No sick pay, no maternity pay: Chancellor targets employers' tax loophole that damages teachers' and nurses' rights

 

A tax loophole which allows firms to dodge around £100 million a year in National Insurance will be closed in the Budget, it was announced.

Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander said it would target the use of offshore payroll services in tax havens such as Jersey and Guernsey.

Around 100,000 employees - mostly teachers, nurses and oil and gas workers - are believed to be paid in that way and could be unknowingly ineligible for statutory sick pay.

Mr Alexander was alerted to the loophole by one such worker who approached him at Inverness Airport - though he insisted he found it was already under investigation by officials.

"It is not just about the tax we get in, it is also the case that many employees will not know they are paid in this way," he told BBC Radio 4's Today.

"If their employer is not paying Employers National Insurance, unbeknownst to them, they may not then be entitled to statutory maternity pay if they become pregnant, they may not be entitled to statutory sick pay if they fall ill.

"This is not just something which has direct consequences to the Exchequer, costing us all hundreds of millions of pounds, it is also something that has a direct consequence for the workers concerned and that why it is so important we are taking this action."

Mr Alexander will hail the move against "shadowy intermediaries" in his speech to the Scottish Liberal Democrat conference later.

"British firms employing British workers must pay British taxes," he will say.

"This is just one part of a bigger package that we will announce at the Budget next week."

It was also reported today that George Osborne's Budget on Wednesday would also contain details of a £1.5 billion childcare scheme to help with nursery fees.

Families would get up to £2,000 in vouchers under the initiative, though it may not come into operation until 2015.

Earlier shadow chancellor Ed Balls has joined calls for emergency tax cuts in next week's Budget - saying Labour would applaud a cut in the basic rate of income tax to stimulate growth.

Mr Osborne is under pressure from the Tory right to make bold tax moves on Wednesday to kick-start the UK's flagging economy.

The looming prospect of a triple-dip recession and the recent loss of the UK's once-cherished AAA credit rating have heightened demands for a change of course.

But the Chancellor is expected to keep faith with his tough austerity programme, with Prime Minister David Cameron declaring the Budget would be about "sticking to the course".

In an interview with The Daily Telegraph Mr Balls said temporary borrowing to fund a cut in the basic rate of income tax would pay for itself.

Labour has proposed a temporary VAT reduction as the best way to stimulate recovery but Mr Balls said he would "applaud" any any type of tax cut.

"Something must be done now...you need some fiscal action," he said.

"If George Osborne announced a temporary cut in the basic rate we would applaud him because we would say, 'At last he is finally doing something to get some spending power back into the economy'."

Hopes the economy could grow in this quarter and thus avoid returning to recession were dealt a blow this week by a 1.5 per cent fall in manufacturing output in January.

Mr Osborne is tipped to announce extra investment in housebuilding and road projects - called for by leading business groups - and help for people to buy homes.

Drivers could be helped by the cancellation of planned fuel duty rises.

PA

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
FIFA President Sepp Blatter reacts during a news conference in Zurich June 1, 2011
news
News
people
Life and Style
food + drink
News
peopleKatie Hopkins criticises River Island's 'seize the day' bags for trying to normalise epilepsy
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
Nicole Kidman plays Grace Kelly in the film, which was criticised by Monaco’s royal family
film'I survived it, but I’ll never be the same,' says Arash Amel
Life and Style
Retailers should make good any consumer goods problems that occur within two years
tech(and what to do if you receive it)
Life and Style
healthIf one was missed, vomiting blood was seen as a viable alternative
Life and Style
tech
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £45K YR1: SThree: At SThree, we like to be dif...

Guru Careers: Software Developer / Web Developer

£30 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Software / Web Developer (PHP / MYSQL) i...

Guru Careers: Account Executive

£18 - 20k + Benefits: Guru Careers: An Account Executive is needed to join one...

Guru Careers: Software Developer / Software Engineer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Software Developer / Software Engineer i...

Day In a Page

Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor
The ZX Spectrum has been crowd-funded back into play - with some 21st-century tweaks

The ZX Spectrum is back

The ZX Spectrum was the original - and for some players, still the best. David Crookes meets the fans who've kept the games' flames lit
Grace of Monaco film panned: even the screenwriter pours scorn on biopic starring Nicole Kidman

Even the screenwriter pours scorn on Grace of Monaco biopic

The critics had a field day after last year's premiere, but the savaging goes on
Menstrual Hygiene Day: The strange ideas people used to believe about periods

Menstrual Hygiene Day: The strange ideas people once had about periods

If one was missed, vomiting blood was seen as a viable alternative
The best work perks: From free travel cards to making dreams come true (really)

The quirks of work perks

From free travel cards to making dreams come true (really)
Is bridge the latest twee pastime to get hip?

Is bridge becoming hip?

The number of young players has trebled in the past year. Gillian Orr discovers if this old game has new tricks
Long author-lists on research papers are threatening the academic work system

The rise of 'hyperauthorship'

Now that academic papers are written by thousands (yes, thousands) of contributors, it's getting hard to tell workers from shirkers
The rise of Lego Clubs: How toys are helping children struggling with social interaction to build better relationships

The rise of Lego Clubs

How toys are helping children struggling with social interaction to build better relationships
5 best running glasses

On your marks: 5 best running glasses

Whether you’re pounding pavements, parks or hill passes, keep your eyes protected in all weathers
Raif Badawi: Wife pleads for fresh EU help as Saudi blogger's health worsens

Please save my husband

As the health of blogger Raif Badawi worsens in prison, his wife urges EU governments to put pressure on the Saudi Arabian royal family to allow her husband to join his family in Canada
Birthplace of Arab Spring in turmoil as angry Tunisians stage massive sit-in over lack of development

They shall not be moved: jobless protesters bring Tunisia to a halt

A former North African boom town is wasting away while its unemployed citizens stick steadfastly to their sit-in
David Hasselhoff's new show 'Hoff the Record': What's it like working with a superstar?

Hanging with the Hoff

Working with David Hasselhoff on his new TV series was an education for Ella Smith