The TUC claims that one in three interns are working unpaid, despite qualifying for the national minimum wage. The problem appears most pronounced in popular careers like journalism, advertising, film, television and PR. These professions are fast becoming the exclusive preserve of people born to affluent parents willing to subsidise their offspring through the early part of their careers in order to give them a "leg up".
March 2010 Archives
There were a number of key tax announcements in yesterday's Budget 2010 speech. Here's a brief summary:
Income tax and national insurance contributions
The Chancellor did not make any new announcements on either income tax or national insurance.
However, a new 50% tax rate on income above £150,000 a year comes into effect next month.
Despite a great deal of rumour and speculation, Alistair Darling opted to leave VAT at current levels.
Great news for first-time property buyers with the doubling of the stamp duty allowance, from £125,000 to £250,000, albeit only for two years.
Less good news for people owning properties worth more than £1 million: from April 2011 they must pay stamp duty at a rate of 5% - an increase of 1% - to fund the stamp duty holiday for first-time buyers.
Working tax credit
Older workers over 60 will soon only have to work 16 hours a week to qualify for Working Tax Credit. At the moment they need to work for at least 30 hours a week to qualify...
I read an interesting opinion piece in the Guardian yesterday written by former president of the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) Denis MacShane.
Mr. MacShane used the article to pan BBC Today radio journalists over their "vox pop" coverage of immigration in the London borough of Newham.
"Vox pop" is short for vox populi (Latin for "voice of the people"). It involves radio journalists going out on to the street to solicit quick opinions on issues of the day from a few random passers-by.
Respondents rarely have much time to articulate a response and nobody needs qualifications to participate.
As a consequence, the way a question is framed and presented by a journalist says as much about a respondent's take on things as their actual reply.
And respondents' views in no way reflect those of the broader community in which they live - unless of course journalists solicit view from tiny hamlets with under 20 inhabitants (which they rarely do).
But programmers rarely acknowledge this. Instead they tend to air as wide a range of opinions as possible and give disproportionate representation to those holding extremist views. And they scarcely ever qualify or question a respondent's take on things. Indeed they often present views as established facts.
Last summer, the Court of Appeal turned English law on its head by enforcing a prenup between a wealthy German heiress and her French ex-husband.
Katrin Radmacher, said to be worth £100 million, and Nicolas Granatino signed the agreement in 1998 in Germany, but the couple spent much of their married life together in London.
Under the agreement, Mr. Granatino agreed not to make any claims on Ms. Radmacher's estate if they split up.
Mr. Granatino reneged on the agreement, however, after the couple divorced in 2006.
Following proceedings in the High Court in 2008, Ms. Radmacher was ordered to pay her ex-husband £5.85 million.
Mrs. Justice Baron said it would be "manifestly unfair" to bind Mr. Granatino to the prenup because he did not receive separate legal advice, Ms. Radmacher did not disclose the extent of her wealth, and English law has never recognised prenups as legally binding.
On appeal last year, however, the award to Mr. Granatino was cut to £1 million as a lump sum in lieu of maintenance. The appeal judges described Mrs. Justice Baron's ruling as "plain wrong" and said English courts should give "decision weight" to prenups.
Last year, I wrote about the travails of Daniel Jones, 23 - a.k.a. Morda Hehol - founder of the Star Wars-inspired International Church of Jediism, who claimed he suffered religious discrimination at the hands of Tesco's Bangor branch.
The store operates a strict "no hoods" policy in its stores and left Mr. Jones feeling "emotionally humiliated" after staff asked him to take off his Jedi hood.
"It states in Jedi doctrine that you have a choice of wearing headwear in your home or at work, but you must wear a cover for your head when you're in public," explained Daniel.
Tesco refused to apologise, however. "Obi-Wan Kenobi, Yoda and Luke Skywalker all appeared hoodless without ever going over to the Dark Side," said a spokesman. "If Jedis walk around our stores with their hoods on, they'll miss lots of special offers."
Flawed logic of course. All true Star Wars fans know Jedis don't use eyes to see, they use the force. Tut, tut Tesco.
Jedi intolerance runs deep
Sadly this week brings another case of Jedi discrimination, this time from cultural melting pot that is Southend-on-Sea,
60% of people considering buying property overseas indicate a preference for Spain. A number of expats have been duped into buying property, however. In one case, nine British landowners in Almeria stand to lose their homes over defective building licences.
This has prompted the government to take steps to secure better protection to UK citizens living in or considering moving to Spain.
The 15 year battle over the estate of billionaire oilman J. Howard Marshall, II. landed back in court last week.
Mr. Marshall died in 1995 aged 90. His will left the entirety of his $1.6 billion estate to son E. Pierce Marshall.
Yet, 14 months before his death, Mr. Marshall married 26-year-old Playboy model Anna Nicole Smith, who claimed he promised to give her $300 million.
Claiming she'd been duped, Ms. Smith initiated legal proceedings challenging the will. She claimed E. Pierce Marshall and others exercised undue influence over her husband and prevented him giving her any money.
A recent YouGov opinion poll sponsored by family lawyers association Resolution found that almost three quarters (72%) of people don't think unhappily married couples should stay together because of the children and over two-thirds (68%) believe that couples should be able to divorce without blaming each other.
Spokesperson David Allison said: "Family issues are dominating the upcoming general election agenda with all parties developing and publishing policies aimed at the nation's families. Sadly many of these policies miss the point, fail to engage with the realities of family life in the 21st century and leave many families out in the cold.
"If unhappy families aren't going to stay together because of their children - they certainly won't stay together because of a £10 tax break. Politicians need to stop using family life as a political football and engage instead with real solutions which support rather than judge families."
The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has ruled against 13 expat pensioners seeking to have their UK state pensions rise in line with inflation, bringing to an end a titanic eight-year court battle.
1.1 million UK pensioners live abroad. 565,000 reside within the European Union or 15 other countries, including the USA, with whom there is a reciprocal agreement to "inflation-proof" pensions.
545,000 pensioners, however - spread across 150 other countries, including Australia, Canada, and South Africa - had their pensions frozen at the level at which they started to draw them in their country of residence.
According to BBC News, this saves the UK government at least £500 million a year.
The latter pensioners say they deserve equal treatment. After all, they argue, they paid their National Insurance Contributions (NICs) in exactly the same manner as other pensioners.
Take the case of Annette Carson, 69, for example, who moved to South Africa in 1990. After emigrating, she continued making full NICs and on retirement in 2000 began to receive pension payments.
While pensioners in the UK now receive a basic state pension of £95.25 a week, however, Ms. Carson's remains frozen at the level it was ten years ago - namely £67.50 a week.
The oldest expat pensioners retired in the early 1970s and receive as little as £6 a week; those who retired in the early 80s receive about £30 a week; and those from the early 90s get about £50 a week.
A multi-million pound case involving claims of sexual discrimination, victimisation and constructive dismissal has finally settled after a three year legal battle.
The London Evening Standard reports Gill Switalski, 54, former head of legal affairs at F&C Asset Management has agreed to withdraw her claim in return for "an undisclosed multi-million-pound sum."
Ms. Switalski earned £140,000 a year while working at F&C, which controls assets of more than £100?billion, and also ran her own property development company and a legal training website.
A recent labour market survey commissioned by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and KPMG shows that the recession has not dampened demand for migrant workers.
Around one in five (19%) employers recruited migrant workers in the final three months of 2009. The demand for migrant labour was highest in healthcare (37%) and further and higher education (39%).
According to law firm Wedlake Bell, UK employers have spent on average £500 million per month during the past year on redundancy pay. This represents a 25% rise on the £4.5 billion paid out in redundancy settlements in the year ending March 31 2009.
Employment partner David Israel said: "At a total of £10.5 billion for two years, the cost to UK employers of credit crunch related job cuts in redundancy payments alone is staggering.
"Businesses have been willing to take a pretty big upfront hit in order to deliver longer-term savings. On average they have been paying far more than the minimum redundancy payments they have to pay by law."
He estimates redundancy settlements during 2008-2010 averaged £12,500 per individual.
The maximum amount of statutory redundancy pay you can receive is £11,400.
Mr. Israel believes there are three reasons why employers are willing to pay more than the statutory minimum:
In 1988, Margaret Thatcher forced through a media broadcast ban on the voices of members from 11 republican and unionist parties in Northern Ireland. She hoped the ban would "starve the terrorist and the hijacker of the oxygen of publicity on which they depend."
The ban had the opposite effect, however. Free speech campaigners raged against the ban and broadcasters employed actors to read words in synch with images of politicians speaking. This just served to give banned speakers more publicity than they would have received if they had not been banned.
More recently, the Equality and Human Rights Commission case against the British National Party - over rules limiting membership to "indigenous Caucasians" and ethnic groups "emanating from that race" - has been criticised for giving the far-right free publicity.
The Council of Europe has urged the UK government to hurry up and change the law on prisoner voting rights. As things stand, the UK's 84,073 strong prison population (all avowed Conservative voters, according to reports) are barred from voting in elections under section 3 of the Representation of the People Act 1983.
In March 2004, however, in the case of Hirst v. United Kingdom, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) unanimously ruled that the maintenance of an absolute bar on convicted prisoners voting was in breach of Article 3 of the First Protocol to the European Convention on Human Rights, the right to free and fair elections.
New suggestions to protect the public from dangerous dogs are 'barking mad', according to Tory environment spokesman Nick Herbert.
The proposals include:
- Extending dangerous dogs laws to cover private property;
- Removing exemption rules that allow some people to keep banned types of dogs;
- Introduction of compulsory micro-chipping for dogs so that antisocial dog owners can be more easily traced; &
- Introduction of compulsory third party insurance so that victims of dog attacks are financially recompensed.
The number of reported dog fights has increased 12-fold since 2004 and the police seized 900 dangerous dogs in London alone last year.
HM Revenue & Customs has announced people with offshore assets who wish to use the New Disclosure Opportunity must make their disclosures online and pay all tax, duties, interest and penalties owed in full by Friday.
To take advantage of the low 10% penalty rate accompanying the New Disclosure Opportunity, taxpayers had to disclose their intention to do so before 4 January 2010.
Once the New Disclosure Opportunity window closes, those failing to disclose their offshore assets will be subject to full tax investigation, penalties of at least 30% rising to 100% of the tax evaded, and risk criminal prosecution.
The Panel has received complaints that Kraft misled shareholders over a promise to keep Cadbury's Somerdale plant in Keynsham open.
During the bitter takeover battle last November, Kraft said it would be able to continue operating the Somerdale factory and "preserve UK manufacturing jobs."
Last month, however, just weeks after completing the Cadbury takeover, Kraft chief executive Irene Rosenfeld announced the closure of the 80-year-old facility, with around 400 redundancies.
Negotiations between British Airways and Unite union will conclude at 5pm today after eight weeks of talks at the TUC head office in London. The man charged with chairing the talks, TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber, has announced discussions will cease even if the parties fail to reach an agreement.
The announcement follows a flurry of activity from union officials at the end of last week in a last-ditch bid to avert a strike.
New laws to protect vulnerable women and dampen the demand for prostitution will come into effect on 1 April, the Government has announced.
Starting next month, it will be an automatic offence to pay for sexual services with a prostitute who is subject to exploitative conduct, such as force, deception or threats - it will no longer be an excuse to say "I did not know" and men found guilty face a criminal record and a £1,000 fine.
Moreover, men hunting for sex on the street can now be arrested on their first offence - police will no longer need to establish they are "persistently" kerb crawling before they can arrest them.
According to BBC News, 40,000 students who graduated from university last summer are still seeking full-time work. Many are working as interns to gain some experience. Unfortunately most of them seem to be working unpaid.
Under the National Minimum Wage Act 1998, anyone deemed a "worker" is entitled to the minimum wage (currently, £5.80 for workers over 22; £4.83 for 18 to 22 year olds; and £3.57 per hour for all workers under the age of 18, who are no longer of compulsory school age).
Many employers classify interns as "volunteers", however, and therefore refuse to pay them the minimum wage, or even their expenses.
In reality, of course, most interns work really hard, do essential work, and organisations simply use them to cut costs - in clear contravention of the National Minimum Wage Act.
3. There was insufficient evidence to conclude that the Conservative Party was uncertain who the donor was when accepting donations.
The Electoral Commission said the party 'had reason to question whether the donor was Ashcroft rather than BCS.' But to prove the party was uncertain on this point, it would be necessary to determine the party's 'state of mind.'
Unfortunately the Commission had no power to compel witnesses to attend in-person interviews to conclusively decipher this. It asked various party officers and staff to attend interviews on a voluntary basis, but they failed to do so.
So, when all's said and done, did the report really clear Michael Ashcroft?
The Guardian reports:
'During the year ending March 2006, BCS [Bearwood Corporate Services] received £4.79m in cash for shares that were bought by its holding company, Bearwood Holdings.
'Bearwood Holdings had received that money by selling shares in itself to another company, Astraporta UK, for £5.54m.
'Astraporta, in turn, appears to have received its funds, around £6m, by selling shares to a company registered in Belize called Stargate Holdings.
'Where Stargate receives its funds is unclear. It is registered offshore - at a registry controlled by an Ashcroft company.
'When the Guardian visited the registry's offices in Belize City to inquire about Stargate, a registry official said: "You will never know who owns Stargate."
'Astraporta and Bearwood Holdings were put into liquidation last year and were formally dissolved on Monday.'
After an 18-month investigation, the Electoral Commission has finally published its report into donations to the Conservative Party by Bearwood Corporate Services (BCS), a company owned by its billionaire Deputy Chairman Michael Ashcroft.
The Daily Telegraph, Daily Mail and BBC News claimed the report 'cleared' Mr. Ashcroft and a Conservative Party spokesman said it proved donations from BCS were entirely legitimate. Well, is this true? Let's take a look...
A Kent paper boy who became famous last year for suing his local newsagent for unfair dismissal has had his claim thrown out on appeal.
Myles Bebbington, 15, was sacked from his £20 a week paper round 18 months ago after his employer, Jackie Palmer of Sturry News in Canterbury, asked him to come to work earlier at 6.30am.
His mother Denise tried to inform Mrs. Palmer about the ban on children working between 7pm and 7am, but Mrs. Palmer didn't respond too well. The following Saturday she fired Myles.
American rapper, reality TV star, and sometime actor Snoop Dogg - whose real name is Calvin Broadus - can now return to the UK after a three-year ban. The Asylum and Immigration Tribunal said border authorities were wrong to refuse him entry clearance in 2007.
The UK banned Snoop from visiting the UK after a scuffle in 2006 between the police and the rapper's 30-strong entourage outside the British Airways first-class lounge at Heathrow airport.
The Wall Street Journal reports Mr. Broadus, 38, was detained by the police but later released with a warning for using "insulting words." The Home Office argued the fight, coupled with his convictions for drugs and firearms offences in the U.S., meant he posed a threat to public order.
Responding to Michael Ashcroft's non-dom admission earlier this week - which came just minutes before a Cabinet Office disclosure on the subject - Peter Mandelson accused the billionaire Belizean of trying to "steal the election" yesterday, and called on the Conservative Party to repay all money donated by him.
Mr. Mandelson also renewed his demand for an inquiry by the Lords Appointments Commission into the "solemn and binding" undertaking made by the Conservative Party deputy chairman in 2000 to become a "permanent resident" of the UK as a pre-condition to receiving a seat in the House of Lords.
Mr. Ashcroft claims shortly after his peerage was announced the civil service agreed that he need only become a "long-term resident" of the UK to sit in the Lords. That deal allowed him to remain non-domiciled for tax purposes and avoid paying an estimated £127m in UK taxes.
After much obfuscation, the deputy chairman of the Conservative party Michael Ashcroft has finally admitted he is not domiciled in the UK for tax purposes.
Despite George Young's recent admission on Newsnight, many senior Tories had continued to insist that Ashcroft was a UK domicile.
At the weekend, David Cameron pledged the Tories will publish detailed proposals for family and tax law reform before the general election.
Up to now, the party has merely issued vague promises to recognise marriage in the tax system, leading many to question how on earth they intend to fund the tax breaks...
As recently highlighted in the excellent article by Financial Times journalist Chris Cook, many Tories aren't too happy about their leader's stance on subsidising marriage through the tax system.
One party official said the people behind the policies have "their hearts are in the right place, but loads of their stuff is ropey." "They just seem to make up statistics or use dodgy assumptions."
Another described the proposals as "mostly rubbish" and said senior Conservatives have made some "wholly indefensible claims."
Companies running late with road works will now face penalties of up to £25,000 for each day of overrun, Transport Minister Sadiq Khan has announced. This represents a tenfold increase on the current £2,500 maximum daily charge.
The Government has also introduced a new inspection regime giving local authorities more power to charge utility companies for inspecting road works in their streets.