HR Apprentice joins accountancy team

The HR department at Nicholsons Chartered Accountants is pleased to welcome Hannah Walker to their team.  Hannah has recently taken on a new position as a HR Apprentice and will support Laura Reilly, head of the department.

Hannah is looking forward to her career in HR as she will be learning from the very beginning.  This will undoubtedly be hugely beneficial and give her a foundation to build upon.  Hannah’s first project has been to help employees through redundancy and has produced a presentation – Redundancy

Her previous roles have included teaching Spanish and working within the educational recruitment sector.

In her spare time Hannah loves to go hiking, do lindi hop and cook for her family and friends. Hannah also loves to travel and is looking forward to the time when travelling safely can resume.

If you would like more information about the work Hannah is doing on redundancy please call 01522 815100 or email


Latest Coronavirus Update

Following the latest announcement from Boris Johnson, we have summarised below the main points:

The number of Covid-19 cases has increased since some lockdown restrictions were lifted. Consequently, the government have put in place new measures in order to decrease the number of cases and work towards going back to how we were pre-Covid-19. These are the recent updates:

Hospitality/Retail industries: Customers are now required to wear face coverings in all shops and in restaurants unless seated at a table. Furthermore, all hospitality and retail staff are required to wear face coverings while working.

Fines: First offence fines for not wearing a face covering will be doubled to £200, individuals will also be fined the same amount for breaking the rule of six. Those who fail to self-isolate could face a fine of £10000.

Restaurants, bars and pubs: All restaurants, bars and pubs must now close by 10pm and only table service can be available. This rule will be in place from 24 September. Failure to adhere to the rules will incur fines for businesses.

Working from home: The advice has reverted back to: work from home if you are able. If your job cannot be done from home, you can still go to work.

These new restrictions are likely to be in place for the next six months. The legal obligations for individuals and business will be outlined further in the near future.

Don’t drop the Brexit Ball

The Home Office has shown a 700% increase in one month in people being refused settled or pre-settled status (source: the Independent). This consisted of a jump from 200 refusals in May, to 1,400 in June. Should you be worried about this?

COVID Impact

We know that COVID is causing delays in many things, and this is no exception, the application process will be delayed and nobody knows how long this will go on for. Therefore, employees should be encouraged to apply as soon as possible.

The Process

Relevant employees can apply using any device such as a smartphone, or a laptop. They will also need a proof of their identity and residence in the UK, unless they have a valid permanent residence document. The documents can either be scanned in using the app, or posted in. If the employee is likely to need their documents quickly then this can cause delays with the COVID situation. To be eligible for settled status, employees usually need to have lived in the UK, Channel Islands or Isle of Man for at least 6 months in any 12-month period, or 5 years in a row, and be able to provide proof. Employees will need to apply a second time when changing their pre-settled status to settled status.

Other Considerations

The scheme application deadline is the 31st of June 2021. Although this date seems far away, it will soon come around and if you continue to apply employees who require the approval and don’t have it, then this is a breach of immigration law. Worst case scenario, you’ll need to dismiss them for illegality, but do take advice before embarking on this route.

The link for applications can be accessed here:

Mental-Health Post Lockdown

Mental health is concerned with the way we think and feel, and how resilient we are to the stresses that life can bring. For many of us, coming out of lockdown has been a relief – we are able to see friends, play sports and return to work. But for some of us, these changes can be difficult for our mental health. Good mental health gives us an identify, a sense of purpose and the energy to live our lives in the way we want. It is estimated that over 6,000 people a year commit suicide; often no-one sees it coming.

What does this mean for employers?

According to ACAS; “a new poll reveals nearly 2 out of 5 employees say they feel stressed working from home.” Further, their research indicates that mental illness is the largest single cause of disability in the UK. Taking a sensible but supportive approach is key as often an issue can build up over time, or it can be sudden one-off event. Having managers that are able to spot changes – whether this be subtle or blatant is important in seeking the right advice at the right time. Employers have a legal “duty of care” which means they must all they reasonably can to support their employee’s health, safety and wellbeing.

How can employers support their employees?

Taking a proactive approach such as regular risk assessments, encouraging people to speak up if they need help (even if you can’t provide that help – you can signpost them somewhere that can) and to take responsibility for their own wellbeing can really help to reduce absence and improve the overall health of your employees. Teach your managers how to have conversations with employees through mental health training and awareness workshops.

Diary Dates

1st October 2020

Changes to the furlough scheme – the government will pay 60% of wages up to a cap of £1,875 for the hours an employee is on furlough and employers will pay employer National Insurance Contributions and pension contributions for the hours the employee is on furlough. In addition to this, employers will need to contribute 20% to furlough pay for employees. Employees cannot be asked to accept 60% on the furlough scheme.

10th October 2020

World Mental Health Day; supporting good mental health in the workplace.

12th October – 16th October 2020

National Work Life Week; celebrating wellbeing and work life balance for all.

Case in focus

Lee vs Splunk Services UK Ltd

The Employment Appeal Tribunal (binding on other Employment Tribunals) has held that a Sales Executive had been discriminated against at her workplace in what she described as an ‘old boys’ network.’

What happened?

Ms Lee worked for Splunk since 2013. She was promoted a year later and was earning substantially more by 2018. There were a number of positive indications that she was doing well in her role, not least landing two significant deals with two clients. After this time, she was granted a six-month period of unpaid leave to “recharge” as a goodwill gesture, and her role would be there for when she returned. During her leave, her role was being carried out by a male employee, and her clients had been handed over to the male employee, who was also earning a higher basic salary.

The Hearings

The employment tribunal found in favour of Ms Lee, finding that she had been unfairly constructively dismissed and that her less favourable treatment was because of her sex. They noted great concern regarding email communications, and the way these had been constructed in order to avoid having to disclose data under a subject access request. She was also successful in her equal pay claim. The remedy hearing will follow shortly.

Takeaway points

  • Don’t try to anonymise data to escape data protection liabilities, if it is obvious who the email is about then this is sufficient for it to be disclosable.
  • Ensure you are pay benchmarking and can justify whether there is a material difference between roles, in order to explain pay differences between men and women.
  • Be as open as you can be with employees – the employer in this case should have looked into the grievance more carefully.

Ask the Experts

Question: If I have provided employees with a company mobile to contact clients whilst home working during the pandemic, do we need to report personal use as a benefit in kind as they were allowed to make some personal calls?

Answer: Within the tax system, it is possible for an employee to benefit from an employer-provided mobile phone without suffering a tax change for a benefit-in-kind if certain conditions are met. The ownership must not be transferred to the employee, as the exemption applies only if the employer makes a mobile phone available for use by the employee. The exemption covers the phone itself, line rental and the cost of any private calls made on the phone which are paid for by the employer. It also only extends to one phone per employee.

Question: Can employees who are home-working use their own device?

They can, and although this may be cheaper, there are several security risks.

  1. The device may have old software which can easily be hacked into
  2. The email system may not be secure.
  3. Family members may share the device and see sensitive information, which may be a conflict of interest.
  4. The employee may store/download data which needs to be deleted as per your retention policy.
  5. Employees may not dispose properly of the equipment when it runs its natural course.
  6. Malware could be introduced through making personal downloads.

If you do decide to take this course of action then ensure you draw up some ground rules – these could be part of your home working agreements. Ideally, this would cover allowing to remote access to retrieve/delete emails, or bringing the device to you for disposal.

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