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Service Centre: Jac Roper on news about sick pay that might make you feel under the weather

They giveth with one hand...

And taketh away with the other. No prizes for guessing my reference is to government and its budgets.

Did you know you can no longer reclaim statutory sick pay if an employee is off ill? Not a lot of people know this. The new rule came into play on April 5 this year.

Respective governments have been chipping away at this for years now there's nothing left to chip and employers will have to foot the bill. The HMRC website barely mentions it. It just says: "You can't reclaim Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) for sick leave after 5 April 2014.

"You may be able to reclaim SSP for a previous tax year if a high proportion of your employees were off sick at the same time. You can reclaim the difference if SSP was more than 13% of your Class 1 National Insurance in a tax month."

The new rule could obviously affect small businesses which will find they will still have to pay the statutory 87.55 a week to someone off ill for some time (and of course, also provide cover) but cannot claw any of it back.

I asked Stephen Vaughn (Handbridge Services and Londis supermarket, Chester) whether he had heard about it because Stephen keeps a pretty close eye on business matters.

He had not heard but referred me to accountancy firm Bennett Verby in Stockport and payroll manager Mel Esson, who does Stephen's wage bill.

Mel confirmed it and said it could certainly affect a number of clients. But he added: "On the flip side companies can claim Employment Allowance. It's worth 2,000 and comes off the NI bill."

Of course! That move, introduced from April 6 2014, got plenty of media coverage. At the time, Chancellor George Osborne said: "It will mean 450,000 small businesses one-third of all employers in the country will pay no jobs' tax at all."

This is supposed to promote the hiring of more people.

Just make sure you don't take on too many sickly looking ones.

Head 'em off at the pass

Time for another rates warning. Those parasitical cowboys who pose as genuine ratings specialists are about to get another lease of life and all because the government has said that it is going to overhaul the business rates system.

In this case no one can say 'if it ain't broke' because the present system is fundamentally flawed. As ACS chief executive, James Lowman, said in a press release in June: "In the past five years we have seen how far out of step valuations can get and how this can prevent investment."

Valuations are supposed to take place every five years but there is a gap, this time of seven years (due in 2017) owing to a backlog, so clearly many of them will be out of sync with real market values.

This is nothing new: my business rates file goes back to 1995, the same length of time that I have been writing this column. One of the earliest pieces in the file notes that, prior to 1990, the last evaluation was in 1973. For 17 years successive governments avoided the inevitably unpopular move of raising the rates.

One way to hide unpopular legislation is to complicate it so no one quite understands it other than the 'specialists': cue the cowboys.

Last week I got a call from someone who gets quite a lot of business rate relief but had been called by a company whose rep assured the retailer that 'the government is changing the rules next year' and offered to send him some information on it. It was sent recorded delivery and unfortunately he signed for it but then ignored its contents.

The ratings company pointed to a clause that had offered seven days' cooling off. As this had passed, they presented him with a bill for 399.

When he ignored that, he got a claim for nearly 600 for court fees and so on. He has taken legal advice and his council has confirmed that it won't be reviewing his rates for another three years any way. What the government has actually said is that it will review how often commercial properties are valued. That definitely won't happen overnight.

What will happen overnight is yet another variation on a scam with the cowboy crooks claiming greater knowledge about what the future holds for you.

So if you do feel you need a specialist's help on rates make sure, at the very least, that they are a member of the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors, which has a code of conduct.

Vroom-vroom, fizzle...

There is apparently a glut of electric cars on the second-hand market with almost half the plug-in electric and hybrid vehicles on the AA's used car website having a 2013 registration.

As the AA's president says, this is unusual as most people stick with their new cars for two to three years. Not only that, they aren't fetching much either some are losing half or more of their value after less than a year.

In March, The Times reported that a Freedom of Information request revealed that three-quarters of charging points in London had not been used in the three months to January.

So it seems that people are voting with their feet (firmly on the petrol pedal).

And footnote phenomenon: in America 'charge rage' is becoming a problem as motorists needing a charge unplug the other one that is already using the charge point.

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Weekly Fuel Prices 17 April 2017
RegionDieselLPGSuper ULUL
East120.7367.90128.72118.72
East Midlands119.95131.24118.34
London120.8753.90129.98119.12
North East119.40130.73117.21
North West120.01128.97118.13
Northern Ireland119.1063.50117.39
Scotland119.90126.33117.67
South East121.0958.50129.83119.18
South West120.38128.30118.45
Wales119.75125.03118.03
West Midlands120.3661.57130.37118.53
Yorkshire & Humber119.72129.97118.08

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