The best business advice, opinion, news and expertise in Greater Manchester and further afield.

Monday, 25 January 2016

Member Blog: Health and Safety failings could soon top £10 million under the new guidance – are you compliant in Law?

By Michelle Hay - Michelle Hay Training
From 1st February this year, we will start to see the effects of the latest and long overdue changes to the sentencing and penalties handed down to organisations for serious health and safety failings.

The Sentencing Council’s guidance will apply from 1st February regardless of the date of the offence and Judges now have a tiered penalties framework to guide them. The framework is based on the size of the organisation, its turnover, the level of harm risked and the culpability established.

Currently, fines for health and safety offences resulting in death should not normally exceed £100,000 and not less than £500,000 for corporate manslaughter. However, these figures seem like loose change compared to what’s about to start happening in the UK courts.

For the most serious health and safety offences (not just fatalities), we are likely to see fines of up to £10 million if the organisation’s turnover is greater than £50 million.  This sliding scale comes right down to micro-organisations (less than £2 million) being punished with fines of up to £450,000. For a large organisation convicted of corporate manslaughter, they may face a fine of up to £20 million.

In order to decide on the level of fine, the courts will also take into account other factors, such as past convictions and poor health and safety practices. Although co-operation, self-reporting and acceptance of responsibility may help the organisation, the fines for failures will still be light years away from where they are now.

One of the activities that sparks the most debate when I am training health and safety in the workplace is ‘how much were the fines’. Several example cases of past failings are presented to the groups and they have to guess what the actual amount of the fines given were. Out of eight cases, no group has ever got more than two fines correct.

What this demonstrates, is that the current judicial system is all over the place. Speculation as to what mood the Judge was in, how many other failings have happened and where you live have been put forward as to the reason for the lack of consistency.

If it can be proved that an organisation has received prior warning and was aware of certain hazards and then had ignored those warnings and as a result been negligent, then the courts will surely penalise those individuals and organisations responsible for their ignorance.

Culpability* is the key word here. If a company fails in its duty under the Health and Safety Act etc. 1974, and it is proven to have ignored near misses, warnings and/or advice from various sources, the court will not look too kindly on this and fine accordingly.

Many of the clients that I meet don’t readily grasp the consequences of not complying with health and safety legislation and indeed, don’t understand their duties in law. But the law considers this and states that organisations must enlist expert help in these matters.

The message here is loud and clear. If you could do more to safeguard the health, safety, welfare and the life of your employees, then you should. Do it now! Don’t fall foul of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974, It could cost you dearly, even your whole business.

*Culpability generally implies that an act performed is wrong, but does not involve any evil intent. It has limited significance in Criminal Law, except in cases of reckless homicide in which a person acts negligently or demonstrates disregard for life, which results in a person’s death. In general, culpability is used to mean reprehensible rather than grossly negligent behaviour. Culpable conduct may be wrong but it is not necessarily criminal.

Michelle Hay Training Limited provides health and safety consultancy, support, advice and training to businesses throughout the north est area. She hosts a FREE monthly health and safety workshop for senior managers, specifically aimed at helping CEOs, MDs and H&S reps understand their duties in law. Get in touch online at or email

Thursday, 21 January 2016

Member Blog: Why giving to charity benefits everyone

By Kirsty MacDonald – Senior Tax Manager, DTE Business Advisers

There are far reaching benefits of donating money, assets and time to charitable causes.  Many people like to feel that they are doing what they can to help others.  Alternatively, some causes become close to people’s hearts and they get the bit between their teeth to help these charities to raise much needed funds.  There is also a growing trend for companies to build in Corporate Social Responsibility policies for their staff, which can often supplement or assist those who wish to use some of their time and efforts to raise money for or help charities.

Whether the funds raised support research, running costs or the purchase of equipment, there is no doubt that charities benefit massively from the support of regular donors.

But what about the donor?  Arguably, no one would wish to admit that they are making a donation to charity in order to seek a personal benefit.  However, the UK tax system lends itself to providing relief to those who are generous enough to give to charity in the first place.  How relief is obtained depends on the nature of the gift, as well as who is making the donation:

Gift Aid

The simplest of the reliefs available is Gift Aid.  Essentially this applies to all UK resident, individual (non corporate) taxpayers.  Where such individuals give money to charities registered within the Gift Aid scheme the donation is ‘grossed up’ for tax purposes.  This means that the charity will receive more cash and the donor will be entitled to income tax relief.

If we take the example of a £1,000 cash donation to a registered charity by a higher rate (40%) taxpayer the relief and benefits can be broken down as follows:

Donation made £1,000
Amount charity receives £1,250
Tax relief for donor £250

In reality, this means that a £1,000 donation will only cost the donor £750, but the charity will receive £1,250, all thanks to the Gift Aid scheme.  


Companies will also pay less tax when they make donations to charity.  This is because the cost of making the donation will usually be tax deductible for the company.  Qualifying donations include:

Equipment or trading stock (items it makes or sells);
Land, property or shares in another company (shares in your own company don’t qualify);
Employees (on secondment);
Sponsorship payments.

Employers and staff

These days, it’s also very easy to make donations to charity straight out of gross employment income. This can be extremely tax efficient, especially for higher earners.  As the donation is made before any tax is deducted at source, employees who give to charity in this way will automatically pay less tax on their earnings.  This means that they do not have to wait to claim the additional tax saving through their tax return.

The relief available depends on the rate of tax payable by the employee.  Every £100 donated will cost:

£80 for basic rate tax payers;
£60 for higher rate tax payers;
£55 for top rate taxpayers;

The difference represents the tax saving, meaning that a top rate taxpayer will save £45 for every £100 donated via payroll giving.

In summary

Donating to charity not only helps great causes (such as Breast Cancer Now) but it can be tax efficient for the donor;

Tax relief is available to individuals and businesses, irrespective of the type of gift made to charity.  Whether a donation is made up of cash, time or assets, tax relief will be available.

Employers can make savings by allowing their staff to do more for charity.  As well as fulfilling any corporate responsibility scheme you may have in place, by encouraging employees to contribute via payroll giving schemes, both the individuals and the company can achieve tax savings.  

The tax specialists at DTE provide advice to a wide range of clients, including companies, trusts, charities and individuals.

Monday, 18 January 2016

Member Blog: Polish your business plan 2016

By David Wright - BSA Marketing
Along with Easter and the Summer, January is one of the three times each year when most people take some time off then come back to work inspired to take their business forward.

However, despite best intentions, it is very easy to find things quickly slipping back into the same old routines as day-to-day demands start to impinge.

Here are my Top Tips for progress and success in 2016:

1. Plan 2016

Regular readers will know that planning is one of my recurring themes, but planning is vital. If you don’t have a plan and just make things up as you go along, you are not in control of your business. I’m not saying you won’t succeed but if you do, it will be luck.

Plan 2016 doesn’t need to be complicated. There are lots of business planning tools online but here is my suggestion of key questions to ask yourself:

Where are we now?
Where do we want to get to?
How are we going to get there?

I’m thinking strategy here; should you be doing more of the same or are there changes that need to be made? What is the best way of using what you have to move your business and to make the changes?

2. Action 2016

Making plans and setting objectives is all very well but a bit of a waste of time if you don’t actually do something about it!

I suggest you take your planning ideas and then ask yourself what specific actions you can take towards achieving your objectives. This is about what are you going to do TODAY, TOMORROW, THIS WEEK, not what you might do over the next month or 2!

You already know that running a business requires discipline and drive. Having an action plan puts focus on actually doing stuff towards achieving your goals. It’s a cliché but you do need to find time to work ON your business rather than IN your business.

3. Focus on specifics

One problem with planning is that it can be easy to stay with a ‘big picture’ where objectives look great on paper but it can prove difficult to take realistic steps to achieve them. This is where having a meaningful action plan is so important so let’s have a look at some specific areas of your business where you can make a big impact:

Keeping in touch: Review everyone you have done business with / had enquiries from over the last year – are you still in contact?

Keeping in touch with contacts is my top tip. Email and social media make it easy and inexpensive (or free!) to keep in touch and building relationships with contacts who know you and can give you more work is the best way to grow business.

Focus on Good Customers: Sort your customers in order of billed revenue – now sort in order of the effort you put in – Do they match? Should you be looking to lose some of your ‘hard work’ clients?

Recognising that not every customer is a good customer was a big lesson for me.

If you are confident in your processes to bring on new business, it can be easier to let some customers go if they don’t really fit your requirements.

Even if you aren’t so confident, losing one or two smaller clients who take up a disproportionate amount of your time can free up a surprising number of hours to focus on building more ‘good’ clients.

Build on your success: List your 3 big successes from 2015 – what can you learn and apply in 2016?

Sometimes, good things happen and you don’t even notice! Have a think about your high points from the past year. How did they happen? Was there something you can take into 2016 and repeat the success?

Learn from mistakes: Recognise your key disappointment from 2015 – what can you learn and apply in 2016

Hopefully this will be harder because you’ve had more success than disappointment, but sometimes you can learn more from a negative than a positive. By staying confident and recognising the lesson learnt you can avoid repeating the experience.

New ideas: Are there products or services that you could add to your business in 2016? Do customers ask you for things you don’t offer at the moment?

Good businesses constantly review and refresh their offering in line with market demands.

As well as coming up with your own ideas, or using suggestions from customers, check out what your competitors are up to. Market research can be a powerful ally.

4. And finally…

Running your own business can be challenging, but also very rewarding. Many SME business owners spend up to 70% of their waking hours focused on their business, so don’t forget to try to enjoy yourself!

Whatever you do, I hope you have a productive and prosperous year.

All the best, David

Monday, 11 January 2016

Member Blog: When will you love Mondays?

By Claudine Jacobs - Operations Support Manager, Reed Screening

With every New Year comes the seemingly obligatory New Year resolutions. Normally, these are a few quickly thought up personal mini objectives, which are then typically broken just two weeks into January. But what if one of your resolutions is to get a new job? Will this resolution be broken just as whimsically, or do you hate Mondays enough to stick with it?

On the first working day of 2016, one online job website alone reported 230,166 online applications and 11,975 new jobs being posted. That’s a staggering number of people who have made 2016 the year to make a change.

So if you were one of the 230,166 applicants, what are your top priorities for your new job?

Salary, location and benefits packages regularly top candidate opinion polls, but what about the bigger picture? Will the new company match your own personal values and ethos? Having spent valuable time and effort carefully matching your CV to their online job description, how can you be sure that your potential new employer will look after you and your new career with the same care and attention?

More and more press reports show that candidates like you are looking at the bigger picture when it comes to scoping out new jobs. Matching the values, vision, ethos, culture and even work environment of potential new employers to your own can be a very worthwhile activity.

Often, application and screening experiences are the first opportunities you have as a candidate to evaluate your potential employer, and with no emotional tie-in at that point, it can be a thin line as to whether the relationship is successful or not. Great starts often come with smooth, easy to follow application and screening experiences, in fact:

60% of job candidates reported that they started an application process but dropped out because it was too complicated or lengthy (Recruitment Buzz)

Employers are beginning to understand that to attract and retain the best candidates they need to have time sensitive, efficient, service oriented application and screening experiences which showcase their company. As a candidate, you want to know that you are a priority and that your application will be treated in a timely fashion with the utmost care.

So although you applied for the job on a New Year’s resolution whim, stick with it. Take the time to evaluate potential employers, looking at their values through to their application and screening experience to make sure it suits you.

With the majority of new roles beginning at the start of the week, you too can love Mondays.

Friday, 8 January 2016

Member Blog - Staff Wellbeing: A preventative approach

By Hannah Osman - Founder, Nuba Health

It is well documented that our physical and mental performance is intricately linked to our diet, environment and lifestyle. What we eat, drink, and how we live our lives affects our health, energy levels, motivation, attitudes and even the decisions we make on a daily basis.

At work, we need to be energetic, focused, confident, happy and productive - functions that are all affected by diet.

Eating nutritious meals and snacks helps us to perform well mentally and physically, reduces the negative effects of work-related stress and leads to increased productivity. With the majority of our time being spent at work, most workers eat at least one, if not two meals during the working day, and so healthy eating at work should be actively encouraged. In fact, recently, Unum reported that two-thirds of employees believe that their employer is responsible for their wellbeing.

Energy levels are very dependent on the state of our blood sugar levels. If blood sugar levels fall too low we can feel tired, dizzy or simply lack concentration. On the other hand, if glucose in the bloodstream is kept nice and steady, we feel energised, awake and alert.

The ugly truth is that when we most need to look after ourselves is when we are the least likely to do so. When we are stressed, our body uses the nutrients it is given to produce stress hormones in order to help the body withstand stress, instead of feeding our vital health systems. Stress causes a release of adrenaline, which releases sugar into the bloodstream. This impacts the body’s ability to control blood sugar levels, which leads to the cycle of cravings for sugar, stimulants, alcohol and cigarettes.

So how, as an employer, can you prevent the viscous cycle from arising?

You can:

1. Take a preventative approach to diet and stress
2. Optimise nutrition when the team are at their busiest.

Taking a preventative approach to diet and stress

As the economy in Manchester is on the up, employers are turning their attention to mindfulness and mental wellbeing in the bid to attract and keep the right staff.  In a recent Financial Directors’ report, encouraging health-related activities scored more highly in importance than other benefits like private healthcare and flexible working.

Being preventative does not have to be a big measure, it can become part of company culture by reinforcing messages and making the transition to a healthy lifestyle an easier one. You are almost certainly already on the right path with cycle to work schemes and activities such as running clubs.
However, changing diet is more easily said than done, as this requires education on what is and is not healthy, amongst the myriad of marketing messaging and processed options on the high street. Education is key to help people make informed choices when it comes to their diet and help them to help themselves.

For example, did you know that Sprouting seeds and pulses such as alfalfa and lentils multiply the nutrient content of a meal? This results in a mineral and fibre-rich seed packed with nutrients as well as protein and even essential fatty acids that are vital to support the adrenal (stress) glands.

Optimising nutrition when the team are at their busiest

According to Workforce Wellbeing, part of the Government’s ‘Fit for Work’ initiative, employees with poor nutrition are 15% less productive than those with better nutrition. That equates to around 16 days of lost time per employee per year.

Yet, rather than manage our diet, most of us look to stimulants such as caffeine and our favourite ‘comfort foods’ to see us through the hard times. Stimulants and processed foods high in sugar are dietary stressors and worsen our feeling of stress. When our body is using up essential nutrients to fight stress, we should be supplementing it with additional good nutrition to maintain strong and healthy bodies and minds.

None of us can control what staff eat outside work during these busy and potentially stressful times, so it is important to encourage staff to make sensible dietary choices. This can be done by limiting unhealthy options available, such as introducing healthy snacks in to vending machines or removing vending machines entirely. If people are your product and their time is money, then subsidising healthy meals or even providing free meals for staff can provide a huge incentive to eat well, improve staff job satisfaction and reduce their likelihood of opting for cheap, unhealthy foods and slipping into the negative cycle.

For example, did you know that carrots and walnuts are a great combination for sustained energy? Carrots are a natural energy source of carbohydrate, whilst walnuts, and walnut oil provide protein, minerals, and essential fats for optimal energy production and brain function.

Who are NUBA Health?

NUBA Health, founded by Hannah Osman, is a Manchester City Centre based healthy meal service, who work with individuals and businesses to optimise their nutrition by providing fresh healthy meals delivered daily to the workplace.

Focusing on ‘food for thought’, NUBA design and make meals tailored for specific goals, brain functions and bespoke dietary requirements.

Hannah says that “Working with organisations to build a happier, healthier and more productive workforce is incredibly topical and interesting work, as every organisation and individual within a team is different. For a business, it might be about reducing absenteeism from sickness, but for the staff it’s about enjoying their weekends, or getting home in time to see the kids.”

NUBA are offering lunchtime talks to Chamber members to cover the basics of eating for health. As part of this they also take a look at easy sugar swaps, what and how to eat when you are busy and also provide a Quick and Healthy e-recipe booklet for staff to help them eat well when they are busy.

Please send all enquiries to