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The recent conviction of a UK business owner for a human trafficking offence has been a wake-up call to big businesses to carefully monitor their supply chain, if they are to avoid being connected to slave labour unwittingly.

But with the requirements of the Modern Slavery Act 2015 now in force, companies of every size need to check out where they stand, even if they are a small supplier much further down the supply chain.

With the new regulations now enforceable for any business with a financial year ending on or after 31st March 2016, many smaller companies may have checked the headline criteria and assumed they are not going to be affected by the Act, as the requirements apply only to organisations which carry on business in the UK with a global turnover of more than £36million, including subsidiaries.

Those companies that fit the criteria must provide a statement of the steps they are taking to ensure that no forced labour or human trafficking is taking place in any part of their business or supply chain.  The slavery and human trafficking statement must be published on their website, with a prominent link on their homepage.

And the catch for smaller companies lies in where they sit in any such supply chain, many of which may be complex, as they are likely to find more questions being asked from the top of the supply chain. The result could be pressure on smaller companies to undertake detailed supply chain auditing themselves, in order to satisfy the demands of those larger companies.

In the case of the recent conviction, the owner of UK bed-making business Kozee Sleep was convicted of conspiracy to traffic by Leeds Crown Court and sentenced to 27 months in prison.  Mohammed Rafiq’s trial followed the conviction of two Hungarian gangmasters who were found guilty of supplying Kozee Sleep’s UK factories with slave labour.  They had promised Hungarian nationals good wages and housing, but instead the workers found themselves held in squalid conditions, not allowed to travel and made to work up to 16 hours a day, seven days a week, for less than £2 per day.   Kozee Sleep’s beds were being supplied to a number of leading high street retailers, who had set out their ethical trading requirements, which Kozee Sleep failed to meet.

According to the Anti-Slavery Commissioner, this is not an isolated incident and many other cases are expected to go to trial.  Another, involving Lithuanian workers experiencing inhuman working and living conditions, involved a poultry farm which is in the supply chain of well-known brand Happy Egg.

In the introduction to the corporate guidelines for the Act, Home Secretary Theresa May says:  “Modern slavery is a heinous crime that affects communities and individuals across the globe. Organisations with significant resources and purchasing power are in a unique and very strong position to influence global supply chains. It is not acceptable for organisations to ignore the issue because it is difficult or complex.”

If a business fails to produce a slavery and human trafficking statement for a particular financial year, the Secretary of State may seek an injunction through the High Court requiring them to comply. If they still do not comply, they will be in contempt of a court order, punishable by an unlimited fine.

Following the introduction of the Modern Slavery Act 2015, there is going to be increasingly close attention on how global businesses are tackling potential slave labour in the supply chain.  For the £36 million plus companies, there needs to be clear responsibility for compliance with the Act, with due diligence to identify potential risk of contravention of the Act in any part of the supply chain.

At first glance, slavery may seem a million miles away from your business, but unfortunately that is not the case, and directors, and buyers in particular, should keep the topic in mind as they trade, whatever their company size.

For any further employment or HR questions please call Shirley at Fidler HR  on 01623 45 11 11

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compromise agreement, dismissal, Employment, employment advice, employment claim, employment contract, employment contracts, Employment law, HR Advice, Redundancy, Redundancy selection, settlement agreement, tax, unfair dismissal    No Comments

Settlement agreements ( formerly compromise agreements) are very useful for both employees and employers.images

But will the payment  be taxable?

They have lots of benefits to both.

They can produce a result that is definite for both parties and binding on both of them.

They can  ensure confidentiality that wouldn’t be there from Court or tribunal proceedings, and confidentiality from a generous settlement that might not be offered to other employees.

They can cover many levels of payment and sometimes very large payments.

The tax treatment on them is also generous.

The first £30,000 of  a ‘compensation’ or ‘severance’ payment   will usually be treated by HMRC as tax free provided it fits in their scheme (but make sure that you include the non cash benefits such as company car benefits or the like which HMRC will convert to a cash value for this purpose).

The most difficult area is when an employer tries to present what are contractual earnings  (weekly/monthly/annual pay) as a compensation payment and seeks to agree it as  tax free under the same provision.

This is not possible and has never been possible.

HMRC will always treat contractual payments are taxable, no matter what they are called or dressed up as in an agreement.

Signing an agreement thinking anything else is always a risk, and there will be a clause stating the employee bears the burden of that risk.

The latest case on this (Michael Phillips V Revenue and Customs Commissioners [2016] UKFTT 174) makes this clear but also addresses a loophole on payment in lieu of notice, and the lack of a employment clause for this.

Mr Phillips had an employment contract that had a 6 month notice period, but not for payment in lieu of notice.

His employer terminated the contract and they signed a settlement agreement, that stated that Mr Phillip’s would receive £15,000 for payment for loss of employment, £47521  in lieu of notice and other payments.

HMRC said the payment in lieu of notice was taxable and Mr Phillips argued it wasn’t as it fell under  section 403 Income Tax (Earnings and Pensions) Act 2003 (the ‘£30,000 allowance provision’)

The Court confirmed that in this case, there was no contractual  entitlement to payment in lieu of notice.

For that reason  Mr Phillips could say that they were not ‘earnings’ and shouldn’t be treated that way  and therefore had the benefit of the £30,000 tax free treatment.

Clearly these decisions are important as making the most of the tax treatment can benefit both employer and employee when agreeing terms of settlement.

And undoubtedly the law is complicated on these topics.

Should you need advice on making a settlement agreement whether as employee or employer we are happy to assist in drafting and advising on such agreements.

Please call Russell Jones on 01623 451111 or email at rjones@fidler.co.uk




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National Minimum Wage    No Comments

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The National Living Wage has been catching headlines since Chancellor George Osborne announced it last summer, but the Government’s target of £9 per hour by 2020 has overshadowed the detail, and many businesses remain unaware of the transitional deadlines and new penalties now in place. 

The compulsory National Living Wage (NLW) arrives on 1 April 2016 for eligible workers aged 25 and over, and it’s been set at £7.20 per hour.   But the NLW does not replace the current National Minimum Wage, it sits alongside and is a new premium tier solely for those aged over 25.  For everyone under the age of 25, the National Minimum Wage continues to apply.

The new NLW is different also from the ‘Living Wage’, which is an hourly rate of pay calculated to cover the basic cost of living in the UK.  It’s assessed by the independent action group Living Wage Foundation and most recently has been calculated at £8.25 per hour, or £9.40 per hour in London.

When the NLW arrives on 1st April 2016 all eligible employees – whether permanent workers, agency workers, casual labourers or agricultural workers – who are aged 25 or over must be paid at £7.20 per hour, a pay rise of 50p per hour, whilst other workers will continue to be entitled to the following rates:

  • 21-25 years old – £6.70 per hour
  • 18-20 years old – £5.30 per hour
  • Under 18 years old – £3.87 per hour
  • Apprentices – £3.30 per hour

Implementing the National Living Wage for eligible over 25’s is not something that should be ignored or delayed, as there are stiff penalties in place.   Employers can be fined 200% of the amount owed if arrears are not paid within 14 days and receive fines of up to £20,000 per worker.

It is very  important to avoid any age-related practices that set out to reduce the number of employees eligible for the higher rate.  Any dismissals of older employees, even with less than two years service, could see employers facing an employment tribunal for unfair dismissal and age discrimination.  It’s the same for recruitment, employers must avoid demonstrating any preferences for younger workers.

The National Living Wage is expected to increase each year, with recommendations for future rises being made by the Low Pay Commission, as the Government continues its objective towards ‘higher pay and higher productivity’ in place of ‘low wage, high welfare’.

For any questions regarding this please contact Shirley Atkinson FidlerHR 01623 45 11 11

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employment update, HR help, Uncategorized    No Comments

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When an employee’s performance at work isn’t quite up to scratch it’s often treated as a disciplinary matter – unless a company  has its own capability procedures to deal with it.

Poor performance and poor behavior can both be dealt with under disciplinary procedures, and the way managers should investigate, write to the employee, hold meetings and deal with appeals are the same.

Not quite the same

But there is an important difference. Firm’s should be aware that the actions taken at the first stage are not the same.

In job performance issues, the employee should receive an improvement note explaining what needs to be done to bring standards up to an acceptable level within a certain time frame.

This might include coaching or a programme of training to help them make the improvements they need.

But for misconduct issues, an employee would initially get a first written warning, setting out the terms of expected future behavior over a certain period. For example you may say in the warning  that such breaches of conduct must not happen again within 12 months.

Companies that have their own capability procedures may use it for dealing with performance problems. But the basic principles of fairness set out in the ACAS Code of conduct should still be followed with the correct adaptations.

If you have you need help with your policies  please contact : Shirley Atkinson FidlerHR  01623 45 11 11

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Apprenticeships    No Comments

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As it is National Apprentice Week, many people will be considering an apprenticeship seeking to start their career and build on the skills that school have given to them. This can be a fantastic opportunity for your business by growing your own talent within your business.

What is an Apprenticeship?

An Apprenticeship is a great opportunity for young people to earn a wage, train in a role, in real employment gain real qualifications. Apprenticeships give young people great experience and put them on the first steps of the ladder.

Depending on the type of business you have, an Apprenticeship will take between one and four years to complete.

As employees apprentices would normally be expected to work for at least 30 hours per week, for which employers can receive funding from the National Apprentice Service, however, funding will depend on the sector and the age of the apprentice

Businesses get the opportunity to train and grow their own talent within the business and see many other business benefits.

96% of employers that take on an apprentice report benefits to their business, and 72% of businesses report improved productivity as a result of employing an apprentice. Also  reported by around two-thirds of employers include improved products or services, new ideas being introduced to the organisation, better morale among staff and more staff staying with the organization”.

Source: apprentiship.org.uk (2014)

Key Benefits

  • Apprenticeships develop a motivated workforce.

“Businesses that offer Apprenticeships think that they help with their long-term development”.  – British Chambers of Commerce.

This can include strategic, business and workforce planning. Staff involvement in training and nurturing of an apprentice.

Apprenticeships can encourage loyalty and commitment to the organization, through continued development of the individual and career progression after the apprenticeship has ended.

  • Apprenticeships improve productivity

Apprenticeships boost productivity by helping businesses to expand and use the skills available in the organization. More effectively this is as simple as just having the extra capacity to take on more work through employing the apprentice.

  • Apprenticeships develop a skilled and qualified workforce.

Apprentices are supported by quality training from local training organizations. This can include day release to college in some courses, or the training provider will come to your work place this varies from course to course.

Businesses usually employ an apprentice to improve and enhance the skills available within their organization, including existing employee’s transferring valuable knowledge to apprentices.

  • Grow your own talent with an apprentice

Apprentices essentially start with very little knowledge of your business, and are new to the world of work and grow in to a valuable member of the company, with specific knowledge, and the potential for progression, which creates loyalty.

Apprenticeships work in any industry and any sector. As apprentices are trained by existing members of the company the knowledge and skill transfer to the apprentice can be invaluable to the business moving for ward in to the future and the succession planning of the business. Along with having a skilled work force, this will also be a qualified workforce. The qualifications are relevant to the business, this can also help to cover any skills gaps their may be within the business, this can be a way around recruitment issues when candidates are sparse.

Shirley Atkinson 01623 45 11 11

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National Minimum Wage, Pay    No Comments

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On the 1st April 2016 all employees aged 25 and over will need to be paid at least £7.20 per hour. If you didn’t already know this is the new national living wage announced by the government last year.

This is the new top rate of the National Minimum Wage.

You should check that employee’s pay is not brought below the rate of £7.20 per hour by salary sacrifice arrangements as well.

Along with the new National Living Wage, this will come under the rules for the National Minimum Wage. The government will be increasing the enforcement of this. Included in this the penalty enforcement will be doubling. There is a minimum payment of £100 and a maximum payment of £20,000. The maximum payment applies for EACH worker who has been underpaid, not to the total payment for all workers.

For the most serious cases of non-compliance with the national minimum wage legislation, i.e. producing false records or refusing to answer questions from a compliance officer, you may be criminally prosecuted by the Revenue and Customs Prosecutions Office. The potential penalty on conviction is an unlimited fine.

The Government also operates a scheme to publicly name and shame employers that do not comply with the law on the national minimum wage. The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills periodically issues a press notice naming employers that have been issued with a notice of underpayment. This could potentially be very damaging to your business. They don’t just name the large organisations but every size of business who has not complied with the legislation.

If you are an employer who pays less than the national minimum wage or national living wage may face individual claims from employees for unlawful deductions from wages or breach of contract. If an employee brings his or her own claim, HMRC cannot also enforce a complaint on the employee’s behalf.


Don’t get caught out, make sure you check your employee’s salaries  and age’s to ensure you are complying with the law.

If you have any further questions please contact Shirley Atkinson on 01623 45 11 11


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disability, discrimination    No Comments


An employee from the coffee chain Starbucks has successfully sued the chain for disability discrimination because she has dyslexia.

The employee was accused of falsifying documents in relation to recording incorrect temperatures of water and fridges at specific time s of the day on the duty rota.  The employee meets the criteria of the legal definition of a disability, as this long term and effects her ability to read, write and tell the time.

The coffee chain were made aware of their employee’s dyslexia, she was told by them to retrain and given lesser duties.  There were no reasonable adjustments  made to accommodate her dyslexia  or checks carried out on her work.

The employer was found to be liable in this case for disability discrimination, failure to make reasonable adjustments and victimisation.  There is yet to be a decision on the level of compensation award the employee will receive from the company.

This decision does not impact on other tribunals, however is it is highly likely that dyslexia ( depending on the impact on the individual employee) could be capable of meeting the legal definition of a disability.

There are around 1 in 10 people in the UK who have dyslexia, 1 in 4 suffer with severe dyslexia . It would be advisable that as employers you consider whether some duties will be more difficult for dyslexic employees to perform, and should you put in place reasonable adjustments for them.

What should I do as an employer ?

Talk to your employee and ask them how  you can assist them in their job and agree some practical measures to help them within their job role.  You could consider the following to help them ( this can help with any employee really!) :

– Give verbal instructions and physical demonstrations –  people with dyslexia can find things easier to learn this way.

– Be patient. People with dyslexia can struggle to process information and remember that information.  You may need to schedule check ups throughout the day or week.  this can help with employees managing all the duties. Having a supervision plan can help.

– If you do need to give written instructions, don’t use italics or underline the text, use all capitals or justify the text. Try to make the text a plain font and try to highlight key parts of the text in bold to help.

– Allow extra time to complete certain tasks. Work with them to organise their work to allow for this

–  Consider whether any digital aids could help dictation software, calculators, talking clocks, spell check.

If you require any further help with this or any other HR or employment matter please contact Shirley Atkinson on 01623 45 11 11

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HR Advice    No Comments



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With Valentines looming on Sunday is there love in the air at your work place?

In a recent light hearted poll  carried out by you gov on behalf of the TUC  ( published 12.2.16) it suggests that 1 in 5 people have met their partner at work.

The survey found that 1 in 3 (33%) of people have had a relationship with a colleague at some point in their careers, and that 1 in 5 (22%) of people who are married or in a civil partnership met their other half at work.

As there are so many people starting and continuing their relationships in the workplace there are a few suggestions we can make to make sure the romance doesn’t get in the way of business.

The majority of workplace romances will cause no problems at all … you may even get to buy a hat !, but what happens if your an employer with love blossoming in your work place ?

Apply common sense!  an outright ban on relationships at work is just not going to work  –  It is human nature and heavy handed rules will just not work, so have a relationships policy that people understand, again this is common sense. Encourage staff to be open and honest with you.  You can then manage any problems that could arise from this like people becoming jealous of time being spent especially, if one partner is in a position of power over the other within the workplace. You will need to manage those expectations in case of complaints of favoritism. Explaining about keeping work and home separate.

All just common sense.

If you have any questions about this or any other HR issue please contact Shirley Atkinson at FidlerHR on 01623 451111


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Policies    No Comments


The the case  Bãrbulescu v Romania, the European Court of Human Rights decided that there was no breach of an employee’s rights under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights ( this is the right to respect for private and family life, the home and correspondence) where the employee ( Mr Barbulescu)  was dismissed for using the company’s internet for personal purposes during working hours.

Mr Barbulescu used his business Yahoo Messenger account to exchange messages with, his fiancée and brother, some of which related to personal matters.  When his employer discovered this, his employer dismissed him. Mr Barbulescu argued that his employer’s actions had infringed his Article 8 rights.

The Court accepted that while the employee’s Article 8 right had been triggered, the employer’s monitoring of his communications under workplace rules and regulations had been reasonable in relation to the disciplinary proceedings, and the Romanian courts had acted appropriately in balancing the employee’s rights against the interests of his employer.

The Court’s recognition of the need for employers to be able to verify that their employees are completing professional tasks during working hours will be welcomed by many employers . However, this decision should not be seen as giving employers the ‘green light’ to access an employee’s personal communications in all circumstances: there is still a careful balance to be struck where it comes to balancing an employee’s rights against those of their employer, this should still be approached with caution.

This case highlights the need for all employers to have strong  electronic communications policies, should contain information about monitoring communications, set standards of appropriate behavior, and refer to other relevant policies (e.g. disciplinary) and address the various risks arising from email use and internet access.

If you need any advice on this matter or any other HR or employment issue please contact Shirley Atkinson at FidlerHR  on 01623 45 11 11

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Uncategorized    No Comments



The National Minimum Wage (Amendment) Regulations have now been made and will come into force on Friday 01 April 2016 introducing the National Living Wage (NLW).

The NLW simply serves to increase the rate of the National Minimum Wage (NMW) payable to workers aged 25 or over.

The new minimum wages from Friday 01 April 2016 will be:

Age / category Amount (per hour)
25 or over £7.20 (NLW)
21 to 24 (inclusive) £6.70
18 to 20 (inclusive) £5.30
Under 18 £3.87
Apprentices £3.30

The government are also clamping down on those employers that do not comply with the national Living wage and the Minimum wage within businesses  –  no matter what size.

Make sure you are prepared and have checked all your employees so you don’t get caught out.

If you have any questions on this or any other employment issue please contact Shirley Atkinson on 01623 451111

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