Welcome to the April 2008 Newsletter from Connolly Accountants Ltd

A plethora of business regulations came into force earlier this month, as part of the Government’s biannual legislation update. Changes to the law on corporate manslaughter were amongst a raft of reforms that became effective on 6 April 2008. Following the revisions to commercial homicide, firms have been urged to review their health and safety policies and indemnity cover to ensure they are protected against the ‘tough’ new rules.

Meanwhile, organisations have also been advised to implement measures to safeguard their personal details against alleged ‘phishing scams’. The warning comes as fresh evidence reveals that an increasing number of businesses have fallen prey to fraudulent emails branded to look like their bank.


Firms urged to prioritise health and safety as new rules implemented

UK businesses have been advised to review their health and safety policies following recent changes to the law on corporate manslaughter.

On 6 April the Corporate Manslaughter and Homicide Act came into effect, placing greater responsibility on firms to ensure they have sufficient health and safety practices in place.

Under the Act, senior officials can be held responsible for fatal accidents that occur as a result of defective management practices. To secure a conviction the prosecution must prove that the management failure amounted to a ‘gross breach’ of the duty of care owed to the deceased. The jury will also need to ascertain whether ‘reasonable steps’ were taken to protect the health and safety of those at risk.

The Government says that it only expects the new law to be applied to the most serious and apparent cases and that organisations with sound health and safety policies have nothing to fear.

A leading international law firm has claimed that is ‘impossible to predict the full impact’ of the new offence, although stressed that businesses should endeavour to make health and safety a priority in the workplace.

Firms that are deemed liable may incur an unlimited fine, along with a possible publicity order which can force a company to publicise details of the offence to the wider public. A court may also instruct an organisation to make changes to remedy the failures behind the death.

‘This new legislation means that failure to manage and monitor their procedures could lead to a heavy fine and public humiliation,’ said Phil Orford, Chief Executive of the Forum of Private Business.

‘It is vital that smaller firms undertake a full review of their systems and processes to create and enforce strict health and safety procedures.’

If you are concerned about the new corporate manslaughter regulations, contact your legal adviser. You should always seek professional advice before acting.


Businesses warned as ‘phishing’ scams rise

Businesses and individuals have been advised to be on their guard, as so-called ‘phishing scams’ continue to rise.

Cases of fraudsters attempting to appropriate people's bank details via email more than tripled in the first three months of 2008, compared with the same period last year. According to payments association Apacs, there were 10,235 so-called phishing attacks in the first quarter of the year, up from 3,394.

The scam involves sending unsolicited emails requesting recipients to enter their bank details and security codes. The emails are usually designed to appear as if they come from a real bank or building society, often using official-looking logos and brand colours. If users then give this information, the con-artists use the data to empty online accounts of funds.

There are various steps you and your business can take to protect itself from such scams, including installing up-to-date anti-spyware software. However, the best advice is simple.

As Sandra Quinn, director of communications at Apacs, said: ‘Just remember that your bank will never send you emails asking you to disclose pin numbers, login details or complete passwords. If you receive an email of this nature you should delete it.’

If you believe the security of your personal details may have been compromised you should contact your bank immediately.


2008/09 TAX RATES AND ALLOWANCES

As the new tax year begins, don’t forget that you can view all the latest tax rates, facts and figures at our website: Click here


ESSENTIAL TAX DATES AND DEADLINES

Click here for key tax deadlines for the coming month.


QUOTE OF THE MONTH

'We are determined to bring the cowboys and criminals to task and support the swathe of honest business.'
Ron Gainsford, chief executive of the Trading Standards Institute, endorsing a proposed Government clampdown on firms that employ unfair selling tactics.


WEBSITE OF THE MONTH

www.hse.gov.uk
Provides useful information for businesses on the recent health and safety legislative changes


ON OUR WEBSITE

Business advice at your fingertips
For a range of information on key issues affecting your business, view our business guides.

Personal tax information and guidance
Access a variety of information on personal taxation issues by visiting the 'Your Money' section of our website

Unemployment falls to new low
Despite the general air of economic gloom in the wake of the 'credit crunch', the latest figures from the Office of National Statistics reveal a fall in unemployment.
Click here for the full story

Business welcomes interest rate cut
Business groups have applauded the Bank of England’s decision to cut interest rates from 5.25% to 5%, amid growing concerns over the volatile financial and economic climate.
Click here for the full story

New code to 'reduce red tape'
The Government has introduced a new code of conduct in a bid to cut the volume of red tape faced by small businesses.
Click here for the full story

'Tough' new credit rules come into force
The Consumer Credit Act 2006 has seen its biggest shakeup for more than 30 years, with the introduction of a series of new measures that give consumers greater protection against rogue lenders.
Click here for the full story

Small firms 'failing to plan' for the unexpected
UK firms are at risk of going out of business due to a lack of planning for unexpected events, according to the Association of British Insurers.
Click here for the full story