Thursday, 2 February 2012

Mediation pilot aims to resolve workplace disputes

A new government pilot scheme could pave the way to earlier and more cost-effective resolution of workplace disputes.

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills is to fund mediation training for employees from a group of 24 small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in each of two pilot areas, centred on Cambridge and Manchester, later this year. Trained mediators will be available to provide mediation to other organisations in their respective regional network, with the aim of the pilot to resolve workplace disputes, at the earliest possible opportunity, before they reach the employment tribunal stage. The pilots will run for 12 months and, if successful, the government will consider introducing them into other areas of England, Scotland and Wales.

Business Minister Edward Davey said: “We have always said that employment tribunals should be a last resort for resolving workplace disputes. “Mediation offers an informal method of dispute resolution and can be used at the point when problems first arise in the workplace. For both employers and employees, it can mean avoiding the need for formal discipline and grievance procedures. And it can also mean avoiding the time-consuming, complex and often stressful employment tribunal process.

“We want to help employers and employees to help themselves. In particular our consultations showed SMEs are often not aware of the benefits that mediation can bring for both parties. This pilot will directly target this group, help to raise awareness of the benefits and reduce the burden on the tribunal system.”There were 218,000 tribunal claims in 2010-11, a rise of 44 per cent since 2008-09, with each business spending an average of nearly £4,000 per claim defending itself.

If you want more information then please contact accountants in Lichfield.

Link: Acas information on mediation

Move set to boost co-ops

New legislation will be introduced by 2015 that will help to make it as easy to set up a co-operative as any other form of business, the Prime Minister has announced.

David Cameron said on 19 January that more than a dozen outdated pieces of legislation would be streamlined into the Co-operatives Bill, adding that the move was designed to remove barriers to “encouraging choice (and) opening up new forms of enterprise.”
Ed Mayo, Secretary General of Co-operatives UK, said: “The new act is intended to make it as easy and natural to form a co-operative as any other form of business.
“We are delighted to see the coalition taking action to put co-operative businesses on an equal footing and create a diverse economy.

 “Co-operatives, as well as being widely recognised for their ethical business practices, are a vital part of the British economy, employing more than 235,000 people, turning over more than £33 billion each year and generating a significant amount of wealth for the country.”

If you want more information then please contact accountants in Lichfield.

Link: Co-operatives UK

New tax dispute scheme put to test

A pilot scheme has been launched for a new way to resolve disputes between SMEs and HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC).

The Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) uses independent HMRC facilitators to resolve disputes between HMRC and small and medium-sized enterprises during a compliance check but before a decision or assessment has been made. The pilot, which will run in North Wales and the North West, follows a successful trial in which 60 per cent of disputes were either fully or partially resolved.

HMRC’s Jim Stevenson, assistant director, local compliance, said: “ADR will help SMEs resolve disputes without having to go to a tribunal – saving them both time and money. The facilitators are HMRC members of staff who have been trained in ADR techniques and have not been involved in the dispute.

“We have found that often there are communication problems. So the HMRC facilitator will help all parties reach a shared and full understanding of the disputed facts and arguments. The aim is to resolve the dispute or, if not, as many issues as possible.”ADR does not affect existing processes or review and appeal rights, and covers both VAT and direct taxes.

If you want more information then please contact accountants in Lichfield.

Link: HMRC and ADR

SME manufacturers offered new support

A new national programme has been launched to help small and medium manufacturing businesses to grow.

The new Manufacturing Advisory Service (MAS) became available to all manufacturing businesses across England from 3 January.It will be delivered by the Manufacturing Advisory Consortium (MAC) and it has been estimated that it will help to generate £1.5 billion in economic growth, 23,000 jobs and safeguard 50,000 jobs.

Launching MAS, Business Minister Mark Prisk said: “Manufacturing contributes half of Britain’s exports and has much higher productivity than the rest of the economy so it is essential to our plans for growth. That is why we are taking steps to ensure our industrial base is thriving as part of a strong and balanced UK economy. “The new Manufacturing Advisory Service will play a key role, providing tailored advice to businesses helping them to grow and thrive, with a specific focus on helping SMEs improve competitiveness and unlock their growth potential.”

Small manufacturing businesses will also have access to a new initiative recently announced by the government to improve the global competitiveness of UK advanced manufacturing supply chains. A fund of up to £125 million will help to support the UK supply chain, encourage new suppliers to invest in the UK and support economic growth.

If you want more information then please contact accountants in Lichfield.

Link: MAS website

‘Online only’ VAT returns weeks away

HMRC has issued a reminder to VAT-registered businesses that all VAT returns must be submitted online from April.

Currently, only newly-registered businesses and those with turnovers of more than £100,000 have to submit VAT online, as well as paying electronically. Anyone else can send HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) a paper VAT return, if they wish. From April, all 1.9 million VAT-registered businesses in the UK will have to submit their VAT returns online, and pay electronically, for accounting periods beginning on or after 1 April 2012.

Every VAT-registered trader not already required to submit online will receive a letter from HMRC in February, advising them of the change, and what steps they need to take. HMRC says the move to online filing and payment will bring benefits including:
  • an automatic acknowledgement that a return has been received
  • an email alert to remind you when your next online return is due - after April HMRC will stop sending out paper returns to customers who are now required to submit online).
Businesses that have not submitted VAT online previously need to visit and click “Register” under the “New user” section, then follow the instructions.  

If you want more information then please contact accountants in Lichfield.

Link: HMRC guidance

PM backs small businesses in new campaign

Empty and under-used government offices may become home to start-up and growing small businesses, under plans forming part of a new initiative announced by Prime Minister David Cameron.

The Business in You campaign, launched by Mr Cameron on 23 January, is designed to inspire people to launch or expand their own businesses and help entrepreneurs and small business-owners understand the range of information and help available from the government and the private sector.The campaign, running nationwide throughout 2012, will draw on the real life experiences of small business-owners to encourage new entrepreneurs and features a Business in You web portal, bringing together a range of useful resources.

Some of the organisations involved in the campaign will also offer free services, including workshops, web-based seminars and video tutorials on issues like finance as well as providing mentoring and access to face-to-face consultancy sessions.  Each month, the campaign will also focus on a different theme relating to start-ups and growth, including exporting and employment.

Mr Cameron said: "Small businesses and entrepreneurs are the lifeblood of the British economy and I am determined that we, working with the private sector, do everything we can to help them to start up and to grow in 2012.

“I want to encourage people to go for it and make this the year of enterprise – whether that is fulfilling their dream of starting a new business or taking the leap to grow their business, to employ more staff, or to start exporting." Partners in the campaign include StartUp Britain, the Confederation of British Industry, the British Chamber of Commerce, the Institute of Directors, the Federation of Small Businesses and the Forum of Private Business..
If you want more information then please contact accountants in Lichfield.

Link: Business in You web portal

Company law in red tape spotlight

Companies are being asked for their views on how to tackle unnecessary bureaucracy in company and commercial law in the latest phase of the government’s Red Tape Challenge to scrap unnecessary regulations.

For three weeks from 26 January, the Red Tape Challenge will focus on more than 120 company law regulations, guidance and enforcement processes that businesses deal with on a daily basis. It asks for a variety of suggestions about how regulations can be improved, simplified or abolished, while maintaining a company law framework that gives companies the flexibility to compete and develop effectively. Issues open for comment include:
  • the internal workings of companies and partnerships – including rules on shares and share capital, requirement to hold information at business premises and rules on meetings and resolutions.
  • accounts and returns – including the content, form and auditing requirements of financial accounts and other reports.
  • the rules covering business names
  • disclosure of company information - the regulations covering the information companies must supply to the official register.
Business Minister Edward Davey said: “We want to have a flexible regulatory framework within company law to allow firms to compete and grow successfully. The Red Tape Challenge is a great way for the public and firms to tell us what is a nuisance or gets in the way of doing business effectively.

“The feedback we receive will allow us to build on the Companies Act 2006 to look at areas such as the audit regime to assist small and medium-sized companies as well as the approach to filing documents at Companies House. “I am open to new ideas to simplify, merge or discard additional rules that will enable firms to do business with more confidence.”

If you want more information then please contact accountants in Lichfield.

Link: Red Tape Challenge website

Updated auto-enrolment timetable issued

The government has published a revised timetable for when employers must start enrolling their staff in a workplace pension under the auto-enrolment initiative.

Large employers – those with 250 or more employees – will face no change in the date they were due to start enrolling their staff. The largest employers will be the first to start the process, in October this year.

Publication of the new timetable on 25 January followed an announcement in November that small businesses would be given more time to prepare for auto-enrolment.

Minister for Pensions Steve Webb said: "We have done all we can to ease any burden on business the reforms will bring and employers of all sizes now know the date they need to start enrolling their staff."

The timetable for employers to begin enrolling their staff starts with the largest firms, followed by medium, then small companies. All existing firms will have enrolled their staff by April 2017, followed by all new employers by February 2018.

The level of pension contributions will be phased in to help employers and individuals adjust. Full contributions will have to be paid from 1 October 2018.

If you want more information then please contact accountants in Lichfield.

Link: Press release and timetable