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Recent high-profile company collapses, including Thomas Cook and Carillion, have far reaching consequences.

In the case of Thomas Cook, much talk has quite rightly been about ensuring holidaymakers are not left stranded overseas.

But what about the consequences for workers and retired workers’ pensions?

Unfortunately, there is no single easy answer. The consequences vary depending on if an employee is a part of a money purchase scheme or a salary related scheme.
A money purchase scheme (also known as a defined contribution pension scheme) is one where the contribution builds up a pot of money.

The money purchase scheme is the standard at most companies now but many older workers will be familiar with a salary related pension, where the pension is based on your final, or career average salary, together with factors such as length of service.

If an employee is part of a money purchase scheme, pension pots will only be affected if the employer has failed to pay their pre-agreed contributions which the liquidator will be looking to reimburse.

The benefits already built up in a money purchase benefit scheme are not affected by company liquidation. This is because it is your individual pot.

All pension contributions are put in an investment portfolio and pension levels are dependent on how well the fund performs, therefore, it is important to review your annual statement.
With a salary related scheme, there have been instances where the pension fund cannot meet its current and future liabilities. However, the Pension Protection Fund should give workers’ peace of mind.

The Pension Protection Fund was instigated in 2005 following cases where people had lost their pensions when companies had gone bust.

If a company goes into liquidation, the PPF says all workers should be assessed to determine eligibility to receive benefits from the fund.

Retired workers are deemed eligible for a full pension under the scheme with immediate affect but there are limits to the yearly amount that can be paid out. For those aged 60, this is capped at £31,439.18. For those aged 65, the limit is £36,401.19 (subject to increases in line with inflation).

The position is different for people who were still in work at the time of liquidation, as they are eligible for 90% of maximum benefits.

Before retirement, an annual forecast of compensation payments will be given and the PPF will contact workers six months ahead of retirement to tell them how to access a compensation pension.
There’s one more crucial point to consider; once the assessment phase begins about whether the scheme will be moved into the PPF, future beneficiaries must stay in their current pension scheme and not transfer any money over to a new one.

Please contact emily@jacobs-pensions.co.uk for further advice.

CEO, Charlie O’Dell, celebrates 10 years’ service for local bereavement and support charity the Dove Service – combined with plans for 35th Anniversary Charity Dinner

When Charlie O’Dell joined the Dove Service back in 2009, her only aim was to combine her background in business management with the counselling that she had been studying part-time, using her evenings and weekends. She had no expectations that a decade on from saying ‘yes’ to a project management job at the Dove Service (registered charity based in Hanley, S-O-T), that she would have enjoyed so many amazing years working for an organisation with such a huge heart, or that she would now have the honour of leading that organisation at the helm as CEO.

The Dove Service is still a relatively unknown organisation in the North West – perhaps because it is known for dealing with death – a taboo subject for many of us, until we experience it. Charlie comments “We often hear from our clients who say they had no idea we were here until they needed us, and maybe that is why the charity fails to gain the media attention or following, which other charities enjoy”. Which is why it may surprise many to know that the Dove Service have in fact been supporting the people of Staffordshire and the surrounding areas through their grief, for 35 years this year.

The Dove Service work with all aspects of grief, be that through bereavement (which is what we are more commonly associated with), but also the grief that comes from being diagnosed with a life-changing or perhaps life-limiting illness, and from any significant loss in life that causes those feelings of grief to surface. They are able to respond to community incidents that involve trauma and grief, offering services to support those who have witnessed or, were directly involved in events.

The breadth of what the Dove Service do has expanded and shrunk cyclically over the years, dependent upon the amount of funding they have been lucky enough to have accessed. Due to massive changes in the area, they are fully aware that any funding will be incredibly challenged in the next few years, so are working hard to find alternative sources of funding, as well as hoping that the people of Staffordshire and the surrounding areas will support their fundraising efforts to ensure their future.

For the last couple of years, unfortunately the demand on services at the Dove Service has far exceeded the amount of funding they have been lucky enough to have received. This has resulted in the charity having to spend more than they had to enable them to support the people who needed the service. This has meant that they now need to either find more funding, or reduce the services they offer going forward. Reducing their services is obviously not on the agenda, especially when demand for support is on the increase – so as Charlie says, “we’re just going to have to get better at shouting from the roof tops asking for help!”

Charlie comments “I can’t say it enough, and perhaps I don’t say it publicly enough, but I am so proud to work with the many different people at the Dove Service. Our members work so hard to ensure that we maintain a client-centred organisation, they really do put our clients at the forefront of everything they do, and always try to make sure that anyone who accesses the Dove Service gets the right help at the right time”.

She follows up by saying “I want to say “thank you’, to all of our staff, counsellors, volunteers, placement counsellors, and trustees for the care and compassion you show to the people we support. “Thank you” to everyone who have used the Dove Service over the last 35 years, benefitted from the services we offer, and who support us. We hope that we will be here for the next 35 years for those of you who might need us in the future!”

This year the Dove Service are proud to be celebrating 35 years of service – providing specialist counselling, training and support to people from the age of 4+ who have been affected by grief through bereavement, significant loss or life-changing illness since 1984.

To celebrate this milestone for the charity, they will be holding their 35th Anniversary Charity Dinner on Friday 29th November 2019 at Newcastle Golf Club – their biggest fundraising event of the year. Tickets are now on sale priced at £45 per person, which includes a 3 course meal, jazz/swing entertainment by local swing singer, Luke Gessner, charity auction and prize raffle (with 10% discount available for bookings of 10 people or more).

The evening is hoped to raise much needed funds which would enable the Dove Service to be able to continue providing their support to clients far and wide across Staffordshire and surrounding areas. If you would be interested in purchasing tickets for this Charity Dinner, contact them direct at their Head Office in Hanley.

Have you used the Dove Service in the last 35 years and would you like to share your story? Would you like to support the Dove Service to be here for the next 35 years? Or perhaps you are looking for support because you are struggling with your grief? Contact the Dove Service on 01782 683155 or email enquiries@thedoveservice.org.uk

More jobs are being created at business development sites with county council involvement and its skills programme is exceeding its target, a new report states.

An economic growth programme update details progress and achievements since it started in 2014 and in particular recent successes.

One site developed with county council investment – Innovation Centre 5 (IC5) at Keele Science and Innovation Park – is now fully occupied. When the business case was developed for IC5 it was estimated that 120 would be employed there when full. There are now 160 skilled employees on site.

The county council helps to deliver a £58million education and skills programme on behalf of the Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire Enterprise Partnership. The programme, which started in 2016, has seen nearly 20,000 learners benefitting – which is 113 per cent of the programme. Of these over 9,000 have progressed into work or training.

The total value of the county economic growth programme is around £477.6 million, which includes £81.9 million direct investment by the county council. For every £1 investment by the county council in current live projects, £9.22 additional funding is levered in. The 16 employment creating projects which have been completed since the start of the programme could create over 22,500 jobs when fully occupied.

Recent programme highlights include the start of development work at Liberty Park in Lichfield, relocation of aerial platform specialist Haulotte to Four Ashes Park in South Staffordshire and occupancy of the first unit at Meaford Business Park near Stone by metal pipe and hose manufacturer Arctrend.

At the Chatterley Valley West site in Newcastle a renewed application to develop the site has been approved while at i54 South Staffordshire work has begun on its western extension and Midlands company Morris Site Machinery has started work on a new facility on the current site.

Staffordshire County Council’s economic growth leader Mark Winnington said: “This programme update highlights its strength and successes and demonstrates that business wants to invest here and that our skills programme is making a real difference.

“It also shows how an effective partnership of organisations in both private and public sectors is vital in ensuring projects happen and achieve their aim.

“While this comes against the backdrop of near full employment in Staffordshire we will continue our focus on supporting growth in higher value sectors and creating better skilled, better paid jobs.”

The update will be presented to the county council’s Prosperous Staffordshire Select Committee next Thursday October 3.

The British Chambers of Commerce today publishes an evaluation of official UK Government guidance to businesses on critical operational issues in the event of an unwanted ‘no deal’ exit on 31st October.  

The leading business group has found that, at the time of publication, 31 of 36 business-critical areas are still marked amber or red, indicating that firms have incomplete or insufficient information available to plan thoroughly for a ‘no deal’ outcome. 

The BCC does not believe that the impact of a messy and disorderly exit can be fully mitigated. Some of the key questions facing businesses depend on negotiation or some level of coordination between the UK and the EU. However, wherever possible, businesses need government guidance that is visible, clear, complete, timely and actionable to address key risks and prepare as much as possible for all scenarios.

With just weeks until the October 31st deadline, of the 36 questions most frequently raised by companies, the leading business group’s assessment is that:

  • 5 are marked green – the top rating for available information based on our quality criteria;
  • 21 are amber – indicating that some information is available, but there are gaps and/or other quality issues still to be addressed;
  • 10 are red – indicating little or no concrete information is available to help businesses to plan.

While government has noticeably ramped up the volume of communication, advice and engagement around a possible ‘no deal’ scenario in recent weeks, significant improvements are still needed to the level of detail and specificity in order to assist business contingency planning. The BCC continues to meet with government to discuss business readiness and government has committed to work with the business group to address the issues raised in the evaluation. As new and improved information becomes publicly available, the dashboard will be updated.

On issues such as the UK successor to the EU Structural Funds, access to an official UK market access database on tariff levels, rules relating to staff transfers between the UK and EU, and cross-border trade between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, there is no clear information on which firms can base their future plans.

The research is not an assessment of the economic impact of a no-deal exit, or a judgement on the desirability of the policy change in each case. Instead, it is intended to evaluate whether official guidance is clear enough for business decision-making and forward planning. 

Dr Adam Marshall, Director General of the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), said:

“While the government has ramped up communication to businesses in recent weeks, there are still big gaps in the guidance available to help businesses to prepare for Brexit, with just weeks to go until October 31st.

“Our business communities don’t want to see a disorderly ‘no deal’ exit on October 31st, which would lead to an overnight change in trading conditions. The guidance, information and advice available to businesses is not specific enough to enable firms to plan for an abrupt change.

“Averting a messy and disorderly exit is still critical. Businesses across the UK want politicians on all sides to come together and find a way forward – fast.”

Over two-fifths (43%) of businesses have had employees absent from work for more than four weeks due to ill health in the last two years, according to new research by the British Chambers of Commerce and Unum.

The overriding impacts of staff absences are operational (88%) and on staff morale (76%) according to the results of the survey of over 1,000 businesses of all sizes and across all sectors. The business-to-consumer sector, which includes retail, catering, and hotels, was more likely to report impacts with 93% of firms reporting operational impacts and 85% affecting staff morale.

Respondents also reported financial (44%) and reputational (36%) impacts from staff absences.

Most businesses recognise the importance of supporting employee health and wellbeing, with 62% offering benefits such as access to wellbeing support, private medical insurance, occupational support services and healthy lifestyle benefits such as gym membership and cycle to work schemes.

The survey found that 41% of businesses believe that providing financial protection benefits, such as income protection insurance and critical illness cover, could or does help them to attract and retain employees. This rises to 52% for larger companies with more than 50 employees.

The results reflect the economic impacts of ill health in the workplace and the actions businesses are taking to promote and maximise staff wellbeing. The government is currently consulting on proposals to prevent health-related job loss, which will require businesses to take a more proactive role.

Businesses want staff to maintain good health and help them to return to work after a period of sickness. However, the process can be difficult and expensive for employers to manage. Employers would benefit from financial support and clearer guidance to help them invest in services that can support them to prevent and manage sickness absence.

Jane Gratton, Head of People Policy at the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), said:

“People are the most important asset of any business and a healthy and happy workforce lends itself to increased morale and productivity. Many firms already take proactive steps to support the physical and mental wellbeing of staff and, when they have the capacity and resources, will offer a range of information, services and benefits.

“Maintaining employees’ health and resilience is always the best option, but when people are absent though ill health it is in everyone’s best interests that they are supported back into work as quickly as possible. But managing sickness absenteeism can be difficult and expensive for businesses, especially smaller firms who don’t have access to specialist in-house HR services.

“Employers need access to good quality, affordable services to help them understand how to support their people in the best way, together with clear, up-to-date information and guidance on everyone’s rights and responsibilities. The BCC is calling for any additional statutory payment to be reimbursed or off-set in some way, to reflect the extent to which firms are already struggling with the cumulative cost of employment.”

Peter O’Donnell, Chief Executive Officer, Unum UK, said:

“Sickness absence has a major impact on businesses of all sizes and across all sectors and it’s vital that employers prioritise the health and wellbeing of their workforce.

“Coping with illness can be very hard for employees and their families and good employers want to both support their people as much as possible and manage the negative impact on their business.

“With the financial assistance and rehabilitation support they provide, GIP products are invaluable during a period of illness, but equally access to early clinical help whenever it’s needed is also very helpful and reassuring for both employers and employees.

“After reviewing some of the biggest problems for SMEs and their people, we found fast access to key medical services would bring very tangible benefits. As a result we recently launched help@hand to provide employees and their families with access to remote GPs, second opinions, physiotherapy and mental health support via an easy to use app. Not only can fast access to these services bring peace of mind to employees, early intervention can help reduce the risk of long-term sickness absence and lessen the operational and financial impact on companies.”

Bartec Engineering services have had a significant boost to their business after recently receiving valuable funding from the Michelin Development Fund.

Specialising in mechanical and electrical installation, Barry and Chris Hallam have clocked up over 70 years of combined experience between them. Boasting clients across a multitude of sectors including municipal water and waste companies, the food and beverage sector, construction and industrial sectors, Bartec are highly regarded within their industry.

The loan from the Michelin Development Fund has assisted Bartec to move into new premises and in turn has given the team the resource to secure larger and more prestigious contracts. Impressive new sub-contractor projects have included water recovery and treatment projects for Heathrow Airport Ltd, Thames Water, Southern Water and Severn Trent Water.

In addition, to enable the team to service the contracts, the workshop area has more than doubled and Bartec have also taken on a second unit adjacent to their existing premises to accommodate extra site and project staff.

Commenting on the funding, Barry and Chris Hallam said, “Michelin funding has been a welcome addition to our overall expansion plans, The Michelin team have a genuine understanding of the requirements of local small business we thank them for their continued support.”

To find out more about the services offered by Bartec Engineering, visit www.bartecuk.com

For more information and to find out if you could be eligible for the Michelin Development loan, please visit https://michelindevelopment.co.uk/

35th Anniversary Charity Dinner

This year the Dove Service are proud to be celebrating 35 years of service, providing specialist counselling, training and support to people from the age of 4+ who have been affected by grief through bereavement, significant loss or life-changing illness since 1984.

We would love to extend an invitation to celebrate with us at our biggest fundraiser event of the year…our 35th Anniversary Charity Dinner. Come and join us at Newcastle Golf Club on Friday 29th November 2019 (7pm to Midnight).

Cost per ticket is £45.00 per person and includes drink on arrival, 3 course meal, live jazz/swing entertainment by Luke Gessner, followed by our Charity Auction and Prize Raffle.

Why not celebrate your works’ Christmas party with us and support the Dove Service charity – 10% discount available on tables booked for 10 or more.

Contact us on 01782 683155 or email trainingandevents@thedoveservice.org.uk for more information.

Burslem based fire door specialists Washington and Riley have sprung into action to support Stoke-on-Trent’s Furniture Mine after thieves caused £2,000 damage during a break in.

Thieves sawed their way through a fire door after breaking into the charity store in Cannon Place, Hanley. Run by Emmaus North Staffs, the Furniture Mine helps families in need of support to obtain second hand furniture, provides house clearances and operates a shop.

Jason Thompson, a Director at fire door specialists Washington and Riley contacted Emmaus North Staffs Manager John Webbe after hearing the news. Within hours, the Burslem firm had measured up for and ordered two new fire doors, which will be fitted as soon as they arrive.

“One door had been totally sawn in two, so was a complete write off, but we discovered a second door wasn’t fit for purpose,” explained Jason. “We are well aware of the good work that the Furniture Mine does to support families who have very little. We didn’t want to see money that could go to help support our city’s most vulnerable residents being spent on repairing vandalised property.”

The Furniture Mine is North Staffordshire’s largest furniture recycling service. Any member of the public can buy items from the Furniture Mine and families in need can furnish their homes for free or at a heavily subsidised rate. Emmaus also provides jobs for homeless people.

Furniture Mine manager John Webbe said: “It was awful to see the damage done during the break in and any money spent on putting the damage right means we have less to help the local community, therefore, we are very grateful to Washington and Riley for their incredible support. It is fantasticthey agreed to replace the damaged door, but they also spotted that our office door was insecure and would not withstand a fire and amazingly ordered a second new door with no prompting at all from us.”

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