Editorial for Newsletter #304Sunday, September 7th, 2008
This week’s newsletter includes a major article on issues we have raised with the Department of Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (BERR) which, I suspect, is not going to please that government department. Its unwillingness to engage with employers, despite its ownership of all of the UK’s employment law, is in marked contrast with HMRC which, over the past few years, has put on a very public face. Employers are HMRC’s customers and they are treated as such, even though we might not like the amount of tax we have to pay. Writers, like myself, who raise complex policy issues on the application of tax legislation, are well supported by HMRC’s press office. HMRC publishes its detailed technical manuals online for all to read. HMRC sends speakers to conferences to get its message across.
In contrast, BERR does not appear to think that is has any customers and prides itself with the general and wide-ranging guidance for businesses that is now available on the Business Link website. This guidance, it must be said, has improved considerably, and I personally subscribe to the services provided. However, according to a recent response from BERR to a number of policy questions, the subject of ‘salary sacrifice and non-cash benefits during maternity leave’ is “a specialist piece of guidance which falls outside the scope of the type of guidance currently available on these websites”. When asked questions about the application of the October changes to maternity leave rules, BERR recommended that I seek “independent legal advice”. I wonder where any advisor I approached would find the answers?
This week’s article on maternity and adoption leave is, by necessity, somewhat technical. It is important, however, for practitioners to understand the implications of the October changes and their implications for pension contributions, pensionable service and the payment of cash allowances during maternity and adoption leave. Is it too much to hope that BERR might help us out?
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