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Childcare Vouchers: What’s Going On??

Childcare Vouchers: What’s Going On??

You could be mistaken for thinking that the current Childcare Voucher scheme has now closed (after all we have been talking about it since 2017 now….) however it has now been extended for new members by another 6 months following a Commons debate, with a revised closing date of October 2018 (exact date still tbc).

The current Childcare Voucher scheme (which means that parents can save up to £933 a year on childcare) was due to close to all new members on 6th April, making way for the new Tax Free Childcare scheme which was launched in April 2017.

So, what’s the difference between them? In short, both schemes reduce the cost of childcare but one scheme may suit an individual’s circumstances better. The most significant difference between the 2 schemes is that Tax-Free Childcare offers savings per child per year, while childcare vouchers offer savings per parent per year.  

With childcare vouchers, each parent can take up to £55 each week from their salary before tax and National Insurance, or £243 a month, to spend on childcare no matter how many children they have, as long as the parent is a basic-rate taxpayer and the employer has chosen to run the scheme.

The Tax-Free Childcare initiative however is much more akin to a savings scheme and under the rules parents have 20% of their childcare costs each year met by the Government, up to a limit of £2,000 a year per child (or £4,000 if your child is disabled) The scheme is directly managed by the employee and not the employer and so employees are not restricted based on whether or not their employer runs the scheme.

What do you need to know as an employer?  If you don’t offer child care vouchers to your employees you don’t need to do anything! However, if you do offer Child Care vouchers you should be aware of the following:

    • Anyone who joins the Childcare Vouchers scheme before the scheme closes can continue to benefit from the savings for as long as their child remains eligible, they must also stay with the same employer, or have received a voucher within the last 12 months;
    • Employers will continue to benefit from up to £402/year savings in employer NI for every parent on the scheme;
    • Once an employee has left Childcare Vouchers to move to Tax Free Childcare scheme, they cannot rejoin
    • Employees can’t use both schemes at the same time.

For help or guidance on Child Care Vouchers or any other benefits related query contact us at

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Boring-but-important: Auto Enrolment Updates for April 2018

Boring-but-important: Auto Enrolment Updates for April 2018

It is just over five years since the first employers started to automatically enrol eligible workers into a qualifying pension scheme but for your SME it may have been a lot more recently.

Up until 6th April 2018, the minimum contribution under auto enrolment rules has been set at 2% (of which the employer has been required to contribute at least 1% of the employee’s salary) However, on 6th April 2018 there will be an increase from the current total minimum contribution of 2% of qualifying earnings, rising to 5% (of which the employer must contribute at least 2% of qualifying earnings whilst employees make up the difference of 3%). Contributions will then rise again on 6 April 2019, eventually reaching a total minimum contribution amount of 8%. These changes will apply to all employers regardless of the size of their business and so even if you were part of the last wave of business to auto enroll employees you will still be subject to the changes.

When you initially rolled out your auto enrolment scheme you should have sent each eligible member a letter which set out that contribution levels will increase over time. If that was some time ago (and in fact even it was recently) it is likely that many employees will be unaware of these changes and the impact it will have on their income. So, although there is no legal requirement or additional duties for you to write to your employees about the increases you should consider reminding them about the change as it can provide an opportunity for employees to financially prepare for the statutory increases and potentially reduce the number of scheme leavers and opt outs.

Summary of Contribution changes

Effective Date Minimum Employer contribution Employee contribution Total minimum contribution
Until 5 April 2018 1% 1% 2%
6 April 2018 to 5 April 2019 2% 3% 5%
6 April 2019 onwards 3% 5% 8%

It remains the employer’s responsibility to ensure pension schemes are qualifying and that contributions are deducted accordingly, so, remember to contact your scheme and payroll providers to make sure that the change in contributions will be correctly calculated and paid.

You don’t need to take any further action if you don’t have any staff in a pension scheme for automatic enrolment, or if you are already paying above the increased minimum amounts and remember that these increases don’t apply to staff who asked to be put into a scheme that you don’t have to pay into.

For help and support with the upcoming changes to auto enrolment contact us at or call us on 0203 627 7048.

Auto Enrolment: Staging Date Just Around The Corner? Read This Now

You can’t have failed to see the news and read the articles about pension auto enrolment over the past few years. And now, as the roll-out reaches its end, it’s time for the last remaining employers to jump on board.  

Currently all firms with over 50 people must auto enrol all employees aged over 22 who earn more than £10,000 a year. And by February 2018 all smaller businesses will also have to comply.  If your business has between 1 and 10 employees it’s likely that your staging date is fast approaching.

In case you need reminding, auto enrolment is a government initiative to help more people save for later life. In the past, many workers missed out on the benefit of a pension either because their employer did not offer one or because they had failed to join their company’s scheme. Under the government initiative, all employers are required to enrol eligible employees into a workplace pension scheme before their given auto-enrolment staging date.

As part of the initiative there are minimum level of contributions that you will need to make to your employees’ pension and these will gradually increase over time.  You can of course contribute more than the minimum but you must, at the very least, meet these guidelines:

Date Employers minimum contribution Total minimum contribution (employer+employee)
Up to 30th September 2017 1% 2%
1st October 2017 – 30th September 2018 2% 5%
1st October 2018 onwards 3% 8%

So now we’ve recapped on the basics of auto enrolment let’s take a look at what you need to do next: 

1. Find out when your staging date is

Check the Pension Regulators website here.

2. Decide if you want to use a financial advisor to help you get your scheme in place

You will need to understand and agree which tasks you and they are doing so that nothing is missed so make sure you agree that (and the costs) upfront.

3. Choose the right pension provider

The sooner you can make the decision as to which provider to go with, the better. More than one million businesses will need to meet their automatic enrolment duties in 2017. This means that pension providers will be swamped with new company pension scheme applications.  In addition, selecting your provider now will leave you with plenty of time to focus on communications and making sure you are prepared for launch. There are some pension schemes aimed at SMEs that do not have set up costs or monthly charges for automatic enrolment, while other schemes may charge so make sure that you shop around. Remember to ask the provider what they will charge you based on how many staff you have. The National Employment Savings Trust (NEST) is a pension scheme provider that has been set up by the government and must accept all employers that apply to use it for automatic enrolment. They do not have a set-up charge so you can contact them if you do chose to set up the scheme yourself.

4. Engage your staff in your new workplace pension

You should start to consider how you will engage your staff when it comes to your workplace pension. The law states that an employer only needs to send out one piece of communication, but be cautious. Sending out limited information to your employees will more than likely mean that you are inundated with questions from your employees. Our advice is to do a little extra when it comes to communication and educate your staff in advance. Let them know that you too are contributing to their pension and playing your part.

Once you have set up your workplace pension you will need to complete and submit a Declaration of Compliance form (this can be done online). This form will let The Pensions Regulator know that you have met your legal duties for automatic enrolment. If you are using a 3rd party to help you set up your workplace pension they will often complete this part of the process on your behalf.

So, start to think about automatic enrolment sooner rather than later and don’t delay it. Remember that you don’t have to wait until your staging date and could set up your pension scheme early.
For help and support with your company’s auto enrolment contact us at theHRhub for a chat about your requirements. Drop us a line at or call us on 0203 627 7048.

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Are You Discriminating Against Married or Civil-Partnered Employees Without Realising It?

Discrimination is always a hot topic in the world of HR. We spend a lot of our time of making sure employers aren’t discriminating against their employees for any reason. But some ‘reasons’ are much clearer cut than others. For example, you might not think it, but it’s possible (and quite easy) to discriminate against an individual because of their marriage or civil partnership status….

Marriage And Civil Partnership Status Is One Of The Lesser Known Protected Characteristics Under The Equality Act 2010

The Act states that it is unlawful to discriminate against an employee or worker because they are married or in a civil partnership, in exactly the same way as it is unlawful to discriminate against someone because of age, disability, sexual orientation or race or one of the other protected characteristics.

It’s A Complex Issue & The Latest Advice Is Readily Available Online

Acas recently published a guide for employers on how they should handle their duty not to discriminate when it comes to marriage and civil partnership and the guide explains what marriage and civil partnership discrimination is and how it can occur in your business (you can read the full guidelines here).

Think This Isn’t Relevant To Your Business? Think Again

You may well be reading this thinking that this doesn’t apply to you and that you absolutely don’t discriminate based on marriage and civil partnership.

But, the biggest risk for employers isn’t direct discrimination (where as an example you wouldn’t promote an employee because a role involves travel and you feel that the role would be better suited to a single person) but rather indirect discrimination which is when an policy or practice which applies to all your employees has the effect of discriminating against a certain group of people, in this case, those that are married or in a civil partnership.

You should also be careful that you’re not making assumptions at any point during the employment journey.  As an example, any of your employees that are involved in the recruitment process (or equally involved in any internal recruitment processes) should not make assumptions about how an employee’s personal circumstances might impact their performance, for example assuming that people who are married or in a civil partnership might be less willing to work irregular hours or travel.

As an employer, you must ensure that all of your terms and conditions of employment – including your contractual benefits – don’t generally disadvantage or exclude employees because they are married or a civil partner.

For help and support with your policy documentation, contracts of employment or any other HR issue drop us a line at or call us on 0203 627 7048. 
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What’s In A Name? The Trend For Blind CVs

A recent article published by the BBC found that a CV with an English name was offered three times the number of interviews than an applicant with a Muslim name.  The fake candidates, Adam and Mohammed, applied for 100 jobs as business managers within advertising sales in London.  After two and a half months ‘Adam’ was offered three times more interviews than ‘Mohamed’.  If you don’t recall, ‘blind CVs’ hit the press in October 2015 when David Cameron announced that organisations would pledge to recruit on a name blind basis as a means of addressing discrimination.

A Blind CV Has All Of The Personal & Contact Information Removed

A blind CV, in essence, is a CV with all of the personal and contact information removed – for example, name, DOB and address (think along the lines of the ITV show The Voice where contenders are judged based on their voice alone). This means that a candidate can be evaluated without any biases coming into play. It’s quite common now for name, marital status and date of birth to be omitted from CVs and applications but, this new government initiative is primarily to reduce other forms of discrimination which seemingly occur when applications are received from ethnic minority backgrounds.

In Theory, They Should Remove Unconscious Bias From The Recruitment Process

It is our own thoughts and beliefs that inadvertently influence the ways in which we recruit and whether you care to recognize it about yourself or not, you will have individual biases. Whilst some of us may be conscious of those thoughts and beliefs, the majority of us aren’t and an unconscious bias poses a threat because these thoughts are automatic, based on the way we were brought up, the culture we live in and our social environment (the danger being that most of the time we don’t even realise we’re having them). As an example, if you had 2 CV’s on your desk one of which attended university in Leeds and the other in Brighton (which happens to be the university that you attended) would your natural bias be to interview the candidate who had been to Brighton University?…. be honest with yourself here!

Lots Of Blue Chip Companies Have Already Introduced Blind CVs

There is certainly an increasing trend towards incorporating blind CV’s into recruitment processes (a number of big name employers including BBC, NHS and Virgin Money have already done so) and there’s some evidence that indicates that it also impacts diversity. According to Earnst and Young their decision to remove all academic and education details and ban CVs from its trainee application process has proved successful in diversifying the company’s workforce.

But What Are The Pros & Cons To Using Blind CVs?


1. It can be good for your company’s reputation.  Being seen as an employer who truly embraces the concept of equality can be a great way to attract candidates.

2. Candidates have more confidence in submitting an application. Today, candidates are looking for what differentiates your company from others. Having a blind CV recruitment approach is likely to encourage more applicants to put their CV forward.

3. The organisation is less likely to face claims of discrimination.  Although there are no guarantees, having a blind CV recruitment policy is likely to reduce the chances of your business being accused of discrimination during the recruitment process.


1. The Interview process is still subjective and you will only be papering over the bias initially.  Even if a candidate is able to make if past the first part of a screening process to be offered an interview it does not shield them from possible prejudices that might be there when they get to interview stage. Whilst anonymity can benefit candidates at application stage by removing discrimination, you can’t run an entire recruitment process without disclosing a candidate’s name.

2. You can’t Google candidates.  With social media playing an increasingly large part in how we recruit a name on a CV often offers the opportunity to do some research on a candidate including their experience, achievements and recommendations (and other claims in their CV) before you meet with them face to face. Without a name, you are somewhat going into an interview ‘blind’ yourself.

So, although there is clearly a lot of evidence to suggest that it is harder for people with a ‘non-white’ sounding name to secure an interview, are blind CV’s really the solution? The obvious response to this seemingly unsolvable problem (and trust me this has been on ongoing topic for several years now) is to address the roots of the bias, educate people and attempt to wipe out discrimination all together. Easier said than done, given we still see discrimination despite tens of years of anti-discrimination measures and legislation!

What is clear is that something needs to change if we’re going to achieve the right balance when it comes to recruitment but what this balance will be remains to be seen. As for now, it’s certainly a topic to watch out in 2017.
If you need help with your recruitment process or any part of your onboarding sign up for our HR Guru service offering you pay as you go support or contact us at The HRHub for your free 30 minute consultation.

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