Tag Archives: UK

Travel to work ruling: Who is affected and how?

Time spent travelling to and from first and last jobs by workers who do not have a fixed office should be regarded as work, European judges have ruled.
What did the court say?
Until now, those employing mobile workers who had to travel to get to or from their first or last appointment of the day were not required to count that time as work.
On Thursday, the European Court of Justice judgement ruled those without a fixed or habitual office should consider the time they spend travelling between their homes and the premises of their first and last jobs as part of their hours for the day.
The ruling relates to the Working Time Directive – the European initiative which caps the working week at 48 hours. In the UK, employees have the option of opting out of the directive.
I’m a care worker who travels to different patients’ homes. Am I affected?
Possibly, yes.
Employees who fall into the category loosely defined as “mobile workers” – those who habitually travel to different places of work – could be affected.
Simon Bond, an employment specialist at Higgs and Sons solicitors, says the most obvious group to fall under this definition is carers not already paid for travelling to their first and last jobs. Sales people who travel between sites and employee workmen and women, such as plumbers or electricians, could also fall into this category.
As many as 975,000 people in the UK could fall under the remit of the ruling, says Paul Sellers, a policy officer at the TUC.
And some employees could be working an extra 10 hours a week once travelling time is counted, Chris Tutton, an employment lawyer at Irwin Mitchell, adds.
I travel a lot for work, but I have a permanent office
The ruling is less likely to affect people who work both in an office and remotely. If your contract includes a permanent base, you are unlikely to be able to successfully argue you are a mobile worker, Mr Sellers says.
There may, however, be cases where it is possible to argue that a permanent base is meaningless because of the length of time spent outside the office.
I have to commute two hours every day to my office
For those with a permanent office (however lengthy your commute), this ruling will not have an effect. Mr Sellers says this final group is the “overwhelming majority” in the UK.
I think I’m affected. Should I expect a pay rise or a change in my hours?
The ruling could eventually affect pay. Unions say the ruling does not directly deal with remuneration, focussing instead on working hours and conditions. But it is possible the European judgement will be used in UK courts to challenge employers who pay an average hourly rate under the minimum wage (once travelling time is taken into account).
That could mean employers facing increased wage bills and raises an outside chance costs for some services, such as cleaners who have to travel and are paid a low wage, could go up.
It could also lead to a change in working patterns – especially for those who do not choose to opt out of the 48-hour maximum.
“I think some employers will look at where they’re sending staff – they might try to make sure that the first and last shifts are as close to home as possible because they don’t want to eat into that working time that they have,” Mr Tutton said.
We have been contacted by BBC News website readers in response to the European judges’ ruling.
Here is a selection of their comments:
This is great news for the likes of me and my engineers. We work in the telecoms industry visiting multiple sites daily. We don’t get paid travel time but are expected to be onsite for 9am and leave the last site at 5pm wherever that may be. If the sites are two hours away from home this adds four hours to our day that we don’t get paid for, so we do a 12-hour day for eight hours work. Steve Carroll, Manchester
I am a sales rep. My hours of work are 35, working nine to five. I leave my house most days at 6am as I work on the M25 strip so it takes three to four hours to get to my first appointment. I might get home at 7pm with no lunch break. I can drive for seven hours total per day, that’s before my day working. I feel fed up, very tired and underpaid. I don’t know what my rights are! Erica, Cambridge
I am a pest control technician. My colleagues and I sometimes end up doing 11 or 12-hour days. These lost hours travelling can take its toll on missed family time. The amount of time driving both during the working day and the travelling time to and from work can sometimes be as much as six hours a day depending on where our jobs take us. Paul Godfrey, Swindon
I currently leave for work – as a service engineer – earlier than my first job to ensure I’m at my first site by 10am. It’s wrong that I should use my time as the further away it is the more my own time is used. We also do not have a structured break time and I’ve worked over 11 hours without a break and it’s a constant driving service job. Barry Corbett, Glasgow
I am a mobile gas fitter and I am expected to travel to my first appointment and from my last appointment in my own time which can add 10 hours to my working week. Mark Hannon, Castleford
I’m a gas repair engineer. We have no offices. Our policy is to be on the patch of work or at our “pickup” point by 8am. With heavy traffic I leave home at 7.20am. This leaves me with 40 minutes of extra travel time. Also I could be working miles away from home at the end of day resulting in a huge variance of time out. Daniel Richards-Smith, Dorset
I am a homecare worker, taking care of people in their own home. I do not get paid for travelling to work or in between appointments. Sometimes I can travel up to 50 miles a day. We get paid 30p per hour of care delivered in a day. This is not petrol money as the carers who walk between calls also get paid this. Sometimes we have to sit in our cars because it is too early to go in to the client, anywhere from 10 minutes to up to and hour as we often are too far away from home to make it feasible to travel home. Susan Turnbull, Barnsley
I’m a healthcare assistant and while I agree with being paid for time it takes to travel I can also see this as having a knock on affect to the clients as the money to pay us would have to come from somewhere

No sex with Russian or Chinese girls, UK MoD warns deployed staff

Top brass have been warned not to have sex with Russian and Chinese girls however stunning they may be, as it may turn out a ‘honeytrap’, a leaked UK Ministry of Defense (MoD) document says.

The paper, obtained by the Sunday Times,gives detailed instructions that the Russian intelligence, the FSB, may try to compromise and blackmail foreign agents “through knowledge of marital infidelity or sexual activity the target may wish to hide.”

Chinese intelligence, meanwhile, has a “voracious, vast and indiscriminate appetite” for all types of data, and allegedly recurs to blackmail as well.

The document states that Chinese intel agencies also recruit civilians to approach people from the West and collect information. As the paper puts it, “they do not ‘run agents’ they ‘make friends’.”

Those ‘friendly’ people are “expert flatterers” and are “well aware of the ‘softening’ effect of food and alcohol,” according to the document.

“The Chinese have realized that it is not productive to simply steal technology and then try to ‘reverse engineer it’,” getting “an in-depth understanding of production techniques and methodologies,” which represents grave economic risks to the UK, the document reads.

Thus, “sexual involvement should be avoided, as should any activity which can possibly be construed as illegal,” the ministry warns its employees abroad.

A senior top brass reportedly told the Sunday Times how a “stunning” blonde, “probably in her early thirties,” came up to him during a conference in Russia while he was reading a book at the hotel bar.

“She told me that her passion was vintage sports cars — which coincidentally was my hobby. She was very friendly and affectionate. Lots of eye contact, laughing at my jokes — that sort of thing,” the source said.

But this was doomed to go nowhere as “a little alarm went off” in his head, and the man just “scarpered” after mumbling some excuse.

“She wasn’t asking you about tanks, you wimp!” Russian vice premier Dmitry Rogozin joked on his Facebook page.

The UK Ministry of Defense has so far not commented on the report.

MI5 and MI6 have recently started recruiting new Russian-speaking agents amid increased tensions with Moscow.

Among the most famous espionage cases, Anna Chapman, a Russian-born UK passport-holder and the daughter of a diplomat, was arrested in New York four years ago, accused of participating in a network of sleeper agents. She was deported following her arrest.

Also in 2010, Russian Ekaterina Zatuliveter was accused of being a Kremlin agent after UK intelligence found out she had had an affair with Commons Defense Committee MP Mike Hancock. The young woman denied the claim and won an appeal against her deportation.

Drugs and prostitution to be included in UK national accounts

George Osborne famously declared “we are all in this together”
when it comes to Britain’s prosperity. The Office for National Statistics has now taken him at his word, adding up the contribution made by prostitutes and drug dealers.

For the first time official statisticians are measuring the value to the UK economy of sex work and drug dealing – and they have discovered these unsavoury hidden-economy trades make roughly the same contribution as farming – and only slightly less than book and newspaper publishers added together.

Illegal drugs and prostitution boosted the economy by £9.7bn – equal to 0.7% of gross domestic product – in 2009, according to the ONS’s first official estimate.

A breakdown of the data shows sex work generated £5.3bn for the economy that year, with another £4.4bn lift from a combination of cannabis, heroin, powder cocaine, crack cocaine, ecstasy and amphetamines.

According to the estimates there were 60,879 prostitutes in the UK in 2009, who had an average of 25 clients per week – each paying on average £67.16 per visit.

There is also detailed data on drugs. The statisticians reckon there were 2.2 million cannabis users in the UK in 2009, toking their way through weed worth more than £1.2bn. They calculate that half of that was home-grown – costing £154m in heat, light and “raw materials” to produce.

The ONS will work in the coming months to bring the data more up to date. The figures will then be included in the broad category of household spending on “miscellaneous goods and services” alongside life insurance, personal care products and post office charges.

The more inclusive approach brings the ONS into line with European Union rules, and will eventually allow comparisons of the size of the shadow economy in different member states.

Joe Grice, chief economic adviser at the ONS, said: “As economies develop and evolve, so do the statistics we use to measure them. These improvements are going on across the world and we are working with our partners in Europe and the wider world on the same agenda.

“Here in the UK these reforms will help ONS to continue delivering the best possible economic statistics to inform key decisions in government and business.”

The new elements will be published in the national accounts from September onwards, supplementing the more traditional measures of GDP including construction and manufacturing output. By comparison, the construction sector contributed around £90bn to the UK economy in 2009, and manufacturing £150bn.

The ONS said that in every year between 1997 and 2009 prostitution and illegal drugs boosted the economy by between £7bn and £11bn. Combined with other changes to the national accounts from
September, £33bn or 2.3% will be added to the 2009 level of GDP, the ONS said.

Graeme Walker, head of national accounts for the ONS, acknowledged there were limitations to measuring the value of illegal activities to the economy, but said it was a useful exercise nevertheless.

“It’s a model-based estimate but one that serves a purpose for the picture of the overall economy.”

He said the ONS would attempt to “fill in the gaps” left by available studies but it would be impossible to measure illegal activities as accurately as other components of GDP. Other activities are measured using questionnaires but the response rate in the sex and drugs trades are unlikely to be high.

Alan Clarke, a UK economist at Scotiabank, said that although the government would not feel the benefit of illegal work in terms of income tax take, there would be a spending boost.

“A drug dealer or prostitute won’t necessarily pay tax on that £10bn, but the government will get tax receipts when they spend their income on a pimped up car or bling phone.”

Steve Pudney, professor of economics at the University of Essex, said he was sceptical about the methods used by the ONS to estimate the size of the drugs market.

“In my view, the ONS estimate of the size of the drug market is unlikely to be very accurate. It rests on some heroically large assumptions which would be difficult to test, and it also uses a measure of demand that is likely to understate systematically the true scale of drug use.”

He added: “They are using a demand-side approach which loosely involves multiplying a survey estimate of the number of drug users by another estimate of the amount consumed by the average user.

“Average retail prices of drugs come from other sources – mainly police/customs/security service intelligence sources – and, multiplying this by the estimated demand, gives the size of the market in cash terms.”

Iranian bank wins case to be removed from UK sanctions list

Banking District
Banking District (Photo credit: bsterling)
English: John McFall, British politician and C...
English: John McFall, British politician and Chairman of the UK Treasury Select Committee. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
English: East entrance of HM Treasury Français...
English: East entrance of HM Treasury Français : Entrée Est de HM Treasury (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The motto appears on a scroll beneath the shie...
The motto appears on a scroll beneath the shield of the Royal coat of arms of the United Kingdom. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

An Iranian bank will be removed from the UK Treasury’s sanctions list following a ruling from the UK’s highest court where judges have been critical of the government’s decision to include secret material in the case.
Bank Mellat had asked the Supreme Court to overturn a ruling that bars UK financial institutions from engaging with the bank as part of efforts to press Iran into abandoning its nuclear programme.

The Supreme Court has ruled in favour of Bank Mellat, which says it has lost $25m a year since the UK sanctions were imposed in 2009.
Lord Sumption, giving the ruling, found that the Treasury “singled out Bank Mellat from other Iranian banks”, that its decision was “irrational” and “disproportionate” and that “the Bank was not in a position to defend itself against the Treasury’s allegation”.
The case will reignite the debate about the use of secret evidence in the justice system because, during part of the hearing, the Supreme Court was asked to sit in private for the first time.
The Treasury wanted the justices to read a closed judgment made by an earlier judge that has never been shown to the bank. The bank, its barristers and the public were all excluded from the hearing.
Lord Neuberger, president of the Supreme Court, said in his ruling that the secret material had “added nothing”.
“There was nothing in it which could have affected our reasoning in relation to the substantive appeal, let alone which could have influenced the outcome of that appeal,” he said.
Lord Hope, another justice, said that the government resorting to the use of such material “will result in every case in an inequality of arms” between the state and those bringing a lawsuit.
He said in this case the Treasury were being “overcautious” and “the attitude which they have adopted in this appeal was a misuse of the procedure” because there was nothing in the closed judgment that could not have been gathered from reading the public ruling.
Today’s ruling is a victory for the rule of law as much as it is for Bank Mellat. The judgment will put enormous confidence in the independence of the British Judiciary
– Sarosh Zaiwalla, senior partner, Zaiwalla Solicitors
The judicial comments put the spotlight back on the Justice and Security Bill, which has expanded the system of closed courts to civil cases.
So-called closed courts are already used for some cases, such as freezing terrorists’ assets. The government argues that such procedures are necessary.
Sarosh Zaiwalla, senior partner at Zaiwalla Solicitors, which acted for Bank Mellat, said: “Today’s ruling is a victory for the rule of law as much as it is for Bank Mellat. The judgment will put enormous confidence in the independence of the British judiciary and sets an example that even controversial disputes can be resolved by applying the principle of the rule of law through the British courts.
“Nevertheless, the reading of the closed judgment clearly contravenes the British principle of open justice. The bank’s success demonstrates just how unjustified closed sessions are,” he added.
The Treasury said the ruling refers to a 2009 order that is no longer in use: “It does not affect the way we currently apply financial restrictions to Iran and will not affect the EU asset freeze that remains in place against Bank Mellat. As set out in the judgment, the Treasury maintains the power to make future orders under Schedule 7 to the Counter-Terrorism Act 2008.”

West rebukes Putin over Syria at G8 summit

Welcoming ceremony. With President of Syria Ba...
Welcoming ceremony. With President of Syria Bashar al-Assad. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
English: President Bashar al-Assad of Syria . ...
English: President Bashar al-Assad of Syria . Original background removed. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Português do Brasil: O presidente Lula recebe ...
Português do Brasil: O presidente Lula recebe o presidente da República Árabe Síria, Bashar al-Assad, no Itamaraty. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
English: US President Barack Obama and British...
English: US President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron trade bottles of beer to settle a bet they made on the U.S. vs. England World Cup Soccer game (which ended in a tie), during a bilateral meeting at the G20 Summit in Toronto, Canada, Saturday, June 26, 2010. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Western leaders rebuked Russian President Vladimir Putin for supporting Syria’s Bashar al-Assad‘s attempt to crush a two-year-old uprising, setting the stage for a tense G8 summit of the world’s most powerful nations.

U.S. President Barack Obama is expected to use his first face-to-face meeting with Putin in a year to try to persuade the Kremlin chief to bring Assad to the negotiating table to end a conflict in which at least 93,000 people have been killed.
British Prime Minister David Cameron, who is chairing the G8 summit in a remote golf resort in Northern Ireland, conceded there was “a big difference” between the positions of Russia and the West on how to resolve the war.

In some of his most colourful remarks on Syria, Putin described anti-Assad rebels as cannibals who ate human flesh and warned Obama of the dangers of giving guns to such people. Moscow also said it would not permit no-fly zones over to Syria.

For their part, Western leaders have criticised Russia, Syria’s most powerful ally, for sending weapons to Assad forces and considering deliveries of a sophisticated missile system.

“How can we allow that Russia continues to deliver arms to the Bashar al-Assad regime when the opposition receives very few and is being massacred?” French President Francois Hollande said.

Stung by recent victories for Assad’s forces and their support from Hezbollah guerrillas, the United States said last week it would step up military aid to the rebels including automatic weapons, light mortars and rocket-propelled grenades.

In an apparent response to this development, Assad said Europe would “pay the price” if it delivered arms to rebel forces, saying that would result in the export of terrorism to Europe.

“Terrorists will gain experience in combat and return with extremist ideologies,” he said in an advance extract of an interview due to be published in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung on Tuesday.

Divisions over Syria dominated the atmosphere as global leaders streamed into the heavily guarded resort in Northern Ireland, a place once rocked by decades of violence but which Cameron now wants to showcase as a model of conflict resolution.

Despite the disagreements over Syria, Putin and his Western counterparts appeared cordial in their public appearances. The Kremlin chief cracked a grin as he shook Cameron’s hand outside the venue, as police helicopters surveyed the site overhead.

Moscow and Washington both agree that the bloodshed in Syria should stop and say they are genuinely trying to overcome mistrust between them. They had earlier agreed to set up a Syrian peace conference in Geneva but progress has been slow.

The European Union has dropped its arms embargo on Syria, allowing France and Britain to arm the rebels, though Cameron expressed concern about some of Assad’s foes.

“Let’s be clear – I am as worried as anybody else about elements of the Syrian opposition, who are extremists, who support terrorism and who are a great danger to our world,” Cameron said.

Syria aside, Cameron wants to focus on the formal agenda on tax, trade and transparency, dubbed “The Three Ts”, topics expected to dominate discussions on Tuesday.

As the summit kicked off on Monday afternoon, the United States and the EU opened negotiations for the world’s most ambitious free-trade deal, promising thousands of new jobs and accelerated growth on both sides of the Atlantic.


The spotlight was on Obama and Putin who were due to meet at about 6:30 p.m. at the Lough Erne golf resort about 10 km (7 miles) outside the Northern Irish town of Enniskillen, scene of an IRA bomb attack in 1987 that killed 11 people.

Security was tight and the venue was surrounded by a 15-ft high steel fence. Unlike previous summits which have seen often turbulent anti-capitalist protests, the meeting failed to attract any crowds, possibly due to its remote location.

In a speech in Belfast, Obama urged young people in Northern Ireland to finish making “permanent peace” and set an example to other areas of the world stricken by conflict.

Cameron could also face some awkward questions at the G8 table after a Guardian newspaper report that Britain spied on officials taking part in two Group of 20 meetings in 2009.

In a report published just hours before the G8 summit, the daily said some delegates from countries in the Group of 20 – which comprises top economies around the world – used Internet cafes that had been set up by British intelligence agencies to read their emails.

“If these allegations prove to be true, it will be condemned in the strongest fashion and the necessary action taken,” said Turkish Finance Minister Mehmet Simsek, who the Guardian said had his calls intercepted by Britain.

The leaders of the United States, Japan, Canada, Russia, Germany, France, Britain and Italy – representing just over half of the $71.7 trillion (45.67 trillion pounds) global economy – will also discuss global economy and trade.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and other leaders are likely to say they are not content with progress so far in fixing their economies in the wake of the global financial crisis, according to a draft communiqué seen by Reuters.

Abe will use the opportunity to explain his blend of fiscal and monetary stimuli known as ‘Abenomics’ to the leaders as investors try to absorb the implications of a signal by the U.S. Federal Reserve it may start to slow its money-printing.