Mobiles in the workplace

The use of mobile phones in the workplace is a concern for many employers. It is important to tackle this issue when it arises as continued usage will have a detrimental impact on productivity and increase the risk of confidential data breaches. Taking a proactive and visible approach will help discourage other staff members from using their mobile phones in the future.

It is important that you implement a suitable mobile phone policy setting out your stance on the matter. Having the rules outlined in a policy will allow you to begin a disciplinary procedure, should one be considered necessary. The policy should be clear and specific, taking into account personal phone calls, text messages and social media usage. Due to advancements in technology, it would be useful to include devices such as tablets and smartwatches, and if you have an old policy you can update this accordingly. You should also specify in the policy where staff are required to keep their phones during working hours, such as out of sight or in a locked drawer.

Once a policy is in place it is important to address any incidents of unacceptable mobile phone usage. You should address the next individual caught using their mobile phone, asking them to refrain from doing so immediately. An informal meeting may be all that is needed with the individual to warn them of their misconduct and give them an opportunity to change their behaviour. If the individual has already been afforded this opportunity then you may wish to begin a formal disciplinary procedure on the matter, beginning with formal warnings that increase in seriousness should the misconduct continue.

Whilst taking a proactive approach to mobile phone usage will deter other staff members from following suit, you are advised to educate your workforce further on the matter. You could put up posters which discourage staff from using mobile phones or place notices on staff notice boards. For a less subtle approach, you may opt to hold a meeting with the entire workforce, issuing them with a copy of the policy on mobile phone usage and reminding them of their responsibility to adhere to the policy.

To succeed in tackling mobile phone usage, you should be proactive and look to discipline and educate their workforce in equal measure. At the same time, it is equally important that managers lead by example and abide by the rules of the policy, which will create a more unified and cooperative workforce.

VAT Registration

The present threshold for compulsory registration is £85,000 and the threshold for voluntary deregistration is £83,000.  As a rule, if at the end of any month, the value of your taxable supplies for the last 12 months has gone over the registration threshold, you are required to register.

However, if you can satisfy HMRC that the value of your taxable supplies will not exceed the deregistration threshold in the next 12 months, then you may not have to register.  If you believe that you can satisfy HMRC that your future turnover will not exceed £83,000, you could apply for an exception from registration.  A VAT1 form need not be done; the request should be made in writing to the Registration Unit setting out your turnover figures and the reasons supporting the request.

It is worth mentioning here that where a business exceeds the registration threshold on the forward look, where it is expected that it will exceed the threshold in the next 30 days alone rather than on the cumulative backward look, then the exception is not allowed.

Whether registering or applying for an exception, the normal 30-day time limit applies for notifying HMRC that he has exceeded the threshold.

Once granted the exception from registration, a person does not become immune from a liability to register in respect of the supplies they continue to make, and neither does the granting of exception from registration form a cut-off date for monitoring turnover.  If the exception is granted, you should continue to monitor the value of your taxable supplies on a monthly basis to determine if a further liability arises by exceeding the registration threshold.  However, HMRC will not require you to re-apply for the exception where the liability arises because of the earlier one-off contract.

The conditions for applying this concession are that:

  • The turnover in any subsequent month is less than one-twelfth of the deregistration threshold at that time, and
  • The trader has no reason to believe that they will exceed the deregistration threshold in the then following 12 months.

If a further liability arises and those conditions are not met, the trader will have to either register or re-apply for the exception.

Annual Tax on Enveloped Dwellings (ATED)

There are a number of changes which will impact the returns for the 2018-2019 period to cover the ATED year which runs from 1 April to 31 March.

Every dwelling owned by a non-natural person (a company, a partnership with a company member, or a collective investment scheme) at 31 March 2017 MUST be revalued at 1 April 2017. Therefore, a property that was valued at say, £400,000 in 2012 may have been outside of the scope until now, however, if the taxable value is more than £500,000 on 1 April 2017, or at acquisition if that was later than 1 April 2017, then it will be subject to ATED.

1 April 2017 brought about the first 5-yearly revaluation date for ATED and this revaluation will be needed for 2018-2019.  There are reliefs and a relief declaration return would be completed where applicable.

The ATED is calculated using a banding system.  The annual chargeable amount for 2018-2019 has also risen to £3,600 (up from £3,500) for dwellings ranging from £500,001 to £1m.

From 1 April 2018, all online ATED returns must be filed using HMRC’s new ATED digital service. The new online service before the 2018-19 filing window opens on 1 April 2018. The online service can be used for both chargeable returns and relief declaration returns.

It’s worth noting that a return must be filed by 30 April for that year if the property was held on 1 April.

Shared Parental Leave

It is likely over the coming months more clients will begin to seek guidance on the issue of Shared Parental Leave (ShPL). Whilst the scheme itself is not new, having first been introduced in April 2015, the government are making a concerted effort to increase awareness amongst the general public as a result of so few individuals choosing to take up the scheme in recent years.

You should be aware that ShPL allows eligible parents to share a maximum of 50 weeks leave between them to care for their child. SPL grants parents greater flexibility to divide the allocated time up between themselves, allowing them to choose between spending time off with their child together or having one parent spend time caring for the child alone whilst the other returns to work.

During the period of leave, eligible parents will be entitled to Shared Parental Pay (ShPP) currently set at £140.98 per week (set to rise to £145.18 in April 2018). It is important you understand that SPP does not cover the entirety of the leave period, instead parents are entitled to a maximum of 39 weeks of paid leave minus any weeks paid as Statutory Maternity or Adoption Pay.

The scheme looks to provide greater equality amongst parents, allowing mothers the possibility to return to their careers earlier, whilst giving fathers or partners the opportunity to take a greater share of the childcare. You need to be aware that not all employees will be eligible to take part in the scheme. Generally speaking for an employee to be eligible they must at least meet the following requirements:

  • They must share responsibility for the child with either; their husband/wife or joint adopter; the child’s other parent or their partner
  • They must have worked for your client for a continuous period of at least 26 weeks by the end of the 15th week before the due date (or the date they are matched with their adopted child)

There are other more detailed terms employees must adhere to in order to be eligible for ShPL and ShPP, including strict notice requirements the employee has to meet. Having a clear policy in place regarding ShPL and ShPP will help your client manage this leave and can be used to increase awareness among staff, and managers. Additionally, they could arrange a training session on this leave to help inform employees about the way the leave works and the requirements in place.

Divorce and property

For example;  As part of the divorce settlement, it has been agreed that you will transfer your share of the marital home to your wife once she has raised the finance to buy you out. This might take long time, or you may have to sell the house.  How can this affect your PPR claim?

Normal PPR relief would allow you to relieve the gain on the sale of this property, which had been your residence, for the period that you actually lived there and the last 18 months for any other reason. Depending on when your ex-wife manages to raise the finance this later period of absence may well be covered by these basic rules.

However, TCGA 1992 s225B legislates for the right to receive PPR on disposals in connection with the end of a marriage or civil partnership, where a partner ceases to live with their spouse or civil partner in what was their only or main residence. This gives you some leeway in that you can still be classed as accruing, and so make a claim for, PPR on the ex-marital home that you no longer live in due to the separation. There are no time limits given in the legislation for how long this PPR can accrue but conditions have to be met.

One of the conditions is that your disposal is part of the agreement on dissolution or annulment of the marriage or civil partnership, where separation is likely to be permanent or by order of the court.

Another condition is that your previous partner must also have this property as their only or main residence from the period that you move out to when you transfer your interest to them. This is also a key point that sometimes gets missed when the house is put up for sale and sold to a third party. To enable this claim, if you do decide to put the house on the market, you must transfer your share to your ex-wife before it is sold to a third party. Otherwise, you fail as you haven’t transferred your share to your ex-partner who is still living in the house.

The other pitfall is electing another property as your main residence in the period between moving out and transferring your interest to your ex-wife. If you buy a main residence in the interim you may fail the claim under s225B.

Building a business development culture

As the business world becomes ever more competitive, it has become increasingly important to create a business development culture within firms. To achieve this, the whole firm must shift its focus from a culture of working “in” the business to also taking some time to work “on” the business.

Everyone has a role to play in business development
The responsibility for business development shouldn’t just lie with your sales team or your marketing team. Everyone has a role to play in developing new business for your firm. Every employee has a network of friends and associates. Perhaps some of those friends could become customers of your firm – you just need your employees to ask them for their business.

Provide training and support
Business development skills can be learned and cultivated. With the right training, feedback and support, your people can learn how to go about effective business development. It can be useful to conduct regular meetings with your people in order to brainstorm ideas and reinforce the message that “everyone can help to bring in a new customer or two”.

Remuneration and reward
Ensure that your business has effective measurement, accountability and reward structures in place for business development activity. Perhaps you can offer a percentage commission to anyone who brings in a new customer. In addition, you can create objectives for each team member, which tie in with an annual bonus structure.

Ensure that you communicate the firm’s business development goals to all team members across the business. Give recognition to those who have contributed to the firm’s business development efforts and celebrate successes. Internal communication channels can also be useful to ask your team members for ideas in terms of improvements that can be made in order to ensure that everyone is invested in the overall objectives of the firm.

A firm that creates a culture of business development won’t have to rely on a few “rainmakers” to feed the entire business. Instead, everyone can play their part and benefit from creating a client focused firm where everyone can contribute to the success of the business and be rewarded for doing so.

Managing the gig economy

The so-called “gig economy” is starting to change the way we think about our workforce. As the world of work becomes more flexible, an increasing number of professionals are opting to become independent contractors who market their skills to businesses, for as long as they are required.

This new type of employee creates a new set of challenges for businesses to manage. These professionals tend to want more flexible working arrangements and work-life balance. They are agile and don’t want to be tied to the traditional 9-5 working day. As such, employers need to change how they think about their HR policies.

Plan ahead
If you want to use contractors and flexible workers you should create a plan for how you intend to allocate costs associated with them. In addition, you should agree a process by which you can set objectives and track deliverables and achievement of key milestones.

Work with the right partners
If you are going to use a recruitment agency to help you to employ contract workers, look for agencies that truly understand the flexible employment market. Do your due diligence and make sure they have experience of working with firms in your industry.

Cost drivers
Contract workers can help you to lower talent costs. As well as employment agencies, there are various online resources available such as Freelancers and Upworkers that allow independent contractors to pitch to your firm to work on your projects. This can help give you access to some of the best talent around but at a lower cost.

Utilise technology
Technology plays a key role in managing a flexible workforce. Contractors will need to access your systems and data. Consider whether they will use their own computer or whether its best that they are allocated a company-owned laptop / device for the duration of their contract. You should also consider security and ensure that company data held on any contract worker’s devices can be managed remotely if required.

The firms that are best able to tap into this growing talent pool will be able to access skills that may previously have been inaccessible to them. For example, some contractors may have broad experience gained from working on projects at multinational firms that can be of great benefit to your firm.



The IR35 personal service company legislation has been on the statute book since 2000 and has never really worked as intended.

The main reason for this is that the interpretation of the legislation is based on the same employment status tests referred to above, which lack clarity and are open to interpretation by the courts.

However, HMRC have recently won a key case on IR35 at the First Tier Tribunal concerning the BBC presenter Christa Ackroyd.

Ms Ackroyd had been supplying her services to BBC through her personal service company Christa Ackroyd Media Services Ltd since 2006/07. The Tribunal agreed with HMRC that the hypothetical contract between the BBC and Ms Ackroyd would have been a contract of service. The existence of a seven-year contract meant that Ms Ackroyd’s work at the BBC was pursuant to a highly stable, regular and continuous arrangement. It involved a high degree of continuity rather than a succession of short term engagements. That is a pointer towards an employment contract.

Another key factor considered by the court was that her fellow presenter on “Look North” was on the BBC payroll. Ms Ackroyd’s company was appealing against demands for some £419,151 from HMRC relating to income tax and National Insurance contributions (NICs) for the tax years 2006/07 to 2012/13. It will be interesting to see if there is an appeal to a higher court and whether this decision will be used by HMRC against other BBC presenters and other personal service companies.

Please contact us if you wish to discuss whether or not the employment status or IR35 rules impact on your working arrangements.

Mobile Device Management

Bring your own device (BYOD) policies have become increasingly popular in the last number of years. However, this has meant small and medium sized businesses have faces new challenges in terms of how to manage company data held on the personal devices of employees.

In addition to security concerns, BYOD makes it very difficult for businesses to maintain consistent standards across various devices and platforms. As such, updating company software can become a challenge. Large enterprise-level businesses manage these logistical challenges through high-level Mobile Device Management (MDM) solutions. However, until recently, these systems were prohibitively expensive and were generally out of reach for small to medium sized businesses.

Recently, major tech companies have moved to bring MDM solutions within reach of smaller businesses. For example, VMware recently joined forces with Dell in order to bring is class leading MDM services to small and medium sized businesses. For firms that don’t have in-house IT support, Microsoft has recently launched a new version of Microsoft 365 Business, which has built-in MDM features that are easy to set up and don’t require much on-going maintenance.

These solutions offer key business tools such as the ability to remotely wipe lost devices, instantly roll out updates across numerous devices and manage permissions across your company’s network.

Self-employed? Or an employee?

Most of the people working for organisations such as such as Uber, Amazon, Hermes and Deliveroo are not on the payroll, have limited workers’ rights and are paid for each delivery or “gig”. The Committee recommended a default assumption of “worker” status, rather than “self-employed”. The economist Mathew Taylor was also asked to produce a report on the status of such workers and suggested that a new category of “dependent contractor” should be established.

HMRC and the Treasury have now published a consultation into a thorough review of employment status.

Consultation on employment status
HMRC published a consultation on employment status on 7 February as a follow up to the Taylor Review of Modern Working Practices. Individuals and their employers have to know which employment status applies to ensure the right protections are applied – from the National Minimum Wage and holiday pay, to unfair dismissal protection and statutory redundancy pay.

Employment status also affects the taxes that an individual and their employer pay. It is therefore essential in maintaining a clear and effective tax base, with individuals and employers knowing what rates of tax and National Insurance contributions (NICs) are applicable to everyone in their organisation.

The existing legislation defining an employee for both tax and employment rights ultimately relies on whether a contract of service exists. No further definition or clarity is provided in the legislation.

As a result, over time the courts have interpreted the legislation and developed tests to determine an individual’s employment status. These tests are contained in a number of key precedent cases, including a mixture of employment rights and tax judgements.

A possible solution suggested is to legislate a more detailed definition of employment incorporating the irreducible minimum core tests established by case law:

  • Mutuality of obligation
  • Control over the individual
  • Personal service