SharecloseShare pageCopy linkAbout sharingimage sourcePremier FoodsPremier Foods, the owner of Mr Kipling cakes, has told its 800 staff members they will be able to decide where they work, as it adopts a new hybrid model.The offer applies to staff at its St Albans head office, as well as its Manchester, Lutterworth, Southampton, and High Wycombe locations.It follows an earlier trial of more than 100 office workers. Premier said office staff could work “wherever they work best” starting from this month.The FTSE 250 company, which also owns brands such as Bisto, Ambrosia, Oxo and Loyd Grossman sauces, said its offices would not be “somewhere colleagues have to be for the sake of showing their face”.It hopes that the hybrid model will be “transformational”, with an aim to boost personal well-being and productivity.Covid: Should I be working from home or going back to the office?Working from home job adverts riseGoldman Sachs delays return to office for workersDavid Wilkinson, group HR director, said: “This isn’t about getting rid of the office altogether, it’s about shifting our mindset on what it means to be flexible.”Work is a verb, not a place, and whether it’s for a team meeting or just personal preference, our office remains open for anyone who wants to use it.”Office workers account for about a fifth of Premier Foods’ workforce, and company managers are set to be given bespoke training to support the transition. However, the changes will not apply to Premier’s 4,000 factory workers.Premier joins a string of other companies embracing hybrid working after more than 18 months of remote working due to the onslaught of the coronavirus pandemic. High Street retailer Primark has also introduced a hybrid system, while Deloitte has said that its hybrid model should “bring the best of both worlds”, balancing the flexibility of remote work and safe in-person collaboration. “This is a fundamental reshaping of the way that society goes about work and integrating that into life,” US chief executive Joe Ucuzoglu said.In contrast, PwC has said that businesses have a responsibility to get staff back into physical offices. Earlier this month, Kevin Ellis, chairman of PwC in Britain, said there was an “economic need” to bring staff back to the office.”It’s our responsibility as employers. What the government do, the government do, but I think there’s a business advantage to investing in our people and a business advantage to our people being trained to work in a collaborative way,” he said.Meanwhile, US Google employees who opt to work from home permanently may get a pay cut after the tech giant developed a pay calculator that determines the effects of working remotely or moving offices.
SharecloseShare pageCopy linkAbout sharingimage sourceAFPThe boss of supermarket Iceland says the supply chain chaos is getting worse, just as retailers start planning for the key Christmas period.Richard Walker told the BBC he estimated the UK’s shortage of lorry drivers was now about 100,000, with the company itself about 100 short.Christmas is almost upon retailers as planning starts now, Mr Walker said.”The reason for sounding the alarm now is that we’ve already had one Christmas cancelled at the last minute,” he said. “I’d hate this one to be problematic as well,” he added. “We start to stock-build from September onwards for what is a hugely important time of year,” he added.”We’ve got a lot of goods to transport between now and Christmas and a strong supply chain is vital for everyone.”Act now to end lorry driver crisis, government toldHow serious is the HGV driver shortage? “The driver shortage is impacting the food supply chain on a daily basis and leading to shortages on the shelves,” Mr Walker said.”We’ve had deliveries cancelled for the first time since the pandemic began, about 30 to 40 deliveries a day.”image sourceGetty ImagesThe simple solution he said, was for heavy goods vehicle drivers to be added to the UK’s skilled workers list, to help get drivers recruited from overseas.”These men and women, these HGV drivers, have kept the show on the road for 18 months during the pandemic and it’s criminal that we’re not viewing them as skilled workers,” he told the BBC.Asked if Brexit is responsible for the supply chain problems, Mr Walker responded: “I think so, but it’s a ‘self-inflicted wound’ rather than an inevitable consequence of Brexit, caused by the government’s failure to appreciate the importance of HGV drivers and the work they do for us.”Incentive schemesFirms from a number of sectors in the UK have been battling with a supply chain crisis due to a shortage of lorry drivers. On Friday, Logistics UK, which represents freight firms, and the British Retail Consortium (BRC) wrote to the government to plead for new measures to alleviate the problem.Tesco has been offering lorry drivers a £1,000 joining bonus amid a chronic shortage of drivers in the industry.Other companies are also understood to be offering similar incentives for HGV drivers after disruption to supply chains led to product shortages. Morrisons said it was working on schemes to train staff to become lorry drivers.A government spokesperson said last week it was bringing in a package of measures to help tackle the HGV driver shortage, including plans to streamline the process for new drivers to gain their HGV licence and to increase the number of tests that can be conducted.Toy trouble Problems with shipping goods in from overseas could also hit Christmas, according to toy retailer boss Gary Grant. The chairman of The Entertainer told the Mail Online that he had to contend with shortages of containers to bring goods in from Asia and a jump in shipping costs.”What is unique to us is that Christmas is a fixed date, so we are under extreme pressure at the moment to move as much stock as we can, but are significantly behind with the shipment of products,” he said. “There’s not a shortage of toys, but what will happen as when we get nearer to Christmas, the suppliers will not have back-up stock that we’ve previously relied upon. So the range of stock we have may be narrower.” He warned that popular toys such as Paw Patrol, Barbie and Rainbocorns could be in short supply.
SharecloseShare pageCopy linkAbout sharingimage sourceGetty ImagesMoney lender Amigo is warning it may not survive after revealing it has set aside £345m as a compensation pot against mis-selling claims. The business, which lends money to people with poor credit records, also revealed a jump in annual losses to £284m, compared with £38m last year.In May, the High Court rejected its plan to set aside a separate pot of money for compensation.Amigo had faced a deluge of complaints the company had mis-sold them loans.The business is the last sub-prime lender in the market after leading brand Wonga went under.Amigo, which offered loans with an interest rate of up to 49.9%, was forced to stop lending last year after thousands of complaints from customers who say they were approved for loans that they could never afford to repay. A host of these complaints have come via claims management companies.image sourcePA MediaThe regulator, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), says that a loan is unaffordable if making the repayments means someone has to borrow more money or get behind with essential bills.It has tried once to negotiate a settlement that would have seen those customers get pennies on the pound, but it was rejected by the High Court in May.Amigo is preparing to present a new proposal to the FCA and the High Court. If this next offer is rejected, it is likely to go under.Boardroom bust-ups and rows with the regulator have not helped but, fundamentally, Amigo is facing a challenge that has brought down other big names in the sector.These results reveal the huge compensation bill it faces for historic mis-selling of loans. The influx of complaints for advancing money to people who had little chance of repaying has already spelled the end to Wonga and others.If Amigo were to collapse, then plenty of borrowers will believe this is a company that has reaped what it sowed.Yet, there will be concern too among those who struggle to borrow from mainstream lenders that their options continue to shrink.In the results statement, which was originally due to be made in July, the company said there was a “material uncertainty” around its ability to continue as a going concern.Gary Jennison, Amigo’s chief executive said he was keen to save the company, as it offered essential finance to those who could not access mainstream lending.”The issues of the past are real, but do not diminish the need in society for lenders like Amigo,” he said.”Amigo allows ordinary people, excluded by banks and other mainstream credit providers, to access mid-cost finance when they are funding life essentials and to stay away from much higher-cost payday or illegal lenders.”
SharecloseShare pageCopy linkAbout sharingimage sourcePA MediaBig Four accountant EY has been fined £3.5m by a watchdog for failures over its audit of transport firm Stagecoach.The Financial Reporting Council also fined Mark Harvey, EY’s auditing engagement partner, £100,000.The fines are for problems in auditing Stagecoach’s rail franchise deal for the East Coast Main Line, its pension scheme and insurance provisions.However, the FRC said the breaches “were not intentional, dishonest, deliberate or reckless”.The accountancy firm admitted to failings in specific areas of the Stagecoach audit in 2017, its first for the FTSE 250 train, tram, coach and bus company.Failings included provisions for insurance claims relating to accidents, defined-benefit pension scheme obligations and an onerous contract provision relating to the East Coast Main Line railway franchise, the FRC said.”Whilst it is not alleged that the financial statements were in fact mis-stated, in several material instances the respondents failed to obtain sufficient appropriate audit evidence and to apply sufficient professional scepticism in their conduct,” the regulator said.It added: “The content and extent of the audit documentation which the respondents were required to prepare was of a low quality which did not record the full extent of the procedures and judgements made.”The fines were reduced to £2.2m and £70,000 respectively, because of mitigating factors and EY’s admissions.But EY will be required to report to the watchdog for a year in respect of audit work in relation to onerous contract provisions.”The sanctions imposed reflect the seriousness of the breaches and are intended to improve the quality of future audits,” said Claudia Mortimore, deputy executive counsel to the FRC.Falling shortEY said it regrettably fell short of the standards it set for itself, adding that no findings were raised in the FRC’s review of the auditor’s most recent audit of Stagecoach for the year-end 2020. It said it had continued to make significant investments in audit quality.”These will support our focus on delivering the highest levels of audit quality by building a culture of challenge and providing independent oversight of our UK audit practice,” it said.Last year the FRC told the UK’s biggest accountancy firms – KPMG, EY, PwC and Deloitte – that they must ring-fence their audit arms from their consultancy units by 2024.That followed widespread criticism of the auditors after the collapse of several high-profile companies that had been approved by auditors, such as government contractor Carillion and holiday company Thomas Cook.
SharecloseShare pageCopy linkAbout sharingimage sourceReutersThe World Bank has halted funding for projects in Afghanistan after the Taliban seized control of the country.It cited concerns over how the Taliban’s takeover will impact “the country’s development prospects, especially for women”.The move comes just days after the International Monetary Fund (IMF) suspended payments to Afghanistan.The Biden administration has also frozen the assets of Afghanistan’s central bank that are held in the US.”We have paused disbursements in our operations in Afghanistan and we are closely monitoring and assessing the situation in line with our internal policies and procedures,” a World Bank spokesperson told the BBC.”We will continue to consult closely with the international community and development partners. Together with our partners we are exploring ways we can remain engaged to preserve hard-won development gains and continue to support the people of Afghanistan.”What next for Afghanistan’s economy?Since 2002 the Washington-based financial institution has committed more than $5.3bn (£3.9bn) to reconstruction and development projects in Afghanistan.On Friday, the World Bank told staff that its Kabul-based team and their immediate families had been safely evacuated from Afghanistan to Pakistan.The decision by the World Bank to suspend payments to Afghanistan is the latest financial blow to the country’s new government.Last week, the IMF announced that Afghanistan will no longer be able to access the global lender’s resources.An IMF spokesperson said it was due to “lack of clarity within the international community” over recognising a government in Afghanistan. Around $440m of new monetary reserves had been set to be made available to the country from 23 August.Also in the days after the Taliban took control of Kabul, the White House said any assets that Afghanistan’s central bank has in the US would not be made available to the Taliban. Da Afghanistan Bank has reserves of roughly $9bn, most of which is held in the US.You may also be interested in:
SharecloseShare pageCopy linkAbout sharingAs more people in the US are asked to prove they have been vaccinated in order to work, study or socialise, a flourishing black market in fake vaccination cards has sprung up. But what can be done to tackle it?The operator behind “Covid19vaccinecardsss” took just seconds to reply. One of a slew of Instagram accounts hawking fake proof of Covid-19 vaccination cards, whoever was running the page was eager to sell, inviting the BBC to move over to an encrypted messaging app to make a deal.For $100 (£70), the vendor would deliver a “registered” card, with either the logo of the US Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention (CDC) or Britain’s National Health Service.Payment could be made in Apple Pay or Bitcoin and delivery would be “discrete” and within 24 hours, they promised.”Your cards will be saved into the database system,” they told the BBC. “[These are] very good original vaccine cards, no worries.”As the Delta variant of coronavirus sweeps the US, businesses, universities and cities such as New York and San Francisco have introduced vaccine mandates to boost uptake of jabs. But vaccine hesitancy remains high and a cottage industry for bogus inoculation cards has emerged to help people get around the rules. Fakes have been sold on platforms from eBay to Whatsapp and there have been high profile busts, with warnings that counterfeiters and buyers could face jail. Yet users, authorities and many others are sceptical that the use of false cards can be stopped.Jennifer is head bartender at the busy Peculiar Pub in Greenwich Village, New York, where customers must show proof of vaccination in order to enter as part of a citywide mandate affecting bars, gyms and other indoor venues. No one’s raised her suspicions yet but she thinks it will be “really hard” to spot fake vaccination documents, which in New York can take the form of a paper card from the health authorities or merely a photo of that card. “As long as it’s printed and you can just write a date, how am I going to know the person that injected you and where you got it? There are hundreds and thousands of vaccination sites in the US, people can come to your home now to give you the vaccine.”Counterfeiters appear to be doing brisk business.Last week, customs officials in Memphis, Tennessee and Anchorage, Alaska seized 6,000 false vaccination cards in separate shipments from China destined for recipients across the US.They were printed with the CDC logo and closely resembled the genuine cards given to US citizens when they get vaccinated. However, when officials looked closer they noticed spelling mistakes and poor printing quality. Two visitors from the mainland were arrested Sunday at Honolulu’s airport for violating an Emergency Proclamation by falsifying vaccination cards to travel to Hawaiʻi. Investigators from the AG’s office made the arrests after following up on a tip from a community member.— Governor David Ige (@GovHawaii) August 11, 2021
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites.View original tweet on TwitterAt the same time, more people who are using false documents are getting caught. Recently, a Miami couple was arrested for allegedly trying to enter Hawaii using fake cards in breach of the state’s travel laws, which require proof of vaccination or a negative test result to avoid quarantine. Enzo Dalmazzo, 43, and Daniela Dalmazzo, 31, who travelled with their two children, are facing $8,000 (£5,000) in fines – although the maximum penalty could have been jail.The flourishing market has prompted warnings from the FBI that unauthorised use of a government agency’s seal is a crime and violators could face fines or up to five years in prison.Chuck Schumer, the Democratic Senate majority leader, has called for a federal crackdown and national education campaign to stop counterfeiting. Why, he also asked, were people risking prosecution to get fake vaccine cards when jabs are free and plentiful in the US?Stacey, who works at another busy Greenwich Village bar, says friends of hers are thinking of buying fake cards because they do not want to get jabbed over fears about vaccine safety. Resistance to jabs and vaccine mandates is fierce in some parts of the US, where only 60% of the adult population is fully vaccinated, and typically driven by online disinformation and calls to protect civil liberties.Stacey, who is vaccinated, says her friends think vaccine mandates could stop them doing everyday things if they become more common, and so fake documentation will offer a workaround. But she adds: “It’s worrisome in terms of public health. If they are choosing to come in with a fake vaccination card they are putting themselves at risk to people who are doing the same thing.”Bogus cards are easily available on social media, messaging apps and the dark web where they can be bought for anywhere between $25 (£18) and $500, according to reports. On Instagram accounts often promote fake cards alongside images featuring anti-vaccination slogans or disinformation about vaccine safety. Instagram shut down accounts the BBC reported but others remain on its site. Anyone buying, selling, or trading in fake, or genuine, medical documents on its platforms will be barred, the company said.”We’ll continue to identify and remove this content whenever we find it, and will disable accounts, pages or groups that repeatedly break our rules,” a spokeswoman told the BBC. image sourceInstagram/BBCSome New York businesses are concerned they could be held liable if someone is found on their premises with a fake card. Sean, who manages Off the Wagon, another nightspot in Greenwich Village, thinks all proof-of-vaccination cards should be digital to stop fraud. Such passes are planned or in use in the UK and Denmark, for example, but the US has no similar scheme.Several digital vaccine apps are available within New York City, but bars like Sean’s still can’t access systems to scan them, which worries him.”I am expecting [fake vaccination cards] just like I expect fake IDs for underage drinking,” he tells the BBC. “But there isn’t much you can do about the paper ones.”That’s why it is important to know we won’t be held liable… We’re at the very early stages with all of this, it’s a fickle process.”
SharecloseShare pageCopy linkAbout sharingMany companies perform better with overseas ownership according to business minister Lord Grimstone, who said the UK had nothing to fear from a recent flood of private foreign takeover bids for UK-listed companies. “It would be a sad day for Britain if we pulled down the shutters so that we weren’t a mercantile entrepreneurial country,” he said. His comments came as the government announced that the UK will hold a major international investment summit in October to attract more overseas investment in post-Brexit Britain. “All our research shows that overseas invested companies are more productive and produce more jobs,” added Lord Grimstone. “It’s an extraordinary finding but what it shows is the importance of attracting overseas investment into the UK.”Recent figures show that foreign private buyers have spent more acquiring UK-listed business in the last eight months than they have in the last five years combined. Currently, grocery company Morrisons and defence contractors Meggitt and Ultra are the subject of bidding wars between overseas investors. image sourceAFPLord Grimstone, former deputy chairman of Barclays, which will be a major sponsor of the upcoming summit, said the UK was at the forefront of industries of the future, including renewable energy and the convergence of finance and technology – so-called fintech. He also pointed to the £1bn investment in new car and battery production recently announced by Nissan. “We intend to keep the UK as one of the most attractive destinations for foreign investment in the world,” he said.”We are in that category but I like to think of investment as one of the most globally competitive sports and we intend to win in it.”Despite the flood of recent private takeovers, overall foreign direct investment into the UK has fallen every year since the Brexit referendum in 2016, and the UK which attracted more investment than any other country in Europe for 18 years in a row, lost that title to France in both of the last two years.
SharecloseShare pageCopy linkAbout sharingimage sourceGetty ImagesSelf-catered accommodation in the UK is costing on average 40% more than in the summer of 2019, according to consumer group Which?.Its analysis, with BBC Panorama, suggests holidaymakers are paying an average of £300 more per week in August compared to before the pandemic. Brighton is among the seaside resorts with soaring prices, with average rental costs almost doubling.The data is from AirDNA, which monitors websites such as Airbnb and Vrbo.BBC News has approached Airbnb for comment. The company has previously claimed figures from third-party organisations can be misleading.Airbnb extends party ban until end of summerHow a village is changing to meet staycation demandThe quirky holiday lets that are nothing like homeWatch BBC Panorama: The Great British Staycation? at 19:30 BST on Wednesday on BBC One, or later on BBC iPlayerMore than 20 million Britons planned to holiday in the UK this year, according to research by market research company Opinium.The average cost of one night of self-catered accommodation for two people in Brighton was £109 in 2019, but is now £206 – a rise of 89% – according to AirDNA’s data.Meanwhile, stays in St Helier in Jersey increased by 76% on 2019, and Lyme Regis on the south coast jumped up 74%.Catherine Lane, who lets out six properties in Brighton, told BBC Panorama she put up some of her prices this year because her costs had risen considerably.”Now we have to have cleaning and sanitation costs, which are much higher. We have to have time for the cleaners to disinfect the place,” she said.She said prices had gone up to meet the high demand, but added: “A lot of pricing we don’t have control over.”If you’re booking by third-party advertising website, they’re putting commissions on the actual end price.”Holiday booking site Vrbo told BBC Panorama it “does not set, change or influence the property prices a host chooses”.Which? also looked at how big the price difference can be between holidaying in the UK and travelling abroad – even when flights are factored in.Its research compared prices for late August getaways for two people in the UK and abroad, looking at the cheapest, highly-rated hotel available in a central location, as well as transport costs.For a coastal break, it found a week in Brighton for £1,131, while a hotel in Nice in the south of France, which included flights, cost £1,085.Elsewhere, a week in Lake Windermere in the England’s Lake District cost £2,424, compared to just £802 for flights and accommodation for a week in Lake Garda in northern Italy.image sourceGetty ImagesWhich? travel editor Rory Boland said: “We’re not talking about £10, we’re not talking about the cost of a meal out. We’re talking… hundreds and hundreds of pounds.”He said the reason behind the differences in price wasn’t just down to the pandemic.”When we looked at it, accommodation prices in 2019 were more expensive in the UK than they were abroad. So this isn’t a pandemic problem only, the pandemic has made it worse,” Mr Boland added.Watch BBC Panorama: The Great British Staycation? at 19:30 BST on Wednesday on BBC One, or later on BBC iPlayer
SharecloseShare pageCopy linkAbout sharingimage sourceGetty ImagesJust Eat will create more than 1,500 customer service jobs in north-eastern England in the next 12 months. The jobs will be based at a new facility in Sunderland as part of a £100m investment in the region by the firm over the next five years. Currently, the takeaway food firm has more than 2,000 UK-based employees. New employees will begin working from home and the firm will offer employees the option to work from the office in the coming months. Takeaway apps ‘more expensive’ than buying directJust Eat to stop using gig economy workersEat more vegetables says new report Just Eat said it had already hired 300 staff in Sunderland and noted that customer satisfaction had gone up as a result.Previously, the firm had outsourced the majority of its customer service roles to Bulgaria and the Philippines. Its UK managing director, Andrew Kenny, said the new customer care staff would help bring quality service to their customers and restaurant partners.”As a platform that covers 95% of UK postcodes, we also know the importance of increasing career opportunities outside of London and the South East,” Mr Kenny said. “We’re pleased to be announcing our commitment to the North East, to help boost the region’s economy,” he added. The delivery platform has more than 58,000 restaurant partners across the UK.Sales growthCouncillor Graeme Miller, leader of Sunderland City Council, said: “We’re thrilled to have supported Just Eat to make its move to Sunderland, joining a dynamic business community and creating jobs and opportunities for people across the city.””We’re immensely proud of our skilled people and look forward to seeing how they drive the onward success of the Just Eat business,” he added. The office, in Houghton le Spring, was previously occupied by Npower and will provide a gym, lounge and catering area across its 20,000 sq-m space. Just Eat was founded by a group of five Danish entrepreneurs in 2000 and launched a year later. Last year, online food ordering company Takeaway.com won a battle for the UK-listed Just Eat with a £5.9bn all-share offer.It made Just Eat Takeaway.com one of the world’s largest meal delivery companies.Earlier this month, the company reported that sales rose 52% in the first half of 2021, reflecting a robust growth in orders during the coronavirus pandemic. In June, consumer organisation Which? researched the price of ordering meals for between two to four people from five restaurants and cafes. On average, Which? found that ordering through Just Eat was 7% more expensive than ordering directly from the restaurant.
SharecloseShare pageCopy linkAbout sharingimage sourceReutersGoldman Sachs has made it compulsory for its staff to be fully vaccinated against coronavirus in order to work in its US offices.The investment bank said from 7 September all employees, along with clients and visitors, would need to be doubled jabbed to enter its buildings.Goldman said it would also introduce mandatory once-a-week testing from the same date for staff.Workers who are not fully vaccinated will be expected to work from home.Goldman told the BBC the policy was being introduced in the US, where workers returned the office in July, and not at its sites around world. Proof of vaccination status will be required via an app from October, it added. A spokesperson said that from Wednesday face masks would also be required – regardless of vaccination status – in all common areas of its buildings, such as lobbies, lifts, hallways, restrooms and cafes, except while seated for eating and drinking.The bank had previously ordered its US bankers to disclose their vaccine status before returning to the office but refrained from mandating them.The announcement comes after Pfizer’s two-dose vaccine received full approval from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The vaccine had initially only been given emergency use authorisation. The approval is expected to set off more vaccine mandates by employers and organisations in the US at time when infections are rising and vaccine hesitancy remains high.image sourceGetty ImagesLast month, Goldman announced bankers returning to its London head office would be required to wear masks in the building, despite the easing of the UK government’s coronavirus restrictions.But Richard Gnodde, the head of Goldman Sachs International, said the bank would not insist on people being vaccinated, nor would it force people to return if they felt uncomfortable doing so.”[We will] continue to manage our exit from this in a cautious and appropriate way to make sure that our people feel comfortable,” he told the BBC.’Aberration’Banks have been split over whether staff should come back to the office full time or work from home for some or all of the week.Goldman Sachs’ group chief executive, David Solomon, has described working from home as “an aberration”, while James Gorman, the boss of rival US investment bank Morgan Stanley said: “If you can go into a restaurant in New York City, you can come into the office.”Meanwhile, NatWest has said some 55% of its workforce would adopt a hybrid model of working between the office and home.