My Dilemma on my big day: Cake or No Cake?

Well, it has arrived the day on which I arrived in the world! There have been quite a few days like this, not quite too many to mention but too many for me to consider it anything other than a number any more.

It’s supposed to be a special day, your birthday, but somehow just like other celebrations Christmas, Easter, and despite my resolve to do something different I end up doing the same thing by way of celebration as I do every year.

If my birthday falls on a working-day, there will be the ritual trip to the local bakers and purchase of a range of cakes so that everyone in the office and any friendly visitors can fill their face. At lunch-time there will also be the walk to the pub for the team and a slap-up carvery lunch.

Well perhaps not this year?

Being generous on days like today, in the name of celebrations, could be according to the Faculty of Dental Surgery be contributing to the health problems my colleagues have.

Cake and biscuits at work, on celebration days and on those days when someone somewhere in the world is having a birthday are fuelling obesity and poor oral health.

The problem that I am contributing to is caused by the consumption of sugary snacks in-between meals.

Prof Nigel Hunt, dean of the faculty at the Royal College of Surgeons, suggests that in order, to cut back on sugar intake eating should be restricted to meal times. Which would mean no afternoon cake break.

The reason for this is that when we eat sugary and starchy food and drinks, particularly between meals, the bacteria in plaque feed on these carbohydrates and produce acid which causes tooth decay.

So, no cakes this afternoon.

However, I just want to have some fun on my special day and as 2016 Great British Bake Off runner-up Jane Beedle said on BBC Radio 2 cake does “bring joy to the office”.

But the Professor wants to see a cultural change in offices and other workplaces that encourages healthy eating and helps workers avoid caving in to sweet temptations such as cakes, sweets and biscuits.”

Whilst as Beedle says ‘a little bit of homemade cake is going to kill anybody, people are inclined to eat it if it’s there.’ The mantra of all things in moderation seems to go out of the window.

We all, I suppose, need to start to see food as fuel and not consume the calories that are just not worth it.

The Faculty of Dental Surgery suggests keeping a “sugar schedule” to track your intake.
I am inclined to agree, but another former Bake Off contestant, Christine Wallace, from the 2013 series, said: “I think this is yet another example of the ‘nanny’ state trying to shape our lives when it really isn’t really necessary.

So, there will be no cakes in the office this afternoon.

The 2014 series winner Nancy Birtwhistle said banning cake was “not the solution” adding: that she firmly believed that snacking between meals, sugary drinks and junk food are at the root of our obesity and dental caries problem – not the occasional slice of celebratory cake.

So, the cakes are back on. But we will be following the advice of the Faculty of Dental Surgery which has released tips on how to cut down sugar consumption in the workplace:

  • Consider low-sugar alternatives
  • Reduce portion sizes
  • Avoid snacking and keep sugar as a lunchtime treat
  • Keep a “sugar schedule” to limit sugar intake
  • Think about where sweet treats are positioned – if they are nearby and visible, people may eat more.

So, alright cakes, albeit small cakes are on this afternoon.

Posted in Abeceder, Diet and Nutrition, Employee Engagement, Fit For My Age | Leave a comment

Car insurance premiums rise for some

With my car insurance due for renewal in a couple of months it is concerning to read in the Insurance Price Index that my premium may increase by as much as 14%. That is what the Index, which is powered by Willis Towers Watson, says has been the average increase in premiums over the last year. The average premium now stands at £797 a year.

The rate of increase in premiums also seems to be increasing with quarter 4 of 2016 seeing rises of 4% in premiums.

Add to that the increase in Insurance Premium Tax from 6% to 10% and public transport starts to look very attractive.

No driver claims will escape the premium increases, although some will be affected more than others. (more on this later)

Older drivers, which I am not one just yet will according to the Index continue to see the greatest increases. Comprehensive premiums have never been higher for many drivers in their sixties and seventies – those aged 62 (£481), 63 (£494), 64 (£450), 68 (£515), and 71+ (£495), for example, are all experiencing their highest premiums ever. And at 10%, drivers aged 71+ have seen their biggest ever quarterly increase.

As you would expect, although the cost of car insurance for a teenage drivers is now between 56% and 75% of their maximum ever premiums, the cost of insurance for younger drivers remains, by comparison, with the prices paid by older drivers eye-wateringly high.

If you are under 26 years of age you are lucky if you are not paying more than £1,000 a year. Of course it is the youngest drivers, those aged 17 who pay the most. £2,112 a year. This is four times what the average 60 year old pays

Average premiums for people aged 26 and under are all over £1,000. And, after 18 months of 18-year-old drivers typically paying the highest premiums, it’s the nation’s youngest drivers, those aged 17, who now pay the most (£2,112). Motorists aged 60 and over, by contrast, can still typically expect to pay less than £500 (the exception being those aged 68 who pay £515 on average).

Both male and female drivers have seen their premiums rise substantially over the last 12 months. However, males have seen prices accelerate more than their female counterparts, climbing by 15% (+£104 year-on-year) and 13% (+£84 year-on-year) respectively. Meanwhile, the fourth quarter of 2016 has seen a further jump of 4% for both sexes from the previous three-month period. As a result, the average man’s premium now stands at £812, while for women it is £711.

Since 2012 EU rules have banned insurers from taking gender into account when considering insurance premiums. We have yet to see what Brexit will do to this piece of equality, but it seems that the gap in price between men and women’s car insurance premiums continue to widen. There is now a difference of £101 between the sexes in Q4 2016, the first time the £100 barrier has been broken since the EU rules came into force. By comparison, only two years ago (Q4 2014) the gender price divide was almost half as wide at just £51 and as low as £27 immediately after the rules came into place, with men still paying more on average.

Looking across the UK, increases in premiums can be felt in most areas, with no region escaping an annual price hike. In particular, motorists in Scotland have faced the highest percentage rises over the past 12 months. Those in the East & North East and the Highlands & Islands regions of Scotland, for example, have seen the average cost of their car insurance go up by 20% year-on-year to £563 and £589 respectively – the highest of any UK region. Drivers in the Scottish Borders region haven’t fared much better. They’ve seen a 19% annual price hike, although they can take some comfort in the fact that at £531 they still typically pay the least of any UK region for car insurance.

Meanwhile, despite Scottish drivers generally seeing higher annual percentage rises, motorists in the English capital still tend to pay the most for car insurance of all UK regions. And people in the Inner London region pay the most of all – their average annual fully comprehensive policy stands at £1,237 in Q4 2016. In real-terms this is up £152 year-on-year, the largest monetary increase of any UK region too. Only motorists in Northern Ireland saw anything close to this, where the average cost of a fully comprehensive car insurance policy has risen by £134 over the past twelve months, the second largest actual increase of all UK regions.

Across the UK’s other capital cities, drivers in Cardiff, Wales face an average price of £714, up 14% from the same time last year. Meanwhile, those in the Scottish capital of Edinburgh can expect to pay around half that of a London motorist – £558, up 12% from the previous 12 months.

While the price index tends to focus on fully comprehensive car insurance policies, third party fire & theft (TPFT) premiums have increased too and have, in fact, never been higher. The average TPFT policy now stands at £1,311, up 15% year-on-year and 5% quarter-on-quarter.

Amanda Stretton, motoring editor at says:

“Drivers are now paying £95 more on average for an annual comprehensive car insurance policy than they did during the same period in 2015. With the average premium standing at £767, the cost of car insurance hasn’t been this high for over four and half years. What’s more, as prices continue to climb, it seems only a matter of time before we’re back at the 2011 £858 premium peak.

“And it’s not just the price of fully comprehensive policies that have risen over the past 12 months, with the typical third party fire & theft (TPFT) premium at its highest ever cost too. With an average TPFT policy costing £1,311, drivers interested in this level of cover may want to get quotes for fully comprehensive policies too as in some cases it may work out cheaper.

Rising prices make it crucial that I find ways to reduce the cost of motoring wherever I can. advice all motorists like me to shop around using a site such as, which they say can help drivers save on their car insurance and slash running costs with their handy tools, tips and guides.

So I am sticking with Aviva and paying less than I did last year!

Posted in Driving, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Huge response to safer driving proposals

Thousands of people have had their say on plans to introduce life sentences for killer drivers.

The Ministry of Justice opened the consultation, on 5 December 2016, and attracted over 1,000 replies in just 3 days, before reaching more than 9,000 when it closed on 1 February 2017.

The overwhelming response is one of the highest for a Ministry of Justice (MOJ) consultation, and shows just how passionate people are about road safety and those who break the rules of the road.

Those contributing included victims, bereaved families, road safety groups and charities.

“Killer drivers”, said Justice Minister Sam Gyimah “ruin lives. While we can never compensate for the loss of a loved one, we are clear that the punishment must fit the crime.”

The contributions to the consultation will now be carefully considered within the context of  the Government’s pledge to consider sentencing powers available to the courts for the most serious driving offences.

The consultation sought views on whether the current maximum penalties available to the courts should be increased.

The proposals included:

  1. increasing the maximum sentence for causing death by dangerous driving from 14 years to life
  2. increasing the maximum sentence for causing death by careless driving whilst under the influence of drink or drugs from 14 years to life
  3. creating a new offence of causing serious injury by careless driving, with a maximum sentence of 3 years
  4. increasing minimum driving bans for those convicted of causing death.

The Government  set out its plans in the coming months. But employers who provide cars or other vehicles for their employees or expect employees to use their own cars for work would be wise to use the level of public interest in the consultation process as a catalyst for increasing awareness amongst their employees of the importance of safe driving habits.

Posted in Driving, Health and Safety | Leave a comment

Merging of Work and Life creates passive job hunters

An interesting survey landed on my desk this morning.

The research from GCS Recruitment’s Marketing Insights indicates that 70% of people are just one step away from resigning from their jobs.

The reason according to the analysis of the survey is the blurring between work and home lives which means that an astonishing 21% of bosses expect to be able to contact their employees 24 hours a day seven days a week.

The specialist technology recruiter spoke to 1,752 candidates and 826 clients, and found that 70% of people consider themselves passive job seekers – this means that while they make be happy in their current roles, they are willing to consider new positions.

Combine this with the fact over a fifth of bosses expect employees to always be contactable outside of work hours (21%) and another showing 62% of employees are unhappy with their benefits package, and the nation’s employers could face a deluge of resignations in the coming months.

The demands for 24/7 contact is facilitated by technology that also makes it easier for recruiters to interact with passive job seekers.

It is surprisingly easy for recruiters to converse with candidates, whether this is via social media or on job boards. In the world of 24/7 connectivity, candidates will have opportunities placed in front of them more regularly – and when it comes to those who are regularly fielding calls from the boss out of hours, it’s not difficult to see why a new role may seem tempting.

As well as bosses with bad habits, the survey showed that 62% of people are not happy with the benefits package offered at their organisation, and a quarter of us believe that our workplace’s remuneration package is below the industry standard.

It seems that despite moves towards working from home becoming more standard, not all employees have yet benefited. 44% of survey respondents said being able to work from home is the work perk that would make the biggest difference to their life – this is over 20% more people than those who would value flexi-time (23%) and 30% more than those who said compressed hours would improve their work life balance (14% of respondents).

Other key points from the survey include:

• 68% of employers think hot desking has a negative impact on productivity
• 59% of companies increased flexible working in 2016
• 48% of say their colleagues make their company a great place to work

Posted in Recruitment | Leave a comment

Record numbers of working people bringing employment disputes

It seems like a strange thing to celebrate; a record number of people so unhappy about their work that they resort to the tribunal system as the only way to find a solution, but that is what the Departmant of Justice has done.

In a report published yesterday, 31 January 2017 the Department says that more than 92,000 people bought forward workplace disputes to the tribunal system in 2016 – the highest number since employment tribunal fees were introduced.

It is the bit about the figure being a record since the intoduction of fees that it seems is worth celebrating. Fees for taking a case to a Tribubal were introduced in 2013, just three years ago, as an attempt to reduce the number of ‘have a go’ claims so that employers could be saved the costs of dealing with the claim and Tribunals could focus on genuine cases, .

The Department has not compared the 2016 figure to the number of cases brought before the introduction of fees.

There is always going to be a question about the number of workplace injustices that go unchallenged because the workers affected can not afford to stand-up for their rights, but the Government claims that the introduction of tribunal fees has dramatically changed how workplace disputes are resolved.

The Government are claiming that the introduction of tribunal fees, alongside free mediation services, has dramatically changed how workplace disputes are resolved. It also claims that thousands more people will be able to access work place justice with the introduction of an extended scheme to waive fees for lowest paid workers.

That means that the monthly income threshold for full fee remission will increase from £1,085 to £1,250 – broadly the equivalent of someone earning the National Living Wage. There are additional allowances for people living as couples and those with children.

The big challenge for the Government in this area as in so many is how does it help not just those on the National Living Wage, but those people who earn just a bit more but do not have access to the financial resources to fund a claim. The people that Prime Minister Theresa May described as the ‘Just About Managing’

Justice Minister Sir Oliver Heald said:

It is right that those who can afford to should contribute to the cost of Employment Tribunals, but under the extended Help with Fees scheme, more people would not pay a fee and others will contribute less than under current arrangements.

The extended scheme would benefit the disabled, women, Black, Asian, Minority Ethnic (BAME) individuals, and the young, who all feature disproportionately among low income groups.

The Government has also decided to exempt from fees a small number of proceedings related to payments made from the National Insurance Fund, as in most cases the applicant is unable to conciliate or recover fees.

While many have chosen not to bring employment tribunal claims, the review found nothing to suggest they have been prevented from doing so, and that higher numbers turning to ACAS is a “positive outcome”.

It also found:

  • in 2015/16 there were more than 92,000 workplace disputes notified to Acas – the highest number since Employment Tribunal fees were introduced
  • tribunal users are contributing up to £9 million a year in fee income, in line with expectations
  • evidence that some have found fees off-putting – even if affordable or if they may have qualified for fee waivers.

Alongside the Review the Government is also launching a consultation, which seeks to raise awareness of the Help with Fees scheme, and highlight how thousands more would qualify for help.

Ministers will bring forward further plans to improve legal support in a Green Paper by early 2018, while the Prison and Courts Bill, due to be published shortly, will make it simpler to access justice and enable thousands more people to bring cases online.

Help with making access to justice available to everyone, equally is important, but prevention is better than cure and the Government might do better to acknowledge that many employment disputes could be avoided if managers and employees understood how to make their relationship work properly. The UK still has too many unqualified managers and too many workers who have been tutored in the ‘them and us’ culture of industrial relations.


Posted in Employee Engagement, Employment Law, Employment Tribunal | Leave a comment