Thursday, 13 September 2018

Supporting Our Superhero Brokers

For a lot of us, learning is something we associate with our younger years and school, college, sixth form or university. Our later years are traditionally just for work.

Recently though this has been changing. More and more people are seeking out new skills and information, both to stay ahead in their careers and exercise their minds. The NHS advises adults continue to learn for their entire lives to keep up their mental wellbeing.

Continued professional learning and mental wellbeing  are a huge focus for us as a business. This year we've been working on something to mirror what we are doing internally and offer our business partners the same opportunity to learn.

To do this we're launching a completely free online training platform. This platform is designed to be a simple, easy to use way to get you intimately familiar with our products and services. It's available on your desktop just through your web browser, or on any iPhone, iPad or Android device using the EduMe app. You can see a sample of what the platform looks like on the right.

Our first module is an introduction to legal expenses insurance, then there is a specific module to help you get to grips with our recently relaunched Essential Business Legal.

The training platform has been tested and trialled both internally at ARAG and externally with some of our business partners to very positive feedback. It could even qualify towards the continual professional development (CPD) hours you need for this year, to find out if it does speak to your supervisor or compliance team.

To get started with the ARAG training platform all you need to do is click here. You'll need to sign up with your email and a password, and don't worry we won't be using your data for any marketing.

It's completely free and we'll be adding new modules on other products and services in the future so you might want to bookmark the site so you can check back.

Friday, 31 August 2018

A judge has ruled that a business that acted on behalf of a landlord to evict a tenant “crossed the line” in carrying out regulated legal services that only qualified solicitors are permitted to provide. Here’s a link to the full story which appeared on Litigation Future’s website:

It’s easy to see how landlords are tempted to use services such as “Remove a tenant” as an alternative to representing themselves, or paying for solicitor representation in legal proceedings. Not only did “Remove a tenant” break the law, the legal notice that they issued to repossess the property was faulty. The landlord had to go back to court to proceed with their claim using alternative grounds to repossess their property.

Legal expenses insurance for landlords provides a helpline to talk through correctly issuing a landlord’s notice to repossess and ARAG’s Landlord Legal Solutions policy allows your landlord clients to download the notices and a covering letter for free from our legal services website. If a tenant fails to leave on expiry of the notice, the policy pays legal costs for a regulated law firm to act for the insured.

According from their website “Remove a tenant” charge from £50 to issue a repossession notice, and the cost of preparing for a court hearing and representation is charged from £250 (+VAT) - this is much more than the cost of Landlord’s Legal Solutions over the average term of a tenancy. Surely peace of mind and confidence that claims will be dealt with properly is surely an attractive prospect for customers who may be reluctant to opt in to legal expenses? I’ll leave you to guess the moral of this story...

Tuesday, 28 August 2018

What Every Innovator Needs To Know About R&D Tax Credits

From time to time we receive queries about particular HMRC regulations and whether we cover claims that arise from them under Essential Business Legal and our other commercial products. 

The topic of self-employed contractors, who provide their services through a service company and are subject to “IR35” comes up from time to time. (The answer is “yes”, we will deal with HMRC enquiries and disputes for self- employed contractors provided that the conditions of the policy have been met). Last week, we had a query that hasn’t come up before - about Research & Development (R&D) tax credits. 

If you have clients that engage in innovative projects in science and technology, you may be interested in this. 

About R&D Tax Credits

R&D tax credits can be claimed by companies which have incurred expenditure on innovative projects in science and technology. They can be claimed by a range of companies that seek to research or develop an advance in their field. HMRC define the types of project that qualify for R&D credits. E.G:
  • The work must be part of a specific project to make an advance in science or technology.
  • It can't be an advance within a social science like economics or a theoretical field like pure mathematics.
  • The project must relate to the company's trade - either and existing one, or one that they intend to start up based on the results of the R&D.
  • To get R&D relief the business must explain how a project:
    • looked for an advance in science and technology
    • had to overcome uncertainty
    • tried to overcome this uncertainty
    • couldn't be easily worked out by a professional in the field

SME R&D relief allows companies with up to 500 employees to:
  • deduct an extra 130% of their qualifying costs from their yearly profit, as well as the normal 100% deduction, to make a total 230% deduction
  • claim a tax credit if the company is loss making, worth up to 145% of the surrenderable loss

A different significantly less generous scheme applies for larger firms and I‘ve included a link below for more information:

According to a post by one lawyer firm, the HMRC’s large business directorate is challenging more tax relief claims and the sum being disputed in relation to R&D tax credit claims nearly quadrupled in 2017, up from £90m to £425m for large businesses.

Claiming R&D Tax Credits 

Businesses can make a claim for R&D Tax credits when they fill in their Corporation Tax self- assessment return by calculating their expenditure on R&D and supporting their claim with suitable information.

Does Cover Apply If HMRC Challenge R&D Tax Credits Claimed? 

Good news! Essential Business legal will come to the rescue if HMRC investigate the insured’s Corporation Tax self-assessment return and raise a challenge about a tax credit claim provided that fraud has not been alleged of course, and that the return has been submitted to HMRC on time. 

One innovation deserves another. We hope that your innovative clients enjoy the peace of mind provided by our innovative (relaunched) Essential Business Legal and other Commercial legal expenses insurance products!

Friday, 3 August 2018

Volunteering for FOCUS!

Last Friday, 27th July, Fran, Hannah, Ollie & Jake caught the train to Cheltenham to volunteer for FOCUS at the Cheltenham Cricket Festival T20 game. 

FOCUS is our charity of the year and is the charitable fund for the Gloucestershire Oncology Centre, which raises funds to provide extra care, specialist equipment and improvements to facilities for local cancer patients.

Our volunteers collected raffle tickets in the hospitality tent which took over £1,600, and £394.10 from a bucket collection at the end of the day, raising nearly £2,000 in total!

In between the raffle and bucket collection, our volunteers took a tour of the oncology centre at Cheltenham hospital to see just how valuable our fundraising efforts are. 

The FOCUS support centre is situated in the heart of the Oncology Centre in the outpatient waiting area of the Hospital. The centre is fully funded by donations and is an invaluable source of information for patients, their carers and families. The team are there to support patients at every step; from a diagnosis of cancer to advice during and beyond their treatment.
The Focus Support Centre also offers: general information, support and advice on many types of cancer, talking with children, financial and estate planning, travel insurance, fatigue, support for carers etc. The centre is able to signpost people to benefits support, health and wellbeing events, counselling and psychological services. The support team also recruit a team of volunteer qualified therapists who offer complimentary therapies for patients. 

Every donation makes a real impact by funding extra care and equipment over and above that provided by the NHS. Recent donations have provided:
- a weekly wig clinic with a professional wig consultant, free of charge
- special reclining chairs which give comfort to patients receiving chemotherapy treatment
- sky ceilings which transform the environment in radiotherapy treatment rooms
- staff to expand the Focus Research Centre and trials to local people fighting cancer.

We are currently at 45% of our 2018 fundraising target for FOCUS, you can track our efforts here:

P.s for the cricket fans out there, Gloucestershire beat Glamorgan by 30 runs.

Thursday, 26 July 2018

A Shocking New Report on Sexual Harrassment in the Workplace

The Women and Equalities Select Committee has published a report about sexual harassment in the workplace. The Committee found that sexual harassment at work is widespread and commonplace but there has been a failure by employers and regulators to tackle unlawful behaviours.

·         40% of women and 18% of men have experienced unwanted sexual behaviour in the workplace
·         Women aged 18-34 are most at risk of sexual harassment at work, with 43% having experienced it

according to a survey of UK adults that was carried out by the BBC.

The report calls on Government to put sexual harassment at the top of the agenda and sets out five priorities.

·         Introduce a new duty on employers to prevent harassment, supported by a statutory code of practice outlining the steps they can take to do this; and ensuring that interns, volunteers and those harassed by third parties have access to the same legal protections and remedies as their workplace colleagues;
·         Require regulators to take a more active role, starting by setting out the actions they will take to help tackle this problem, including the enforcement action they will take; and making it clear to those they regulate that sexual harassment is a breach of professional standards and a reportable offence with sanctions;
·         Make enforcement processes work better for employees by setting out in the statutory code of practice what employers should do to tackle sexual harassment; and reducing barriers to taking forward tribunal cases, including by extending the time limit for submitting a claim, introducing punitive damages for employers and reducing cost risks for employees;
·         Clean up the use of non-disclosure agreements (NDAs), including by requiring the use of standard, plain English confidentiality clauses, which set out the meaning, limit and effect of the clause, and making it an offence to misuse such clauses; and extending whistleblowing protections so that disclosures to the police and regulators such as the EHRC are protected;
·         Collect robust data on the extent of sexual harassment in the workplace and on the number of employment tribunal claims involving complaints of harassment of a sexual nature.

You can access links to the full report, a summary or the report conclusions here -

ARAG policyholders who have registered to use our Business or Consumer Legal Services website can dip into our law guide to learn more about workplace harassment. The Employee handbook for Business customers sets out non-contractual matter and includes policies and procedures to minimise the risk of potential employee lawsuits, such as discrimination, harassment and unfair dismissal.