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A four-day week could be more productive than five

The way we work is changing fast. The quicker we embrace it, the happier we’ll be

Edmund Greaves Tue, 07/16/2019 - 14:58
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Work time, as my father considers it, is a very political issue. Once upon a time it conjured images of the EU 48-hour working time directive, and reminders from France that they worked half as hard as us and achieved just as much.

But during the few years that I’ve lived in London and participated in its great unholy rat race, the more I’ve noticed a shift.

More of my friends work ‘flexibly,’ and more (Moneywise included) have moved into so-called flexible co-working spaces such as WeWork.

My housemate, for instance, works for a major insurance firm in the City of London. He works from home one day a week. It actually has nothing to do with his work/life balance, but more to do with the firm’s office. The company only has seats for about 80% of its employees. This, I am told, is common among major banks too.

It is largely a cost-saving measure on the firm’s part, but if my housemate is capable of doing his job from our sofa on his laptop, with Good Morning Britain in the background, then great!

Although truth be told I wonder how much work actually gets done. A cursory search on Amazon, and you’ll find a tech product called a ‘mouse jiggler’. This is a piece of USB tech designed to plug into your work laptop, so it stays continuously awake, giving the impression that you are doing something. Why else would such a product exist but to subvert your boss while working from home?

My housemate’s story is a small piece of a bigger puzzle that Britain has an issue with today – that is, the ‘productivity puzzle’.

Productivity has barely moved a jot since the financial crisis. It is measured as the amount of work produced per working hour. Simply put, we’re not getting better at our jobs.

It is well known countries such as Germany and France produce in four days what takes us slovenly Brits five.

Recently, Brexit has shouldered some of the blame. Employment figures keep pushing higher. This is supposedly because it is cheaper (and less risky during periods of uncertainty) for firms to hire more employees (who can then subsequently be discarded in a downturn) than it is to invest in new equipment, technology or training for existing employees.

This has a negative effect. Automated car washes have been around for a long time. But go to an out-of-town Tesco car park and you’ll find a gang of lads offering hand car washes. While they’ve got work, which is great, it is also an inefficient use of their time compared to a machine that just needs occasional maintenance.

Politicians don’t seem to have much of an idea of how to solve this either. But in fact, a small, left-leaning think tank called Autonomy came out with an eye-catching proposal recently – the four-day working week.

While it isn’t official Labour Party policy (yet), it is backed by Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell. And one Moneywise columnist/deputy editor. And, according to jobsite Indeed, a staggering three-quarters of the public.

The report from Autonomy found that countries such as Norway, the Netherlands and Germany have the shortest working hours in Europe, and the highest levels of productivity.

The Indeed research found that 74% of workers believed they could do their jobs in four days instead of five. This rose to 79% among millennials.

So if the vast majority of us can do our jobs in four days instead of five (therefore theoretically leaving no loss of overall output), the question is: what do we all do with the extra day off?

This is the beauty of having an extra day – it gives people more freedom to do what they like with their lives.

I have friends who would love to set up side-hustle businesses alongside their full-time jobs. That might even help boost the economy.

I know people who would clamour for the extra day to look after their kids and save money on childcare. It would even help people save one-fifth of their commuting costs, and free up public transport. Even an extra day to pursue a hobby or sit on the sofa and do nothing. The choice is yours.

This idea is appreciably quite idealistic, and many will guffaw at the implications of more play time over work time. But to me it seems an idea with lots of small mercies attached to it.

An increase in flexible working culture is great up to a point, but there seems an element of “prisoner in your own home” about it. And I question how productive one can truly be.

After all, why else would such a thing as a ‘mouse jiggler’ exist? Let’s all aim for four productive days at work instead of a five-day botch.

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Public sector workers to have pensions benefits restored following firefighter age discrimination ruling

Changes to firefighters’ pensions after age discrimination case will be applied to all public sector pensions

Stephen Little Tue, 07/16/2019 - 11:10
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The government has confirmed that changes to firefighter’s pensions in 2015 that were ruled to be discriminatory will apply to all public sector schemes.

Under 2015 reforms, older workers in the fire service stayed in existing defined benefit (DB) contribution schemes while younger colleagues had to transfer to less generous pensions.

Last December, the Supreme Court ruled that these changes were discriminatory, and the firefighters were put back on the previous scheme.

In a written statement made yesterday, Treasury secretary Liz Truss said that the government will be engaging with the Employment Tribunal to agree how the discrimination will be remedied across the public sector.

This includes schemes for the NHS, civil service, local government, teachers, police, armed forces, judiciary and fire and rescue workers.

Jon Greer, head of retirement policy at Quilter, says the government will want to move public sector workers onto the 2015 basis as soon as possible.

He says: “This needs to be worked through and means that the younger members are entitled to have their benefits 'levelled up' so that they are treated as having the same protection as the older members, until a non-discriminatory amendment can be made.”

He adds: “The cost to the government is significant since they will have to provide pre-2015 members with higher benefits for a longer period than expected and it’s not clear that the full cost has been factored into the £4 billion cost approximation or if indeed there will be an even bigger hole in the new Prime Minister’s pockets.”

In June, the Supreme Court denied the government an appeal and it was ordered to pay the costs of the case.

The government estimates December’s ruling could cost it around £4 billion a year.

Tamara Calvert, partner at law firm DLA Piper, says: “The government has said that the cost of this ruling could be £4 billion a year in additional liabilities, although unions contest that figure. Whatever the number, it is likely to be large.

“Certainly, there is a lot of work to do to unravel the changes and reknit them into a legally acceptable shape for the future.”

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Number of unemployed women hits all-time low as wage growth increases

Workers’ wages grew at 3.4% on average in the three months to May, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS)

Edmund Greaves Tue, 07/16/2019 - 10:09
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This means workers' wages grew by 1.4% in real terms, compared to Consumer Price Index (CPI) measure of inflation.

Meanwhile, unemployment has reached its lowest level since October-December 1974. Just 3.8% of adults were out of work in the latest data which covers March to May 2019. See the chart below.

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Unemployment is classified by the ONS as people without a job who have been actively seeking work within the last four weeks and are able to start work within the next two weeks.

Full-time employment, however, has seen a slight fall. 

Pawel Adrjan, UK economist at the global job site Indeed, comments: “After months of consistent growth, the employment rate has fallen for the first time since last year.

“Tiny though the slide is, it’s a hint that Britain’s booming jobs market could finally be colliding with the ceiling of full employment."

The chart below shows the extraordinary change in employment rates for women. Female employment is now at its joint highest level ever, matching the 72% recorded in February to April 2019.

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Unemployment for men stands at 4%. For women it is at its lowest level since records began in 1971, now 3.6%.

Mr Adrjan adds: "The unemployment rate is firmly grounded at its historically low level and wage growth is slowly picking up again.

“Most encouraging of all are the signs that more people are re-entering the workforce. Small though it is, the fall in the number of economically inactive people is a reassuring indication that rising wages are tempting more people to get back into work."

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Travel insurance hope for holidaymakers with pre-existing medical conditions

Millions of Brits currently have to purchase exclusions for a pre-existing medical condition, while thousands more are declined cover

Stephen Little Mon, 07/15/2019 - 14:28
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The financial regulator has launched a consultation on proposals designed to help consumers with pre-existing medical conditions have better access to travel insurance.

The consultation is seeking views on the introduction of a new ‘signposting’ rule for firms, which would provide consumers with details of insurers that cover consumers for pre-existing medical conditions.

Customers would have to be informed:

  • When cover is declined or cancelled mid-term due to a pre-existing medical condition.
  • When cover is offered with an exclusion for a pre-existing medical condition that cannot be removed.
  • Where a consumer is offered cover with an additional loading to their base premium due to their pre-existing medical condition.

The FCA will also be working with insurers to try to improve consumer understanding of the travel insurance market to help them understand the implications of travelling with exclusions and how medical costs in different countries can impact travel insurance premiums.

Christopher Woolard, executive director of strategy and competition at the FCA says: “We want to reduce the numbers of consumers, who are currently faced with a choice of not travelling or travelling without insurance, and running the risk of incurring significant costs, including medical bills abroad.

“The changes proposed today will be an important step in helping people to navigate the market more easily and also in reducing the number of customers who are over-paying significantly for travel insurance.”

The FCA is consulting on the draft rules until 15 September 2019.

Thousands declined cover

Millions of Brits are having to purchase an exclusion for a pre-existing medical condition when they go on holiday each year, while thousands more are being declined cover.

The watchdog estimates there to be up to 14.1 million consumers with a pre-existing medical that look to purchase travel insurance each year.

Of these consumers, nearly 10,000 were turned down for cover, while 1.6 million purchased a policy with an exclusion for their condition.

Aashna Shroff, personal finance expert at money.co.uk, says: "Too many consumers end up taking the risk of travelling without insurance if they are unable to take out a policy due to a prior illness or injury, and, in some cases, even give up the idea of travelling altogether because they think they can't get the cover they need.

 "The reality is that you can get travel insurance with a pre-existing medical condition, but not every insurer will cover you and those that do will charge you more because you are more likely to claim.

"This is why it is really important to shop around and compare policies to understand exactly what is covered and to make sure you are getting the best price possible."

Getting cover for a pre-existing condition

Finding travel insurance if you have a pre-existing medical condition can be extremely difficult.

Older people can also struggle to get affordable insurance compared to younger travellers as they are more likely to be ill while abroad.

Insurance companies also see them as a greater risk as there is a greater chance they will have pre-existing medical conditions.

If you have a pre-existing condition it is worth shopping around as there are insurance companies out there that may be able to offer you cover.

One option is to get quotes from a comparison site such as Compare The market, Gocompare or Moneysupermarket. Alternatively you could try a specialist comparison website such as Medical Travel Compared or All Clear Travel.

Some companies such as Saga, RIAS and Age Co that specifically cater for the over-50s do offer cover for some pre-existing medical conditions, but make sure you check the terms and conditions first.

If you are having trouble finding travel insurance or the quotes are too high you could try using an insurance broker. They can offer you advice and scour the market to find you the best deal.

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FCA seeks to help people with medical conditions get travel insurance

Millions of Brits are having to purchase an exclusion for a pre-existing medical condition, while thousands more are being declined cover

Stephen Little Mon, 07/15/2019 - 14:28
Image

The financial regulator has launched a consultation on proposals designed to help consumers with pre-existing medical conditions have better access to travel insurance.

The consultation is seeking views on the introduction of a new ‘signposting’ rule for firms, which would provide consumers with details of insurers that cover consumers for pre-existing medical conditions.

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) says firms would be required to notify consumers:

  • When cover is declined or cancelled mid-term due to a pre-existing medical condition.
  • When cover is offered with an exclusion for a pre-existing medical condition that cannot be removed.
  • Where a consumer is offered cover with an additional loading to their base premium due to their pre-existing medical condition.

The FCA will also be working with insurers to try to improve consumer understanding of the travel insurance market to help them understand the implications of travelling with exclusions and how medical costs in different countries can impact travel insurance premiums.

Christopher Woolard, executive director of strategy and competition at the FCA says: “We want to reduce the numbers of consumers, who are currently faced with a choice of not travelling or travelling without insurance, and running the risk of incurring significant costs, including medical bills abroad.

“The changes proposed today will be an important step in helping people to navigate the market more easily and also in reducing the number of customers who are over-paying significantly for travel insurance.”

The FCA is consulting on the draft rules until 15 September 2019.

Thousands declined cover

Millions of Brits are having to purchase an exclusion for a pre-existing medical condition when they go on holiday each year, while thousands more are being declined cover.

The watchdog estimates there to be up to 14.1 million consumers with a pre-existing medical that look to purchase travel insurance each year.

Of these consumers, nearly 10,000 were turned down for cover, while 1.6 million purchased a policy with an exclusion for their condition.

Aashna Shroff, personal finance expert at money.co.uk, says: "Too many consumers end up taking the risk of travelling without insurance if they are unable to take out a policy due to a prior illness or injury, and, in some cases, even give up the idea of travelling altogether because they think they can't get the cover they need.

 "The reality is that you can get travel insurance with a pre-existing medical condition, but not every insurer will cover you and those that do will charge you more because you are more likely to claim.

"This is why it is really important to shop around and compare policies to understand exactly what is covered and to make sure you are getting the best price possible."

Getting cover for a pre-existing condition

Finding travel insurance if you have a pre-existing medical condition can be extremely difficult.

Older people can also struggle to get affordable insurance compared to younger travellers as they are more likely to be ill while abroad.

Insurance companies also see them as a greater risk as there is a greater chance they will have pre-existing medical conditions.

If you have a pre-existing condition it is worth shopping around as there are insurance companies out there that may be able to offer you cover.

One option is to get quotes from a comparison site such as Compare The market, Gocompare or Moneysupermarket. Alternatively you could try a specialist comparison website such as Medical Travel Compared or All Clear Travel.

Some companies such as Saga, RIAS and Age Co that specifically cater for the over-50s do offer cover for some pre-existing medical conditions, but make sure you check the terms and conditions first.

If you are having trouble finding travel insurance or the quotes are too high you could try using an insurance broker. They can offer you advice and scour the market to find you the best deal.

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LISTEN: Moneywise meets Kurupt FM to talk pensions and investing Edmund Greaves Mon, 07/15/2019 - 11:17
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Talking pensions, investing in marijuana, and who’s best with their money with the Bafta-winning creators of BBC 3’s People Just Do Nothing, with Allan Mustafa, Asim Chaudry, Hugo Chegwin and Steve Stamp.

The guys behind Kurupt FM have taken time out from promoting their partnership with Santander Bank, in which they made three short films for a fraud awareness campaign "Don't get Kurupted," to speak to Moneywise deputy editor Edmund Greaves.

Find out more about the campaign on the MC Grindah's Deadliest Dupes website.

Please note podcast contains some strong language.

Moneywise meets Kurupt FM to talk pensions and investing - SoundCloud
(753 secs long, 9 plays)Play in SoundCloud

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Bank of England reveals Alan Turing as the new face of the £50 note

The Bank of England has picked computer scientist Alan Turing as the new face of the £50 note after thousands of nominations were made by the public

Edmund Greaves Mon, 07/15/2019 - 10:40
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The Bank governor Mark Carney has announced Alan Turing as the new face of the £50 note.

The Bank initially asked the general public for nominations. Four leading scientists worked with a committee to draw up the shortlist.

Mr Carney says the Bank was "overwhelmed by the response" with thousands of nominations from the public. This was then whittled down to a shortlist of 12.

Mr Carney adds, "the shortlist epitomises the breadth and depth of the scientific community in the UK."

Mr Carney says Alan Turing has been selected for the new polymer note because he was "an outstanding mathematician whose work has had an enormous impact on how we live today.

He says: "As the father of computer science and artificial intelligence, as well as war hero, Alan Turing’s contributions were far ranging and path breaking. Turing is a giant on whose shoulders so many now stand.” 

The concept image (pictured above) features a photo taken of Alan Turing in 1951 by Elliot & Fry, part of the Photographs Collection at the National Portrait Gallery.

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Sarah John, chief cashier, comments: “The strength of the shortlist is testament to the UK’s incredible scientific contribution. 

"The breadth of individuals and achievements reflects the huge range of nominations we received for this note and I would to thank the public for all their suggestions of scientists we could celebrate.” 

The note will also feature a table and mathematical formulae from Turing, technical drawings of the British Bombe, the machine used as one of the primary tools in breaking Enigma-enciphered messages during the Second World War, Turing signature and ticker tape depicting Alan Turing's birth date in binary code.

The note will also feature a quote from Turing himself: “This is only a foretaste of what is to come, and only the shadow of what is going to be.”

The continuation of the £50 note, with a new polymer design, was not always guaranteed. It was earmarked for potential discontinuation by the Chancellor Phillip Hammond, back in March 2018. However, it was since given a reprieve, the government announced its intent to print a new polymer note in October 2018.

Mr Carney will be hoping the Bank of England have paid close attention to the new note's design. In May, the Reserve Bank of Australia was left red-faced when it emerged that a typo had crept into its new $50 AUS note. 

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Bank of England set to reveal scientist on the new £50 note

The Bank of England asked the public to nominate a scientist to feature on the new polymer £50 note

Edmund Greaves Mon, 07/15/2019 - 10:40
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The Bank will announce the new face of the £50 note at 11.15 am.

It has already revealed that the new note will feature a prominent British scientist and asked the general public for nominations. 

Four leading scientists will work with a committee to draw up the shortlist. The winner will have been picked by outgoing governor Mark Carney.

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 The Bank have said anyone who has contributed to the fields of pure or applied science will be considered, which includes astronomy, biology, bio-technology, chemistry, engineering, mathematics, medical research, physics, technology and zoology. 

Mr Carney will be hoping the Bank of England have paid close attention to the new note's design. In May, the Reserve Bank of Australia was left red-faced when it emerged that a typo had crept into its new $50 AUS note. 

Moneywise will update this story when the new face of the £50 note is revealed. It is set to be live-streamed on Youtube.

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UK house prices drop for the first time this year

Rightmove says property prices drop by 0.2% in July following a 0.3% rise the previous month

Stephen Little Mon, 07/15/2019 - 10:34
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UK house prices fell this month for the first time this year suggesting it will be a buyers’ market in the second half of 2019, according to property website Rightmove.

Rightmove says the price of property coming to market fell by 0.2%, or £656, this month - the first monthly fall so far in 2019.

On an annual basis they also fell by 0.2%, taking the average price down to £308,692.

The property website says that fewer properties are coming to market and it is taking 62 days to secure a buyer – the longest in six years.

Despite this, estate agents have more properties on their books than at any time since 2015.

The upper end of the market was hardest hit, with the value of four bedroom and larger properties where buyers are less likely to need a mortgage dropping by 1.1%.

Meanwhile, medium- and lower-end properties managed to retain their value over the last month compared to last year.

Miles Shipside, Rightmove housing market analyst, says: “The housing market fundamentals remain largely sound in many parts of the country, but the current political climate means that the crucial ingredient of confidence has been impaired, and that is causing some potential buyers and sellers to hesitate.

“With record employment, low interest rates and good mortgage availability, buyers have a lot in their favour apart from the lack of political certainty.”

Regional trends

Asking prices in the capital fell by 0.2% on the previous month and 1.7% annually, while prices across the South East have fallen by 0.5% in the past year.

The East Midlands recorded the biggest monthly fall, with prices dropping 1.3 %.

Wales, the West Midlands, the North West, the North East and Yorkshire & the Humber also recorded monthly price falls.

Scotland recorded the biggest monthly price rise at 1.3%, taking the average price to £153,174.

James Chidgey, relationship manager for borker Mortgage Advice Bureau, says: “Together with highly competitive mortgage product rates which are also providing support to those purchasing at the moment, there does appear to be a new dynamic of a buyers’ market in regions which, up until very recently have seen seller’s holding the reins.

“This being the case, it might counterbalance some lingering confidence issues. One would hope that, once the new Prime Minister is announced in a couple of weeks’ time, this will also help to provide more stability and encourage those buyers who are yet to take the plunge to dip their toe in the water and start making offers.”

UK house prices in July
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Source: Rightmove, July 2019

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This week's top 10 cheap eats The Moneywise Team Fri, 07/12/2019 - 15:39
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