Employers tricking workers out of sick pay, says Citizens Advice : Welfare Weekly.

The charity helped with 1800 problems related to sick pay and sick leave in February 2016.

Unscrupulous employers are using underhanded tactics to avoid paying their employees Statutory Sick Pay (SSP), the Citizens Advice charity has revealed.

Citizens Advice is urging people who need to take time off work because of illness or injury to check if they’re eligible for sick pay, as analysis found the charity helped with 1800 problems related to sick pay and sick leave in February 2016 – up 11% on the average for the rest of the year.

SSP is payable for up to 28 weeks of sick leave and is currently paid at £88.45 per week, although some people may be paid extra in what is known as contractual sick pay.

Employees are eligible for SSP regardless of whether they work part-time or full-time, if you normally earn more than £112 a week and have been sick for more than four days in a row.

People on a fixed term contract, or those who work through an agency or are on a zero-hours contract, are also eligible.

However, Citizens Advice has uncovered evidence showing some employers are trying to exploit confusion around the rules “so they can get away with not paying up”.

Some of the crude tactics being used to avoid paying staff SSP include cancelling people’s shifts after they call in sick, reducing people’s wages and downplaying their working hours, wrongly claiming employees need to present a sick note (now known as ‘fit notes’) after only a few days off work, refusing to fill in a HMRC sick pay form, and even dismissing (sacking) employees rather than paying them.

Citizens Advice cites the example a factory worker who worked 5 days a week, but his casual contract wrongly stated he only worked 7 hours. His employer attempted to avoid paying him sick pay, claiming he did not work enough hours or earn enough.

Another case involved a Carer on a zero-hours contract who turned to Citizens Advice for help after she needed time off for a work-related injury. Citizens Advice says her employer cancelled her shifts for the next 3 weeks and argued she wasn’t due to be working, when in reality she had already been offered the work.

Read More : Welfare Weekly.

THAT’S RICH Council tax rip-off as billionaires pay less than ordinary families in deprived areas : Sun.

Britain’s imbalanced council tax system leaves hard up families paying more than billionaires.

BILLIONAIRES in the world’s most expensive apartment block are paying LESS council tax than people living in ­modest £160,000 semis in ­Britain’s most deprived town.

Struggling families from Oldham must stump up £150 more a year than the oligarchs and celebrities in London’s One Hyde Park, where a penthouse flat costs £140MILLION.

One Hyde Park, Knightsbridge

One Hyde Park, Knightsbridge

Ten residents of Middleton Road in the North West town have to hand over £1,532.

Meanwhile, the 86 mega-rich ­residents in the luxury Knightsbridge block built by model Holly Valance’s businessman husband Nick Candy fork out £1,376.

Oldham grandmother Irene Bush fears she will have to sell her home in ­Middleton Road as she cannot keep up with the bills.

The 72-year-old said: “To find out I’m paying more council tax than someone in a £140million property in London is absolutely ludicrous.

“I worked all my life. I used to leave the house at 7am and wouldn’t get home until 9pm.

“I’ve never had any financial help from the government or the council. It’s a scandal.”

Irene Bush fears she may have to sell her home due to the high council tax bills

Tony Spencer
Irene Bush fears she may have to sell her home due to the high council tax bills

A Sun on Sunday investigation today lifts the lid on how Britain’s bizarre council tax system leaves the most hard-up out of pocket.

It comes as government cuts have left tens of millions of people facing council tax rises of almost five per cent while local authorities struggle to balance the books.

Council tax rates vary hugely around the country and sharp drops in funding, as well as the rising cost of social care, have hit many town halls.

Areas of high deprivation also have higher social care costs, while some councils, such as Westminster, make big sums from other sources such as parking charges.

Read More : The Sun.

Ministers quietly award senior judges 11% pay rises taking those at the Court of Appeal up to £227,000 a year : Daily Mail.

  • The deal was quietly approved by ministers to award sweeping pay rises
  • The hikes will add nearly £20,000 to the pay of a High Court judge, and £22,000 to that of an Appeal judge
  • They were granted by Justice Secretary Liz Truss in spite of public sector pay cap
  • Most senior judges said their £200,000-plus salaries are ‘not reasonable’ 

Some of the country’s most senior judges have been awarded sweeping pay rises of 11 per cent in a deal quietly approved by ministers, it was revealed yesterday.

The salary hikes, which follow a loud and public campaign by leading judicial figures, will add nearly £20,000 to the pay of a High Court judge this year, and more than £22,500 to that of an Appeal judge.

They have been granted by Justice Secretary Liz Truss despite a continuing pay cap for other public sector workers which means that most are held down to rises of 1 per cent a year.

The decision to give some of the highest-ranking judges a pay boost was said by Miss Truss’s officials to be ‘necessary to make sure we attract the very brightest talent and help stop our exceptional judges from leaving early.’

But critics questioned the evidence that judges are quitting the bench and said the judiciary has been singled out for special favours that should not have been granted.

Those who have been pressing for more pay include the country’s most senior judge, Lord Chief Justice Lord Thomas, who published a survey two weeks ago in which the most senior judges agreed their £200,000-plus salaries are ‘not reasonable’.

Lord Thomas said that judges could not make as much money as barristers, from whose ranks most judges are drawn, and who in some cases earn millions in a year.

‘In the light of the substantially greater remuneration available to the most able practitioners in private practice, these matters are vital to our ability to attract candidates and retain judges of the highest calibre,’ the Lord Chief Justice said. Lord Neuberger, President of the Supreme Court, also joined the chorus of complaint.

Lord Neuberger, who earlier this month declared that some press criticism was ‘undermining the judiciary for no good reason’, said in a speech this week that ‘there is no doubt that the heavy workload of a judge coupled with the increasing gap between judicial pay and the rewards of successful private practice means that appointment to the High Court is significantly less attractive than it was.’

The pay rises have been styled by Miss Truss as a ‘temporary recruitment and retention allowance.’

They will go to an unknown number of the 25 Appeal Court judges and 100-plus High Court judges who are calculated to have lost out in reforms of the judicial pension scheme pushed through by David Cameron’s government in 2015.

We Worked Two Billion Hours Last Year for Free : Morning Star.

Bosses cream £33.6 billion a year in unpaid overtime as Britain marks Work Your Hours Day

BRITISH workers are handing bosses a massive £33.6 billion a year in free labour through unpaid overtime, new research shows today.

Analysis of official statistics reveals that 2.1 billion hours were worked without pay last year.

The TUC urged workers yesterday to take proper lunch breaks and leave on time as part of its annual Work Your Proper Hours Day.

Some 5.3 million people put in an average of 7.7 hours a week in unpaid extra hours, TUC data shows.

London-based staff and public-sector workers are statistically more likely to be affected by presenteeism and are under more pressure to put in extra slog for no reward.

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Few of us don’t mind putting in some extra time when it’s needed, but if it happens all the time and gets taken for granted, that’s a problem.

“So make a stand today, take your full lunch break and go home on time.

“Anyone worried about the long hours culture in their workplace should get together with workmates and join a union. That way, you can get your voices heard and get the support you need to make sure your boss doesn’t break the rules.”

More than 1.6 million British workers are doing so much unpaid overtime that they exceed the 48-hours-a-week limit of the EU Working Time Directive, the figures show.

The TUC has warned that this directive and other employment protections will be at risk when Britain leaves the European Union and has called for equivalent or greater safeguards to put in place.

However, Britain “ops out” of the 48-limit, which employees can exceed if they give consent — a loophole leaving workers open to pressure by bosses.

Read More : Morning Star.

Pensions green paper repeats old lies : Socialist Worker.

GMB members in London striking to defend pensions on 30 November 2011

GMB members in London striking to defend pensions on 30 November 2011 (Pic: Guy Smallman)

The government is piling in behind bosses’ attacks on pension schemes with a new green paper calling for cuts.

It echoes the argument that “defined benefit” schemes, which offer workers a retirement income fixed in advance, carry “inherent risks”.

Final salary pensions in particular are painted as unaffordable. But the alternative “defined contribution” schemes leave workers’ retirement income at the mercy of the stock market.

The green paper launches a consultation on how to keep the schemes affordable after “recent high-profile cases” of schemes in deficit and as people live longer.

It’s a lie that bosses can’t afford pensions. The deficits are an accounting trick. The money is there, but outside the scheme.

FTSE 100 firms last year handed out £69 billion to shareholders—more than five times the £13 billion they made in pension contributions.

Of the 60 companies that say their pension scheme is in deficit, 46 could have cleared their whole shortfall by withholding a year’s dividends.

Workers have a right to that money, as their deferred wages.

There is piecemeal resistance to pension attacks. Workers at the Atomic Weapons Establishment struck again on Tuesday in their fight against bosses’ pension robbery.

But too often unions accept the argument about affordability.

Tata steel workers voted last week to accept the closure of their final salary scheme and a 10 percent cut for those who stayed in it.

All the main steel unions backed the deal in order to avoid job losses. But despite this around a quarter of workers voted to reject it.

Tata workers struck against pension cuts in 2015.

Rich bosses plead poverty while showering themselves and their investors with cash.

It’s time to draw the line.

Link : Socialist Worker.


Nuclear weapons makers take pensions fight to MPs : Morning Star.

WORKERS from Britain’s two nuclear weapons factories are to march on the Ministry of Defence (MoD) today in protest against plans to slash their pensions.

The protest will coincide with their 600 colleagues’ 24-hour strike at the Atomic Weapons Establishment’s (AWE) factories at Aldermaston and Burghfield in Berkshire.

The Tory government privatised the factories in the early 1990s, with a pledge that their pensions would be protected.

However the privateers abolished the 4,000 workers’ pension scheme on January 31 — in breach of the government’s pledge — and replaced it with an inferior scheme.

US-owned companies Lockheed Martin and Jacobs Engineering and UK-listed Serco operate the factories.

The Unite union, which represents the workers, says the imposed pension will cost retired workers tens of thousands and will slash bosses’ contributions to the scheme, despite the consortium making profits of £57 million in 2015.

Protesters will march on Whitehall at 11.30am, demanding to be taken back into the Civil Service pension scheme.

Read More : Morning Star.

Pension changes could cost 11m Britons thousands of pounds : Guardian.

Government green paper discusses giving annual rises based on CPI, not RPI, which could cost average of £20,000 over lifetime

People on a boat
Currently, 75% of UK pension schemes increase payouts to members each year using the retail price index. Photograph: Tim Graham/Robert Harding/Rex

Companies could slash pension promises to 11 million employees, potentially knocking thousands of pounds off the incomes of people in retirement, if proposals in a government consultation paper are approved.

Unions are likely to react furiously to the proposals, which would allow companies to save £90bn by providing annual increases in their retired employees’ pensions based on the consumer price index, rather than the retail price index.

As CPI is generally lower than RPI, the impact on pensioners is likely to be significant over time. Analysis by advisers Hargreaves Lansdown suggests that for every £1,000 in pension income in 1988, under RPI it had increased to £2,586 this year, but only £2,105 under CPI.

The changes are flagged in a green paper issued by the pensions minister, Richard Harrington. It cites estimates from pensions consultancy Hymans Robertson that a shift to CPI would “take away about £20,000 in benefits over an average DB (defined benefit) scheme member’s life”.

Currently, 75% of pension schemes in Britain increase payouts to members each year using RPI rather than CPI, and usually the scheme rules and legislation prevent companies from lowering their promises.

But the paper asks: “Should the government consider a statutory override to allow schemes to move to a different index, provided that protection against inflation is maintained?”

In some circumstances, where a company is facing significant financial challenges, it could suspend pension increases altogether, the paper adds.

“Allowing all schemes to move from RPI to CPI would have [a] significant impact on members’ benefits. CPI has been lower than RPI in 22 years out of the last 27 (and nine years out of the past 10) up to 2015, and so [it] would in all likelihood represent a reduction in members’ benefits,” the paper acknowledges.

The change would affect 11 million people in defined benefit schemes, also known as final salary schemes, where the level of pension in retirement is a proportion of the person’s salary. Most private companies have closed these schemes, replacing them with pensions where the payout is entirely dependent on the performance of stock and bond markets.

Harrington said: “We all have a responsibility to ensure the system works in the interests of everyone – employers, schemes and scheme members. This green paper sets out the evidence we have available about the key challenges facing DB pension schemes and highlights a number of options that have been suggested to us to improve confidence in the system.”

Read More : The Guardian.