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SME news

Resources for SMEs including the latest government support schemes and information on smaller business issues.

Court of Appeal confirms Uber drivers are to be treated as workers

Businesses generating and passing work to third party individuals, taking a commission each time, but who treat those individuals as self-employed - should now consider whether they may be 'workers' under UK law, and entitled to basic employment law rights, following a Court of Appeal ruling.

Deliveroo riders are not workers with employment rights under trade union law

Employers should ensure they have clearly identified individuals who are 'workers' among their workforce, and those who are not. This is particularly so where individuals given a specific job are entitled to get someone else to do that job in their place, following a ruling that Deliveroo riders are not workers for the purposes of trade union law.

Workers can be asked to work 12 days between weekly 24-hour rest breaks

Employers can give employees their statutory 24-hour break in each seven-day period at any point within each such period, following an EU ruling. For example, they can give one at the beginning of a seven-day period and another at the end of the next seven-day period – with the effect that there are 12 days between two 24-hour rest periods.

Employer knowing employee had right to work in UK could not dismiss him for failure to produce paperwork

Employers who know or believe an employee has the right to work in the UK, but still carry out a right to work check, should take advice before disciplining or dismissing the employer if they do not produce documents showing a right to work.

Autumn Budget 2017 – What it means for business

The Chancellor announced measures to increase funding for the NHS, and helping first time buyers by cutting out stamp duty as well as setting a target of 300,000 new homes a year and providing new financial support for house building over the next five years.

Ruling clarifies when competitors who exchange information may be in breach of competition law

Businesses should ensure they do not take part in any contact, exchange of information, or other activity with competitors that could be considered anti-competitive. They must also make sure employees and other representatives can identify such activities to ensure the business can publicly distance itself from them and/or report them, following a recent ruling.

Tribunal says manager’s choice of words was age discrimination

Employers should ensure managers and other senior staff are properly trained and equipped to avoid potentially discriminatory acts, words and motives - or risk a discrimination claim being brought against them, a recent case makes clear.

Court rules on reasonableness of clause requiring employees to work in a new location

Employers should ensure that clauses allowing them to move employees to new locations are reasonable in the circumstances, or risk the court ruling they are unenforceable, following a recent ruling.

When does my business need a restructuring/insolvency practitioner?

Many people believe that you only call on the services of an insolvency specialist once a company has actually become insolvent, but this is not the case. The role of an ICAEW licensed insolvency practitioner often includes providing business recovery advice to directors where the company is still solvent, but where directors need help to turn their fortunes around and trade profitably again.

Large Companies Duty to Report Payment Practice and Performance

On 6 April 2017, the payment practices reporting requirement came into force. This requires large companies and LLPs to report publically on their payment practices and performance twice per financial year. The aim of this requirement is to increase transparency - helping suppliers, including small businesses, make informed decisions about who they do business with. The new duty applies to large businesses’ first full financial year beginning after 5 April 2017 and mandatory reports will start to be required from October 2017 (depending on your financial year dates). It is a criminal offence, if the business fails to publish a report, containing the necessary information, within the specified filing period (30 days).

Employer who promised employees the right to apply for voluntary redundancy breached contract by making them compulsorily redundant instead

Employers should take care what they say to employees about their rights leading up to possible redundancies, or risk their statements being treated as contractual promises which they must then deliver to those employees.

New employer may be able to dismiss employees transferring under TUPE if their place of work changes

Employers taking on employees under the TUPE rules could dismiss them if their existing terms of employment require them to work in one location, but the new employer requires them to work from another location where the local terms of employment are quite different.

Court clarifies when assets held by third parties can be taken into account on divorce

Spouses should consider whether assets held by companies, or under other company structures, could be taken into account when a court is considering a financial settlement on divorce, because the assets are held on a resulting trust for one spouse, or pursuant to a 'nuptial settlement'.

Court highlights importance of considering whether assets in family trusts are available on divorce

Spouses setting up a trust should ensure they take advice on whether the trust assets could be taken into account when a court considers a financial settlement on divorce - because the trust is a sham, or for any other reason – following a recent ruling.

Holiday pay rule for overtime and other voluntary work clarified by Employment Appeal Tribunal

Employers should ensure they are clear which payments to employees for voluntary work – for instance, overtime or standby payments – qualify as ‘normal remuneration’ and must be counted when calculating holiday pay, following a significant ruling in the Employment Appeal Tribunal.

Employers should ensure policies allow them to access employee documents, emails, etc on work equipment

Employers should ensure their IT policies, employment contracts, and processes and procedures on the use of work computers, software and the internet, make it clear that employees can have no expectation of privacy for documents and other information they create, store, send or receive on the company’s systems or premises.

Adult child successfully claims ‘reasonable provision’ from father’s estate despite being disinherited by his Will

Will-makers need to consider carefully whether and how to exclude adult children from their wills, including whether to write an appropriate side letter, given the risk of the court overruling their wishes and awarding ‘reasonable financial provision’ for an adult child.

Employee reference that omitted answers and explanations lands employer in legal hot water

Employers should ensure the references they provide which go beyond the basics are true, accurate and fair, and that omitting answers or failing to provide an explanation of information given is not misleading, otherwise they risk legal claims - as a recent ruling shows.

Employers can exclude liability to pay employees for travel time in certain circumstances

Employers with employees who travel directly to appointments to and from home should review their employment contracts to see if they can exclude liability to pay employees for travelling time, following a recent ruling.

Companies with sole shareholder-directors should review articles in case their death stops company functioning

Companies should review their articles to ensure that the death of a shareholder-director won't leave them without either owners or directors. If it will, they should amend the articles, as the court has confirmed it will exercise its discretion to rectify a company's register of shareholders to resolve the situation only in exceptional circumstances.

Organisations gearing up as major new data protection law looms in 2018

Organisations should be identifying and preparing to implement necessary changes now, ahead of the new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) which is due to come into force in May 2018.

Nine-month non-compete clause in employee's contract can be reasonable

Employers should ensure non-compete and similar clauses in an employee's contract are reasonable in the circumstances; and consider any periods during which an employee is denied access to clients while still employed when assessing whether the duration is justified - or risk the clauses being unenforceable.

Charity trustees selling property at less than market value should have taken specialist advice

Charity trustees proposing to sell a property should have obtained a qualified surveyor's report and taken specialist advice on other ways to benefit from post-sale increases in value of the property, and failed in their duty to act in the charity's best interests by not doing so, a statutory inquiry has found.

Court confirms when employers can dismiss employees without offering to redeploy them

Employers may dismiss employees for capability, without offering to redeploy them in another role, if they honestly believe the employee falls short of the basic standards required of all their employees, to the extent it can be inferred that they would be incapable of undertaking any other role in the organisation.

Employer who didn't give worker 'adequate facilities' to take holiday has to pay 13 years' arrears of holiday pay

Employers should ensure they have identified who are 'workers', and that they give them 'adequate facilities' to request paid holiday, or risk having to pay arrears for untaken holiday – even if the worker has not requested holiday – when the worker's engagement ends.

Employee's refusal of alternative job offer on redundancy can be reasonable even if the reason for the refusal is not disclosed

Employers should ask employees who refuse offers of alternative employment on redundancy why they have done so before withholding statutory redundancy pay, or unlawfully withholding that pay unlawfully if the employee's refusal is reasonable on grounds of, for instance, ill-health.

Spouse who made no contribution to short marriage, either as breadwinner or homemaker, not entitled to equal split of assets

A spouse divorcing after a short marriage, with no children and who made no contribution to the marriage either as breadwinner or homemaker, may not be entitled to the usual 50/50 split of assets generated during the marriage, a recent ruling makes clear.

Nine-month non-compete clause in employee's contract can be reasonable

Employers should ensure non-compete and similar clauses in an employee's contract are reasonable in the circumstances; and consider any periods during which an employee is denied access to clients while still employed when assessing whether the duration is justified - or risk the clauses being unenforceable.

'No dividends' policy and high directors' salaries were unfairly prejudicial to minority shareholders

Directors operating a 'no dividends' policy risk shareholders claiming the policy is 'unfairly prejudicial' to them under company law, particularly if the directors pay themselves high salaries relative to what they do, unless the company can justify the policy.

Organisations preparing for major new data protection law in 2018

Organisations should be identifying and preparing to implement necessary changes now, ahead of the new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), due in force in May 2018.

Employers more at risk of indirect discrimination claims following Supreme Court ruling

Employers should review their policies, criteria and procedures (PCPs) to ensure they do not indirectly discriminate against particular groups of employees on the basis of a protected characteristic, following a recent case. The ruling makes it easier for employees to bring indirect discrimination claims in those circumstances.

HOC Work & Pensions report on the Gig economy

A committee of MPS have recommended the incoming Government should set out a roadmap for equalizing employee and self-employed NICs, on the basis that self-employed and employees receive almost equal access to all of the services funded by NI.

Employers face continued uncertainty over commission and holiday pay

Employers still face uncertainty after the Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal of a ruling that holiday pay should include contractual, results-based commission.

National Minimum Wage

Remember the National minimum and living wage is going up on 1 April 2017, are you paying your staff correctly?

Court clarifies test for determining whether asset used by partnership belongs to it

Partners carrying on business in partnership should ensure there is a clear, written record of what they have agreed in relation to property used by the partnership, particularly when the partners change, following a recent ruling.

Another ruling says business generating and passing work to 'independent' third parties may have to treat them as workers

Businesses which generate and pass work onto third party individuals, but who currently treat those individuals as self-employed, should consider whether they may in fact be 'workers' under UK law and entitled to basic employment law rights, following a second important legal ruling.

Employers reminded that type 2 diabetes can be a disability for purposes of discrimination law

Employers should consider whether employees with type 2 diabetes are disabled for discrimination law purposes, even if they are currently able to carry out normal day-to-day activities.

Small Business Taskforce publishes New Year wish list

The Small Business Taskforce is a group of 14 organisations including ICAEW representing two million small businesses and self-employed individuals. Enterprise Nation have published a wish list we hope will strike a chord at the heart of government.

Court clarifies when contract negotiations amount to a legally binding agreement

Businesses negotiating contract terms should make sure everyone is clear as to whether and when they have reached a legally binding agreement, and that this is clearly recorded, a recent ruling makes clear.

Court clarifies when employers may reject requests to work flexibly

Employers who deal with a request to work flexibly in a reasonable manner and within applicable time limits, and whose decision does not breach discrimination law, may lawfully refuse a request that falls within a specified ground for rejection in the relevant legislation, a recent ruling makes clear.

Employers still face uncertainty over commission and holiday pay following Court of Appeal ruling 

Employers face continued uncertainty despite the Court of Appeal confirming that holiday pay should include commission – but the ruling only applies to contractual, results-based commission.

Court clarifies when contract negotiations amount to a legally binding agreement

Businesses negotiating contract terms should make sure everyone is clear as to whether and when they have reached a legally binding agreement, and that this is clearly recorded, a recent ruling makes clear.

Court clarifies when a company should not get compensation for former directors' breaches of duty

Employers should make sure they understand which preparatory steps a director may lawfully take before joining a competitor, which steps would be breaches of their directors' duties, and what compensation they can claim for breaches in such circumstances, when considering legal action against former directors.

BEIS is looking for ICAEW members to interview about late payment, disputes & similar issues

The Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) is looking for Accountancy and Finance Professionals to take part in interviews about two new websites they’re building for businesses. One of the new websites will be about the new “Small Business Commissioner”, which will give advice and assist in disputes about prompt payment and other contractual issues. The other website will support the new “Payment Practices Duty to Report” - where large businesses will have to publish information about their payment practices on a six monthly basis.

The interviews will be by phone, video calls or in person - whatever suits you best. If you’re interested in having your say:

Small business banking about to change

Banks will soon be required by law to refer businesses they refuse credit to three government approved finance platforms.

Changes to National Minimum Wage (NMW)

Changes to the NMW came into force on 1 October 2016.

E-mail reminders help companies to file on time

Companies House urges firms to register for e-mail reminders

New law: Brexit - immediate considerations for businesses

Businesses should start thinking now about the legal and other implications of the UK leaving the European Union (EU) on their business, and consider taking certain steps now.

Case law: Employers dismissing employees following a 'breakdown in relations' between them should first ensure they cannot work together

Employers planning to dismiss an employee because of a 'breakdown in relations' between them should consider giving the employee a chance to prove in practice that they can to work harmoniously before dismissing them.

Case law: Acas Code of Practice does not usually apply to dismissals for ill-health

Employers will welcome a ruling that the ACAS Code of Practice on Disciplinary and Grievance Procedures, which allows a Tribunal to add an 'uplift' to compensation payable to unfairly dismissed employees, does not apply to dismissals for ill-health - unless there has been 'culpable' conduct or performance by the employee.

New scheme: Eligible companies reconsider Patent Box tax regime following changes to benefits under it

Companies eligible for the Patent Box scheme, a preferential tax regime for income arising from certain patents, should consider whether new rules mean it is still worth trying to benefit from it. The changes will apply from 1 July 2016.

Case law: Supplier who restricted prices chargeable by online retailers must pay significant fine for breach of competition law

Suppliers and their retail customers should ensure they are aware of, and take steps to ensure compliance with, competition law if their acts or practices (such as restricting online sale prices of their products) might restrict or distort competition, a recent case makes clear.

Case law: Employer can search for and destroy confidential information on ex-employee's electronic devices and computer

An employer taking legal action against an ex-employee and/or its new employer for wrongful use of its confidential information can apply for a court order authorising a search of electronic devices and computers, and destruction of such information found, following a recent ruling.

The Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Act

Small Business Act measures come into force including a Confirmation Statement replacing an Annual Return for companies.

New guidance: Government issues guidance on new company law requirements for UK companies and LLPs

UK companies and Limited Liability Partnerships (LLPs) will welcome a raft of government guidance to help them comply with the new law requiring them to identify and register individuals who exercise 'significant control' over them.

Case law: How shares should be valued on disposal under pre-emption provisions in a company's articles

Companies and shareholders should check any pre-emption provisions in their articles to ensure they understand how the shares will be valued if the provisions are to be exercised, following a recent ruling.

Case law: Importance of reasonable investigation by employer before dismissal

Employers should ensure they carry out a reasonable investigation into possible alternative, exonerating explanations for apparent misconduct before deciding on dismissal or other disciplinary action.

New guidance: Information Commissioner's Office updates data protection IT security guide for businesses

The ICO has published an updated IT security guide for small businesses to help them keep their IT systems secure for data protection purposes.

New guidance: Competition and Markets Authority publishes guides on unfair contract law for small businesses selling to consumers

Small businesses dealing with consumers will welcome new guides to the most recent consumer protection law.

New law: National minimum wage rates

New national minimum wage rates for 1 October 2016 have been announced by the Government.

New guidance: New resources help organisations avoid discrimination

Businesses and other organisations will welcome new online resources in plain English from the Equality and Human Rights Commission on how to avoid discrimination when advertising jobs or services.

New rules for UK owners of European Community trade marks

UK businesses and individuals who use or have registered trademarks in the EU should consider whether they should take action following changes in the law from March 2016.

A guide to Business Support services

The latest Guide to Government’s Business Services is intended to be used by ICAEW members to signpost businesses to relevant areas of help and support. Using the information in this Guide will mean that businesses receive consistent advice about what support is available.

New bridging finance scheme for R & D Tax Credits claims

If you have made a R & D Tax Credits claim the chances are you will be waiting months to receive it. NatWest has developed a loan scheme linked to the claim which simply requires your accountant to certify the details to receive the bridging finance.

Has your business grown by 20%+ a year for the last two years?

If so you might be eligible to join a free 12 month programme designed for leaders of ambitious high growth UK businesses. Applications close 16th March

HMRC simplifies VAT for exporters using the VAT MOSS scheme

Read Revenue and Customs Brief 4 (2016): VAT MOSS

How resilient is your business?

Read the Business in the Community “10 Minute Plan” which has lots of great ideas for dealing with emergencies.

Support for businesses affected by flooding

Government information and advice about the support services available after the flooding in north west England.

The Business Growth Service is now closed to new customers

Contractual commitments to existing customers will be honoured, as long as all support and related activity is completed by 31 March 2016. If you’re looking to find what business support is available in your area, your local Growth Hub may be able to help: or call the Government's FREE Business Support Helpline on 0300 456 3565.

UKTI - Central and Eastern Europe Professional Services Road Show

UK Trade & Investment (UKTI) London are arranging a series of speed dating and networking events for businesses to trade to Czech Republic, Poland and Slovakia.

Acas publishes four new sets of guidance for employers

Businesses will welcome four new sets of guidance from Acas covering a number of issues that arise in the workplace.

Government guidance on zero hour contracts

Employers will welcome a new guide on zero hours contracts from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS).

Directors with Directors' and Officers' Liability (D&O) insurance should check their cover following new director liabilities

Directors with D&O insurance should check whether it covers their defence costs if their company becomes insolvent - and its liquidators and administrators exercise new powers to sell the right to bring legal claims against them to third parties - following new liabilities for directors.

Directors at greater risk of being prosecuted personally if collective redundancy procedures not followed

Directors and others involved in planning and making collective redundancies should ensure their company complies with its obligation to notify the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), or risk being prosecuted personally.

EU launches Consultation on Modernising VAT for cross-border e-commerce

Since 1 January 2015, with the entry into force of new "place of supply" rules , VAT on all telecommunications, broadcasting and electronic services is levied where the customer is based, rather than where the supplier is located. In parallel, a Mini One Stop Shop has been implemented to reduce the costs and administrative burdens for businesses concerned.

Increases to National Minimum Wage

Changes to National Minimum Wage (NMW) rates came into effect on 1 October 2015. The NMW rate for workers aged 21 or over increased from £6.50 to £6.70; for 18 to 20-year-olds, it increased from £5.13 to £5.30; and for those aged 16 and 17, it increased from £3.79 to £3.87. The NMW rate for apprentices rose by 20%, from £2.73 to £3.30, which is the largest ever increase and exceeds the 3% rise proposed by the Low Pay Commission.

New timetable for company law changes in the Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Act

Limited companies should review their preparations for company law changes introduced under the SBEEA following government changes to the timetable. The changes include delays to the introduction of the new statutory register of Persons with Significant Control (PSCs.

Charity Commission issues updated guidance on trustees' legal duties and best practice

The Charity Commission has published an updated version of its guide The essential trustee: What you need to know, what you need to do, giving its latest guidance on trustees' legal duties and best practice.

Acas issues new guides on discrimination

Employers will welcome three guides from Acas to help them comply with discrimination laws.

Consultation on new 'living wage'

Employers will welcome the opportunity to comment on proposals for a new 'living wage' to replace the national minimum wage.

£5000 Government grant for small businesses to boost cyber security

A new scheme to protect small businesses from cyber attacks has been announced by Government to launch late August - early September 2015.

HMRC policy paper: Dividend Allowance fact sheet

Changes introduced in the July 2015 budget have altered the balance on whether start-ups should form a limited company or start as a sole trader.

Case law: Employee time travelling to and from home to jobs can be working time

Employers should check whether any employees have no fixed place of work and travel from home to their first job of the day, and back home after their last job of the day: time spent travelling may amount to working time for the purposes of the working time rules.

Acas publishes new guide on staff pay

Employers will welcome a new Acas guide covering the basics of the law on staff pay.

Enterprising Regions

What makes an enterprising city? A new report by Enterprise Nation and the ICAEW Business Advice Service highlights the qualities which make some cities special.

Court clarifies employers' duties to employees travelling abroad

Employers whose employees travel on business abroad should ensure they know what they must do to discharge their health and safety obligations to keep employees reasonably safe from harm, following a recent ruling.

Document varying Will to reduce inheritance tax was ineffective without special clause

Beneficiaries trying to save inheritance tax by varying a Will must ensure the deed of variation contains a special clause, or it will be ineffective to save tax.

Guidance on calculating holiday pay and right to work

Businesses will welcome new Acas guidance on calculating holiday pay, and new guidance on right to work checks from the Home Office.

Protecting IP and resolving IP disputes

Intellectual property (IP) such as patents and trade marks can be vital business assets.

How to get your customer communication right

There are more ways to communicate with customers than ever. The internet, email and mobile phones are changing the way you can interact with customers.

Government announces support for first-time exporters

Minister for Trade and Investment Francis Maude has announced a programme of expert advice and support, to help companies expand into international markets for the first time, to mark the beginning of Export Week 2015.

The Conservatives Small Business Manifesto

This report identifies the Conservatives plan to continue supporting small business owners who are creating jobs opportunities, helping to build the economy.

Government guidance on minimum wage

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills has issued statutory guidance, Calculating the minimum wage, to help employers comply with national minimum wage laws.

How to keep your recruitment interviews legal

Stay on the right side of the law with our legal round-up of recruitment interview dos and don'ts.

Shared parental leave

Parents of babies who were born on 5th April 2015 were the first to benefit from Shared Parental Leave, a new right introduced by the Government which makes the parental leave system much more flexible.

Toolkit launched to help businesses use intellectual property to raise finance

Businesses will benefit from a new IP Finance toolkit launched by the Intellectual Property Office (IPO). The toolkit will help businesses better understand the financial value of their intellectual property (IP), and make a stronger case when offering their IP as security to raise finance.

Companies considering name changes following new rules

Many companies are considering whether to change their names following introduction of new, more liberal rules on which company names are allowed.

How secure are your premises?

Crime potentially threatens all businesses, with criminals finding ever more sophisticated methods. Protecting and insuring premises and their contents is crucial to all businesses.

How to cope if your internet goes down

When your internet goes down, your business suffers – no matter whether you have one employee or 100. So, if yours fails, what can you do to keep working while you wait for it to get fixed?

12 Marketing tips to help your business grow

It’s important to get your business into shape if you want to exploit new opportunities as they present themselves. These golden marketing rules will help your business grow.

Terminating employment – top tips to get it right

When an employee leaves, for whatever reason, it is vital to get everything right, from reclaiming your property to ensuring your confidential information is kept secret after the employee leaves. Check out the key steps to take for a trouble-free termination.

Gross misconduct – a step-by-step guide

Gross misconduct is behaviour, on the part of an employee, which is so bad that it destroys the employer/employee relationship, and merits instant dismissal without notice or pay in lieu of notice. Get the procedure right with the help of this step-by-step guide.

How copyright works and how it can help your business

It’s important to get your business into shape if you want to exploit new opportunities as they present themselves. These golden marketing rules will help your business grow.

Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Act becomes law

This far-reaching Act includes measures to improve SMEs access to finance, increasing transparency in large companies’ payment of suppliers and introducing measures to reduce the flow of red tape on business, Other measures include preventing exclusivity clauses in zero hours contracts, changes to the penalties for breaking National Minimum Wage legislation as well as changes to insolvency law as a result of the Graham Review.