Monthly Archives: March 2019

Parental Bereavement (Leave and Pay) Act

In April 2020 the government is to introduce parental bereavement leave which will allow the parent, carer, foster parent, adopter or guardian of a deceased child under the age of 18 to be given two weeks paid bereavement leave. The parent of a baby having been stillborn up to 24 weeks will also be able to benefit from this paid leave under the Parental Bereavement (Leave and Pay) Act. This is the most generous entitlement to bereavement leave in the world.

Employees will receive a statutory payment which employers can claim back. Leave can be taken in one block or two depending on an employee’s requirement in the 56 week window following the death. Prior notice need not be given. There would not be a need to provide a copy of the death certificate to the employer.

In advance of the law being implemented employers need to draft a policy so that employees know what is available in their workplace should such a tragedy occur. Employers may adhere to the statutory minimum, but may of course enhance the entitlement.

Pet Death and the Workplace

I was recently contacted by BBC Radio Northampton to see if I would speak on the radio about what happens when an employee’s pet has died. Whilst most employers have a policy in place for compassionate and bereavement leave for a family member, there is rarely a policy in place that tackles the issue of pet death.

The British are well known for being animal lovers. More and more dogs can be brought to work with the permission of the boss – it saves on doggie day care or the risk of damage at home caused by separation anxiety and can dramatically improve morale having their companion at their side all day. It is a well known fact that having a dog around for example can lift people’s spirits and relieve stress. Pets can be integral to our lives.

For many people their animals mean the world to them when they are alive and when death occurs it can be like losing a member of the family with all the heartache and grief which that brings.

To some employees the idea of having time off for a pet death might not seem important, but other may want to take some time out. It can be a tough time for some with feelings of loneliness, guilt, isolation and depression impacting on mental and physical health. Work can suffer and it might be difficult to concentrate. Colleagues need to be seen to be supportive even if some can’t understand emotions they might be witnessing. We are all different in how we cope with things.

There is no right to time off for the death of a family member let alone a pet death but having some empathy can go a long way to increasing morale. I once worked for an employer who allowed a senior manager to have a few days off with pay to mourn the death of a dog. A forward thinking employer might decide it would be a good idea to draw up a pet death policy to make it clear to staff what to expect and where they stand. Having a policy in place shows an employer cares. The policy should include how many days bereavement leave is allowed and what pets might be covered. Losing a dog or cat that may have been with the family for many years may be quite different to losing a pet goldfish. The policy should include details about what pay may be received.

Details of where employees could get help with their grief could be included. Currently Blue Cross offer a pet bereavement service with a daily twelve hour helpline. The Cats Protection Society offer Paws to Listen as they recognise impact of a cat death is often underestimated. The Friends at the End service is provided by the British Horse Society. They all offer pet-focused counselling type helplines allowing a grieving pet owner to talk about their loss with someone who understands. Alternatively a company may have an employee assistance programme available for employees to access.

When the employee returns to work it might be good to encourage them to talk about their loss before moving onto what they have missed whilst being away.

For more about pets at work read my blog

IR35 – Contractor Tax Rules

IR35 is designed to assess if a contractor is self employed or really an employee trying to hide from paying the full appropriate amount of tax owed. Legislation for IR35 was introduced in April 2000 to prevent tax avoidance. Many people seem to think it is very complicated but there a few basic rules to stick to that may avoid problems, however, there is no guarantee with HMRC. Any contractor subject to a tax investigation may face months of intrusion whilst their accounts paperwork is sifted through and examined.

The principles of IR35 that determine if you are a genuine contractor or a “hidden” employee are based on control, substitution and mutuality of obligation.

Control means just that. If the company taking on the contractor dictates quite clearly how the contractor must work in terms of hours, duties, venue, etc then it the contractor could be deemed to be an employee. If there is flexibility for the contractor to work as they please using their own equipment then they may be able to show they are not an employee and outside of IR35.

Substitution also means just that. If the contractor has the ability to substitute another contractor in their place at any time then IR35 may apply to the working relationship.

Mutuality of obligation means that although the company may offer work the contractor has the ability to turn it down. The company also does not have to offer any work. With such a relationship IR35 may not apply.

A contractor working outside of IR35 will take the financial risk of not getting paid. They should be invoicing the company and dealing with their own tax and national insurance. They should be able to work for any number of companies and not working exclusively for just one company.

With any working relationship it is important to have an agreement in place that includes the above clauses.

In April 2017 the public sector was expected to identify which contractors in their employer were inside or outside of IR35 and issue the appropriate documentation ie an employment contract or a sub contractor agreement. The onus was on the public sector bodies to do this and ensure the tax set up was correct. Many public sector bodies will only accept contractors working through an umbrella company who take care of the tax obligations. Umbrella companies and agencies providing contractors to public bodies could also be liable if IR35 is not managed correctly.

In April 2020 this obligation will be introduced for the private sector.

For a contractor it may be about risk assessment. Whilst the onus is on employers to get this right sometimes things can go wrong so it’s important for a contractor to take responsibility for their own tax affairs, as always, and aim to get this right. Contractors that get it wrong could end up paying the tax owed plus penalties and interest.