IS YOUR BUSINESS STILL RECEIVING OLD-STYLE £5 NOTES?

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The Bank of England estimates that there are 165 million old-style £5 notes in circulation – that’s nearly three for every person in the UK. However the outdated notes will cease to be legal tender from the 5thMay 2017 – causing headaches for consumers and cash-handling businesses alike.

Introduced last year, the new fiver is made of polymer and designed to be more durable than the old version. But the amount of old five pound notes still in use throughout the UK is causing confusion – here’s all you need to know about where they can be used and how they can be exchanged…


I’ve received an old note, what do I do?
The old-style £5 note remains legal tender until 5th May 2017, when businesses are no longer obliged to accept them.

After that date, the Bank of England does have an obligation to accept them – but the procedure for exchanging them can be complex.

You must use the Bank’s Exchanging Withdrawn Notes service, either in person in London or by post. However you may worry about the security of sending a large amount of cash through the post, though if you run a business outside of the capital this may be the only way to swap a large amount of notes.


What else is set to change?
The one-pound coin is also set to change in March this year. The ‘round pound’ will be replaced with a 12-sided coin, which the Bank of England says will be much harder to forge.

Small businesses which offer coin-operated services, from vending machines and laundrettes to lockers and shopping trolleys, will need to be aware of the change in order to update machines to accept the new coins. Repair company TVS recently told the Guardian that the procedure should cost no more than £100 per machine.

In the future, a new polymer £10 note is set to be introduced in summer, whilst a £20 note of the same fabric should be introduced by 2020.

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IS YOUR BUSINESS STILL RECEIVING OLD-STYLE £5 NOTES?

UK COMPANIES HAVE A ‘DISTORTED UNDERSTANDING’ OF CYBER-SECURITY RISKS, SAYS SURVEY

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In this day and age, it is impossible for business owners to ignore the significance of the internet with cybercrime rates growing just as quickly as the positive developments of the digital world.

A joint study by LogRhythm, Gigamon and Forescout Technologies – three tech firms with respective backgrounds in security intelligence, traffic visibility and the Internet of Things – surveyed 2,000 IT professionals working for UK companies about their concerns relating to data security and their history of previous breaches.

44.45% of the survey’s participants expressed confidence that their company has never suffered a data breach, while 43.65% admitted they have suffered a breach, and 11.9% said they did not know. LogRhythm’s Ross Brewer says the number of people who claim never to have encountered a problem is in sharp contrast with what industry analysis.

“The 45% that say no, they are either not willing to admit the fact that they had a breach or they just don’t know because they don’t have the visibility”, he said.

The accuracy of the companies’ understanding of how long it took for their cyber breaches to be discovered was also doubted by the study, with almost 33% of participants claiming the hack was uncovered immediately and 28% saying they learned about the attack within a month. The validity of this claim was disputed by Gigamon’s Trevor Dearing, who doesn’t believe most companies have complete visibility.

“Many of them claimed that they were able to detect in one day 100% of the threats and attacks that they saw on that day, but the reality is that they were only able to detect those that they had seen,” he said.

The difference between what is perceived to be happening and what is actually happening could be misleading business owners into missing vital signs of an attack, the group warned.

Overconfidence in your company’s risk level could lead to unnoticed attacks. Contrary to popular belief it is not only banks that are at risk of a hack, but SMEs and any other company whom hackers believe they can extort money from.

General cyber awareness is improving, however, as companies realise that outdated methods such as antivirus software and firewalls need to be replaced with a combination of more advanced security software, full network visibility, and dedicated cyber insurance which could provide financial security in the event of an otherwise costly attack.

UK COMPANIES HAVE A ‘DISTORTED UNDERSTANDING’ OF CYBER-SECURITY RISKS, SAYS SURVEY

CUMBRIA FLOOD UPDATE: UK FLOODS MINISTER SHOWN DEFENCE REPAIRS DURING VISIT

flooded-field

The people of Cumbria were badly hit by the floods of winter 2015/16, which caused an estimated £500 million worth of damage.

In response to those devastating storms, the Government is injecting a total of £72 million across the region to provide better flood protection to around 4,300 properties.

As work to repair flood defences in the area nears completion, UK Floods Minister Thérèse Coffey has visited West Cumbria to see the scheme in action.

Expected to cost £10 million, the work involves removing debris and gravel from rivers, reinforcing flood defence walls and repairing pumping stations. A further £3 million is being spent to look at different options for flood defence schemes across Cumbria, including contributions from local communities, members of the public and private organisations.

“We’re committed to better protecting Cumbria from flooding and that’s why our investment will better protect 4,300 homes and businesses,” Thérèse Coffey said. “With the £10m programme to repair Cumbria’s defences now almost finished we are now looking a further ways to protect the country, working closely to the community, and making sure homes are better prepared.”

The Environment Agency’s flood and coastal risk manager for Cumbria, Andy Brown, said: “We know the devastating impact the 2015 floods had on people’s lives and livelihoods.

“A lot of hard work has gone into repairing and restoring damage caused by the floods and rebuilding, not just physical things like walls and bridges, but refocusing on our commitment to build long term partnerships because we can manage flood risk more effectively together in Cumbria.

“We are now conducting a £3m appraisal to gather scientific data to identify longer-term solutions to reducing flood risk.”

As part of her February 2017 visit, Ms Coffey also met with Cockermouth shop owner Jonty Chippendale, whose business was flooded in 2009 and 2015. She has since used a £5,000 grant to install flood resilience measures including moving electrical plug sockets higher up walls.

Ms Chippendale said: “When we flooded it was dreadful, but once the water had gone we soon realised we had a choice. We could either give up or take control, and so we used a government grant to make our property more resilient. Hopefully we are proof that you can bounce back. But if you just wait for something to happen, it won’t.”

Managing risk is a key part of planning for the area’s future flood defences – but is also a key consideration for anybody working or living in a flood-prone area. For more tips, including advice on your own flood insurance, talk to us today.

CUMBRIA FLOOD UPDATE: UK FLOODS MINISTER SHOWN DEFENCE REPAIRS DURING VISIT

DIVERSIFICATION: FARMING’S NEW FRONTIER?

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Whilst farming is often more a way of life than just a job, and one which many would never dream of giving up, more and more arable and pastoral farmland owners are supplementing their income through diversification – expanding horizons both the on farm, and in their careers.

If you have a field going fallow or buildings which aren’t turning a profit, why not follow in the footstep of some of these entrepreneurial farm owners…

 

  • Getting muddy

Charlie Moreton and his family found a new use for part of their Warwickshire farm in 2011 when, with wheat prices low, he suggested they put on a “wild running” event instead. Designed to test mental and physical strength, skill and stamina, their Wolf Run – a 10km run across natural terrain – features 24 obstacles including lakes, fallen trees and cargo nets, and has so far seen more than 100,000 people take part.

“As a family, we’d always been sports-mad, so the suggestion made sense to explore,” says Charlie. “Rather than just a picturesque run round parkland, I wanted to offer something more extreme.”

 

The event fosters a festival atmosphere with its own DJ, and an Alpha Award is presented to anyone who completes all 4 events in a year. Social media was key to advertising the endeavour, whilst collectible participant T-shirts also spread awareness. “At most events, you’d get a cheap T-shirt that would shrink in the wash and you’d only wear once. I had “technical” ones made and this was and is a big cost, but it’s what runners want and far better than any advertising,” Charlie says.

 

  • A spare room with a difference

Cashing in on the rise of the stay-cation, some farms are converting empty barns into holiday homes or building cottages, chalets and other self-catering accommodation in a bid to attract ramblers and rural holidaymakers. After all, developers are often interested in buying up land so why not take up the mantel yourself and support your local economy in the process?

 

In the small rural town of Dolgellau, north-west Wales, couple Richard and Laura Ellis used local expertise and materials to convert a dilapidated stone cowshed on their 100-acre LFA farm into an impressive holiday home, which won the 2016 Royal Welsh Agricultural Society’s Peniarth Estate Silver Trowel award for the best new farm building.

 

“In winter it can be quite harsh here. We’re only a few miles from the coast, which funnels the wind across the farm, so we’d need a new barn to over-winter any cattle,” says Richard, explaining that the farm is in a Site of Special Scientific Interest and so opportunities to invest were limited. “As a result, converting the old cow shed was our only option to earn extra income.”

 

  • Brewing up business

Sussex farmer Duncan Ellis found a boozy use for his empty dairy buildings after “chatting to a chap at a village party to celebrate the wedding of William and Kate” who “suggested I turn my malting barley into beer” – a chap who turned out to be the commercial director of a local drinks distributor.

 

Farming combinable crops with beef and sheep near the Long Man of Wilmington, Duncan uses his own malts to brew the now-established brand Long Man beer from plough to pint, with about 20% of Church Farm’s Propino spring malting barley going into the beers.

 

Head brewer Jamie Simm says of the self-sustained process: “Not only does it offer a level of control which only a handful of other brewers have, but it is also environmentally sustainable.” Whether brewing beer, distilling whiskey or something else altogether has always been your dream, why not put that empty building to use?

Bear in mind that changes in the use of your land, new equipment and endeavours, or putting on events will all require a refresh of your insurance cover. Talk to the experts at InsureEasy about what you will and won’t need. 01737377250

DIVERSIFICATION: FARMING’S NEW FRONTIER?

ALL WORK AND NO PAY: VOLUNTEERING LAW

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If your organisation or charity benefits from the assistance of volunteers, you’ll know how gratefully received their help can be. Giving up their time and effort to work for you, volunteers can gain experience and personal gratification – but without pay, they are not classed as employees.

Badly worded volunteer agreements can inadvertently act as employment contracts, turning your volunteer into a worker – which would give them entitlements such as minimum wage, paid holiday, sick pay, maternity leave and protection from unlawful discrimination. The denial of these rights could then land you in an employment tribunal, or even court.

What does your business need to do to avoid unwittingly breaking employment law and regulations?

  1. The main difference between an employee and worker is a contract of employment. A contract doesn’t have to be written down in order to exist – it simply needs ‘consideration’ (exchanging something of material value, e.g. work and salary), and ‘intention’ (that both parties intend to enter into a legally binding contract). To sum up, if it looks and feels like a binding agreement then it would probably be treated as one by the courts – something to be avoided if you want your arrangement to remain voluntary.

 

  1. However, you can put a volunteer agreement in place – a document which sets out the relationship between both parties and acts as a reference point for the standards which should be met in all dealings – but this is not mandatory. Words are powerful, so watch out – make sure you call it a ‘volunteer agreement’ rather than ‘contract’, use terminology like ‘volunteer role description’ in place of ‘job description’, and say ‘reimbursement’ rather than ‘payment’.

 

  1. Avoid workplace procedures such as holiday booking forms and absence procedures, as these ring true of a paid employee. Keep the basis of your arrangement voluntary and casual.

 

  1. Depending on the nature of your organisation, training can be important for volunteers. You can provide or organise the training, but ensure that it is relevant to the volunteer’s role and is open to all volunteers who might do the same work – otherwise it could be considered a ‘benefit in kind’, or perk of employment.

 

  1. Whilst volunteers are not employed by you, by carrying out activities on your behalf or being present on your property as volunteers makes them a little different to the general public, too. Having the right liability insurance in place can protect both you and your volunteers in the event of any incident which occurs in the line of volunteering. Talk to us today about arranging dedicated charity insurance and other covers which could benefit your organisation.
ALL WORK AND NO PAY: VOLUNTEERING LAW

COST OF RENT IN UK EXPECTED TO RISE FASTER THAN HOUSE PRICES.

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The price of renting in the UK is expected to rise at a faster rate than house prices over the next five years, says a new survey by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS). Rents are predicted to increase by just over 25%, whilst property values will rise by less than 20%.

It will come as no surprise to seasoned tenants that demand for rental properties remains high, with the number of 25-to-34-year-olds who privately rent a property more than doubling between 2003-4 and 2014-15.

However the recent increase in stamp duty, and other tax changes which could discourage buy-to-let landlords, is expected to result in property-owners scaling back their rental portfolios over the next 12 months – RICS reports a lack of new listings for the fourth quarter in a row – leaving renters with limited choice and a competitive market, further driving up rental prices.

Jeremy Blackburn, head of UK policy at RICS, said: “We need to stop punitive measures against our bedrock small landlords. The detail on the ban on letting agent fees is yet to come, and along with any overt forcing of longer tenancies, [it] could dampen investment in buy to let overall.”

This new study is likely to be received with an air of despondency from ‘Generation Rent’, as buying a house becomes a far-fetched dream for more and more people. It comes as the Government admits home ownership is a “distant dream” for young families, and publishes a white paper entitled “Fixing our broken housing market”.

Communities Secretary Sajid Javid told the House of Commons that low rates of house building, relative to the growing population, have pushed up prices. He said house building figures need to rise to 225,000 to 275,000 properties a year compared with 190,000 in 2016.

COST OF RENT IN UK EXPECTED TO RISE FASTER THAN HOUSE PRICES.

COURT RULES FREELANCE PLUMBER DESERVES WORKER’S RIGHTS

Gary Smith, a freelance plumber from Kent, first started work for London-based firm Pimlico Plumbers in 2005 and worked for them for 6 years. Despite his self-employed VAT registration, tax payments, and providing his own tools, the Court of Appeal has ruled that he was deserving of full ‘worker’ status and as such should have been afforded basic statutory rights.

After suffering a heart attack in 2010, Mr Smith wanted to cut his five-day week down to three – the company refused and reclaimed his branded van, and he claims he was dismissed.

Rather than defining Mr Smith’s status as a self-employed contractor, the court ruled that he should have been treated as a ‘worker’ for the company, citing the expectation that he would do the work personally and his lack of right to send a substitute as defining factors in deciding his status.

Mr Smith’s solicitor, Jacqueline McGuigan, said her client was “tightly controlled” by Pimlico Plumbers during his time there, and unable to work for anyone else. Worker status entitles Mr Smith to paid holiday rights, and the right to bring a claim for disability discrimination.

 

Will the ruling impact future cases?
The verdict is the latest in a series of legal decisions which have sided with employees in a flexible workforce. With the ‘gig economy’ fast becoming the business model of choice – think Deliveroo riders, Uber drivers and other companies which hire workers on a self-employed basis and afford them very few rights – the decision could be an important one.

Stuart Neilson, partner at law firm Pinsent Masons, described the “clear trend emerging that businesses that set themselves up to provide services or goods and make use of casual workers are likely to have an uphill battle to persuade tribunals that such individuals are not workers”.

As such, it is likely to give hope to employees hired as freelancers who feel that they deserve more rights than they have been afforded.

However the Court added a note of caution, warning employment lawyers against trying to generalise the ruling.

“Although employment lawyers will inevitably be interested in this case – the question of when a relationship is genuinely casual being a very live one at present – they should be careful about trying to draw any very general conclusions from it,” said Lord Justice Underhill.

The Government has commissioned four experts to look into the issue of worker’s rights in the ‘gig economy’, addressing job security, pension, holiday and parental leave rights amongst other concerns.

Do you hire freelancers or contracted employees? If one of your workers was to take you to court, you could be forced to pay legal costs out of your own pocket – unless you have the right insurance in place. Protect your business interests with dedicated commercial insurance – talk to InsureEasy for more information. 01737377250radiator

COURT RULES FREELANCE PLUMBER DESERVES WORKER’S RIGHTS