Changes to Tax Credits Thresholds and Tapers

The government’s Summer Budget announced changes to the tax credit threshold (above which tax credits are reduced) and an increase in the taper (the rate they are reduced by) from April 2016.

HMRC says “For people entitled to WTC the threshold is £6,420 a year. People with annual income at or below this threshold will receive the maximum award to which they are entitled.

Those with income above the threshold will have their maximum award reduced by 41p for every pound of income above the threshold.”

This is how the threshold and taper system works today.

The threshold is being reduced from £6,420 to £3,850 and the taper increased from 41p to 48p.

In work Child and working tax credit entitlement graph

UNISON has calculated the impact of these changes on different types of household using the NJC pay scale and the spreadsheet can be downloaded here

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Sleep-ins and the National Minimum Wage

Last year a key legal judgement established that sleep-ins carried out by workers should be included in calculations for the National Minimum Wage (NMW).   This means that members, and potential members, who do ‘sleep-ins’ and are low paid may be entitled to a pay rise and potentially back pay.

The Whittlestone EAT judgement has established that sleep-ins are covered by the National Minimum Wage (NMW) regulations. So even if a worker is allowed to sleep at work, if they are required to stay at their workplace, then all their hours are covered by NMW regulations.

This means if any worker is paid – on average – less than the NMW over their pay reference period, they will be entitled to a pay rise to ensure NMW compliance. They may also be able to pursue a claim for back pay. However, because working patterns vary enormously between individuals; this will need to be considered on a case-by-case basis.

UNISON is aware that the introduction of the NMW Regulations 2015 led some employers to think that this meant that they now did not have to pay for sleep-ins (reversing the Whittlestone EAT judgment), however this is not the case

The new NMW Regulations 2015 are consolidating regulations and therefore the legal position from the Whittlestone EAT judgement remains unchanged and “sleep-ins” continue to be covered by the NMW.

Each case will need to be looked at on an individual basis, however the starting point is to look at the nature of the work being undertaken by the member. Does the worker have an obligation to be physically present at their workplace? For example, what would happen if they left – would the worker be disciplined?.   If they would be disciplined or they are otherwise prevented from leaving then case law suggests that the time spent at work, whether awake or asleep, is subject to NMW compliance. This is because being present is work in itself.

It may be that the worker is able to sleep (as Ms. Whittlestone was able to) for most of the night but the relevant issue is that the worker could not simply be absent for one night or part of a night and that their physical presence is required.

The sections which appear to be causing concern for employers (reg. 27 (2) and reg. 32(2)) only come into play where it can be shown that the worker is available for work (but not actually working) and qualify the situations in which payment must be made (i.e. when the worker is woken and carries out duties).

These would be circumstances where the individual was genuinely “on-call”. For example if a worker was required to sleep on the premises, but could come and go as they pleased (they are under no obligation to be physically present), this would be categorised as “on-call”. Our experience suggests that this would be an unlikely scenario in the care sector. It is more likely to be relevant in the service industry where people may live above a pub for example.

UNISON’s position is that someone who is required to be present (awake or asleep), and who is not permitted to leave the premises during their shift or sleep in is working rather than available for work so the qualifications in reg. 27(2) and reg. 32(2) do not apply.

The law is a useful tool in pushing employers to change current arrangements, and potentially for back pay claims. We will support individual members’ legal cases where they are assessed as having reasonable chances of success.

 

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Branch Endorses Corbyn

UNISON and the Labour party

A vital purpose of a trade union is to campaign for the protection of its members and for improvement in their terms and conditions.

The protections benefiting trade union members today are the result of many successful campaigns run by trade unions such as UNISON in previous years.

One key method of campaigning is to represent the interests of trade unions to government and politicians, as obviously employment legislation is the biggest factor in determining the terms and conditions of the workplace.

From its earliest days, the Labour Party has received support from the trade union movement because it has delivered legislation and policies to improve the lives of working people.

Choosing a new leader for the Labour Party

Following the recent General Election and the resignation of Ed Miliband the process is now underway to elect a new labour leadersLeader and Deputy Leader of the Labour Party. The four candidates standing for Labour Leader are Andy Burham, Yvette Cooper, Jeremy Corbyn and Liz Kendall.

UNISON is affiliated to the Labour Party and because of this all UNISON members are able to participate in choosing the next leader and deputy leaders of the Labour Party by registering as Affiliated Supporters – this is FREE, there is no charge.

UNISON members who have not yet signed up as Affiliated Supporters are still able to do so until 12 noon on 12 August. As an affiliated supporter they will be eligible to participate in the ballot which will be conducted by the Labour Party to select the Labour leader as well as London’s Mayoral candidate. FREE Sign up can be done online at http://support.labour.org.uk/. Remember to answer ‘yes’ to the question “are you a member of an organisation affiliated to the Labour Party?”.

In addition members of UNISON have the option of joining the Affiliated Political Fund which allows some of their subs to be used to financially support the Labour Party – but members must choose to opt in to this, it is not automatic.

Kensington and Chelsea’s preferred candidate, Jeremy Corbyn MP

UNISON is eligible to make a nomination, which is a formal endorsement of a preferred candidate, but it is important to remember that the election itself is based on the principle of ‘one member, one vote’. Labour party members, Labour MPs, trade union members and other affiliated supporters get one vote each and each individual’s vote carries the same weight.

The branch committee of Kensington and Chelsea UNISON met and chose to nominate Jeremy Corbyn as its preferred Corbyncandidate. Branch members who register as Affiliated Supporters (as explained above) are free to vote for any candidate of their choice, but the branch committee recommends Jeremy Corbyn:

  • He is a UNISON member and a former member of NUPE
  • He campaigns against low pay, privatisation and outsourcing
  • He offers a real alternative to the failures of austerity economics

As you may have seen in the news, in nominating Jeremy, the Kensington and Chelsea branch committee have mirrored the views of UNISON members nationally, who have also endorsed Corbyn.

[Luke Metclafe, Branch Labour Link Officer]

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Consultation on Simplifying Tax Treatment of Termination Payments

The government is consulting on simplifying the tax treatment of termination payments which will have serious repercussion on settlement agreements

At the moment, generally the elements of a termination payment that are contractual are subject to income tax and NI and those which are not contractual are only liable to income tax on amounts exceeding £30,000. An obvious exception is redundancy payments which are free from income tax and NI (up to £30K).

The government wants to:

  • Remove the distinction between contractual and non-contractual termination payments
  • Align the tax and NIC treatment of termination payments
  • Remove some or all the existing exceptions; and
  • Reduce the £30,000 tax and NI free allowance on settlement agreements

Employees will still be able to receive some (if not in some cases all) of their settlement agreement payments tax free but there are three criteria:

  • An employee would need to have completed two years service with the employer
  • The payments would have to be made in connection with a redundancy situation (as defined in section 139 of the Employment Rights Act 1996); and
  • The tax free allowance would be proportionate to the length of service.

An example in the consultation document is:

Settlement Example

 

The full policy document can be viewed and downloaded from here.

 

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Resisting the Trade Union Bill – Public Meeting Details

The new Trade Union Bill currently going through Parliament seeks to curtail workers rights and further restrict union freedoms. Harriet Harman accusing the government of “attacking the right of working people to have a say on their pay and conditions”.

There is a free public meeting on the Trade Union Bill on Wednesday 29 July at 6pm

The meeting has been organised by the Institute of Employment Rights (IER), the Campaign for Trade Union Freedom (CTUF), the Centre for Labour and Social Studies (CLASS), the People’s Assembly and the Trade Union Co-ordinating Group.

Representatives from the TUC, FBU, RMT, UNITE, PCS,  CWU and UNISON will join IER experts John Hendy and Keith Ewing, together with MPs and campaign groups to determine what steps the labour movement needs to take to expose the unfair and undemocratic nature of the government’s proposals.

Please attend if you can

Reviewing and Resistng the Trade Union Bill Public Meeting

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Strike at London Metropolitan University

Teaching and support staff at London Metropolitan University are staging another day of strike action on Friday 24 July.

Members of Unison and the University and College Union (UCU), are angry at university plans to axe 165 academic and support posts.

Additionally management have announced that Max Watson, Branch Chair and a member of UNISON’s National Executive for Higher Education, has been selected for compulsory redundancy. Members at London Met have no doubt that Max’s selection amounts to victimisation having fought off a previous attempt to victimise Max just two years ago.

This appears to be an attempt to deal a heavy blow to union organisation as the college plans ongoing cuts that ultimately raise questions about the very future of a university which has provided opportunities in Higher Education for working class students in particular.

You can support UNISON members at London Metropolitan University in their strike action this Friday (24th July) in a number of ways:

1)         Send a message of support to unison@londonmet.ac.uk

2)         Join the picket lines on Friday. They will be at :

HOLLOWAY ROAD

166-220 Holloway Road, N7 8DB – This is the main picket line

RALLY 12.00-2pm

Tower Building, 166-220 Holloway Rd, London N7 8D

For those in East London unable to get to Holloway Road there will also be a picket at Calcutta House, Old Castle Street, E1 7NT

Further information from London Met UNISON’s web site on is available here: http://www.londonmetunison.org.uk/2015/07/all-out-strike-24-july-defend-max-natasha-and-frank/

London Met Strikers

 

 

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Trade Union Bill – Consultation

The government has published the draft Trade Union Bill. This seeks to curb the unions’ and their members’ freedom in a number of areas along with setting minimum levels for industrial action in certain areas of the public sector.

The main proposals are:-

  • Industrial action will require at least 50% turnout of those entitled to vote
  • 40% of all eligible voters must vote in favour of industrial action which affect certain public services:
    • health services;
    • (b) education of those aged under 17Legislation jpeg
    • (c) fire services;
    • (d) transport services;
    • (e) decommissioning of nuclear installations and management of
    • radioactive waste and spent fuel;
    • (f) border security.
  • The ban on using agency staff to cover striking workers will be lifted
  • Strike mandates will expire are a 4 month limit after which another ballot is required
  • More specific requirements for the wording of the ballot paper, they must:

include a reasonably detailed indication of the matter or matters in issue in the trade dispute to which the proposed industrial action relates.

 

Where the voting paper contains a question about taking part in industrial action short of a strike, the type or types of industrial action must be specified

 

The voting paper must indicate the period or periods within which the industrial action or, as the case may be, each type of industrial action is.

  • Banning automatic opt-ins to political donations from trade union subscription fees
  • The amount of notice of a strike to be given to an employer will be increased from 7 to 14 days

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