Planning ahead for extreme weather

As our excitement for Christmas begins to build, so too does the prospect of plummeting temperatures and weather warnings hampering, hindering or halting us as we struggle to work.

If extreme weather hits the UK this winter, school closures, train delays and vehicle breakdowns will make it a struggle for staff to get to the workplace. Last year, the ‘Beast from the East’ created a predicted £1bn loss to the UK economy.

Of course businesses can’t control the weather, but they can prepare for it by putting the correct processes in place. So what rules should businesses follow if their workers can’t make it into the office and what are the rights of employees?

Schools out

If a school is closed, then parents can take ‘dependent leave’. The parent is expected to use this time not to look after their child, but find alternative child care.

However, many employers are flexible in these circumstances and will allow employees to take holiday at short notice, make the time up on another day or, if appropriate, work from home.

Travelling troubles

If the bad weather prevents you getting into work then essentially your employer does not have to pay you as it is your responsibility to make it into your workplace. The only exception to this would be if your employer provides transport for you and this is cancelled.

Employers may allow workers to request time off as part of their annual leave or work from home. Employers should not force or put pressure on employees to attempt the journey if there are safety warnings against travelling.

However, if your boss decides to close your workplace then you will still get paid. If you are on a zero hours contract though, or your employer has a contractual right to decline to offer you work at short notice, they may not have to pay you.

Also, if there is advance notice of bad weather, the employer could give notice to require employees to take their holiday.

Planning is key

Planning ahead of the arrival of adverse weather is essential to ensure disruption is minimised.  Businesses should act now to put processes in place before briefing workers on situation specific procedures. Doing so will help to maximise both staff safety and company productivity until clearer skies return.

Lisa Kennery, Payroll Manager


Fit for Work

Fit for Work

How employers can prepare for Fit for Work

News compiled from

By: Lisa Kennery

GPs and employers throughout England and Wales can now refer their employed patients and employees who have been, or are likely to be, off sick from work for four weeks or more for a voluntary occupational health assessment.

Fit for Work is now available for employers up and down the country, meaning that they can refer staff who have been off work sick for four weeks or more to the service. The service is aimed at supporting workers in SMEs to plug the gap in occupational health advice and support provision – as around 70% of employees in England and Wales don’t have access to occupational health and advice.

Fit for Work is predicted to cut sick pay costs to business by £80 million, to £165 million a year. This means that it is something businesses can’t afford to miss out on taking advantage of. Those wanting to use the service often find it good practice to include Fit for Work in their in-house HR policy, and build it into their procedures for dealing with sickness absence.

Employers wanting further advice about referring employees on long-term sickness absence can call the Fit for Work advice line on 0800 032 6235 to speak to a dedicated advisor.

Employees who consent to being referred to Fit for Work will be invited for a telephone assessment by a Fit for Work occupational health professional. This assessment aims to identify all potential obstacles preventing employees from returning to work (including health, work and personal factors). Where appropriate, a Return to Work Plan will be agreed between the advisor and employee.

While aiming to plug the gap in occupational health advice and support for SMEs, Fit for Work can also work alongside existing occupational health provision as it focuses on many different aspects preventing an employee’s return to work, including social and financial factors.

Desk and Lamp

The occupational health professional will identify obstacles preventing the employee from returning to work. A Return to Work Plan will be agreed providing recommendations tailored to the employee’s needs, which can replace the need for a fit note.

How to prepare for making Fit for Work referrals

  • Clarify what existing support you already have in place for employees on long-term sick leave and update your HR policy to accept the Fit for Work Return to Work Plans. (For help with updating your absence and HR policies, see the CIPD guidelines.)
  • Invite eligible employees in for a discussion about Fit for Work, and refer employees (with their consent) using the employer referral form.
  • Spread the word about Fit for Work within your organisation or on your website using some of our online resources (see the employer toolkit for a collection of useful materials available for your use).

Press Releases

New return-to-work service opens to employers today

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Each year around 865,000 employee absences in England and Wales last for four weeks or more1. 74% of employers in England and Wales feel that if they had more external…

New return to work service goes live to help GPs, employees and employers across England

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

A new support service, designed to help working people who face long-term sickness absence return to work more quickly, is now available across the whole of England. The free and…

Employer Roadshow

The scheme is set to affect employers up and down the country, with businesses now beginning to refer their employees to Fit for Work. The events, to be held across England and Wales, will be looking at what these changes mean from a policy and business perspective.

Events will be taking place in:

If you are interested in attending, please email your name and the event you wish to attend to (for England) or (for Wales).

Suitable for:

Business Membership Organisations, Business Member Organisations, Employment Relations Specialists, Employee Representatives, MDs / CEOs, Trade Unions, Health and Wellbeing Boards, Occupational Health Specialists


Shared Parental Leave

Guest Blog from:

HR Partener logo

Shared Parental Leave……………


Shared Parental Leave took full effect on 5 April 2015. The new regulations enable eligible mothers, fathers, partners and adopters to choose how to share time off work after their child is born or placed for adoption. This could involve returning to work for part of the time and then taking leave at a later date. Employees must meet the following criteria in order to be eligible for Shared Parental leave;

  • They must have been continuously employed for at least 26 weeks at the end of the 15th week before the week in which the baby is due (or if adopting at the week in which an adopter was notified of having been matched with a child for adoption) and must still be employed in the first week that Shared Parental Leave is to be taken.
  • They must satisfy the Employment & Earnings Test which means that the other parent must have worked for at least 26 weeks in the 66 weeks leading up to the due date and have earned above the maternity allowance threshold of £30 week in 13 of the 66 weeks.

Shared Parental Leave offers parents more flexibility to share the responsibilities of having a child and leave can be taken at any time within the first year of the child being born.

A maximum of 52 weeks leave (less any maternity leave already taken) can be taken in separate blocks (up to three a year) and can be in a continuous period or a discontinuous period. Employers will not be able to refuse an application for continuous leave but can refuse, or negotiate, an application for a discontinuous period of leave.

Each parent taking Shared Parental Leave is also entitled to a maximum of 20 Shared Parental Leave in Touch days (similar to Keep in Touch days).

Parents taking Shared Parental Leave will be entitled to Statutory Shared Parental Pay  –  payment will only be payable to one parent at a time. If the mother cuts short her maternity leave and returns to work the father can apply for Shared Parental Pay for the remaining weeks.

There is a lot more detail & it’s advisable that employers develop a robust policy and talk to their staff about the options regarding Shared Parental Leave. Having an early and informal discussion can provide an opportunity for both the employee and employer to talk about how they want to use the Shared Parental Leave and how this might be best accommodated by the Company.

For help with this or any other HR matters, please call us on 0800 193 4055

HR Partner Ltd

For more information go to :

Tax-Free Child Care Update

Tax-Free Childcare Launch Date now 2017

HM Treasury

Government confirms Tax-Free Childcare launch date as it welcomes judgment from Supreme Court


HM Treasury and HM Revenue & Customs

Tax-Free Childcare is part of the government’s long-term plan to support working families.

The government today (Wednesday 1 July) welcomed a judgment from the Supreme Court that found the government’s proposals for delivering Tax-Free Childcare to be clearly lawful.

It also confirmed that, as a direct result of the legal challenge, the scheme is now expected to launch from early 2017. The existing Employer‑Supported Childcare scheme will remain open to new entrants until Tax-Free Childcare is launched.

As a result of the legal action, the court placed a suspension on the development of the scheme which prevented key delivery steps from taking place. This legal action was brought by a small group of childcare voucher providers involved in the delivery of the scheme that Tax-Free Childcare will eventually replace.

Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury, Damian Hinds said:

We are pleased that the government’s proposals for delivering Tax-Free Childcare have been found to be clearly lawful. This government is absolutely clear on the importance of supporting families with their childcare costs.

It is disappointing that some organisations involved in the existing scheme felt the need to take and persist in this costly and wasteful course of action, which has led to a delay in the launch of Tax-Free Childcare.

We are now pressing ahead with the scheme as part of our ongoing commitment to support working families.

Tax-Free Childcare is part of the government’s long-term plan to support working families and will provide up to 1.8 million families across the UK with up to £2,000 of childcare support per year, per child, via a new simple online system.

The government is clear on the importance of supporting families with their childcare costs. Spending on childcare was increased by £1 billion in the last Parliament and the government has also committed to doubling free childcare for working parents of three and four year olds to 30 hours a week.

Further information

  • a legal challenge was brought against the government’s decision to deliver the Tax-Free Childcare accounts through HMRC working in partnership with NS&I
  • some organisations involved in the existing Employer-Supported Childcare scheme decided to pursue challenges against the government’s decision to deliver Tax-Free Childcare childcare accounts by HMRC and NS&I working in partnership, and NS&I’s use of an existing outsourcing contract to deliver childcare accounts
  • the Supreme Court “unanimously dismisses their appeal
  • formal arrangements have now been made between HMRC and NS&I and they are pressing ahead to deliver Tax-Free Childcare as soon as possible
  • exact rollout details for Tax-Free Childcare will be confirmed in due course
  • Employer‑Supported Childcare, often referred to as childcare vouchers, will remain open to new entrants until Tax-Free Childcare launches. Parents who wish to remain in Employer-Supported Childcare once Tax-Free Childcare is launched will be able to, while their current employer continues to offer the voucher scheme
  • workplace nurseries will be unaffected by the introduction of Tax-Free Childcare

Guest Blog: The Christmas Bonus Dilemma

From:   Lisa Kennery

I have asked Karen Credie of KMC HR if we may publish her blog on The Christmas Bonus Dilemma as I feel that this will be very helpful to many employers.

Karen Credie of KMC HR

Karen Credie of KMC HR

The Christmas Bonus dilemma…

Christmas time can throw up a veritable feast of HR issues.  In our Christmas series of blogs, we have so far addressed the perils of the staff Christmas party and also how to tackle staff holidays and holiday pay.

In this final article of the series, we turn to Christmas bonuses and look at rewarding staff fairly and lawfully.

For many businesses, the payment of a Christmas bonus to reward staff for their hard work throughout the year is a nice thing to do. But get it wrong, and you could find a generous gesture turning into an employment tribunal claim.

If your business has had a good year and you want to issue a monetary reward to staff, there are a few things you need to consider.  Are you going to give everyone in the business a bonus?  Will the bonus be the same amount for everyone?

If only some members of staff are to receive a bonus, you need to be careful that you cannot be found at fault for discrimination or an equal pay claim.  The grounds on which you award any bonus need to be made clear so all employees have an equal opportunity to be rewarded for their work.

Similarly, if you are paying a different amount to different members/teams of staff, the reasons for this need to be explained.

If the business has had a tough year or cash flow is tight, it could be that the payment of a Christmas bonus is just a step too far. However, employers need to be aware that if a bonus at Christmas time has been made for a few years on the run, this could be seen as having become ‘customary’ and therefore it could be argued that a bonus is a staff entitlement.  Where this is the case, employers who decide to reduce the staff bonus, or not pay one at all one year, could find themselves at risk of claims from employees.

Should you wish to maintain flexibility in the payment of bonuses, you need to ensure that any documentation relating to the payment of a bonus, at Christmas or any other time, highlights they are payable only at the discretion of the company and for a discretionary amount.


T: 01282 875728 E: LI:


Ben Smith becomes a Director

Ben Smith becomes a Director


We are delighted to announce that  Ben Smith has accepted a promotion to the Board of Pierce and has become one of our Directors.

Ben Smith



Ben graduated in 2001 with MEng (Hons) from Durham University. Following a career in engineering, Ben joined Pierce in 2005 when he retrained as a Chartered Accountant.

Following a stint in industry as an accountant for a blue chip company, Ben returned to Pierce. Since then he has advised a broad range of clients as a general practitioner and has developed a specialism in Research and Development Tax Claims.

Ben looks after a substantial number of SME clients and will be growing his portfolio in the immediate future.

Client Testimonials:

“I moved to the North west from my home in the Midlands in 1992 to run a business in Pendle. I was fortunate to be able to secure the professional support of Graham Boyes and his team, right from the beginning. In 2013 the business, grown from those roots, was sold and I retired. In the intervening years our enterprise had changed significantly but at every stage its development was ably assisted by advice from the same source.

The final period of my involvement in the business was concerned with its sale to our most significant customer. It was during an extended period of frenetic, sometimes traumatic activity that my fellow shareholders and I got to know and appreciate the skills and professionalism of Ben Smith. His knowledge of the process of disposal, his ability to handle the accounting complexity and also to understand the legal implications, helped to ensure a successful transaction.

It is testimony to Ben’s abilities that our purchaser has been very complimentary about his role and shares the same high regard as we have for him. I congratulate him on his well deserved appointment; Pierce has a valuable asset and one which I shall miss contact with in my retirement.”   Philip Cox

“I have been in business for over 35 years. Ben is, without doubt, the best accountant that I have ever worked with”  Philip (Pip) Stewart



Linkedin Profile

Flexible working changes

Flexible working changes – what you actually need to know


By:    Amy Stokes
Associate Solicitor, Employment & HR, Blackburn
Email Amy Stokes
01254 222309

of:    Forbes Solicitors

On 30 June 2014 the Government introduced new rules in respect of flexible working.  There have been a number of high profile headlines and even some scaremongering, but what actually does it mean for employers?

Previously, a request for flexible working could only be made by parents of children under 17 (or 18 if the child was disabled) and certain carers.  Now any employee who has been employed for 26 weeks has the right to make a request.  An employee can however only make one request in a 12 month period.

Under the old rules, the process for dealing with a flexible working request was very prescriptive and quite onerous on employers.  Now the process is simplified requiring employers only to consider requests in a reasonable manner and to notify employees of their decision within 3 months of receipt of the request (including any appeal), unless an extension of time is agreed.

You don’t have to agree to a request for flexible working – if the employer decides to refuse a request for flexible working they will still have to show that the refusal is on business grounds and for one of the following reasons:

  • the burden of additional costs
  • an inability to reorganise work amongst existing staff
  • an inability to recruit additional staff
  • a detrimental impact on quality
  • a detrimental impact on performance
  • detrimental effect on ability to meet customer demand
  • insufficient work for the periods the employee proposes to work
  • a planned structural changes to the business

Employers are understandably concerned that the new rules will lead to a significant increase in requests for flexible working.  Whilst this may be the case initially, employers should also recognise the potential benefits of having a flexible workforce.  In this way and in a number of circumstances granting these types of requests can actually lead to increased productivity.

For further information please contact Amy Stokes, Employment Solicitor at Forbes on 01254 222309.

Your Attention Is Directed To This Note

These materials are supplied as general illustrations of legal issues and not as legal advice applicable to any particular person or situation. These materials may not be relied upon as legal advice. Forbes shall not be liable for any loss caused to any person through any action or omission made in reliance on these materials or any connected presentation.

copyright Forbes Solicitors 2014

Payroll Update – Basic PAYE Tools – from HMRC

Payroll Update – Basic PAYE Tools – from HMRC

by: Lisa Kennery

If the Pierce Payroll team are processing your payroll for you, you need not worry and can disregard the following message. However, if you are running your own payrolls you need to be aware of the following information from HMRC re: their ‘Basic’ PAYE Tools software updates.

Important Tip: Always ensure backups are processed after each pay period.

20130926 HMRC logo PF-hmrc-logo_1379417f

Basic PAYE Tools – new version

Basic PAYE Tools RTI has been updated with versions for users of Windows, Linux and the Mac operating system.

Basic PAYE Tools RTI

  • Version 13.2.13232 is now available for users of Windows and Linux operating systems
  • Version 13.2.13231 is available for users of the Mac operating system.

It is important that you are using the latest version of the Basic PAYE Tools RTI – otherwise you may be operating PAYE incorrectly.

To check the version you are using, open the Basic PAYE Tools RTI for 2013-14. The version number Download Basic PAYE Tools  is shown in the bottom left corner of the Home page

Basic PAYE Tools RTI is a free computer software package provided by HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) to help you run your payroll throughout  the year and report payroll information in real time (RTI).

The tools are designed for employers with nine or fewer employees and will work out the tax and National Insurance contributions (NICs) for  your employees in each pay period and send this information to HMRC.

This guide explains how to make sure you download the latest version of the tools and any updates, what you need to be able to use them and what to do to solve any problems you encounter.

On this page:

First Steps

HMRC has a user guide – with screenshots – that will help you with downloading and installing the product. You might want to look at this first.

Download ‘First time users: download and install  Basic PAYE Tools (RTI)’ (PDF 1.7MB)

Get the version of Basic PAYE Tools that’s right for you

It’s important to make sure you always use the most up-to-date version  of the tools, and the one that will run your payroll correctly and send  the necessary submissions to HMRC.

System requirements for Basic PAYE Tools

Basic PAYE Tools has been tested on computers with the following operating        systems:

  • PCs running Microsoft Windows 8, Windows 7, or Windows XP (32 or  64 bit)
  • Apple Macs (with an Intel processor) running Mac OS X 10.8 or OS  X 10.7
  • computers running Linux operating systems compatible with Ubuntu 12.10 or 13.04

The minimum system requirements are:

  • 1 GHz processor
  • 1 GB RAM
  • 500 MB available hard disk space

Basic PAYE Tools may not work on older versions of the Windows, Mac or Linux operating systems, and will not work on mobile operating systems  such as iOS or Android. Basic PAYE Tools won’t work with Apple Macs fitted with PowerPC processors. If you have an Apple Mac computer and are not  sure whether it has an Intel processor, select the Apple logo on the top left hand corner of your desktop and then select ‘About this Mac’.

Customers using Basic PAYE Tools in ‘Assistive Mode’ (which is designed for users of screen reader software) are advised to avoid using the following browser and operating system combinations:

  • Firefox or Chrome browsers on a computer running Windows Vista
  • Internet Explorer 7 browser on a computer running Windows Vista or          Windows XP

If the computer on which Basic PAYE Tools RTI will be installed has  internet access, but doesn’t have broadband internet access, you will  still be able to send your payroll information to HMRC online, but you may find it easier to download the initial version of the Basic PAYE Tools RTI from a CD-ROM as the internet download will take more than an hour. If you want to do this, telephone HMRC’s Employer Orderline  and ask for a copy of ‘Basic PAYE Tools RTI’ on a disc – this may take up to seven working days to reach you.

Contact          HMRC’s Employer Orderline

Disclaimer – please read before downloading the tools

HMRC will not be responsible for any loss, damage, cost or expense arising  out of the installation and use of this application.

The security of the data held in the Basic PAYE Tools is your responsibility.

If you are already using an earlier version of Basic PAYE Tools, HMRC strongly recommends that you back up your data before installing any new version.

Basic PAYE Tools RTI for 2013-14

I  want to download 2013-14 Basic PAYE Tools RTI for Windows (ZIP 38MB) (Opens new window)

I  want to download 2013-14 Basic PAYE Tools RTI for Mac (ZIP 82MB) (Opens new window)

I  want to download 2013-14 Basic PAYE Tools RTI for Linux (ZIP 43MB) (Opens new window)

All PAYE tools for employers    

Online tools – available to use right now

Company car and car fuel benefit calculator Calculates the ‘benefit in kind’                value of a company car and/or car fuel benefit, indicates the  level of employee Income Tax payable

Statutory  payment calculators Calculate employee eligibility and amounts for Statutory Sick Pay, Maternity, Paternity or Adoption pay and what you can recover

Employment status indicator Helps you work out whether a worker is employed or self-employed (excludes certain types of worker such as office holders)

National Insurance calculator  Works out National Insurance contributions for                not contracted-out and contracted-out employees – see extra notes  on directors

National Insurance  calculator – directors annual earning period This calculator                reassesses the National Insurance contributions for a company director using an Annual Earnings Period at the end of the financial  year, or during the year, if the directorship ends

No PAYE/NICs payment due How to tell HMRC you have no PAYE/NICs payments to make for a month  or quarter

PAYE tax calculator Works out the tax due for all tax codes – no need to refer to manual tables or do any calculations yourself

Reference checkers for electronic payment Checks you’re using the right                Accounts Office reference before you make an online payment –                helps avoid payment delays

Downloadable tools – install on your computer

Download Basic PAYE Tools How to download HMRC’s Basic PAYE Tools and keep up to date with the latest versions and updates

PAYE Desktop Viewer Use to view, search and sort online PAYE codes, notifications      and reminders



Employment News from ACAS including National Minimum Wage

20130918 ACAS toplogo

ACAS have advised the following:

This October there will be changes made to the National Minimum Wage (NMW), Third Party Harassment and the Agricultural and Horticultural NMW.

20130918 Wage Packet

The National Minimum wage continues its annual rise in October. From the 1st October the new rates will be:

• 21-over rises from £6.19 to £6.31

• 18-20 rises from £4.98 to £5.03

• 16-17 rises from £3.68 to £3.72

• Apprentice Rate (under 19 or individuals in the first year of apprenticeship) rises from £2.65 to £2.68

• Accommodation offset increases from £4.82 to £4.91 per day


Third Party Harassment

20130918 Harassment

Third Party Harassment will be removed from the Equality Act. The reason behind the removal is Government believe there is no perceived need for this sort of safeguard, and it is unfair to place this risk on an employer.

Just to clarify Third Party Harassment is the provision which makes an employer liable for instances of harassment to employees by a ‘third party’. For example if a customer regularly came into a local post office and continually verbally abused staff the employer would be at risk of a tribunal claim under Third Part Harassment.

However an employer would still be expected to deal with this potentially difficult situation as a duty of care to thier employees. This is expected to come in from 1st October 2013.

National Minimum Wage in the Agricultural and Horticultural Sectors

20130918 agricultural-worker1

NMW in the agricultural and horticultural sectors: Any worker who enters into employment between now and 1st October 2013, must still receive the Agricultural Minimum Wage for their grade, and other benefits set out in the Order, in relation to overtime, holidays and dog allowance. The workers terms and conditions should also remain the same, unless there is mutual agreement to change. Any worker who enters into employment after 30th September 2013, will be entitled to be paid at least the NMW rate and to other minimum terms and conditions in accordance with employment legislation.



HMRC gets tough about the National Minimum Wage

By:  Lisa Kennery


Hundreds of companies have been fined and ordered to make compensation payments by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) for failing to comply with minimum wage laws.

20130801 National Minimum Wage

More than 26,000 workers have been paid back a total of £4m, while 708 employers have been fined with 51 of them receiving the maximum penalty of £5,000. This comes after HMRC reviewed 1,693 complaints over the last year.

In one instance, a national retailer was forced to make back payments of £193,000 for almost 3,500 workers after it required them to be at work before and after opening hours without pay. Another retailer had to repay nearly £170,000 after it had its workers buy specific clothing items from its range.

Other employers were ordered to pay wages to unpaid interns who should have qualified for the National Minimum Wage (NMW) – currently at £6.19 per hour for workers aged 21 and over.

HMRC has the right to investigate employers and ask to see payment records. It’s up to employers to make sure they have payroll records proving they are paying the minimum wage. Records should be kept for at least three years.

It’s a criminal offence to refuse to pay the NMW or fail to keep NMW records, and the most serious cases can be heard in a Crown Court, meaning that there’s a potential for an unlimited fine.

National Minimum Wage rates


The National Minimum Wage rate per hour depends on your age and whether you’re an apprentice – you must be at least school leaving age to get it.


21 and over

18 to 20

Under 18


2013 (from 1 October) £6.31 £5.03 £3.72 £2.68
2012 (current rate) £6.19 £4.98 £3.68 £2.65
2011 £6.08 £4.98 £3.68 £2.60
2010 £5.93 £4.92 £3.64 £2.50

*This rate is for apprentices under 19 or those in their first year. If you’re 19 or over and past your first year you get the rate that applies to your age.

The age groups were different before 2010. There were no National Minimum Wage rates for apprentices.


22 and over

18 to 21

Under 18

2009 £5.80 £4.83 £3.57
2008 £5.73 £4.77 £3.53
2007 £5.52 £4.60 £3.40
2006 £5.35 £4.45 £3.30
2005 £5.05 £4.25 £3.00

Read the information on who is entitled to the minimum wage or use the National Minimum Wage calculator to check whether the National Minimum Wage is being paid.