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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

Image Credit: Unsplash

Boom In Use Of Agency Workers Is Set To Continue

Boom In Use Of Agency Workers Is Set To Continue

Recently published research by the Resolution Foundation shows a boom in the use of agency workers by businesses looking to fill their skills gap, and the findings suggest that it’s a pattern that’s set to continue. Almost half (43%) of respondents said that they’d increased their reliance on agency staff during the past five years, and 25% planned to increase their usage even further in the next five years.

It’s thought that the trend is being fuelled by uncertainty surrounding Brexit, and of course the cost pressures that plenty of businesses are facing on a daily basis. Today, it’s estimated that there are around 800,000 agency workers in roles all across the UK.

So if you’re looking to expand your team during 2018, you might want to take a little step back and consider whether working with an agency could be the solution that gives you exactly what you need. Recruiting and selecting the right people is a tricky process, and it can place a real strain on your resources. Outsourcing to the experts is an option that clearly appeals to many.

There is a very important issue at play here though, that plagues the reputation of businesses looking to tap into more flexible ways of finding and working with talent. The gig economy and all the pitfalls associated with it is constantly being debated in the media, and it’s clear that not all business owners are giving proper consideration to workers’ rights. There’s a clear crossover here between issues associated with the gig economy and the use of agency workers, and employers absolutely must proceed with a reasonable level of caution.

The Resolution Foundation offered some practical suggestions for ethically leveraging agency talent, at both a business and government level. The Swedish Derogation, for example, is a controversial piece of regulation that the Foundation would like to see removed. It permits businesses to pay agency workers less than directly comparable employees, and a repeal is currently under consultation, in response to the Taylor Review.

What happens from this point onwards will definitely be interesting from an employment perspective. The pressure on the government is mounting when it comes to workers’ rights, whilst businesses still face cuts and need to look towards less conventional ways of hitting their goals and meeting operational requirements.

If you’re planning to use agency workers, what steps will you be taking to protect your employer brand and maintain a happy and productive workplace?

TheHRhub is the ultimate online HR support service for Startups and SMEs – providing expert advice  and up to date news and views, straight to your mobile or tablet. It’s like having an HR director in your pocket – but without the price tag!

Call us on 0203 627 7048 or drop us a line at for a no-strings chat about your HR needs.

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.

How To Handle Blossoming Romances In Your Workplace

How To Handle Blossoming Romances In Your Workplace

Dating apps might often be considered as the modern way to find a romantic partner, but plenty of people still find love at work. According to a study by Approved Index, 65% of office workers have been involved in at least one workplace relationship during the course of their career. Something we at TheHRhub can testify to only too well to, with at least two of us going on to marry the person involved!**

And of course, it’s hardly surprising. Many of us see our coworkers much more than we see our family and friends, so it’s natural that working relationships sometimes blossom into much more.

But as the boss, relationships between your coworkers can seem like a disaster waiting to happen. With Valentine’s Day coming up, it’s a great time to think about what your approach should be, and the challenges that you should be aware of. Here’s our advice…

Accept that sometimes things just ‘Happen’

Don’t be the romance police and try and implement any kind of policy that bans romantic relationships between employees. It would be unreasonable to do so and it probably wouldn’t act as a deterrent. Possibly, if anything, you’d be doing the opposite by creating a culture of secrecy and mistrust.

Recognise that most workplace relationships have a happy ending, and in the majority of circumstances, you’re going to experience no problems whatsoever if your workers start seeing each other romantically away from the office. Your staff are likely to want to be discreet, and there’s usually no need for any intervention whatsoever on your behalf.

Nip any problems in the bud

No one wants to see canoodling by the canteen, or have to navigate their way through locked lips just to get to the kettle. And luckily, most couples will know this already, and will often do everything they can to make sure that there are no awkward moments for their colleagues and PDA’s avoided.

But if you do feel that boundaries are being crossed though, take action quickly. And discreetly. Have a word with both individuals: explain your worries, and remind them of what’s acceptable and what isn’t.

If a manager starts showing preferential treatment to a team member because of their relationship outside the office, that’s a problem. Similarly, gossip could get out of hand and create a bad atmosphere.

Take harassment claims seriously

There’s a very big difference between a consensual relationship and unwanted advances, and as an employer, you have a legal obligation to ensure that you take harassment claims seriously, and act swiftly. If you don’t already have a policy that covers exactly how you’ll handle any such matters, then it’s absolutely vital that you get that covered.

The policy should be clear and well communicated, and it’s essential that line managers have the skills, understanding, and confidence to see that it’s enforced. If a member of staff came to you today and claimed that they were being sexually harassed, would you know exactly what to do? If not, this needs to take a top spot on your to do list.

Managing and leading human beings is complex business, and we all need to recognise that we’re not dealing with robots here. Emotions and relationships and affairs of the heart might not strictly be your line of business, but when you’re running the show, they’re things that you’ll probably have to deal with at one point or another. It doesn’t have to be a drama, but it does have to be something that you’ve considered.

**Full disclosure: my husband was my boss at the time of his proposal. He popped the question two weeks after giving me notice of redundancy: I’d like to see many try and repeat that!! 

TheHRhub is the ultimate online HR support service for Startups and SMEs:  providing advice, support and tools straight to your mobile or tablet. It’s like having an HR director in your pocket!

Call us on 0203 627 7048 or drop us a line at for a no-strings chat about your HR needs.

Legal Eagles: Three Key Employment Law Changes You Need To Be Prepared For In 2018

Legal Eagles: Three Key Employment Law Changes You Need To Be Prepared For In 2018

A new year brings new challenges when you’re running a business, and there are always key developments in the world of employment law that you need to be aware of, so you can ensure that your organisation is fulfilling its legal requirements. Not surprisingly, 2018 is set to be no different.

Though Brexit has offered far more questions than answers, and there are still many grey areas when it comes to exactly what the future of work might look like in the UK, there are several legislative developments that have been signed on the dotted line.

The clock’s ticking when it comes to ensuring your compliance, and we’re keen to make sure that you’ve got the knowledge, understanding, and support that you need to smoothly guide your business through the changes. Let’s take a look at three big things that you need to be prepared for this year.

  1. GDPR comes into force: This one is for all of you. On 25th May 2018, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) comes into effect for all EU member states – and that includes the UK. Its intention is to strengthen and unify data protection provisions. Businesses must carry out internal audits and reviews to ensure compliance, and also assess any contracts with providers that handle their data processing – including payroll and recruitment. The reality of this change is that there’s an awful lot to consider, and it has the potential to place a great deal of strain on your resources. As such, businesses are being urged to pinpoint any significant risks first.
  2. The first gender pay gap reporting deadline: If you run a private or voluntary sector organisation with 250 or more employees, you need to publish your first gender pay gap report by 4th April 2018. For public sector employers of the same size, the deadline is 30th March 2018. The reports must be published on the company website, and also a dedicated government website. Pay data from 2016 and 2017 will be covered, and necessary figures include the differences in mean pay, median pay, mean bonus pay, and median bonus pay, between male and female employees.
  3. Minimum wage increases: On 1st April 2018, the national living wage for workers aged 25 and over will increase to £7.83 per hour. Furthermore, national minimum wage rates will rise to £7.38 per hour for workers aged 21 to 24, £5.90 per hour for workers aged 18 to 20, and £4.20 for workers aged 18 who are no longer of compulsory school age.

For many businesses, this will mean a review of administrative procedures to ensure that there’s a smooth transition to the higher rate for any employees who are eligible. Of course, budgeting and operational considerations will also have a place here, so employers can focus on creating a great return on their staffing investment.

As we head into February, time is running out when it comes to establishing your plan of action. If you know that there are areas in which you need to pull your socks up, it’s essential that you make your move sooner rather than later.

Need help in doing that? Get in touch today to arrange an initial no-obligation consultation. Say or call 0203 627 7048 and we can provide advice and guidance on your people management issues that are at play in your business right now.

TheHRhub is the ultimate support service for startups and SMEs: providing advice, support and tools for every step of your employee journey.

Image: iStock


Parental Bereavement Leave Bill – What Employers Need To Know

Parental Bereavement Leave Bill – What Employers Need To Know

It is hard to know what to do or say to someone who has suffered the unimaginable nightmare of losing a baby or child. The immediate and subsequent days, weeks and months following the death of a child are a time of great pain and confusion for a bereaved parent. These times are also a source of tremendous uncertainty for those around them as they grapple with a sense of helplessness watching their friend and colleague navigate this painful experience.

The government have now recognised that taking paid time off work under these circumstances should be a key employee right and published the Parental Bereavement (Pay & Leave) Bill on 13th October, it is expected to come into force in 2020. Introduced by Kevin Hollinrake MP, it will give employed parents with a minimum of 26 weeks of continuous service a day-one right to two weeks of paid parental bereavement leave if they lose a child under the age of 18. Employers will be able to reclaim some or all of the costs, and the proposals were first outlined in the Conservative manifesto, published earlier in the year.

You may be surprised that legislation doesn’t already exist in this area. Though many employers have their own policies for supporting bereaved members of staff, the Employment Rights Act only states that employees should have the right to take a ‘reasonable’ amount of unpaid time off work to deal with an emergency concerning a dependent, including making arrangements following a death.

Business minister, Margot James said, ‘We want parents to feel properly supported by their employer when they go through the deeply distressing ordeal of losing a child. That’s why Government is backing this bill which goes significantly further than most other countries in providing this kind of workplace right for employees’.

The proposed legislation has been warmly welcomed by charities that support those suffering from the bereavement of a child. Chief executive of Cruse Bereavement Care, Debbie Kerslake commented, ‘It is vital that at such a distressing time those who are bereaved can take time away from work’.

As a concerned and responsible employer if you find yourself with an employee in this situation, getting the first phone call right is critical.  Firstly you must acknowledge the child’s death and offer your support and understanding, be prepared to listen and of course offer complete reassurance that there is no workplace expectation or pressure and work is the last thing they need to concern themselves with.  How this is handled cannot be underestimated.  Let them know you and their colleagues are ready to help in whatever way they need. No matter how brief the contact, these thoughtful gestures will always be appreciated and remembered even if it doesn’t appear immediately obvious.

Some suggestions on how you can help them through those initial days:

  • Ask them if you can call them again in a few days to see how they are doing.
  • Send flowers and a card or a donation in lieu of flowers on behalf of your company. This may help them with the cost of the funeral
  • Ask if they would like you or colleagues to attend the funeral and offer your full support
  • Cover their workload – let them know not to worry about their job as the work will get done
  • Ask how and what they would like you to communicate to their workplace and colleagues

You may already have your own policies and procedures, but with the new legislation this is a good opportunity for exemplary employers to consider their approach, and establish whether they’re giving their staff the best level of support during such a difficult time.  For further information and advice acas has a good practice guide on managing bereavement in the workplace.

It goes without saying here that you need to consider the longer-term impact of bereavement, and how staff are supported after their two weeks of leave. There is no right or wrong way to grieve – nor is there a set timetable for grief.  It may be the case that you’ll roll out flexible working provisions to help the bereaved get back to work, or that you’ll offer counseling. As with all initiatives that impact that workforce, it’s not just a case of creating your policies. You need to make sure that your line managers are appropriately equipped to deal with sensitive situations and are confident in their roles.

A parental bereavement policy is something that everyone hopes that they’ll never have to consider, but now is the time to think about how you give your employees what they need during tough times. Will you be reviewing your approach in light of the proposed legislative changes?

TheHRhub is the ultimate online HR support service for Startups and SMEs – providing software, templates, expert advice, whitepapers and up to date news and views, straight to your mobile or tablet. It’s like having an HR director in your pocket but without the price tag!

Call us on 0203 627 7048 or drop us a line at for a no-strings chat about your HR needs.

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