe if your computer or smartphone is lost or stolen
  7. Consultancy to assist with Cyber Essentials accreditation (as we are Cyber Essentials-certified, having achieved the principal UK-Government-backed cybersecurity quality standard)

 

If you’d like to arrange an informal chat to review your approach to cybersecurity, or to discuss any of our IT and telephony services, call us NOW on 03300 886116 or email info@pcsupportgroup.com

www.pcsupportgroup.com

 

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Business energy bills are complex, there’s no doubt about that. With a widening range of non-commodity costs now taking up a majority share of the invoice, it can be be both confusing and time consuming to effectively recognise whether your...

Posted by Inspired Energy

Wed 18th, Dec

Business energy bills are complex, there’s no doubt about that. With a widening range of non-commodity costs now taking up a majority share of the invoice, it can be both confusing and time consuming to effectively recognise whether your business is being billed correctly.  

Although the increase in available energy data gives you better insight and understanding, such a wealth of data can also be so daunting to tackle that energy managers don’t know where to start. A business with many sites in its portfolio will have hundreds of half-hourly meter reads automatically submitted each day, creating huge volumes of data to process. Large organisations with smart or AMR meters installed across their portfolio might think these will prevent billing errors, however, this is not the case and your business could still be at risk of being overcharged. 

There are several explanations for incorrect charges and billing errors, from right across the supply chain. Inaccuracies can occur from taking incorrect meter readings, applying third party charges, confusion on change of tenancies and on supply contracts being set up inaccurately.

A systematic, efficient process reinforced with advanced error checking and reporting software is required to ensure validation is completed to the highest standard to make sure billing errors are correctly identified, investigated and corrected.

In the UK’s move towards net-zero, using a reputable business energy consultant to conduct your bill validation will allow them to identify consumption reduction opportunities, while reviewing the benefits of any energy optimisation measures you’ve already implemented. A great way to promote energy efficiency to your stakeholders, set yourself ahead of your competition, boost your CSR credentials and save money.

Without invoice validation, there is often no way of knowing whether a bill is correct or ensuring accurate charges for the future.

Recover Historical Overcharges

As important as it is to ensure your current invoices are accurate, if your previous bills have not been effectively audited it is likely that retrospective errors are still waiting to be recovered. Businesses can recover incorrect charges for up to the past six years and the entire process can be managed end-to-end to make it simple and stress-free. Using a consultancy to review your historical billing data means errors can be identified and recovered on your behalf, with the potential to receive a significant refund that had previously been paid incorrectly.

Professional Cost Management Group (PCMG), part of Inspired Energy plc, has identified more than £17.4m in refunds and savings for clients since the start of 2019, by looking deeper into their energy, water and telecoms expenditure. In addition, refunds and savings amounting to £42,933,546 have been recovered for the public sector alone.

To find out what savings and refunds your organisation might be eligible for, get in touch today. Call 01772 689 250, email partnerships@inspiredenergy.co.uk or visit www.inspired-referral.co.uk

 

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In the third quarter of 2019, electricity generated in the UK via renewable energy sources surpassed electricity derived from fossil fuels for the first time.

Posted by Inspired Energy

Wed 18th, Dec

In the third quarter of 2019, electricity generated in the UK via renewable energy sources surpassed electricity derived from fossil fuels for the first time.

Recent research from Carbon Brief showed that domestic and business consumers have embraced a move towards cleaner power, with 40% of UK electricity coming from sources such as wind, biomass and solar. Although renewables took the lead by just a 1% margin, in light of the current climate crisis, this is undoubtedly a step in the right direction.

Many businesses, especially SMEs, think they don’t have the money to invest in green energy, but something as simple as switching your power contracts can make a huge difference - and it doesn’t always mean you’ll be paying more.

Green Energy Suppliers

Green energy tariffs have been rising in popularity over recent years as businesses realise the need engage with the fight against climate change and help the UK reach its Net Zero target by 2050. As an independent consultancy, our mission is to help businesses reduce their carbon footprint through green energy procurement and enhanced energy efficiency measures. We can help you find the best priced green energy contracts, and, in many cases, we can source green contracts for the same price as the standard, non-renewable tariff. riffs have been rising in popularity over recent years as businesses

What Exactly is a Green Energy Tariff?

Because our electricity in the UK is generated via a mixture of renewable and non-renewable energy sources, it is likely that whatever tariff your business is on, some of your supply has come from sustainable sources. However, if you sign up to a green energy tariff, your supplier will promise to match all or some of the electricity you use with renewable energy sources which feed back into the National Grid. So, by choosing a green tariff you are helping to increase the proportion of green energy being fed into the system – making changes to the UK’s fuel mix and moving away from our dependence on fossil fuels.

If you want to know that your tariff is fully green, we work with suppliers who source electricity from 100% renewable sources – some use biomass, for example, which uses natural waste to produce energy, and is much less harmful to the environment than fossil fuels.

Carbon Offset

Energy suppliers are also embracing carbon offsetting, where carbon-reduction methods are used to balance the carbon footprint of the electricity and gas that you purchase.

There are plenty of options available for choosing a tariff that is kinder to the planet without compromising your profit margins – our green energy experts will help find the right tariff, according to your business’ needs. 

Green Gas

And it’s not just electricity. Most homes and businesses use natural gas, but you can still choose a green tariff for your gas contract. We can arrange a gas contract where the supplier will use carbon offsetting to balance the gas you use. Additionally, certain companies now supply ‘green gas’ as part of the fuel mix, which uses organic matter and turns it into biomethane using anaerobic digestion – a process which is virtually carbon neutral.

Green Energy is Good for Business

Aside from the obvious environmental benefits, green energy can demonstrate good corporate social responsibility and is a great thing for your business to shout about. If you do choose a green energy contract, we can arrange for REGO-backed certification to be sent to you, showing the origin of your supply. You can display your certification proudly for your customers to see - and it can also help when trying to get your workforce engaged with efficiency measures.

The Greenest kwH is the One You Don’t Use…

Talking of efficiency, as well as green energy procurement, we can help businesses reduce their carbon footprint in other ways such as through LED lighting, energy monitoring software and energy efficiency projects. If your premises are suitable, we can give advice on self-generation technologies including solar, battery storage, biomass and heat pumps. Whatever your goals, our utility experts can find a solution to help your business become a greener and more environmentally responsible energy consumer.

To find out how Inspired Energy plc can help your business go green, get in touch. Call 01772 689 250, email partnerships@inspiredenergy.co.uk or visit www.inspired-referral.co.uk

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Posted by Inspired Energy

Wed 13th, Nov

Businesses face a variety of costs to enable them to deliver their products and services and with energy prices on the rise, utility bills can have a big impact on a business’s finances.

Optimise Your Utility Spend

As one of the UK’s leading energy consultancies, Inspired Energy plc currently help over 15,000 clients manage their utilities, using our extensive knowledge of the sector to optimise the value of every pound spent. Here are some ideas on how to future-proof your business against mounting costs.

BUY IT WELL

Energy prices fluctuate daily and can be affected by a whole host of factors, including demand, weather conditions and even political factors. This can make it hard to stay within budget, meaning that energy procurement becomes a stressful and time-consuming process. This can be a significant burden for SMEs, who might not have the resources or time available to dedicate to procurement.

Choosing a consultant led approach can relieve this burden. Inspired work with all major UK suppliers to give you access to a choice of supply contracts suitable for your requirements. We are independent of all suppliers, meaning we work in your best interests to secure the right contract for your business.

USE IT BETTER

Making sure your organisation is operating efficiently is key to lowering costs. Something as simple as switching to energy efficient lighting can have a huge impact on your bottom line, with LED lights using up to 90% less energy than traditional lighting.

Other measures include a comprehensive site audit. This will highlight exactly where your business is wasting money by identifying reasons for high energy consumption, which can be investigated and rectified – leading to immediate savings.

For large business, or those with multiple sites, profile alerts can automatically detect unusual patterns of energy consumption. For example, should electricity consumption be particularly high in the evening when your business is closed, profile alerts would automatically identify this and notify an appropriate person, so that overspend can be avoided.

MAKE YOUR OWN

On-site generation is becoming a popular option for businesses looking to protect themselves from rising utility costs, while supporting a low-carbon future. Making your own energy has many advantages but is very much dependent on your business premises. We can help by carrying out a site suitability assessment and advising on which technology is the best fit for your business.

DO IT RIGHT

Another way of achieving significant cost-savings is to use a bill validation service. Up to 20% of utility bills are thought to be incorrect, with non-commodity costs being the area where most inaccuracies occur. As well as making sure that your bills are correct going forward, historical invoices can be investigated, meaning you could be in line for a hefty refund. If any billing errors are discovered, our recovery team will manage any refunds or rebates, ensuring they are recovered quickly.

For advice on managing your energy costs, get in touch with Inspired Energy plc. Call 01772 689 250, email partnerships@inspiredenergy.co.uk or visit www.inspired-referral.co.uk

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Posted by Lindsey Knowles

Partner, Head of Employment Law at Kirwans Solicitors

Mon 11th, Nov

As the end of another year approaches, businesses across the country are looking ahead to what 2020 will bring.

And while Brexit uncertainty looks set to continue – at least for now – there are certain legislation changes that we know are set to take place.

Lindsey Knowles, Head of Employment Law at Kirwans law firm said: “As a response to the Taylor Review, which examined the legal rights of employees and workers within the UK, the government published the Good Work Plan in December 2018. The plan proposes a number of reforms to provide workers with greater rights, and although Brexit has caused legislation to be delayed this year, 2020 will see the introduction of some of its key reforms.

“Of course, while there is still uncertainty about the final terms under which the UK will leave the EU and the small matter of a general election to consider, it can’t be assumed that these legislative changes will go ahead as planned.

“But for the time being, firms must prepare for the implementation of these new laws in order to avoid being caught off-guard.”

Here, Lindsey sets out the key employment law changes we can expect to kick in on April 6 next year.

1) Changes to the tax treatment of off-payroll labour

The original IR35 legislation, which was introduced to counteract the practice of businesses encouraging individual contractors to set up as a personal service company (PSC) in order for the business to avoid taxes, is being replaced with the off-payroll tax (also known as IR35).

From next April, medium and large-sized private sector clients will be responsible for deciding whether the off-payroll tax rules apply. For small businesses, however, the situation will remain the same, with the intermediary taking responsibility.

What you need to do: Review your off-payroll workforce, consider the changes you need to make, and think about seeking legal advice as the penalties for failing to comply are severe.

2) Written particulars becoming a ‘day one’ right

Under the Employment Rights Act 1996, all employees whose employment lasts at least one month or more are entitled to a written statement setting out conditions of employment.

This is known as a statement of written particulars of employment, a section 1 statement, or a statement of terms and, from April 6, 2020, must be provided to both workers and employees on or before the first day of employment, rather than just to employees and within the first two months as is currently required.

There are particulars that may currently be included in a supplementary statement but which will have to, from next April, be given in the principal statement. These include the notice periods for termination by either side and terms relating to absence due to incapacity and sick pay.

Certain terms can also be provided at a later date – as long as this is no later than two months from the start date - within additional documents rather than the principle statement.

What you need to do: Read up on the information that the written particulars should contain. If you need to make any changes to the contract, then employees and workers will need to be informed and revised contracts given. While employers don’t have to give existing employees the additional information as a matter of course, if there is a change to new provisions which were not in the employees’ section one statement, then they would need to be notified of the change.

You should also be prepared for requests to be made for new-style statements by employees and ensure you have capacity to meet their requests no later than one month after the request. Legal advice should be sought when adding in the new particulars in order to avoid costly errors. 

3)    Parental bereavement leave and pay

The Parental Bereavement Leave and Pay Act will give all employed parents a day-one right to two weeks’ leave if they lose a child under the age of 18, or suffer a stillbirth from 24 weeks of pregnancy. Employed parents will also be able to claim pay for this period, subject to meeting eligibility criteria.

What you need to do: Ensure your employment contracts and procedures are amended accordingly.

4)    New reference period rules for calculating holiday pay

When calculating holiday pay for workers with variable pay, employers currently base it on the pay that a worker receives during the 12-week period prior to taking the holiday.

However, an amended regulation (regulation 16) of the Working Time Regulations 1998 means that from April 6 2020, that reference period will change to 52 weeks, or the number of weeks that a worker has been employed for if it is less than 52 weeks, in order to better reflect a worker’s ‘normal’ pay.

What you need to do: Look at the way holiday pay is currently calculated in your organisation and decide how and when you want to implement the change in order to avoid complications around carrying over holiday pay.

5)    Abolishing the Swedish derogation

The Agency Workers Regulations (AWR) 2010 were introduced in order to protect all agency workers by giving them equal rights to their employed counterparts, by stating that temporary workers employed for more than 12 weeks by the same employer have a right to enjoy the same pay and employment conditions as permanent staff.

However, a Swedish derogation contract allows the agency, rather than the client, to employ the worker on a permanent contract, with a lower salary, less employment benefits, and up to four weeks reduced (often heavily) pay in between assignments.

The government believes that the Swedish derogation is being used by some recruitment agencies to avoid implementing equal pay and so, from April 6, all agencies and their workers must work in accordance with the AWR 2010, with no get-out clause attached.

What you need to do: Although the onus lies with the agency to ensure the worker is paid an equal wage, you can ensure that, while they’re working with your business, they are able to enjoy similar working conditions as your permanent members of staff.

6)    Lowering the information and consultation threshold

The Information and Consultation of Employees Regulations 2004 (ICE Regs) allow employees the right, subject to certain conditions, to request that their employer communicates and consults with them about issues within the business.

Currently, at least 10% of employees (with a minimum of 15 employees) have to make a valid request to set up information and consultation arrangements in order for employers to set up or change those arrangements. From April 2020, that threshold will reduce to 2%.

What you need to do: Read over the negotiation procedure in the ICE Regs in order to prepare for a request from employees.

7)    Taxation of termination payments

At the moment, termination payments above £30,000 are currently only subject to income tax. From April 6 2020, however, employer class 1A NICs will become payable too. Termination payments will remain exempt from employee NICs.

What you need to do: Nothing right now, but remember that there will be additional cost implications when negotiating settlements next year.

8)    Provision of a key information document

As set out in regulation 13A of the Conduct of Employment Agencies and Employment Business Regulations 2003 (the ‘Conduct Regulations’), all agency workers must be given a key information document before agreeing terms with an employment business. This regulation does not apply to agency workers already working for a business, but from April 2020, when they sign up with a new firm, they will be entitled to a key information document.

What you need to do: Familiarise yourself with the required information that must be set out on the key information document so you don’t fall foul of the regulations.

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Posted by The PC Support Group

Mon 11th, Nov

How would you cope with a sudden crisis in your business?  By sudden crisis we mean, what would happen if your business:

  • lost all its data?
  • couldn’t use its core IT and telecoms systems and equipment?
  • suffered from fire or flood damage to its offices?
  • suddenly lost key members of staff – or a vital supplier?
  • was unable to access bank accounts or key management software?
  • was a victim of the theft of online, intellectual or physical property?

This is something that we, at The PC Support Group continuously consider and review - to be as sure as possible that we could recover from any of these nightmare scenarios.

Owner managers of SMEs work so hard, often for many years, to build up businesses and provide prosperity and incomes for themselves, their families and their employees, and it is frustrating to hear of events when all that effort goes up in smoke – sometimes literally; especially when it could have been avoided by careful planning.

Do you think you would survive and recover? Most importantly, do you have plans in place and resources in reserve to help you to deal with these challenges and emerge with your reputation and your business intact? If you do, your chances of making a full recovery are greatly increased. If you don’t, drawing up these plans and allocating adequate resources to cope with an emergency should be a top priority.

We have a series of free guides available about a range of business-critical issues and one is devoted to business continuity, with a six-step action plan designed to help you to prepare. The steps cover:

  • How to carry out a business impact analysis – to understand your risks and vulnerabilities
  • Assessing your current state of readiness – and identifying those areas needing attention
  • How to construct your plan – to ensure you cover all the bases
  • Communicating your plan – so that your team know what to do if something goes wrong
  • Reviewing, testing and updating your plan – because your business is constantly evolving
  • Recruiting external support – for specific expertise and to plug gaps in your plan.

This FREE, six step guide to business continuity is available now, just click on this link:

Business continuity for SMEs – how to survive a major emergency and recover in style.

If you’d like to have a chat about business continuity, or any other aspect of your IT and telecoms, email us on info@pcsupportgroup.com or call our team on 03300 886116 for an informal chat.

The PC Support Group

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Posted by Lindsey Knowles

Partner, Head of Employment Law at Kirwans Solicitors

Thu 31st, Oct

Many employers are still not doing enough to protect themselves from unfair dismissal claims, despite applications to the Employment Tribunals having seen a sharp rise since fees were abolished, an employment law expert has warned.

Lindsey Knowles, Head of Employment Law at Kirwans law firm said she regularly works on unfair dismissal cases – where employment is terminated without a fair procedure or reason - that could have been easily prevented had employers followed some simple processes; and says that many firms don’t realise they are more at risk than ever before of being hit with a claim.

The result, she said, could lead to damaged reputations, increased insurance premiums, and in the worst-case scenario, the bankruptcy of the company.

Ms. Knowles said: “Since the abolition of tribunal fees in 2017, the number of claims has been steadily rising, with a report by GQ Littler revealing earlier this year that they had jumped by more than 25 per cent to 35,430 between 2018/2019.

“The Ministry of Justice’s annual statistics have revealed that, in 2018/2019, there were 660 claims that received compensation for Unfair Dismissal (up 23 per cent compared to 2017/18). The maximum award was £948,000 while the average amount awarded was £14,000.

“As these figures show, a successful claim could be devastating for smaller companies, yet many business owners still aren’t taking precautions to avoid this type of claim.

“Most responsible employers won’t recognise that it’s not just about protecting themselves against claims; it’s also about acting in an ethical and proper way towards their employees. By taking the proper steps to ensure all the correct processes and procedures are in place, they won’t just be creating a defence against claims, they’ll also be making their employees feel more secure by knowing that these mechanisms are in place.”

Here, Ms. Knowles sets out some key steps that all employers should take to protect themselves against employment claims:

1. Ensure all employees have up-to-date employment contracts

These contracts form the basis of the agreement under which both employee and employer work and sets out standards and ways of working that must be adhered to. Should a tribunal application ever be made against your business, they will come under intense scrutiny, so should be as detailed as possible.

If you make your disciplinary procedures part of an employment contract then make sure you follow them, or the employee could make a breach of contract claim against you.

Of course, it’s not enough to simply have these contracts and procedures in place; you also need to demonstrate that you abide by them. Which leads us to the second point . . .

2. Make sure disciplinary procedures follow the Acas Code of Practice

The Employment Act 2002 made disciplinary procedures a legal requirement, so it’s vital that you have them in place. And while it’s not a legal requirement to follow the code, it is strongly advised; if a claimant wins an employment tribunal case against you and you didn’t follow the code when dealing with them, their award could be up to 25% more than if you had.

3. Tell your employees what the disciplinary rules are

In the day-to-day running of the business, it can be easy to forget the basics when it comes to employees – such as making sure they understand the disciplinary rules. But by law they have to be clearly written somewhere so that staff can check them at any time.

The best way of covering this is to make sure they’re set out in a document that you know staff will see and, ideally keep. That could be, for example, a statement of employment or a staff handbook.

The rules must make it clear as to what would lead to someone facing disciplinary action, what that action could be and a named person to appeal to if they’re unhappy about a disciplinary decision.

Again, providing this information is a vital part of what’s expected of you as an employer. A failure to do so could result in a successful claimant being awarded two to four weeks’ pay.

4. Genuinely try and resolve the situation

No matter how much your employee has irritated you, remember that there are often underlying reasons behind their behaviour. Don’t just pay lip service to the Acas Code of Practice; follow it to the letter and listen to what your employee is saying. It could be that they do have a point, and that other staff members may feel the same. Hear them out and consider whether there are constructive actions you could take to improve the situation.

5. Take legal advice before making any dismissals

You’ve followed all procedures, but the situation hasn’t improved and you’re now ready to dismiss the employee concerned. But before you do, press the pause button and consult a solicitor to ensure that, should a case by brought to the Employment Tribunal, you’ll be well-placed to defend yourself. A legal expert will review your actions taken so far and evaluate whether or not you’re in a strong position to be able to dismiss your employee.

6. Be aware of when it’s definitely not ok to dismiss an employee

In most cases, the employee has to have been employed by the organisation for at least two years in order to bring an unfair dismissal claim.

However, there are some dismissals which are automatically unfair no matter how long the employee has worked for you; that is, the Tribunal will rule that the employer unfairly dismissed an employee if the reason for the dismissal was in relation to the employee exercising specific rights connected to:

  •          Pregnancy;
  •          Family reasons, such as parental, adoption and paternity leave (be that birth or adoption) or time off for dependants;
  •          Joining a trade union or acting as an employee representative;
  •          Part-time and fixed-term employment;
  •          Working hours – including the Working Time Regulations and annual leave;
  •          Pay such as the National Minimum Wage.
  •          Whistleblowing

 

7. And be aware of when it is . . .

As far as the law is concerned, there are five potentially fair reasons in which employers can justify conducting a dismissal, so consider whether the dismissal is related to any of these reasons:

  •          Employee conduct;
  •          Employee capability or qualifications for the job;
  •          A redundancy;
  •          A statutory duty or restriction that prohibited the employment being continued;
  •          Another substantial reasons of a kind that justifies the dismissal.

Don’t forget, you also need to demonstrate that you acted reasonably when you chose to dismiss the employee for one of those reason and that your decision was made after all the relevant procedures and processes had been followed.

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Posted by David Kirwan

Senior Partner, Kirwans Solicitors

Tue 22nd, Oct

Letting agents who fail to obtain licences for rented properties that fall under selective licensing rules could be held jointly accountable with the landlords, a leading solicitor has warned.

David Kirwan, from Kirwans law firm, said that agents could be prosecuted either alongside or instead of landlords for failing to license properties on their books, and warned that a conviction could result in crippling fines and a criminal record.

Mr Kirwan said: “Councils such as Liverpool have made it clear that they will go after managing agents that they deem to be flouting the rules and will not hesitate to prosecute where they feel it is appropriate.”

In September 2018, a managing agent was fined almost £4,000 and handed a criminal record under selective licensing laws after pleading guilty to renting out 12 properties without a licence from Liverpool City Council.

At that point, the council was reported to have served 1,700 legal notices since the city’s Landlord Licensing scheme had begun in April 2015 and was at the time considering almost 1,300 cases for prosecution.

In addition, a Freedom of Information (FOI) request by the National Landlords Association made earlier this year revealed that Liverpool City Council was the frontrunner when it came to prosecuting letting agents, with a total of 13 prosecuted in the four-year period between 2014/15 to 2017/18.

By comparison, 53 per cent of the 20 councils questioned had not prosecuted any letting agents, while a further 32 per cent had prosecuted three or less.

However Liverpool is not the only council to have pursued letting agents under selective licensing rules; in May this year, a landlord and their managing agent were ordered by Canterbury magistrates to pay a fine of £1,000, in addition to costs of £120 and a victim surcharge of £100 for renting out flats without a selective licence from Thanet District Council.

Mr Kirwan said: “Section 88 of the Housing Act 2004 states that the proposed licence holder is ‘out of all the persons reasonably available to be licence holder in respect of the house, the most appropriate person to be licence holder’. It also states that the proposed manager of the house is either ‘(i) the person having control of the house, or (ii) a person who is an agent or employee of the person having control of the house’.

“Clearly the legislation anticipates that someone who is managing property, the subject of licensing, can also apply for and be granted a licence instead of the owner.

“In my opinion, many of the managing agency agreements which are operated by estate agents etc all over the country come within this bracket.

“It is, of course, a matter for the owner of the property who can - and often does – obtain the registration in his own name, particularly in cases where there is only a small portfolio of properties.

“Alternatively, if the property is being managed in every sense of the word by a letting agent, there is nothing to prevent thse owner delegating this function to the managing agent who then applies for the licence. This surely is what an owner/landlord is looking for when he pays his commission to the managing agent?”

Mr Kirwan said that, according to Section 95 of the Housing Act, a person commits an offence ‘if he is a person having control of or managing a house which is required to be licensed under this part but is so not licensed’.

However, despite the potential for prosecution, Mr Kirwan said that the defence of ‘reasonable excuse’ can be extended to a managing agent as well as an owner landlord if the former is registered under the Act.

He added: “Managing agents need to be on their guard and ensure that all properties on their books are covered by the relevant licences to safeguard themselves against legal action, while landlords should check the agreements and terms of business set out in the contracts with their agents.

“However, if the agent has agreed to apply on behalf of the owner of registration then it does not matter if that is not specifically referred to in the agreement.

“It would be better, though, to have such a provision that in the terms of the ‘management’ of the property, the application for and compliance of all the terms and conditions of any subsequent registration licence is included as an agent’s responsibility.”

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Posted by Inspired Energy

Fri 18th, Oct

What Is SECR?

Introduced in April 2019, Streamlined Energy and Carbon Reporting (or SECR) is a new framework, which requires businesses to report annually on their electricity, gas, and transport energy use, along with the associated carbon emissions.

The introduction of SECR coincides with the ending of the Carbon Reduction Commitment (CRC) Scheme, which some companies will already be familiar with, although the qualification criteria is very different and will affect many more organisations. The idea is that the new guidelines will create a simple approach to carbon reporting, whilst also encouraging energy efficiency.

Business and industry accounts for 25% of UK greenhouse gases, so it’s crucial that businesses play a role in helping to reach our emissions reduction target.

Who Does SECR Affect?

The Government estimates that around 11,900 organisations fall within the scope of SECR. The new reporting framework is mandatory for the following organisations:

All UK quoted companies, meaning a company…

  • whose equity share capital is officially listed on the main market of the London Stock Exchange; or,
  • is officially listed in a European Economic Area State; or is admitted to dealing on either the New York Stock Exchange or NASDAQ.

Any large UK incorporated company or LLP which meets 2 or more of these conditions…

  • has more than 250 employees
  • has an annual turnover of more than £36m
  • has an annual balance sheet total of more than £18m

What Do I Need to Report?

Under SECR guidelines, you’ll need to provide a detailed report on your company’s energy use and greenhouse gas emissions (scope 1 and scope 2), alongside details of the energy efficiency actions you’ve put in place during the reporting period. If you haven’t made any efficiency measures, you’ll need to state this.

Quoted companies also need to report global energy consumption in addition to the mandatory carbon reporting they have already been completing.

All companies must also provide an intensity metric relevant to their business sector. For example, if you’re a manufacturer, you may choose to report tonnes of CO2 equivalent per million tonnes of production. For those in retail, you might report tonnes of CO2 equivalent per m2 of store area.

When and How Do I Submit My Report?

The timeframe for SECR reporting runs in sync with your company’s financial year, meaning that if your business is within scope, you’ll need to report from the start of your first accounting period starting on or after 1st April 2019.

In terms of submission, SECR forms part of your business’ annual reporting obligations, so your energy data must be included within your Directors’ Report and submitted to Companies House in the usual way. LLPs will need to prepare an Energy and Carbon Report for each financial year, to be signed off by LLP members.

Benefits of Carbon & Energy Reporting

Organisations can sign up to SECR voluntarily and there are several benefits to taking a proactive approach. Saving energy is an effective way to reduce business costs, save carbon and help to meet emission targets. SECR can also be used by businesses to promote their sustainability credentials, as part of their wider Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) efforts.

Penalties

Companies House may reject your report if it doesn’t meet their reporting requirements. As with all company reporting, fines are in place for late or incomplete submissions, with fines of up to £1,500 for reports which are more than six months late. The penalty will be doubled for those who report late for two years in a row.

The bigger incentive, however, is expected to be the reputational damage that will come from late or missing reports.  This may well impact on future business opportunities, particularly given the significant focus now being given to carbon reporting and carbon neutrality targets.

Although many companies are familiar with a certain degree of energy reporting, we would urge members to seek expert advice to ensure they remain 100% compliant.

To find out more about how Inspired Energy can help you, get in touch…call 01772 689 250, email partnerships@inspiredenergy.co.uk or visit inspired-referral.co.uk

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