Published: 17 January 2022
Location: London, UK
The new government policy reducing minimum self-isolation from seven days to five days for those testing positive with COVID-19 comes into effect today. However, The Trades Union Congress (TUC) has warned the move will not fix the UK’s “fundamental sick pay problem”. TUC research suggests around 267,800 private sector workers were self-isolating in mid-December without decent sick pay, or any sick pay at all. Approximately 209,900 workers had to rely on statutory sick pay during the period, which is too low to meet basic living costs, and 57,900 got no sick pay at all, the TUC says, following polling by Britain Thinks. The survey found around three in 10 private sector workers rely on statutory sick pay, and just under one in 10 get nothing at all, because statutory sick pay is only available to employees earning £120 per week or more. Two million workers nationwide - mostly women – do not qualify. The TUC is demanding ministers address “serious public health failure” and deliver a respectable sick pay for everyone to prevent workers facing the choice of either self-isolating and facing hardship or putting food on the table but potentially spreading the virus. The TUC says the UK has the least generous statutory sick pay in Europe, worth just £96.35 per week, around 15% of average earnings, compared to an OECD average of over 60%. The trade union also says cutting sick pay for unvaccinated staff is not the correct way to encourage employees to get the jab, following recent announcements from Ocado, Next, and Ikea.
The number of UK households affected by “fuel stress” is set to treble to 6.3 million when the energy price cap rise comes into effect on 1 April, according to new research published by the Resolution Foundation (RF) today. Ofgemis set to announce the new price cap level on 7 February. It is expected to be lifted about 50% to some £2,000. Currently, 9% of households experience fuel stress, or fuel poverty - the terms used when at least 10% of family budgets is spent on energy bills - but that is expected to increase to 27% when the energy price cap increases. Those living in the North East and the West Midlands will be hardest hit, the RF says, at 33% and 32% respectively; as well as pensioner households (38%), those in local authority housing, (35%), and those in poorly insulated homes (69% of families in homes with an EPC F-rating). “The sheer scale of energy bill increases mean that fuel stress will no longer be confined to the poorest households, but low-and middle-income families will find it hardest to cope as they spend a far greater share of their family budgets on these essentials,” the RF said.
Mortgage demand fell in the final quarter of last year and is set to drop further. According to a recent survey from the Bank of England (BoE), demand decreased from a measure of -35.3 in the third quarter to -34.8 in Q4. However, the data, conducted between 22 November and 10 December, showed demand for remortgages rose in the last quarter of 2021, to a score of 70.4, up from 34.5 in Q3. A positive reading indicates an improvement to the respective scenario, while a negative reading suggests a decline. The decline in mortgage lending was also affected by the end of the government’s stamp duty holiday in September, the BoE says.
The government has sold another £420m worth of shares in NatWest Group,as it continues with its policy of divestment from the majority state-owned bank. According to a regulatory release on Friday, HM Treasury now owns 51.98% of the banking group's voting rights, down from 52.96% at its last disclosure. Bloomberg said the Treasury has sold 170.4 million shares since November. The government announced in July it would sell up to 15% of the bank in open market trading. The Treasury is taking a big loss on its £45.5bn bailout of the then-Royal Bank of Scotland Group in 2008, with government bankers previously saying the breakeven price would be about 400p. At 9am this morning, shares in Natwest Group were trading at 250.9p.
Global government responses to Covid-19 have made the world's wealthiest far richer but there are more people living in poverty, according to Oxfam. While the world's 10 richest men have more than doubled their collective fortunes since March 2020, lower incomes for the world's poorest have contributed to the death of 21,000 people each day, a report timed to coincide with the annual World Economic Forum meeting in Davos claims. According to Forbes, the world's 10 richest men are: Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, Bernard Arnault and family, Bill Gates, Larry Ellison, Larry Page, Sergey Brin, Mark Zuckerberg, Steve Ballmer and Warren Buffet. While collectively their wealth grew from $700bn to $1.5tn, there is significant variation between them, with Mr Musk's fortune growing by more than 1,000%, while Mr Gates' rose by a more modest 30%.
Grenfell Tower survivors and leaseholders affected by the cladding crisis are calling on Norway's giant state investment fund to pressure cladding firms and builders to fix fire safety issues by pulling £5.7bn of funds from companies involved in the scandal if they refuse. Norges Bank Investment Management (NBIM) invests in three companies that produced materials used on Grenfell Tower: Kingspan, Arconic and Saint-Gobain. NBIM also has stakes in housebuilders such as Barratt, Bellway, Berkeley, Crest Nicholson, LendLease, Persimmon, Taylor Wimpey and Vistry. Signatories to a letter to CEO Nicolai Tangen include End Our Cladding Scandal, UK Cladding Action Group, Grenfell United, Action for Fire Safety Justice, the National Leasehold Campaign, Leasehold Knowledge Partnership and Tory MP Sir Peter Bottomley. The Grenfell fire killed 72 people in 2017. An investigation found flammable cladding and other fire safety defects not just in the tower, but in hundreds of other blocks of flats across the UK. Some 3,000,000 leaseholders are now trapped in flammable flats they cannot sell and are facing fire safety upgrade costs they cannot afford to pay. Housing Secretary Michael Gove backed the campaigners' "call to action" on Sunday.
GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) has rejected a third Unilever offer to buy its consumer goods division, the BBC reports. GSK said in a statement the most recent proposal from Unilever on 20 December contained an offer for £41.7bn in cash and £8.3bn in Unilever shares, a proposal which “fundamentally failed" to reflect the value of the division. The global healthcare company, which has its headquarters in London, has been preparing to separate its consumer goods division from its pharmaceutical business from the middle of this year. According to the Financial Times, Unilever’s £50bn bid is the third largest in British history, topped only by Vodafone’s purchase of Germany’s Mannesmann in 1999 (during the dotcom boom) and by AB InBev’sacquisition of SABMiller in 2016.
Foxtons said on Friday that it was selling the sales business of Douglas & Gordon to its current CEO James Evans for a nominal consideration, less than a year after buying it for £15.5m. The estate agency said it will integrate the D&G lettings business into the Foxtons network. Although the D&G sales business has grown since acquisition, it contributed an operating loss of around £1.9m to the group in 2021.
Energy supplier E.On has apologised for sending socks to customers in a bid to encourage them to turn the heating down, becoming the second major supplier in a week to admit to a marketing gaffe as customers face dramatic increases in energy prices. Earlier in the week, Ovo's founder said he was "really embarrassed" about energy saving advice including "doing a few star jumps" and cuddling pets.
Vodafone has struck a five-year “multi-million” pound deal to sponsor the annual Wimbledon Championships tennis tournament. The mobile firm has also signed Tim Henman and Laura Robson as brand ambassadors, and confirmed it is in discussions about a deal with teen tennis star Emma Radacanu.
Sky News says shareholders are planning a revolt against a proposed £550,000 bonus for WH Smith’s CEO Carl Cowling at this coming Wednesday’s AGM. A substantial proportion of investors are expected to vote against both the company's remuneration report and pay policy, meaning WH Smith is likely to become the year's first big target of a 'fat cat' pay row. The retailer's decision not to repay money received under the government's furlough scheme and still award a sizeable bonus to Cowling has infuriated several institutional shareholders, the broadcaster claims. WH Smith is one of Britain's biggest retailers, with approximately 1100 shops in high street and travel locations across the UK.
Oxford Biomedica CEO John Dawson is to retire after more than 13 years with the company. The board has initiated a search for his successor. The gene and cell therapy company linked up with big pharma AstraZeneca to produce the leading covid-19 vaccine in the UK.
Lord Sainsbury of Preston Candover, life president of supermarket chain Sainsbury’s and a Conservative peer, has died aged 94. Lord Sainsbury started working in his family’s business in 1950, initially taking on a role in the grocery department. He became a director of the grocer in 1958, then took over the role of deputy chairman in 1967 from his father. He was appointed chairman and chief executive until his retirement in 1992. He was knighted by Her Majesty the Queen in 1980 for services to the food retailing industry, made a life peer in 1989 and in 1992 was appointed as one of 24 Knights of the Garter.
Lord Myners, a former city minister who played an instrumental role in shaping the UK's response to the global financial crisis has died. Myners led some of the UK’s best-known businesses and helped shape former Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s response to the 2008 crisis as his city minister. The crossbench peer died in hospital in London in the early hours of Sunday, according to Edelman UK, where he served as chairman. Brown wrote a tribute to Myners on Twitter, calling him a "real tower of strength" during the challenges posed by the financial crisis.
Martin Shkreli, the former drug firm executive who ordered dramatic price hikes of a life-saving medicine, has been barred from the industry for life by a US court. He has also been ordered to repay $64.6m (£47m) in profits he made in 2015 by raising the price of Daraprim, a long-established medicine used to treat toxoplasmosis, from $13.50 to $750 - around 4,000% - overnight. He also designed supply agreements to block competitors from offering a generic version of the unpatented medicine, which is used to treat the parasitic disease in pregnant women and patients with Aids. The unpopular moves earned him the nickname "Pharma Bro". Seven states and the Federal Trade Commission brought a lawsuit over the conduct in 2020, saying he had violated state and federal laws that ban anti-competitive conduct. Shkreli founded Vyera Pharmaceuticals, previously known as Turing Pharmaceuticals. He is currently serving a prison sentence for defrauding investors.
The chairman of global banking giant Credit Suisse, Antonio Horta-Osorio, has resigned with immediate effect after breaking Covid quarantine rules. The former boss of Lloyds Banking Group was with Credit Suisse for just nine months and left following an internal investigation. He attended the Wimbledon Championship tennis finals in July at a time when the UK's Covid-19 restrictions required him to be in quarantine, and breached Swiss Covid restrictions when, according to Reuters, he flew into the country on 28 November but left on 1 December. Swiss rules meant he should have quarantined for 10 days upon his arrival.
Tesla made good on its promise to start accepting dogecoin on Friday, with its CEO Elon Musk saying it was now accepting the meme cryptocurrency as payment for some of its merchandise. Musk confirmed the news on his Twitterfeed, saying simply: "Tesla merch buyable with Dogecoin". According to the Tesla website, the products include the 'Cyberquad for Kids' ride-on toy at DOGE 12,020 (£1,741.57), and the 'Cyberwhistle' - a stainless-steel whistle - for DOGE 300 (£43.47).
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