Small Business Conference for business owners and managers

Are you a business owner or manager? Need advice and support to grow your business?

Nicholsons Chartered Accountants invite you to attend their Small Business Conference on Thursday 8th March 2018 at Lincoln Drill Hall – 8am – 12noon.

The Conference is aimed at business owners and managers and begins with a networking breakfast, giving you an opportunity to visit stands and discuss business matters with likeminded people. Seats will be taken as the expert speakers take to the stage to talk about the challenges that small businesses face today. Nicholsons has also secured a keynote speaker from small business software technology company XERO who will be discussing “frictionless finance”.

Other topics covered will include;

Getting the Legals right – Employment issues – Staying safe online – Marketing challenges – Health and wellbeing – Latest technology and more.

Alongside the conference there will be an area for trade stands where delegates will be able to go and talk to the experts, who in return, will be able to offer further support and advice on a range of business matters.

XERO, Wilkin Chapman,  F1 Group,  Firecracker,  Barclays,  Knapton Wright,  DBS Internet Marketing,  Lincolnshire Chamber of Commerce,  Lagat Training,  Thompson & Richardson,  Federation of Small Businesses.

Don’t miss this opportunity book your place today by emailing or go to Eventbrite.

Thinking about the unthinkable

Every year millions of people are hurt financially by unforeseen health issues, demonstrating the importance of having protection in place.

There are not only emotional, but financial consequences from unexpected ill health, such as receiving a cancer diagnosis or a death within the family. And it’s a more common occurrence than you might expect. August 2017 research from Aviva* found nearly one in three of us have experienced long-term leave from work due to significant health reasons, of these people, 77% have seen their finances suffer consequently. The effects can be severe. Nearly a third saw their income drop by a quarter. On average, having to dip into savings and investments ate up 40% of people’s overall provisions. One in six had to take the more drastic step of downsizing their home or – in extreme cases – became homeless. Nearly two million people don’t think they’ll ever financially recover. No one ever knows what’s around the corner, and ill health can happen to anyone. But at what would already be an emotional time, experiencing financial concerns would only increase the stress and anxiety. That’s why it’s so important to have plans in place for the unexpected – and to keep making sure those provisions reflect any changes in your family’s circumstances.

Protect your future

The most obvious place to start is to have some form of protection in place. Income protection, for example, is a type of insurance that kicks in should your main source of income unexpectedly stop. If you were to have to take long-term leave due to illness or an accident – or even if you were made redundant – you’ll have a back-up source of income to cover your lifestyle. For many people, repaying a mortgage is the biggest monthly outgoing – and certainly the longest-lasting commitment. By arranging to have mortgage protection, your repayments can be covered, for a period, if something unexpected happens. This can give you time and breathing space in difficult circumstances, and reduce the risk of losing your home.

Emergency funds

In terms of your savings and investments, every financial adviser will highlight the importance of having emergency funds in place for unexpected events. It reduces the need to dip into your investments, which have been positioned for the long-term and might not be as accessible. With your pension, for example, there could be unintentional consequences should you unexpectedly have to access it to cover an income shortfall. It could trigger a large tax bill, and reduce how much money you have to fund retirement.  Other types of insurance can also help you. For example, life insurance will support your family if you were to pass away by paying out a lump sum.

Speak to an expert

As part of any considered financial strategy, it pays to look at all eventualities and to plan for the unthinkable. A financial adviser will be able to help you develop your finances, putting in place protection arrangements and ensuring you have emergency funds. With their advice, any bumps on the road don’t have to adversely derail you and your family’s financial future.


The value of your investment can go down as well as up and you may not get back the full amount invested. Levels and bases of and reliefs from taxation are subject to change and their value depends on the individual circumstances of the investor. The Financial Conduct Authority does not regulate Taxation and Trust advice

Changes to Annual Returns for charities

There have been some changes to the charity annual return which came into effect on the 1st January 2018. These are in response to the consultation in the latter part of 2017 and will come into force for those charities with financial years starting from 1 January 2018.

The annual return has historically been used to collect changes to the registered data of the charity. Going forward this will be done through an online system so changes can be made as and when they happen, thus leaving the return for more financial and regulatory information.

An additional requirement will be in relation to income from outside the UK. It is appreciated that this may well require charities to change how they collect and collate their data, therefore this information will be voluntary initially, and only become mandatory in 2019, thus allowing charities to adapt their systems accordingly.   There are various requirements depending on the size of the entity so it is worth checking on how the requirements will relate to your charity to ensure that you can capture the correct information.

Following on from the increased disclosure requirements in accounts around remuneration, there are not surprisingly, new questions around remuneration which cover all salary, benefits, pensions etc, along with details of the highest paid employee, although this latter information will not be made public.

One area which had been proposed was for gift aid information to be collected through this return. This has now been dropped with discussions instead taking place with HMRC to look at gathering the information directly.

If you would like to discuss how the changes to the new annual return will impact on your charity please contact Emma Murray on 01522 815100 or email

Lincoln City – the story continues

LCFC…the story continues

In true spirit, team Nicholsons has continued to support Lincoln City at home and away. The away games have included Notts County, Crewe and Cheltenham, to name just a few.

October started brightly for the Imps with a 2-1 win over Chesterfield; Lincoln having 80 minutes of control before a “soft” penalty left them with 10 minutes of holding on until the whistle. Lincoln City’s achievements are still bringing the fans together and another bumper crowd of 9,485 at the Chesterfield game saw Lincoln City top the average attendance table for the season in League 2. Following two dour league 0-0 draws against Cambridge and Crawley, an excellent 1-0 win at Swindon, from a Sean Raggett header, gave the team a much needed boost, however, a 1-0 loss at Cheltenham then brought disappointment on a very windy day.

The team made progress through the group stage of the much maligned Checkatrade trophy, by beating multi-million pound assembled Everton under 21’s and Notts County. An entertaining 3-2 win over Accrington Stanley has set the team up for a tough away trip to Rochdale in the new year in the last 16 of the competition. Lincoln are now the only league 2 club left in the northern section of the draw. Unfortunately, the FA Cup heroics of last season were not to be repeated this year. Despite a good performance at League 1 Wimbledon, the Imps ended up 1-0 down.

The mixed league form in November continued with an excellent 4-1 win at Crewe. This was followed by a 2-1 loss at home to Coventry in what was probably the best atmosphere of the season at Sincil Bank, and then a 1-0 loss away at Colchester.

The atmosphere around the club is buzzing once again as three successive league wins in December have propelled the Imps into the play-off zone. With Matt Green back amongst the goals and fan favourite Matt Rhead extending his stay at Sincil Bank until summer 2019, the new year can be looked forward to with real enthusiasm by players and supporters alike.


What are the issues of redundancy after a period of absence

I read an article recently concerning the case of Charlesworth v Dransfields Engineering Service Limited (2017) UKEAT/0197/16/JOJ.

The case relates to a redundancy situation back in 2014 but the appeal was not heard by the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) until January 2017. The situation is one that we have frequently given advice on; an employee was absent from work for some time, and this absence allowed the respondent to identify the possibility of restructuring the business in a way that deleted the absent employee’s post from the business and therefore saved costs (something like £40,000 in this case).

The employee (Charlesworth) who made the claim was employed by the respondent (Dransfields Engineering Service Limited) as a Branch Manager. Importantly the business was not achieving any level of profitability. The claimant developed renal cancer and was absent for two months due to having an operation. As you will be aware from previous Broadcasts the condition of cancer is automatically a protected characteristic in terms of disability.

After the period of illness the employee returned to work fit and was able to fulfil his role, however the employer, having undertaken a review, commenced consultation over the proposal for redundancy for the Branch Manager and unfortunately he was eventually dismissed on the ground of redundancy.

The case went to an Employment Tribunal (ET), at which the claimant argued that this was a sham redundancy in that there was no redundancy situation, and that the real reason for the dismissal was because of the disability. This claim was rejected by the ET. The ET found that the possibility of a restructuring that would enable cost savings to be made became apparent as a result of the claimant’s absence. However, the ET concluded that the claimant’s absence resulting from his disability was not an operative cause of his dismissal for redundancy.

The claimant appealed his case to the EAT on the basis that the original ET had failed to apply the correct causation test when dealing with Equality Act 2010 s.15. It was submitted that a cause or influence (however significant) is sufficient to constitute or to fulfil that requirement that it is “because of something arising in consequence of the disability“. It was argued that any cause, even if it does not operate on the mind of the putative discriminator and is therefore not an effective cause, is sufficient to satisfy section 15.

The EAT held that the causation requirement in Equality Act 2010 s.15 involved a two-stage approach.

  1. There must be something arising in consequence of the disability;
  2. The unfavourable treatment must be because of that something.

The question raised by the appeal was whether something less than an operative cause or influence is sufficient to satisfy the requirement that the unfavourable treatment is because of the relevant something. To the extent that it was being argued that a mere influence is sufficient, such an argument was not accepted by the EAT. The statute requires the unfavourable treatment to be because of something; nothing less will do. Provided the something is an effective cause (though it need not be the sole or the main cause of the unfavourable treatment), the causal test is established.

In this case, the ET had expressly accepted that in considering an Equality Act 2010 s.15 complaint it is not necessary for the claimant’s disability to be the cause of the respondent’s action, and that a cause need not be the only or main cause provided it is an effective cause. The EAT stated that there was no error of law in the ET’s approach.

The ET was entitled to ask whether the claimant’s absence, which it accepted arose in consequence of his disability, was an effective cause of the decision to dismiss him. To put that question another way, as the tribunal did, was the claimant’s sick leave one of the effective causes of his dismissal?

The ET accepted that there was a link between the claimant’s absence through illness and the fact that he was dismissed, the link being that his absence afforded the respondent an opportunity to observe that it could manage without anybody fulfilling the claimant’s role as Branch Manager. Nevertheless, the ET said that was not the same as saying that the claimant was dismissed because of his absence. This was a case where, on the facts found by this tribunal, it felt able to draw a distinction between the context within which the events occurred and those matters that were causative.

It is worth noting that the EAT commented that there will doubtless be many cases where an absence is the cause of a conclusion that the employer is able to manage without a particular employee and in those circumstances is likely to be an effective cause of a decision to dismiss even if not the main cause. This, however, does not detract from the possibility in a particular case or on particular facts, that absence is merely part of the context and not an effective cause.

If you have any employee concerns and would like to speak to me please contact the office on 01522 81 5100 and they will be able to direct you.

Are you prepared for a Brexit storm?

A day doesn’t go past now without a news item about Brexit and with major talks scheduled for December it’s all very tense. The magnitude of work required to leave the EU seems to be hitting home. Talking to colleagues there is a feeling that it will work itself out. It has to, doesn’t it?

There are likely to be many more twists and turns and a deal will probably be done, but on what terms? As a business owner this uncertain future doesn’t help when you are trying to plan, especially when it’s combined with a fragile UK economy and unstable political environment.

There has been a lot of talk about the tariffs that may come into play if there is a hard Brexit, aka “no deal”. Tariffs are a protectionist measure countries adopt to enhance the competitiveness of industries in their economies. They work by applying what is effectively a mark up on goods entering the country thus making them more expensive compared to home made products.

Under World Trade Organisation rules, which the UK has signed up to, tariffs are not allowed to put at a disadvantage or advantage one country against another. So for example the UK government could not hit back at France for forcing a hard Brexit by applying a 70% tariff on cheese. Instead the tariff that applies to the “most favoured nation” i.e. the lowest must apply to all others. This is known as the MFN rate.

With the MFN weighted average of the EU in 2013 being around 2.3% you might argue that the benefit of being in the single market was reducing. But that’s not the whole story as the MFN tariff varies quite a lot on different products. On cars for example it’s around 10%. If the UK matched this rate on Brexit then cars imported from Europe would cost around 10% more on 1 April than 31 March 2019.

One other issue we need to be aware of is the reverse. Exporters whose goods are currently flowing into Europe tariff free may see the effective price of their goods rise if tariffs are added and therefore their competitiveness reduce against their EU competitors.

I guess that the silver lining is that it won’t come to this BUT what happens if it does? What impact will it have on your profits? How prepared are you?

As I was writing this, this Facebook advert popped up on my feed re-enforcing my view that we need to start planning now.

However, whilst planning might be difficult one thing you can do in preparation is research. Many of my clients have supply chains that stretch into Europe. Some buy directly from companies in France, Spain and Italy et al. others from companies in the UK who buy from Europe. Do you know where the goods you buy come from and what would you need to do if there were a 2.5%, 5.0% or 10% increase in prices because of the application of a tariff? Can you source goods from UK producers? Does your business model need to change? These are all questions I think you should have the answers to just in case.

Slips, trips & falls

In 2002 20.2% of all reportable injuries were as a result of slips, trips and falls; this is second only to Manual Handling injuries which were at 36.9%. By 2010 this number has increased to 37%, with 28% of all fatalities in the workplace being as a result of slips, trips and falls. By 2012 slips, trips and falls accounted for 53% of all major reported injuries.

Regretfully, the Co-op has been heavily fined following an accident in which a customer was killed in a slipping accident. In July 2015 74-year-old Stanley May visited the Truro branch of the Co-op. In the chilled food aisle there was a wet area of flooring where water had been leaking from a faulty sandwich chiller. Mr May slipped over, striking his head. He died two days later in hospital.

We all know that it is not uncommon to see a slippery floor in a supermarket; this can be for a number of reasons; cleaning activities, dropped fruit, product spillages or leaking equipment. In my experience supermarkets, in general, act very quickly in dealing with any spillages and will have a supply of mops and buckets, wet floor signs, matting, etc. at the ready. However, in this case in Truro the chiller had been leaking for 44 hours prior to the accident but customers had been allowed unrestricted access to the area.

Management had initially taken the correct approach by attempting to stop the leak at source. Engineers had been called in when the machine broke down, but it had continued to leak. Staff had also put up a wet floor sign. However, the prosecution explained that the wet area of flooring extended beyond the sign so this appears not to have been adequate as a means of risk control.

Any risk assessment should examine the hazards associated with those at risk; visitors, young people, employees, etc. and in any public place, like a supermarket then the risk assessment should be extended to consider the elderly, disabled, people pushing prams, etc.

In this particular case the supermarket should have done more and the Co-op pleaded guilty to a charge of failing to protect members of the public, under section 3 of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974. It was fined £400,000 and ordered to pay prosecution costs of £50,000.

As the statistics above show, slips and trips are the single most common cause of major injury accidents in UK workplaces, therefore wet floors need to be treated seriously and with urgency.

There is a logical order in which to control and then eliminate the hazard.

  1. Fixing the leak
  2. Removing the source
  3. Contain the liquid in a tray
  4. If the wet floor cannot be avoided, or if there will be a delay in making the area safe, staff should follow pre-determined procedures.
  5. Following the clean-up, the floor should be left as dry as possible and then a wet floor sign displayed.

If you would like more advice on employee or health & safety issues please contact Andrew Tomlinson on 01522 815100.

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