A report out in January shows that around 20% of those on apprenticeship schemes are not being paid the National Minimum Wage (NMW), while apprenticeships themselves have fallen in number.
The figures in the Apprenticeship Pay Survey from the Department for Business, Enterprise and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) show the strange anomaly that correct levels of the NMW are largely paid in the first year of an apprenticeship, but often fall below it during the second and third years.
The highest levels of compliance were in management apprenticeship schemes, and the lowest in hairdressing (at 47% non-compliance) and child care (at 34%). Those on formal training for at least a day a week reported that they were less likely to receive compliant pay than those in more informal training.
The Apprenticeship Levy, introduced in 2017, was designed to increase people in apprenticeships by making companies offer formal apprenticeship training. Companies paying over £3 million in wages a year must pay the levy but can claim it back to cover apprenticeship training costs. Firms paying below that level in wages can apply for funding. But since the scheme came in, the number of apprenticeships has declined by 200,000 places between 2016 and 2018.
One issue has been the rise of companies offering apprenticeship training in the more office-based, soft skills and management sector, rather than the technical skills needed, for example, in construction and engineering. This focus has skewed the market towards sectors taking advantage of recuperating the levy funds, to the disadvantage of key sectors. With some traditionally employer-offered training courses rebranded as ‘apprenticeship schemes’, the concept has become watered down as the funding available is swallowed up.
At the end of 2019, the government announced that, the NMW will rise in April by 6.2% to £8.72 an hour. A report from the Resolution Foundation has found that while levels of non-compliance with the NMW fell from the turn of the century, they have risen since the introduction of the National Living Wage (NLW) in 2016. For companies failing to comply with their minimum wage obligations overall, there doesn’t appear to be much incentive to change their ways, with only a one in eight chance of being caught and penalised.
Paying your staff fairly and transparently, and engaging in genuine apprenticeship, training and development practices, is a key element in maintaining staff loyalty, productive recruitment and brand reputation.
The intestacy rules for England and Wales have been amended.
The intestacy rules automatically apply to the distribution of estates where there is no will. There are three different sets of rules in the UK: one for England and Wales, a similar set for Northern Ireland and a wholly different set for Scotland.
The rules for England and Wales have just received a slight change, with the modification highlighting an aspect of intestacy of which many people are unaware: a surviving spouse or civil partner does not always inherit all of their deceased husband, wife or civil partner’s estate.
Up until 5 February 2020, the English and Welsh rules said that if the husband, wife or civil partner of the deceased survives 28 days, and the deceased had issue (broadly, children and their lineal descendants), then:
Adding £20,000 to the outright inheritance does little to solve a problem that some families can face in dealing with the family home.
If the property is not owned in joint names (as joint tenants), then a survivor may not inherit the family home outright. In some cases, intestacy can even mean that there is an inheritance tax bill to meet when the first of the couple dies, something most estate planning aims to avoid.
One other important fact to note about intestacy is that it deals only with married spouses, civil partners and relations. If you live as a couple but are not married or in a civil partnership, intestacy could leave the survivor with nothing.
The message is clear: if you have not made a will, make one. And if you have made one, make sure you know where it is and that it is up to date.
For taxpayers who have trouble affording their tax bills, HRMC has updated its process for setting up time to pay arrangements.
If you have missed the self-assessment filing deadline of 31 January, and are struggling to cover your tax payments, you can now set up a time to pay arrangement online with HMRC.
The online option is only available once the initial deadline has passed, allowing taxpayers until the end of February to set up a plan for 2018/19. Any submission of a time to pay arrangement is still subject to approval. You will need to set up a Government Gateway ID if you don’t already have one.
If your instalment plan is agreed, you will not face a charge or penalties for late payment from the time that arrangement is agreed. However, any payments made after the deadline of the arrangement will be subject to interest, currently at 3.25%.
Outside of this window, you will need to deal directly with HMRC to negotiate settling outstanding tax debts. Time to pay arrangements are assessed against each individual’s financial circumstances, including income, expenditure and disposable assets, taking into account what they can afford and how long they may need to pay.
Once an arrangement is in place, it can be amended to take advantage of an upturn in your circumstances, or, if necessary, extended if your situation remains difficult. In these cases, you will accrue interest from the due date to the end of the arrangement, with the amount payable included in your overall debt under the arrangement.
In extremis, HMRC can force taxpayers to use savings or assets such as second properties to pay off their final debts, which would be discussed on a case by case basis. Your primary home and pension income are protected from any realisation of assets, although a charge can be made against your property to secure your debt.
Ideally you will never need to set up a time to pay arrangement if you plan your expenditure to include your tax liabilities. If you do find yourself in difficulty over tax payments, please let us know so we can help.