Latest job market statistics

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) has released figures showing that the UK employment rate has dropped by 67,000 when compared to the three months to February 2015. As detailed in the press release the figures show:

  • There were 30.98 million people in work. This was 67,000 fewer than for the 3 months to February 2015, the first quarterly fall since February to April 2013. Comparing March to May 2015 with a year earlier, there were 265,000 more people in work (272,000 more people working full-time and 7,000 fewer people working part-time).
  • The proportion of people aged from 16 to 64 in work (the employment rate) was 73.3%, little changed compared with the 3 months to February 2015 but higher than for a year earlier (72.9%).
  • There were 1.85 million unemployed people. This was 15,000 more than for the 3 months to February 2015, the first quarterly increase since January to March 2013. Comparing March to May 2015 with a year earlier, there were 273,000 fewer unemployed people.
  • The proportion of the economically active population who were unemployed (the unemployment rate) was 5.6%, little changed compared with the 3 months to February 2015 but lower than for a year earlier (6.5%). Economically active people are those in work plus those seeking and available to work.
  • There were 9.02 million people aged from 16 to 64 who were out of work and not seeking or available to work (known as economically inactive), 30,000 more than for the 3 months to February 2015 and 104,000 more than for a year earlier.
  • The proportion of people aged from 16 to 64 who were economically inactive (the inactivity rate) was 22.2%, little changed compared with the 3 months to February 2015 but higher than for a year earlier (22.0%).
  • Comparing March to May 2015 with a year earlier, pay for employees in Great Britain increased by 3.2% including bonuses and by 2.8% excluding bonuses.

Internet link: ONS

NMW campaign targets hair and beauty sector

HMRC are targeting employers in the hairdressing and beauty sectors who pay their staff below the national minimum wage (NMW).

HMRC and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), supported by the National Hairdressers’ Federation and the Hair and Beauty Industry Authority, will work with hair and beauty businesses to help them understand their pay obligations to their employees.

In a new approach HMRC will provide employers with tools and guidance to check if they are paying the correct amount.

Employers who take this opportunity to ‘self-correct’ will not have to pay penalties, nor will they be ‘named and shamed’. If employers choose not to comply with their NMW obligations, HMRC will take action to ensure that employees are paid what they are owed.

As detailed in the press release ‘BIS analysis shows that 42% of businesses in the sector do not pay level 2 and level 3 apprentices the correct minimum wage – the highest underpayment rate of any sector. Those paying under the minimum wage now have a chance to put things right. If they fail to do so it could result in their business being publicly ‘named and shamed’ and facing a fine of up to £20,000 per employee.’

Jennie Granger, HMRC Director General of Enforcement and Compliance, said:

‘This innovative campaign is about helping employees who have been underpaid get the money they are legally due back into their pockets. It will help them understand where they can report underpaying employers confidentially.

It is also about helping employers check if they are making mistakes, and self-correct if they are. Some employers will need a bit of a reminder to check they are getting it right, and some will need stronger action from us, so we are bringing in more enforcement officers to support this campaign.

I urge all employers and employees in the sector to check that salary is being paid correctly, as we will use these extra resources to find and investigate where it is not. Check you’re paying NMW correctly – it’s worth it.’

Employers in the hair and beauty sector are being asked to come forward as part of the National Minimum Wage Campaign by:

  • advising HMRC they want to take part in the campaign
  • disclosing details of arrears now paid to their workers and confirming that wages worth at least the NMW are now paid to all workers.

If you would like help with NMW issues please contact us.

Internet link: GOV.UK nmw campaign

Time to Pay Arrangements – Mandatory Direct Debit

Where a taxpayer has difficulty paying their tax liabilities HMRC may agree ‘time to pay arrangements’ whereby the taxpayer agrees to pay off the amount owing by instalments after the due date. These arrangements are only entered into where the taxpayer is genuinely unable to pay by the due date and is able to commit to agreed payments to bring their tax up to date.

HMRC have announced that where time to pay arrangements are agreed the payments will need to be made by Direct Debit.  This has always been HMRC’s preferred method of collection but this became mandatory from 3 August 2015.

However, HMRC do state that:

‘We recognise that there will be exceptional circumstances where a customer is unable to set up a direct debit, perhaps because their bank account will not allow it. In such cases payment by other methods may be agreed.’

Internet link: GOV.UK blog

Tax-Free Childcare to launch in 2017 following court ruling

The government has welcomed a judgment from the Supreme Court that found the proposals for delivering Tax-Free Childcare to be lawful. The new Tax-Free Childcare Scheme was being challenged by some of the providers of the childcare vouchers typically used in the current Employer Supported Childcare arrangements.

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.

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.’

If you would like advice on Employer Supported Childcare please contact us.

Internet link: GOV.UK news

Pension wise

The government has announced the launch of ‘Pension wise’ which will offer free and impartial guidance to people on the new pension freedoms which comes into effect in April.

Economic Secretary to the Treasury Andrea Leadsom has unveiled the name and logo of the new pensions guidance service.

Pension wise will offer free and impartial information and guidance to people with a defined contribution pension approaching retirement and will be available from April 2015 for individuals approaching retirement.

Economic Secretary to the Treasury Andrea Leadsom said:

‘People who have worked hard and saved all their lives will be free to choose what they do with their money from next April.

We want people to be empowered to make informed and confident choices and I’m delighted to announce Pension wise: Your money. Your choice as the brand name for the impartial guidance service we are building.

Pension wise will be a first port of call for people with a defined contribution pension who are approaching retirement. It is a distinctive brand, making it easy for consumers to know where to go for help and guidance.’

Internet link: News

Strong demand for National Savings ‘pensioner bonds’

The National Savings & Investments website and helpline are experiencing a high volume of enquiries following the launch of their 65+ Guaranteed Growth Bonds which are being referred to as ‘pensioner bonds’.

The bonds are available for a period of one or three years. The taxable bonds offer savers interest of 2.8% over one year and a fixed annual interest rate of 4% over three years with a minimum investment of £500. Investors are restricted to a maximum investment of £10,000 in each of the two products offered.

The new bonds cannot be held within a New Individual Savings Account (NISA) and only pay interest at the end of the savings term. Where investors cash in their investment early, a penalty equivalent to 90 days’ interest will be applied.

Internet link: NS&I bonds