Welcome to our round-up of the latest business news for our clients. Please contact us if you want to talk about how these updates affect your business. We are here to support you!
Back To School – Childcare Vouchers Or Tax-Free Childcare Account?
Tax-free childcare accounts will gradually replace childcare voucher schemes as no new schemes could be set up after 4 October 2018. Those within voucher schemes continue to be eligible until their child is aged 16, provided the employer is willing to continue operating the scheme.
Many organisations provided the vouchers by way of salary sacrifice and there were tax and NIC advantages for both employers and employees. Despite the PAYE and NIC advantages, not all employers provided childcare vouchers. Depending upon when they joined the voucher scheme, employees could be provided with vouchers worth up to £55 a week (£2,860 p.a.) free of tax and NICs.
However, with many employees working from home during the pandemic and with the move to hybrid working, many families found that they were not using all of their vouchers and are choosing to leave the scheme and use the Government’s Tax-Free Childcare account instead. Note that that scheme is generally only available to pay for care for children up to age 12.
Which scheme an employee is better off with depends on their personal situation. They can use the Government’s childcare calculator to work out which type of support is best for them.
One other major difference between the two schemes is that Tax-Free Childcare accounts are available to the self-employed as well as to employees.
There continues to be poor take-up of the Government’s Tax-Free Childcare Accounts which provide a 25% subsidy towards the cost of childcare. The system operates by topping up savings of up to £8,000 per child by 25%, potentially an extra £2,000 from the Government to spend on qualifying childcare. The scheme generally applies to children under 12 and the account can be used to pay nursery fees, breakfast clubs, after-school clubs and registered childminders.
To be eligible, the parent generally needs to be working and earning at least the National Minimum Wage or Living Wage for 16 hours a week on average. In a 3-month period, they need to earn at least £1,976 and will not be eligible if their (or their partner’s) adjusted net income is more than £100,000 a year.
Note that the two schemes are mutually exclusive, and employers must stop giving their employees childcare vouchers with income tax and NIC relief if the employee informs them that they’ve started using the Tax-Free Childcare scheme. Employees must notify their employer within 90 days of their application for a Tax-Free Childcare account. The employer may need to stop or change the employee’s salary sacrifice arrangement and must also update the employee’s contract and payroll.
Does Your Company Have A Shareholders Agreement?
For limited companies, when it comes to making decisions, company law states that shareholders who own more than 50% can pass a motion at a company meeting regardless of the views of other shareholders. If a shareholder(s) owns more than 75% of the shares, they control the company outright and can veto the decisions of all other shareholders.
This may not suit all business situations, especially where you have two or more founders holding equal share capital or a group of owners with varying amounts of capital, some of whom are directors and some who are not, but who are all working together for the company’s success.
A shareholders’ agreement is entered into between all or some of the shareholders in a company. It regulates the relationship between the shareholders and the management of the company, ownership of the shares and the protection of the shareholders. They also govern the way in which the company is run.
The agreement can help define how a business makes decisions for the benefit of all owners, and is recommended where:
- A small number of owners want to reach collective and fair decisions for the benefit of all.
- Some owners may want to be able to influence decisions that are particularly relevant to them.
- Some shareholders may not be directors and cannot influence operations on a day-to-day basis.
Typically, it is seeking to deal with the three “D’s” of death, disability and disagreement. It may also cover a variety of other significant areas, for example, retirement and buyback of shares.
Key areas for any shareholder agreement
This is not a comprehensive list as each situation is different, but it may help you collect the thoughts of all shareholders before you draw up an agreement.
- Company details including structure, directors and officers
- Purpose and aims of the company
- Equity split of shareholders
- Parties to the agreement
- Shareholders’ rights, obligations and commitments
- Decision-making processes on major issues, required voting majorities and day-to-day operating decisions
- Restrictions on the sale of shares
- Rights of first refusal and pre-emptive rights to acquire shares on leaving, retirement, death or disability
- Death, disability and other retirement compensation payments
- Management contracts, director approval and remuneration amounts
- Insurance and other protective requirements
- Professional advisers and change of professional advisers
- Dispute resolution
- Changes to and termination of the agreement
- Buy out provisions for leaving shareholders
- Valuation of shares on changes and valuations of the business
Our view is that a shareholders agreement is an essential document for any limited company and an equitably drafted agreement should provide comfort to all parties.
Please talk to us if you need help in planning for an agreement, especially where there are several shareholders, a new company is being formed, a shareholder wants to sell their shares or pass them to their children, someone is nearing retirement, or the company has borrowed money from a shareholder. We can help with share and company valuations and put the shareholders’ wishes into an agreement with a local solicitor.
Support And Manage Disability And Health At Work
Many employers are currently facing challenges in recruiting the people they need to help their businesses survive and prosper. It has never been more important for those employers to keep and develop the people they already have. It’s therefore crucial that businesses have the tools they need to prevent long-term absence and avoidable job loss because of ill health or disability.
The UK Government is testing a new online service for employers, which provides advice and guidance on managing health and disability in the workplace and also explains your legal obligations and good practice.
This may be particularly helpful for smaller businesses without an in-house HR function or access to an occupational health service.
By taking part, you will receive free information and guidance on disability and health-related employment issues. You could use it to help manage a current case, or simply take a look around the site to see what’s useful and identify improvements.
See: Support and manage disabled employees and employees with health conditions at work – Support and manage disabled employees and employees with health conditions at work – GOV.UK (dwp.gov.uk)
Employers Should Prepare For A Warmer Future
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is advising businesses to think about how they need to adapt to warmer working conditions for their staff.
After last month’s record-breaking temperatures and with more hot weather this month, HSE is asking employers to ensure extreme heat becomes part of their long-term planning.
With temperatures reaching 40oC in some parts of the UK in July, adapting to climate change is something all businesses will need to consider as warmer weather becomes more frequent.
Employers have a legal obligation under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations to assess risks to the health and safety of their workers. They must review the risk controls they have in place and update them if needed. This includes risks from more frequent extreme weather, such as heatwaves.
While there is no maximum temperature for workplaces, all workers are entitled to an environment where risks to their health and safety are properly controlled. Heat is classed as a hazard and comes with legal obligations like any other hazard.
The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations require employers to provide a reasonable temperature in the workplace.
John Rowe, HSE’s Acting Head of Operational Strategy, said:
“We expect employers to take this recent weather event as the prompt to review how they assess the risk of high temperatures in their workplace and identify now those changes that will future proof them.”
“All workplaces need to acknowledge that the working environment is changing. There are low-cost adaptations to the structure of work, but things like improved ventilation and air conditioning should also be considered, which will involve investment in the workplace.”
“Extreme heat that we have witnessed of late isn’t going to stop and we want employers to plan and respond to this now.”
Here, you can find more guidance on taking practical steps to work safely in hot conditions:
Temperature: employees guide
Temperature: What the Law says
Temperature: Outdoor working
Workers’ health and safety
See: Heat warning: Employers must prepare for a warmer future | HSE Media Centre
Apply For Funding From The UK Seafood Fund
The UK Seafood Fund is a £100 million fund set up to support the long-term future and sustainability of the UK fisheries and seafood sector. The fund is managed by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).
The fund’s objectives are to:
- Reform and modernise infrastructure to level up and bring economic growth to coastal communities.
- Ensure the best science, research and technology are used in fisheries management.
- Encourage new entrants to the industry and upskill the existing workforce.
- Enable an environmentally sustainable fishing industry that gives the most value for money and reflects the long-term needs of the sector.
- Boost UK seafood exports to new and existing markets.
The UK Seafood Fund consists of a number of schemes that come under 3 areas of funding:
- Science and innovation
- Skills and training
- Exports support
Future Of Air Mobility Accelerator 2022
Connected Places Catapult has partnered with the Future Flight Challenge from UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) to launch the second iteration of the Future of Air Mobility Accelerator (FoAM).
They will select up to 12 small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) to join a six-month programme to receive support from a consortium of industry, academic and regulatory partners on the trial and testing of their disruptive innovative solutions.
The challenge areas for FoAM 2022 are:
- Future airport and vertiport operations
- Aviation sustainability
- Future air and space traffic management
- Enabling end-to-end mobility
Applications close on 11 September 2022.
Music Export Growth Scheme Is Open For Applications
The Music Export Growth Scheme offers grants ranging from £5,000 to £50,000 to UK-registered independent music companies to assist them with marketing campaigns when looking to introduce successful UK music projects overseas.
The scheme is targeted at artists/projects that have achieved reasonable levels of impact in the UK and are now looking to break internationally.
Hydrogen Business Model And Net Zero Hydrogen Fund Electrolytic Allocation Round
The Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) has launched a call for submissions to the 2022 Hydrogen Business Model and Net Zero Hydrogen Fund Electrolytic Allocation Round.
The UK is aiming to develop up to 10 gigawatts of low-carbon hydrogen generation by 2030. This is subject to affordability and value for money, with the intention that at least half of this will be from electrolytic hydrogen, drawing on the scale-up of UK offshore wind, other renewables, and new nuclear.
The Energy Security Strategy sets out the ambition to support up to 1GW of electrolytic hydrogen being in construction or operational by 2025. BEIS aims to run yearly electrolytic allocation rounds for the Hydrogen Business Model (HBM) and move to price-competitive allocations by 2025, as soon as market conditions and legislation allow.
BEIS hopes to support at least 250 megawatts via this first allocation round. BEIS proposes that projects can apply for HBM revenue support only, or they can apply for joint HBM revenue support and capital expenditure support through the Net Zero Hydrogen Fund (NZHF).
‘Yes You Can’ Support Programme And Pitching Competition
Women in Business, with sponsorship from Belfast City Council, is funding a new Yes You Can programme which will start in September 2022. There are three separate strands of the programme to help women with the challenges and opportunities at different stages of owning their business.
From September to December 2022, Women in Business have lined up an exclusive one-day boot camp for 20 women who are in need of some guidance when it comes to pursuing their business ideas.
The event will be taking place across six different locations in Northern Ireland to encourage change, confidence and communication as an entrepreneur. The focus will be on your idea and vision, and practical advice will be provided on how to drive it all forward.
Each boot camp will be hosted by two experienced facilitators, along with guest speakers from the local entrepreneurial community, to share their business tips and secrets to success – not forgetting vital networking opportunities to connect with like-minded women.
See: Yes You Can support programme and pitching competition (nibusinessinfo.co.uk)
Antrim And Newtownabbey Social Enterprise Programme
Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council has launched a new initiative which aims to support groups that are profit-making but not profit-taking, and are considering setting up as a social enterprise in the area. It will also help existing social enterprises that have been running for less than three years to establish themselves.
The programme offers one-to-one mentoring from a specialist, access to group workshops, networking opportunities with other social enterprise businesses and access to a bursary to progress your idea. The programme is open to those located within the Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council area, as defined by the registered business address for existing enterprises and the residential address for start-ups.
See: Social Enterprise Programme – Antrim & Newtownabbey Borough Council (antrimandnewtownabbey.gov.uk)
Arts Council NI’s Funding For Individual Artists
The Arts Council, the development agency for the arts in Northern Ireland, is currently accepting applications for several programmes aimed at supporting individual artists.
The overall aim of SIAP is to support artists across all disciplines to create work and develop their practice. Broadly, awards can be for specific projects, specialised research, or personal artistic development. Different schemes are available within this programme, including:
- General Art Awards
- Artists Career Enhancement Scheme
- Artists International Development Fund
Each award has different funding levels. Artists of all disciplines and in all types of working practice are eligible to apply, provided they have made a contribution to artistic activities in Northern Ireland for a minimum period of one year within the last five years.
See: Arts Council NI’s funding for individual artists (nibusinessinfo.co.uk)
Access The Assisted Completion Service
The Trader Support Service (TSS) can help businesses complete their Supplementary Declarations (SD) with the Assisted Completion Service.
Using the Assisted Completion Service, a TSS agent will complete up to five SDs a month on behalf of a business for goods movements from Great Britain to Northern Ireland.
A dedicated TSS agent will help you:
- Organise and validate data required.
- Complete all data entries for the Supplementary Declaration on the TSS Portal.
- Identify the cause and resolve any errors.
The service can be valuable if you:
- Only make a small number of movements a month – the service can help support all (or almost all) of your Supplementary Declarations.
- Want help with technically complex Supplementary Declarations (e.g., declarations with many items or movements of controlled goods).
- Are new to TSS and unfamiliar with the declaration requirements or terms.
How can I access the service?
You can ask for support from the Assisted Completion Service directly on the TSS Portal by selecting the Assisted Completion button at the top of your Supplementary Declaration.
The service is available to all traders and can be accessed directly on the TSS Portal or by calling the TSS Contact Centre on 0800 060 8888.
See: TSS Assisted Completion Service – Northern Ireland Customs and Trade Academy (nicustomstradeacademy.co.uk)
Taxi Fare Increase Consultation
The Department for Infrastructure (DfI) has launched a public consultation on a 2022 taxi fares review. DfI is inviting the public, the taxi industry (both operators and drivers), and relevant stakeholders, including the Consumer Council, to provide their views on proposals.
Officials are undertaking a 2022 review of the current maximum taxi fare, to potentially implement an increase. The review has considered several costs, including fuel and labour, insurance, vehicle tax, and the cost of depot rent. Benchmarking with other jurisdictions has also been carried out.
In considering an increase to the maximum fare, DfI wants to support drivers and operators in their ability to earn a fair income, and an increase may encourage new drivers to join the taxi industry. However, there needs to be a balance between the needs of taxi customers and the needs of taxi drivers and operators.