Archive for June, 2023

Businesses driving with handbrake on amid skills shortage

Friday, June 30th, 2023

The Education Secretary has claimed businesses are ‘driving with the handbrake on’ without the right skills.

Gillian Keegan, who was speaking last week at the Government’s Business Connect Skills for Growth conference, said: “I know from my years in business that organisations drive innovation and create opportunities, but without skilled workers, it often feels like you’re driving with the handbrake on.

“The Government is investing in building future skills for growth and calling on businesses to work with us, so that together we can build the workforce of tomorrow.”

Ms Keegan was a guest speaker at the event, alongside Chancellor of the Exchequer Jeremy Hunt, Business and Trade Secretary Kemi Badenoch, Skills Minister Robert Halfon, Business Minister Kevin Hollinrake as well as the Government’s independent skills policy adviser, Sir Michael Barber.

Among the major employers attending to discuss the future of skills were Google and Amazon, as well as BP, BAE Systems, Virgin Atlantic, Thames Water, Greene King and Travis Perkins.

In May 2023, there were 1,051,000 job vacancies in the UK, according to the Office for National Statistics. In 2019, 24 per cent of vacancies were the result of skills shortages.

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt said: “While unemployment is at near record lows, we still have some one million job vacancies in the UK. Getting businesses the skilled workers they need will not only grow the economy, but help cut inflation too.”

Business and Trade Secretary Kemi Badenoch said: “Successful companies need skilled workforces and as the Business and Trade Secretary I want to listen to the needs of business to ensure that the skills system delivers for them, creates even more highly skilled jobs and grows the economy.”

In addition to the conference, the Government is urging employers to hire more apprentices, especially younger workers, and to invest more in training and upskilling their workforce.

It is also highlighting the wide range of government-backed courses and support which are available, including Skills Bootcamps and Free Courses for Jobs, as well as £2.7 billion of additional funding to support businesses to take on more apprentices and the ongoing rollout of T Levels.

The event was delivered in partnership with World Skills UK, which organises the participation of skilled UK professionals in the world’s largest competitive skills showcase. Previous winners of World Skills events were present to discuss their experiences.

Ian Elliott, Chief People Officer at PwC, said: “The UK needs an upskilling revolution. Our country’s long-term economic and social prosperity depends on the next generation of workers being equipped for an AI-powered world.

“Government cannot solve the skills challenge alone. Businesses cannot expect education providers to anticipate evolving business needs.

“We have a responsibility to use our positions as progressive employers to collaborate across the public and private sectors to advance and innovate education pathways to meet need and aspiration.”

Employers named and shamed for not paying minimum wage

Tuesday, June 27th, 2023

More than 200 companies – including several household names – have been named and shamed for failing to pay minimum wage to members of staff.

The 202 employers left around 63,000 workers out of pocket to the tune of almost £5 million in a breach of National Minimum Wage law.

Companies being named range from major high street brands, such as WH Smith, Argos and Marks and Spencer, to small businesses and sole traders, in a clear message from the Government that no employer is exempt from paying their workers the statutory minimum wage.

Minister for Enterprise, Markets and Small Business Kevin Hollinrake said: “Paying the legal minimum wage is non-negotiable and all businesses, whatever their size, should know better than to short-change hard-working staff.

“Most businesses do the right thing and look after their employees, but we’re sending a clear message to the minority who ignore the law: pay your staff properly or you’ll face the consequences.”

The businesses named in the list of 202 have since paid what they owe to their staff and have also faced financial penalties. The investigations by His Majesty’s Revenue and Customs concluded between 2017 and 2019.

The employers named underpaid workers in the following ways:

  • 39 per cent of employers deducted pay from workers’ wages.
  • 39 per cent of employers failed to pay workers correctly for their working time.
  • 21 per cent of employers paid the incorrect apprenticeship rate.

Guidance for employers on pay is available on GOV.UK, and the Government has published additional advice about breaches and the steps employers should take to make sure they pay their workers correctly.

Bryan Sanderson Chair of the Low Pay Commission said: “The minimum wage acts as a guarantee to ensure all workers without exception receive a decent minimum standard of pay. Where employers break the law, they not only do a disservice to their staff but also undermine fair competition between businesses.

“Regular naming rounds should be a useful tool in raising awareness of underpayment and helping to protect minimum wage workers.”

The Government has been clear that anyone entitled to be paid the minimum wage should receive it, and that robust enforcement action will be taken against employers who do not pay their staff correctly.


Since 2015, the budget for minimum wage enforcement has doubled with the Government having ordered employers to repay over £100 million to one million workers.

The Government is determined to ensure workers are paid for their hard work, having increased the National Living Wage by a record amount in April 2023. This led to the lowest paid workers in the UK seeing a rise of 9.7 per cent, keeping the Government on track to achieve its manifesto commitment for the National Living Wage to equal two-thirds of median earnings by 2024, provided economic conditions allow.

Do you need guidance on what to pay staff? We can help.

Should we be afraid of AI?

Thursday, June 22nd, 2023

AI – or to give it its full name, artificial intelligence – has been hitting the headlines in recent months, arousing concerns that bots are going to make humans redundant.

Fear of the unknown is a big factor as we continue to learn about all the skills that can be taught to these mysterious non-beings.

Although it has become a big talking point, AI is not new and there are many examples we come across regularly – autocorrect on your phone; e-payments; facial recognition; and navigation.

In fact, AI can provide a good deal of support for small businesses.

Increased efficiency

AI-powered tools and systems can automate repetitive and time-consuming tasks, allowing small businesses to streamline their operations. AI can handle various processes, such as data entry, inventory management, customer support and data analysis, with speed and accuracy.

By automating these tasks, small businesses can free up valuable time and resources to focus on strategic initiatives and core business activities.

Enhanced customer experience

AI technologies, such as chatbots and virtual assistants, can improve customer interactions by providing instant and personalised support around the clock. These AI-powered systems can handle customer inquiries, provide product recommendations and assist with order tracking, leading to faster response times and improved customer satisfaction.

By leveraging AI, small businesses can deliver a higher level of service, strengthen customer relationships, and gain a competitive edge.

Data-driven decision making

AI algorithms can analyse vast amounts of data quickly and extract valuable insights. Small businesses can use AI-powered analytics tools to gain a deeper understanding of customer behaviour, market trends and business performance.

These insights enable informed decision making, allowing businesses to identify patterns, predict future outcomes, and optimise their strategies.

Improved marketing and sales efforts

AI can enhance marketing and sales activities by enabling personalised targeting and effective campaign management. AI algorithms can analyse customer data and behaviour to create detailed customer profiles, segment audiences and deliver personalised marketing messages.

This targeted approach can significantly improve marketing campaign effectiveness, increase conversion rates and maximize return on investment.

Competitive advantage

Implementing AI technology can provide a significant competitive advantage for small businesses. AI-driven automation and efficiency improvements can help reduce costs, increase productivity and allow businesses to operate more efficiently than their competitors.

Ultimately, AI adoption can position small businesses as innovative and forward-thinking, helping them stand out in a crowded marketplace.

It's important to note that the successful implementation of AI requires careful planning, consideration of ethical implications and adequate data security measures.

But it’s also important to note that AI is already with us and is helping make our businesses more successful if we use it in the right way.

Employing foreign workers – know the ins and outs

Tuesday, June 20th, 2023

As the world becomes increasingly interconnected, businesses are embracing the benefits of hiring talent from overseas.

However, if you are considering appointing someone from another country, there are additional considerations and requirements, including ensuring the necessary documentation is in place.

The immigration system has specific rules and regulations for employing individuals from abroad. You need to familiarise yourself with the system to ensure compliance and a smooth hiring process.

  • Sponsorship and Skilled Worker visa:

To employ a skilled worker from outside the UK, businesses must become a licensed sponsor. This involves applying to the Home Office and meeting specific criteria.

The sponsored worker must then obtain Skilled Worker visa, which permits them to work in the UK. The application process can be complex, so it is advisable to seek legal advice or use the services of an immigration specialist.

  • 2. Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS):

Once a business is a licensed sponsor and has identified a suitable candidate, they need to issue a Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS). The CoS contains specific details about the job role, salary, and duration of employment. The sponsored worker will need this document to apply for their Skilled Worker visa.

  • 3. Right-to-work checks:

As an employer, it is your responsibility to verify that every employee has the right to work in the UK. Conduct thorough right-to-work checks on all candidates, regardless of their nationality, to avoid potential penalties or legal issues. This involves reviewing and retaining specific documentation, such as passports or residence permits.

  • 4. Compliance and reporting obligations:

As a licensed sponsor, businesses must fulfill ongoing compliance and reporting obligations to maintain their sponsor status. This includes updating the Home Office about any significant changes in an employee's circumstances, such as changes in their job role, salary or employment status.

  • 5. Cultural awareness and integration:

Appointing someone from overseas means embracing diversity and cultural differences. Foster an inclusive environment by promoting cultural awareness and sensitivity within your organisation. Encourage employees to appreciate and respect different perspectives, traditions and languages.

  • 6. Language proficiency:

Consider the language requirements for the role and ensure the candidate has the necessary language proficiency to perform their job effectively. This may involve assessing their English language skills during the recruitment process or providing language training if required.

Appointing someone from overseas can bring valuable skills, perspectives and diversity.

However, it is crucial to navigate the immigration system and fulfill the necessary documentation and compliance requirements.

By understanding the process, engaging in cultural integration and maintaining compliance, business owners can successfully hire and integrate overseas talent into their workforce, fostering a dynamic and globally aware organisation.

Employee shares schemes facing government shake-up

Thursday, June 15th, 2023

Schemes offering people shares in their employer are set for a shake-up as the Government explores changes to help boost business growth.

The Government wants to hear views on Save As You Earn (SAYE) and the Share Incentive Plan (SIP), as it seeks to improve the schemes and expand their use by making it easier for businesses to set them up and offer them out to staff.

Victoria Atkins, Financial Secretary to the Treasury, said: “Employee share schemes are an effective way to boost motivation in workforces by giving people an extra stake in what they do – and they offer a boost for business.

“Growing the economy is a priority for this government and one way to make this happen is by making these schemes as easy as possible to set up.”

Just over 80 per cent of businesses say these schemes help boost their business, with almost three quarters of these saying it has helped them retain and recruit staff. More than 30 per cent of businesses say they are too complicated to set up.

The two schemes up for review are:

  • Save As You Earn (SAYE): this allows employees to buy discounted shares in their company if they save money each month for three to five years.
  • Share Incentive Plan (SIP): this allows companies to help their employees to purchase shares directly in their company or offer them as awards, tax free.

These schemes are one of the tools the Government has to drive economic growth, and the call for evidence is designed to gather feedback on participation in both schemes and find out how they can be improved and simplified, including how to make sure more people on lower incomes are able to take advantage of them.

HMRC evaluation shows 50 per cent of companies that have set up a share scheme have done so to create a feeling of ownership among their staff, with other common reasons being to help retain staff and skilled employees, attract skilled employees and improve staff morale.

The call for evidence comes after venture capital firm Index Ventures praised government reforms to a separate scheme, the Company Share Option Plan, placing the UK as joint top among G7 countries in share option policy.

These reforms saw a doubling of the amount of share options employees can be granted and removed restrictions on which kind of shares could be included. Index said the moves the Government took were “helping scale-ups attract and retain the talent they need”.


The government is looking to replicate this success through similar reforms for SAYE and SIP and is particularly interested in understanding whether the schemes are attractive to lower income earners.

Do you have experience of the shares schemes? Are they a good thing?

Do not let scammers steal your personal details

Tuesday, June 13th, 2023

HMRC has issued an alert to tax credit customers to be on their guard against new tactics being used by unscrupulous fraudsters.

The warning contains details of a number of new scams reported that aim to trick people into handing over money or personal information.

Criminals use deadlines – like the tax credits renewal deadline on 31 July – to target their victims and the department is warning around 1.5 million tax credits customers to be on the look-out for scams that mimic government communications to make them appear genuine.

Typical scam examples include:

  • emails or texts claiming an individual’s details aren’t up to date and that they risk losing out on payments that are due to them.
  • emails or texts claiming that a direct debit payment hasn’t ‘gone through’.
  • phone calls threatening arrest if people don’t immediately pay fake tax owed.
  • claims that the victim’s National Insurance number has been used in fraud.
  • emails or texts offering spurious tax rebates or bogus grants or support.

Myrtle Lloyd, HMRC’s Director General for Customer Services, said: “Tax scams come in many forms and we’re urging customers to be alert to the tactics used by fraudsters and never to let yourselves be rushed.

“If someone contacts you saying they’re from HMRC and asks you to give personal information or urgently transfer money, be on your guard. Search ‘HMRC scams’ advice on GOV.UK to find out how to report scams and help us fight these crimes.”

Scam messages can be convincing, but HMRC will never ring anyone out of the blue making threats or asking them to transfer money.

According to the National Cyber Security Centre, HMRC was the third most spoofed government body in 2022, behind the NHS and TV Licensing.

HMRC is also urging tax credit customers to be alert to misleading websites or adverts asking them to pay for government services which are free, often by charging for a connection to HMRC helplines.

HMRC is currently sending out tax credits renewal packs to customers and is reminding anyone who has not received theirs to wait until after 15 June before contacting HMRC.

Customers can renew their tax credits for free via GOV.UK or the HMRC app. Help and support is available on GOV.UK to help renew tax credits claim.

Do not miss out on energy bills support

Thursday, June 8th, 2023

Households using prepayment meters have been urged to claim bills support vouchers by the end of the month to avoid missing out.

Electricity suppliers, charities and consumer groups are joining forces with a call to arms to make sure households with traditional prepayment meters avoid missing out on £400 worth of help with their bills.

With £130 million of government support left to claim, well recognised names backing the call include Which?, National Energy Action and Fuel Bank Foundation, as the sector comes together in a final push to get remaining households to use their vouchers.

Recent figures show the number of vouchers cashed in has reached an all-time high, with over 83 per cent now used. However, with a month left of the scheme, the Government is renewing its efforts to see as many redeemed as possible.

Awareness campaign

Over the past weeks government adverts have been landing in hundreds of newspapers, bus stops, Post Offices, train station billboards and elsewhere across the country to let those on prepayment meters know how to claim the support.

Prepayment meter users, who are often in low-income households, have so far claimed nearly £650 million under the Government’s Energy Bills Support Scheme. Direct debit customers received the cash automatically over the winter – bringing the total delivered through the scheme to £11.5 billion.

Minister for Energy Consumers and Affordability Amanda Solloway said: “We’ve made huge strides in getting nearly £650 million from our Energy Bills Support Scheme out to prepayment meter customers, often in the homes that need it most.

“We are redoubling our efforts to reach anyone who still hasn’t claimed this help, and it’s fantastic to see so many join our final push to spread the word.”

Ministers are leading a rallying call for customers to head to a Post Office or PayPoint with their Energy Bills Support vouchers and ID before 30 June, so everyone can get the help available.

Need help?

Emily Seymour, Which? Energy Editor, said: “It’s positive that over 80 per cent of Energy Bills Support Scheme vouchers for traditional prepayment meter customers – who are often on lower incomes – have now been redeemed.

“However, there are still lots of households that will be missing out on much-needed financial support. We’d strongly encourage anyone who hasn’t yet redeemed their vouchers to do so before 30 June, so they don’t miss out on extra help unnecessarily.

“It’s also important to remember that any lost, missing or expired vouchers can be reissued, as long as they are redeemed by 30 June 2023. If you are on a traditional prepayment meter and haven’t received your vouchers, are unsure of how to redeem them, or need a voucher to be reissued, you should get in touch with your supplier for more information.”

Don’t miss the deadline

The final push in the Government’s multi-billion-pound intervention comes after news that energy costs will fall by £430 per year on average from July, under the Energy Price Cap – marking a major milestone in the Government’s efforts to halve inflation.

Latest figures, published last month, show that for the sixth month in a row London had the lowest redemption rate, with more than 650,000 vouchers still unused at the end of March. Around 25 per cent of vouchers in Scotland and the South East of England are also yet to be claimed.

Households using prepayment meters who use alternative fuels such as LPG, heating oil or biomass as the main way they heat their homes also have until 30 June to use their vouchers worth up to £200 in energy bills support. Customers will have received these vouchers in the post from their supplier and should contact them if they have any questions.

Childcare payments for struggling families to rise

Tuesday, June 6th, 2023

Low-income families will have more money in their pockets from the end of the month as part of the biggest ever expansion of childcare provision.

The maximum Universal Credit childcare payments will rise almost 50 per cent from June 28, going up to £1,630 a month.

The Government’s plans to increase childcare provision will allow struggling families to access increased support worth a total of £900 million.

The Department for Work and Pensions will raise the amount that parents in Great Britain can claim back monthly for their childcare costs on Universal Credit up to £951 for one child and £1,630 for two or more children.

At the same time, the Government will help eligible parents cover the costs for the first month’s childcare when they enter work or significantly increase their hours, removing one of the most significant barriers to parents working and helping to grow the economy.

Those parents will also receive up to 85 per cent of their childcare costs back before their next month’s bills are due – meaning they should have money to pay one month in advance going forward.

Helping to grow economy

Mel Stride, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, said: “These changes will help thousands of parents progress their career without compromising the quality of the care that their children receive.

“By helping more parents to re-enter and progress in work, we will be able to cut inactivity and help grow the economy.”

To boost the early years workforce and encourage more people to consider childcare as a valuable and rewarding career, the Department for Education is also launching a consultation in England to remove unnecessary burdens the childcare sector face. This follows extensive engagement with the sector to understand how they can be supported to deploy and train up their staff most effectively.

This is alongside a package of measures to make sure the Government’s historic expansion of free childcare is delivered successfully – with 15 free hours available for working parents of two-year-olds from April 2024, 15 free hours from nine months to the start of school available from September 2024, rising to 30 free hours from September 2025.

From September, the hourly rates paid to providers to deliver free childcare for two-year-olds will increase by 30 per cent from an average rate of £6 to £8. This represents a significant increase in funding for early years.

The Government will also launch a new recruitment campaign early next year to attract and retain talent and consider how to introduce new accelerated apprenticeship and degree apprenticeship routes so everyone from junior staff to senior leaders can easily move into a career in the sector.

£3.5bn package

Minister for Children, Families and Wellbeing Claire Coutinho said: “We are supporting families with the largest ever expansion of free childcare, making sure that places will be available for parents who need them. This will save a working parent using 30 hours a week an average of £6,500.

“We have already announced plans to boost the amount government pays childcare providers, and now we’re knocking down barriers to recruiting and retaining the talented staff that provide such wonderful care for our children.”

This package represents a key pillar of the Government’s drive to reduce economic inactivity. In total, the Government is investing £3.5 billion over five years to boost workforce participation, including helping as many people as possible, such as parents, into work which will in turn grow the economy.

Tax Diary June/July 2023

Monday, June 5th, 2023

1 June 2023 – Due date for corporation tax due for the year ended 31 August 2022.

19 June 2023 – PAYE and NIC deductions due for month ended 5 June 2023. (If you pay your tax electronically the due date is 22 June 2023).

19 June 2023 – Filing deadline for the CIS300 monthly return for the month ended 5 June 2023.

19 June 2023 – CIS tax deducted for the month ended 5 June 2023 is payable by today.

1 July 2023 – Due date for corporation tax due for the year ended 30 September 2022.

6 July 2023 – Complete and submit forms P11D return of benefits and expenses and P11D(b) return of Class 1A NICs.

19 July 2023 – Pay Class 1A NICs (by the 22 July 2023 if paid electronically).

19 July 2023 – PAYE and NIC deductions due for month ended 5 July 2023. (If you pay your tax electronically the due date is 22 July 2023).

19 July 2023 – Filing deadline for the CIS300 monthly return for the month ended 5 July 2023.

19 July 2023 – CIS tax deducted for the month ended 5 July 2023 is payable by today.

Transfer of Business as a Going Concern

Monday, June 5th, 2023

The transfer of a business as a going concern (TOGC) rules concern the VAT liability on the sale of a business. Normally the sale of the assets of a VAT registered or VAT registerable business will be subject to VAT at the appropriate rate.

Where the sale of a business includes assets and meets certain conditions the sale will be categorised as a TOGC. A TOGC is defined as 'neither a supply of goods nor a supply of services' and is therefore outside the scope of VAT. Under the TOGC rules no VAT would be chargeable on a qualifying sale.

All the following conditions are necessary for the TOGC rules to apply:

  • The assets must be sold as part of a 'business' as a 'going concern'. In essence, the business must be operating as such and not just an 'inert aggregation of assets'.
  • The purchaser intends to use the assets to continue the same kind of business as the seller.
  • Where the seller is a taxable person, the purchaser must be a taxable person already or become one as the result of the transfer.
  • Where only part of a business is sold it must be capable of separate operation.
  • There must not be a series of immediately consecutive transfers.
  • There are further conditions in relation to transactions involving land.

The TOGC rules can be complex, and both the vendor and purchaser of a business must ensure that the rules are properly followed. The TOGC rules are also mandatory which means that it is imperative to establish from the outset whether a sale is or is not a TOGC. For example, if VAT is charged in error, the buyer has no legal right to recover it from HMRC and would have to seek to recover this 'VAT' from the seller.