National round-up – 05 October 2017

National Pay Update

Following the rejection of the National Employers pay offer by the FBU’s membership, the latest situation is that a counter offer has been made. Previously the employers offered a 2% pay increase backdated to 01 July 2017 with a further 3% in April 2018, subject to the expansion of the operational role. Now the offer is a flat 1% backdated to 01 July 2017 with no conditions tied to the offer.

This means that the FBU will be expected to either accept the offer or try to negotiate a deal better than the one they originally found acceptable and subsequently recommended to their membership. Not a great negotiating position to find itself in.

In the meantime non-FBU members, of which there are thousands throughout the ranks, are caught in the middle.

This situation adds further weight to the argument that the present negotiating machinery is outdated and not fit for purpose. It is clear that the Home Office have the same view after it published similar findings within both the Thomas Report and the Knight Report. While the NJC has been provided with the opportunity to reform itself, our understanding is that no alternative model and been forthcoming, leading us to form the conclusion that is meaningful reform is to take place, it is not likely to happen voluntarily. Let’s hope this happens sooner rather than later so that that ALL of the staff within the UK Fire and Rescue Service are better represented in the future.

RFU meet with HMICFRS

The RFU met with representatives from HMICFRS last month which proved to be a very informative meeting. It has become clear to us that despite HMICFRS meeting with various stakeholders previously, the RFU was the only organisation pressing matters relating specifically to On-Call personnel, highlighting the current challenges facing On-Call firefighters and the importance that inspection teams need to include knowledge and experience from within the Retained Duty System (RDS). Nobody better understands the demands of the role and the daily routine of juggling family and work commitments just to remain available, than the firefighters themselves.

We will be meeting with HMICFRS again later this year to continue these discussions.

RFU meet with Sir Thomas Winsor

Following on from our meeting with HMICFRS, we were invited to speak with Sir Tom Winsor, who is currently HM Chief Inspector of Constabulary and HM Chief Inspector of Fire & Rescue Services. The meeting took place earlier this week and was extremely productive.

The meeting provided us with an opportunity to expand on the areas of opportunity that have so far been missed by Fire Authorities, to better utilise On-Call staff and their role within the local communities. We believe that an expansion of role will go some way to help overcome the ongoing recruitment and retention issues faced across the country.

Receiving an ill-health and injury pension?

We have recently become aware of an issue whereby HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) have issued clarification that some Retained Firefighters who were awarded an injury and ill-health pension were incorrectly paying tax on these pension payments.

Such individuals who did not join the pension scheme but subsequently were awarded an injury and ill-health pension should not, under the compensation scheme rules, be subject to income tax as it is exempt.

Fire Authorities received advice from HMRC that prior to 2006 this was a taxable, the compensation scheme was separated from the main pension scheme under legislation which came into force on 25th January 2007 so arguably these overpayments should be refunded back to this date.

HMRC have advised that they can only correct payroll errors through the overpayment tax relief claim procedure within four years of the current relevant tax period. Any payroll errors that have occurred before that date will need to be compensated for by the authority.

The situation applies to a retained firefighter who (i) didn’t join the scheme and prior to 1st April 2014 was awarded an injury and ill health pension for their retained service under the compensation scheme; or (ii) didn’t join the scheme and has been retrospectively awarded an injury and ill health pension for his retained service under the compensation scheme, under the protected right granted.

There is general guidance on the HMRC website about making a claim for a refund, link here.

If you would like any further support on this matter please contact us.