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Weekly News Bites - Transparency and fairness in the spot light

17th July 2017

John Walker has won a high court ruling which will give his husband the same pension benefits as a wife would receive. The supreme court ruled unanimously that if Mr Walker dies, his husband is entitled to a spouse's pension of around £45,000 a year in event of his death, as opposed to £1,000 a year, provided they remain married. The majority of occupational schemes give 50% of the value of a pension to a spouse for the rest of their lives after their husband or wife dies - without taking the marriage date into account. However, the Equality Act 2010 has an exemption for employers, allowing them to exclude civil partners from spousal benefits paid in before December 2005. The Supreme Court ruled the exemption under the 2010 act is "incompatible with EU law and muse be disapplied".

Fees for unplanned overdrafts are to be scrapped for the 20 million customers of the Lloyds Banking Group from November this year. This follows critism of high charges by consumer groups and the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA); previously Loyds customers faced a daily charge of up to £10 a day. Barclays has already abolished unauthorised lending in 2014. Campaigners argue that free banking for customers who do not go overdrawn hides the cost of current accounts. The "free-if-in-credit" model is currently being scrutinised by the FCA as part of its inquiry into high-cost credit.

Carillion issued a proft warning, triggering a 39% drop in its share price. The FTSE 250 group said that overall performance would be lower than expected on account of "difficult markets" and measures to cut borrowing. Carillion join Mitie and Capita in noting a slowdown in the awarding of contracts following the UK's vote to leave the EU, this has in turn led to a sharp increase in net borrowing in the first half of this year. A potentially dangerous trend as speculation around increasing interest rates persist.

Briton's working in the "gig-economy" for the like of Uber and Deliveroo, should get more rights according to government review. Employers offering such jobs, where people can work simultaneously for several employers without fixed contracts, have been accused of exploitative practises and sees employees excluded from the entitlements of regular workers such as annual leave, rest breaks and minimum wage. There have also been suggestions that companies have been exploiting loop holes to avoid paying employer national insurance.

UK employment rose 175,000 in three months to May, wage growth still lags behind inflation. Mixed reports were published last week as the MSCI UK Large Cap climbed higher. The unemployment rate fell to a 42-year low of 4.5%. Conflicting statements on interest policy continue to puncture the news, even as the Bank of Englad's Deputy Governeor Ben Broadbent gave a cautious statement regarding his hesitance to raise rates. The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors reported last week that the housing market is plateauing with estate agents reporting their lowest stock of property for nearly 40 years.

Visa is planning to pay British businesses to decline payments using notes and coins in an attempt to "put cash out of business". The payments giant plans to strike agreements with British shops and restaurants and, in exchange, will offer them cash lump sums and free contactless technology upgrade. Many smaller retailers actively discourage customers from making card payments for small purcahses, due to the high fees charged by card companies. Visa has rolled out a similiar incentive scheme in the US.

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