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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

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.

We don’t all jump for money – other ways to motivate sales teams

Having a motivated sales team is crucial to the success of any business. The relationships they build, create the foundation of your business, selling your brand or product to clients and customers.  This is not just in terms of individual sales, but also your overall reputation and growth.

Of course money works as a motivator, financial incentives are hugely attractive, but sometimes employees need more than that to make them feel impactful, appreciated and part of the team. So the huge question is, just how can you motivate your sales team beyond the money?

A traditional sales structure would set targets and offer commission paid in line with reaching these. Others add in a “fun” route with contests, trips, tickets, dinners and other innovative rewards.  All of these things are great and have their place but in my experience sales professionals need more than gift cards or event tickets; they also want to succeed in their chosen profession by climbing up the ladder whilst having a fun and dynamic environment to work in.

Even by switching things around a little you can create a feeling of success, for example, additional incentives could be offered for winning new business rather than simply taking repeat orders.

This one sounds a little bonkers but how about rewarding people for not getting sales? Dan McGraw, founder and CEO of Fuelzee, said that one of the best ways his company learned about motivation was by rewarding the sales team for ‘no’s. “Every time someone got a ‘no’, we tracked it in our system, and the person with the most ‘no’s received a $100 gift card every week”, McGraw said.  ”This might sound crazy, but you get a lot of no’s when doing sales. The more no’s you get, the closer you are to getting a yes. The prize of getting a yes is way larger than $100, so you still wanted to get there. This nearly doubled our outbound calls and motivated the whole team.”

Have some fun/create a fun working environment. For some salespeople, the ability to have a little fun during work time is as much of a motivator as money (remember that your salespeople are working long hours and are in the office for a large proportion of their week). Common rewards for reaching sales goals include leaving work early, winning a team trip, a Big Boss lunch, or simply being given one hangover pass to be used at any time.  

How about getting your favourite song played when you finalise a deal, create a team dance move to rock out when you hit a target, circulate sales team quotes and gifs to increase office banter.  Fun in small spurts adds to the culture of your company and can be just as motivating and rewarding as the financial rewards you offer.  You should strive to create a fun sales environment where everyone wants to come into work every day.

Career progression is one of the most simple cost effective ways to motivate your sales team too. Although the fun and financial rewards work short term, sales employees, ultimately want to do well but also have the opportunity to get ahead in their careers. Intrinsic motivators such as development and personal growth play a huge part with a competitive sales team so don’t underestimate the power of offering training, and development opportunities, showing that you are supportive of allowing them to develop their skills to help move them to the next level or win that promotion

The simple things can also have an impact on your sales team’s motivation. The majority of employers (and not just those in the sales industry) now offer table football, ping pong tables and similar activities to be able to switch off, take a break and socialise. And although you might not think that a Ping-Pong table for the office would push people and drive behaviors, why not try it, from experience these types of incentives can make a real difference to team spirit.

When it comes to understanding how to motivate your sales team there is no simpler approach than asking them. You can do this via a survey, face-to- face or through team meetings but make sure that they understand that by giving their suggestions does not mean that you will put the reward in place. Gather ideas and suggestions and consider what works best for your business, employees and your culture.

These are some of the ideas you can use to motivate your sales team without just focusing on money. Try to keep things fresh in your business and consider what your employees want to see and use this as a basis to generate new innovative ideas.  By offering a variety of rewards, you stand a greater chance of having a motivator for every personality type on your team and developing all of your salespeople into top-tier team players. When your goals and their goals align, only the best things can happen.

For further information or advice and support on motivating your sales team join us at

Image : Jared Sluyter

How SMEs Can Support Working Parents This Summer

The school holidays are just around the corner. And while the kids will be demob-happy, the summer break can be a real headache for working parents.

“So what?” You might say. “Their kids. Their problem”. But it’s definitely in employers interests to do more to help. The number of parents leaving the workforce to seek more flexibility by working for themselves is ever increasing. A survey of 2000 working people in the UK by on-demand staffing app Coople found that one in 5 parents had missed a significant moment in their child’s life because of work. A even more worryingly, 11% said working late and not ‘switching off’ had distanced them from their children.

So with the long school holidays looming, we’ve pulled together a handy checklist for how small business can (reasonably) support parents this summer:

  1. Flexible Hours: Every employee has the right to request flexible working – whether this be flexible hours or location. In both cases, this request must be made in prescribed form and employees are entitled to only one request a year. Fixed office hours can be impractical for parents during the holidays. And the flexibility to work when they want to (often in the early morning or evening) can be a god-send.
  2. Flexible Locations: This does’t always mean working from home. In fact, if the kids are there it’s often the last place parents want be if they’ve got work to do. Working in a location closer to home, however, with a shorter commute could really help. Professional work spaces are popping up all over the place and are a great option here. Not only will they have excellent broadband they can be a valuable networking opportunity too. With both flexible hours and flexible locations, it’s important both parties are clear if this is a permanent of temporary change. If it’s for the short term, be sure the time frame is understood.
  3. Parental Leave: Staff that have worked for their employer for more than one year can ask for unpaid parental leave to help with childcare. Parental leave generally allows each parent to take up to 18 weeks unpaid leave per child before the child’s 5th birthday. This leave must be taken in blocks of one week and in theory should be requested 21 days in advance (although you may choose to be lenient here). If employees fall within these guidelines, you’ve got little choice but to let them take it unless there are sound business reasons why not that would stand up to scrutiny at a tribunal.
  4. Time Off For Dependents: Any employee (however long they have worked for you) can ask for “time off for dependents” to deal with emergencies. This would be unpaid and whilst there’s no set time, if its regarding a childcare issue 1-2 days would be reasonable, before it then becomes Parental Leave (above).
  5. Summer Childcare Guide: There are often lots of summer childcare options available locally but sometimes it can take hours of research to get all the information. A great task for the work experience bod if ever there was one. Make such information easily available to employees on the intranet or noticeboard and who knows, if there’s significant interest you might be able to negotiate a discount or even provide minibus transport from the office and back.

Want some help on how better to manage the team? TheHRhub is the ultimate HR support service for startups and SMEs. Get in touch today for a no-obligation chat. Call us on 0203 627 7048 or drop us a line at


Image: Canva

How To Give A Gift Without Tax

As we enter the final few weeks of 2016, a well-placed reward or gift could be just what the team needs to help them cross the finish line with aplomb. But it’s that straightforward. Rewarding your staff without them being taxed is a very tricky thing to do. Hard cash and vouchers are pretty much out. But whilst HMRC aren’t particularly generous here, there are a few exceptions where the taxman can’t help himself to some of the value of the gift:

1. Celebratory Presents

Whilst employees will incur tax on all benefits on top of their salary and bonus, modest ‘celebratory gifts’ to mark a special occasion such as a birthday or new baby should be fine. Also included here would be a modest Christmas present.

2. Suggestion Scheme

Employers can pay staff £25 tax free for responses to an ‘organised’ suggestion scheme which formally asks employees for ideas on how to improve the way their business is run. But it get’s better. If a suggestion yields financial rewards for the business, the firm can pay the owner of the original idea 50% of that financial yield accrued in the first year (or 10% of the yield accrued in the first 5 years) up to a maximum of £5k, without tax.

3. Encouragement Awards

Merit based rewards to motivate high achieving staff are included in the concessions. A cash payment is allowed but only up to £25, but it’s better than nothing!

4. Recreational Reward

Businesses can lay on parties/functions for their workers up to the value of £150 per person without incurring any tax liability.  So it’s always worth ring-fencing the money for the annual Christmas do if you can….

5. Loans

Ok so you can’t give them money tax free, but you can lend them it. Companies can lend employees up to £10,000 without any tax implications. Ideal to help pay for season tickets for example.

But Sometimes The Best Rewards Are Free….

A ‘reward’ doesn’t have to be tangible and/or cause you to put your hand in your pocket: Praise your team wherever possible – it’s proven to be motivating. As well as making staff feel more appreciated, it improves their confidence and self esteem too. Remember to say ‘Thank You’ – the most important two words in the workplace. Better still, write handwritten thank you cards to staff, each with a personalised message expressing gratitude for their support on a particular project or issue over the past year. Such a simple gesture, but one that will go a long way to making them feel really valued.

For many hard-working employees, having time spent focused purely on them, discussing their performance, hopes and future in your business and ensuring their voice is heard would be the ultimate way to motivate and show they are valued. So as the traditional annual appraisal process enters the fray at this time of year, make sure you make the most out of this time by encouraging all managers to side-step the rankings (there is scant evidence these help to improve anyone’s performance) and simply focus on, what I like to call, “having-a-conversation” with your employees. Better still, ditch the ‘annual’ and lead by example, making sure these conversations are taking place on a much more regular basis….

theHRhub – on demand and online HR support for startups and SMEs

Find our more about us at or gives us a call on 0203 627 7048 for a no-strings chat about your HR needs and how we can help.

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Gifts That Aren’t Just For Christmas: The Top Companies In the UK For Perks

Gifts That Aren’t Just For Christmas: The Top Companies In the UK For Perks

Is it really better to give than to receive? Well, given that more than a third of employees admit perks and benefits are amongst their top consideration before accepting a new job – as far as your business goes, I’d say yes. Whilst they’re unlikely to be the ultimate deciding factor (culture and opportunity will outrank for most in this regard) they can demonstrate a lot about a company culture without the candidate having to step foot in the office.

And companies are getting more and more creative when it comes to what they offer in order to attract top talent. So whilst talking to your employees over a glass fizz this Christmas, ask them what perks and benefits would attract them to your business now and what would urge them to stay.

So you’ve got some suggestions of your own up your sleeve here’s our pick of the Top 10 companies in the UK for perks with details of the ‘little extras’ that make them so great….


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It sucks working on your birthday, but at cloud services provider Rackspace you don’t have to – they give all employees their birthday off work.

It sucks working on your birthday, but at cloud services provider Rackspace you don’t have to – they give all employees their birthday off work.

Body Shop

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In line with their “enrich not exploit” ethos, the cosmetics giant pays staff for five volunteering days per year allowing employees to satisfy their inner altruist.


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Known as the ‘Huddle Cuddle’ – if you get a job at Huddle you’ll be welcomed with a golden hello of £5,000. Yup – you read that right – £5,000.

Swinton Insurance

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The annual  ‘Christmas shopping day’ provided as a perk by Swinton Insurance is highly valued by its employees – particularly those who leave everything to the last minute….


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AutoTrader UK has a wine club, giving employees discounted wine delivered to their door every month. My kind of club….

Peer 1 Hosting

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The HQ at Peer 1 Hosting in Southampton has a giant helter-skelter slide, a tree house, a pub, pool table, a putting green, a giant swing, a cinema, and there’s even a place where putting your feet up is an office rule. 


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To appeal to those with itchy feet, comparisons website Skyscanner lets it staff work in one if its 10 overseas offices (including Miami and Barcelona) for up to 30 days every two years. The UK office has also negotiated employee discounts at the local pub and beauty salon.


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Hip London startup Swiftkey invites guest speakers for lunchtime talks to keep their employee’s minds stimulated and inspired. Celebrities such as Stephen Fry have talked in the past.

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London based now allow employees dogs in the office saving employees £s in annual dog-sitting fees and making everyone that little bit happier.

Mind Candy

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Gaming company Mind Candy has turned their place of work into a play den including every imaginable office toy. Staff can even unwind with a quick game of Guitar Hero.                                                                                                                

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Article Photo Credits: cj sorg, Daniel Thornton, Yukariryu, Stav, Chris Frewin, Daniel Godavid reid, Adrain Scottow, Tine Steiss, Brian Turner