Monday, 25 February 2019

Higher Compensation Limits For Workers

The compensation that an employment tribunal can award you if you have been unfairly thrown out of your job or the been the victim of a multitude of other sins which are open to employers to commit, is reviewed annually in line with the retail prices index. The latest review has been converted into new legislation - the Employment Rights (Increase of Limits) Order 2019 SI 2019/324 - which will raise the compensation limits by 3.3%. So hold on boss, wait a few more weeks before transgressing, will you? Please!

The new limits will only apply when the dismissal or whatever the employer has wrongfully done occurs on a defined date on or after 6 April 2019. That date will vary according to the nature of the sin. For an unfair dismissal or redundancy where notice is given, for example, the new limits will apply if the notice to terminate expires on or after 6 April 2019. If no notice has been given, the new limits will apply if the date termination is to take effect occurs on or after 6 April 2019.

What are the new limits? For the amount of pay taken into account to calculate a redundancy payment or the basic and additional unfair dismissal awards - it's what is know as 'one week's pay' - the figure will be a maximum of £525 instead of £508. For the unfair dismissal compensatory award , a fat £86,444 maximum will be collectible instead of £83,682.

Monday, 11 February 2019

New Rights For Workers

Here's the countdown to new workers' rights brought to you by courtesy of the swingingly entitled Employment Rights (Employment Particulars and Paid Leave ) (Amendment) Regulations 2018 (SI 2018/1378) and the Employment Rights (Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations 2019 (which await being signed off).

06 April 2019    The maximum penalty for aggravated breach of a worker's employment rights under s12A of the Employment Tribunals Act 1966 will generally increase from £5,000 to £20,000.

06 April 2020    One year plus to go so be patient. Workers engaged on or after this date will be entitled to a statement of the particulars of their work even though they are not employees. There will be no minimum qualifying period of work in order to be entitled to be given the statement. The current qualifying period for employees is one month. The statement containing the principal work conditions  will have to be provided at the commencement of work. The remainder can be given in instalments but within two months of commencement of work. Added to the particulars currently needed will be the days of the week to be worked, whether the are variable and, if so, how the variations are to be decided and any probationary period which is to be suffered with its conditions and duration. There are special provisions relating to workers who are already in post before 06 April 2020. And the reference period for calculating holiday pay will increase from 12 to 52 weeks. This will knock out the trick of clocking up as much overtime as possible during the current 12 weeks  which are taken to calculate earnings and thereby increasing holiday pay and causing considerable resentment among workmates.

Sunday, 10 February 2019

Major Flight Delay Court of Appeal Ruling

Airlines will escape having to pay flight delay compensation - the delay must be for at least three hours - if they can prove the delay was down to an extraordinary circumstance.  If it was down to an air traffic management decision such as the suspension of flights due to thunderstorms, is that legally due to an extraordinary circumstance?

In Daniel Blanche v Easy Jet Airline Co Ltd [2019] EWCA Civ 69, the airline maintained that thunderstorms did amount to an extraordinary circumstance. The passenger who was held up for five hours 42 minutes argued that it was not an extraordinary circumstance and that regard should be had to the underlying reason for the delay. There was nothing exceptional about thunderstorms!

Last Wednesday 06 February 2019, the Court of Appeal ruled that the airline was right and the passenger was wrong. The air traffic management decision amounted to an extraordinary circumstance so that the claim had to fail.

So whatever the underlying cause of the delay in your case, if air traffic control has prevented the flight from departing, I'm afraid you've had it.  

Tuesday, 5 February 2019

Credit Card Debts: How Long Does Creditor Have To Sue?

If you owe money, your creditor generally has six years within which to sue you (see chapter 10 of my book Breaking Law). After that, you are usually off the hook and have a good defence to any claim they start against you in court; the You Are Too Late, Mate, Defence.

Here is the conundrum. With a credit card debt, from when does the clock start ticking - from when you default with payments or from when you  subsequently fail to comply with a written default notice which the creditor must send you before taking you to court? 

The conundrum has just been solved by the Court of Appeal in Doyle v PRA Group (UK) Ltd [2019] EWCA Civ 12 where the cardholder was said to owe over £26,000. It was ruled in that case that the six years starts  from the later date. That's when you fail to comply with the default notice. 

But say you creditor waits for an eternity after you have defaulted with payments before sending out the default notice. That could lead to you being prejudiced and having a court  claim form come hurtling through your letterbox many years later when you had thought the debt had gone away. In that situation, you might be able to get the debt wiped out or reduced by asking the court to exercise its 'unfair relationship' powers under sections 140A and 140B of the Consumer Credit Act 1974.


Friday, 1 February 2019

Escaping Taxman's Penalty For Non-Payment

The taxman has won an appeal case.* You may think I have lost my marbles in telling you about it. My marbles are intact. I am telling you about it because it highlights how the defence of 'reasonable excuse' can get you off having to pay tax penalties not only for failing to get your return in on time but  for failing to pay on time the tax you have been assessed to pay. And by the way, yesterday 31 January 2019 was the deadline for settling your self-employed tax assessment. What do you mean, you forgot?!

Leading barrister Timothy Raggatt QC was stung for late payment penalties relating to two tax years which totalled nearly £13,500. He appealed to the first tier tribunal of the tax chamber (as one does) and lost. So he appealed again to the upper tribunal (as one does) and has just lost. He was represented by Timothy Raggatt QC (as one would be as it tends to keep legal fees down). 

Mr Raggatt's argument was that he had a 'reasonable excuse' for late payment. This, he said, was that events out of his control had prevented him from paying on time. He principally relied on the substantial reduction in his income from the cuts in the legal aid budget and his bank's refusal to increase his overdraft facility. 

Now, to succeed with a defence of 'reasonable excuse' you have to show that you exercised reasonable foresight and due diligence and a proper regard to the fact that the tax liabilities concerned would become due on particular dates. The Finance Act 2009  (go to paragraph 16 of the 56th schedule if you must and you can bear it) states that an insufficiency of funds is not a 'reasonable excuse' unless it is attributable to events outside the taxpayer's (or tax non-payer's!) control and that if you rely on any other person to do something, you must have taken reasonable care to avoid their failure to do so. 

Both tribunals had considerable sympathy for Mr Raggatt's predicament (a fat lot of use that was!) but, as it was put on this latest appeal, he could have done more to have avoided that position.

What was made clear by the upper tribunal - and this may be of help to you- is that the principles relating to 'reasonable excuse' are the same in late return penalty and late payment penalty cases. There was no legal requirement on the part of a self-employed professional person to reserve for their  tax liabilities but a person with such an episodic life as Mr Raggatt would be well advised to take reasonable steps to make some provision for tax liabilities or to ensure that they had appropriate bank facilities to meet their expected tax liabilities if they subsequently wished to plead a 'reasonable excuse'.  Taking such reasonable steps might not end up enabling a taxpayer to deal with unforeseen events but if it appeared they had done all that could be reasonably expected of someone in their position then the defence of 'reasonable excuse' might be a winner.

*Raggatt v Commissioners for HMR&C [2018] UKUT 412 (TCC)