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Sri Lanka energy minister warns petrol stocks about to run dry

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Published29 minutes agoSharecloseShare pageCopy linkAbout sharingImage source, Getty ImagesSri Lanka’s energy minister has issued a stark warning over the country’s fuel stocks as it faces its worst economic crisis in more than 70 years.On Sunday, Kanchana Wijesekera said the nation only had enough petrol left for less than a day under regular demand.He also said its next petrol shipment was not due for more than two weeks.Last week, Sri Lanka suspended sales of petrol and diesel for non-essential vehicles as it struggles to pay for imports like fuel, food and medicines.Mr Wijesekera told reporters that the country had 12,774 tonnes of diesel and 4,061 tonnes of petrol left in its reserves.”The next petrol shipment is expected between the 22nd and 23rd [of July],” he added.’Living in my car for two days to buy fuel’What’s behind Sri Lanka’s petrol shortage?A shipment of diesel is expected to arrive at the weekend, however Mr Wijesekera warned that the country does not have enough money to pay for planned fuel and crude oil imports.He said Sri Lanka’s central bank could only supply $125m for fuel purchases, far less than the $587m needed for its scheduled shipments.Mr Wijesekera added that the country owed $800m to seven suppliers for purchases it made earlier this year.It came after Sri Lanka banned sales of fuel for private vehicles until next week.Experts believe it is the first country to take the drastic step of halting sales of petrol to ordinary people since the 1970s oil crisis, when fuel was rationed in the US and Europe.The island nation of 22 million people is facing its worse economic crisis since gaining independence from the UK in 1948 as it lacks enough foreign currency to pay for imports of essential goods.Acute shortages of fuel, food and medicines have helped to push up the cost of living to record highs in the country, where many people rely on motor vehicles for their livelihoods.Last Thursday, an International Monetary Fund team concluded a fresh round of talks with Sri Lanka over a $3bn (£2.5bn) bailout deal.While no agreement has been reached yet, the team said in a statement that it had made “significant progress on defining a macroeconomic and structural policy package”.It added that it had “witnessed some of the hardships currently faced by the Sri Lankan people, especially the poor and vulnerable who are affected disproportionately by the crisis”.The cash-strapped country has also sent officials to the major energy producers Russia and Qatar in a bid to secure cheap oil supplies.You may also be interested in:This video can not be playedTo play this video you need to enable JavaScript in your browser.More on this story’Living in my car for two days to buy fuel’3 days agoPetrol sales banned in crisis-hit Sri Lanka5 days agoWhat’s behind Sri Lanka’s petrol shortage?5 days agoSri Lanka’s suffering was avoidable – bank boss17 JuneSri Lanka says it needs $5bn for essential goods8 June

Cost of living: How can I save money on my food shop?

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Published1 hour agoSharecloseShare pageCopy linkAbout sharingImage source, Peter DazeleyAs price rises bite into budgets, many people are cutting back on the weekly food shop.As well as buying less, people are looking for ways to make their money go further. The BBC spoke to money bloggers for their tried and tested tips.1. Choose the right supermarket Rosie Forshaw runs Instagram account Money Saving Rosie. She says that trying to find the cheapest shop isn’t always straightforward. There are quite a few apps you can download that compare prices on individual items, she says, but prices will be changing all the time depending on what you’re after. Lynn Beattie, from the Mrs Mummypenny blog, says not everyone has the time to constantly check comparison apps or go to lots of different shops to get the cheapest deals.”I just think people want to go to one place and get the shopping done and get the best deals in one place,” she says.Both suggest choosing a supermarket that is cheap overall and keeping an eye out for local promotions. Consumer group Which? has a monthly price-comparison tracker, and local groups and bloggers on social media – and bigger sites like MoneySavingExpert – often highlight good deals.2. Know what you already haveRosie suggests taking a good look at your cupboards before each shopping trip. “We all know the value of making a list, but if you’re adding to what you’ve already got in your cupboards, then you’re going to spend money on things you don’t need,” she says. “There’s no point in buying more jars of pasta sauce if you’ve already got five of them in the cupboard.” Image source, Rosie ForshawShe keeps a list of what’s in her cupboards in a notebook, so she always knows what she already has when she goes shopping. She says it has helped bring her weekly food shop for her, her husband and one-year-old son down to around £40.3. Head for the reduced section firstLynn recommends changing how you shop when you walk into a store and to head straight for the reduced section. “If you spot something there that’s on your list, you can tick that off and you’ve already saved some money,” she says.She suggests then going straight to the frozen-foods section, and then the canned-produce aisle.”Frozen meat, fish and vegetables will almost always be cheaper than the fresh option,” she says. “If you get what you need from there before going on to the fresh produce aisles, you’re likely to make significant savings.”4. Make better use of your freezerAccording to sustainability charity Wrap, the average household wastes around £700 every year by throwing food away. Lynn says making better use of her freezer has helped her cut down dramatically on waste.”If things are getting close to their use-by date you should always try to freeze them,” she says. “You’ll also be able to buy things cheaper in supermarkets that are close to their sell-by date. Things like milk and cheese, even fruit and vegetables, can all be frozen and kept for when you need them.”Image source, Kate HallMore on the basics of freezing can be found on the Food Standards Agency website.Kate Hall, who runs The Full Freezer website, uses her freezer as a pause button rather than a long-term storage solution. She says that while almost all foods can be frozen, you do have to change the way you use them.”You can’t defrost a banana or salad and expect it to be the same as when it went into the freezer,” she explains. “But if you think about how you could use it in puddings or in soups or in casseroles, then you’re going to save a lot of money.”5. Understand packagingRosie says that a lot of what we buy in the supermarket is packaged for their convenience and not ours. “How often have you bought a tray of mushrooms covered in cling film only to have them go off in their packaging? They’re wrapped up like that to make them easier to transport,” she explains. She puts hers in a paper bag when she gets them home but says just taking off the plastic wrapping will help them last longer.Helen White, from Wrap, which runs the Love Food Hate Waste campaign, says there are small things we can do to make food last longer, especially fresh vegetables and salads – the UK’s most wasted food group. “Just putting a piece of kitchen roll into an open bag of salad to absorb moisture is going to help it last longer,” she says. Keeping fruit in the fridge will help it last longer, but she suggests checking that the temperature is set to below 5°C. “We think millions of UK fridges are at least two degrees too warm,” she says. “This is bad news for milk and other food items kept in the fridge, which can go off [more quickly] when not stored at the right temperature.”6. Make use of expertsRosie tries to use local, smaller retailers a lot to tap into their years of experience. “Butchers are a great resource and someone we shouldn’t be afraid to talk to about saving money,” she says. “If you go into your local butcher and tell them you’ve only got £8 for your meat for the week, they’ll be able to tell you how to stretch your money by buying the cheapest cuts.”They’re the best people to advise on how to cook them and how to make them go further.”What have you been doing to save money on your food shop? Share your top tips with us. Email [email protected] include a contact number if you are willing to speak to a BBC journalist. You can also get in touch in the following ways:WhatsApp: +44 7756 165803Tweet: @BBC_HaveYourSayUpload pictures or videoPlease read our terms & conditions and privacy policy

If you are reading this page and can’t see the form you will need to visit the mobile version of the BBC website to submit your question or comment or you can email us at [email protected] Please include your name, age and location with any submission. More on this storyWhy are prices rising so quickly?23 JuneAsda says shoppers asking cashiers to stop at £3022 JuneFood bills are set to soar by £380 this year21 JuneHow we cut back: Skipping meals and fewer car journeys1 April

Number of pubs falls by 7,000 in a decade

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Published1 hour agoSharecloseShare pageCopy linkAbout sharingImage source, EmpicsThe number of pubs in England and Wales continues to fall, hitting its lowest level on record this year, according to new research.There were 39,970 pubs in June, down by more than 7,000 since 2012, said the real estate consultancy Altus Group.After struggling through Covid the industry now faced soaring prices and higher energy costs, it warned. The government said it had slashed taxes to help, but industry groups urged it to do more. Over the last decade thousands of pubs have closed as younger people drink less, supermarkets sell cheaper alcohol and the industry complains of being too heavily taxed. But in 2019 figures from the Office for National Statistics suggested the sector was turning a corner as it expanded for the first time in a decade. It declined again during the pandemic, however, as lockdowns forced pubs to shut or implement strict social distancing rules. Landlady gives up pub as energy bills near £30,000Firms warn time is running out to save UK economyWorse to come for food price rises, warns industryAccording to Altus, 400 pubs in England Wales closed last year and some 200 shut in the first half of 2022 as inflation started to eat into their profits. Robert Hayton, head of Altus in the UK, said: “Whilst pubs proved remarkably resilient during the pandemic, they’re now facing new headwinds grappling with the cost of doing business in a crisis through soaring energy costs, inflationary pressures and tax rises.” According to the research, the West Midlands saw the biggest number of pub closures in the first six months of 2022, with 28 shutting.It was followed by London and the East of England which both lost 24.Altus said that pubs which had “disappeared” from the communities they once served had either been demolished or converted for other purposes, meaning that they were “lost forever”.Inflationary pressuresEmma McClarkin, chief executive of the British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA), said: “When pubs are forced to close it’s a huge loss to the local community, and these numbers paint a devastating picture of how pubs are being lost in villages, towns and cities across the country.”As a sector we have just weathered the hardest two years on memory, and we now face the challenge of extreme rising costs,” she added. “It’s essential that we receive relief to ease these pressures or we really do risk losing more pubs year on year.”Image source, Getty ImagesAccording to research from the BBPA, the British Institute of Innkeeping and UK Hospitality, only 37% of hospitality businesses are currently turning a profit.Those surveyed said the rising costs of energy, goods and labour were most to blame.In the past week, pub bosses have also warned that summer rail strikes could hit their profits by further weakening consumer demand. The government said it could not control the “global factors” pushing up inflation but continued to support the hospitality sector.”We’ve cut taxes for hundreds of thousands of businesses by increasing the Employment Allowance while slashing fuel duty,” a spokesman said. “We’ve also introduced a 50% business rates relief for eligible High Street businesses and prevented bill increases by freezing the business rates multiplier, saving businesses £4.6bn over the next five years.”More on this storyLandlady gives up pub as energy bills near £30,0009 JuneFirms warn time is running out to save UK economy3 days agoWorse to come for food price rises, warns industry8 hours ago

Worse to come for food price rises, warns industry

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Published20 minutes agoSharecloseShare pageCopy linkAbout sharingImage source, Getty Images”Relentless” increases in the price of food may not hit their peak until next year, an industry group has warned. The Food and Drink Federation, which represents UK food and drink makers, said it usually takes 7-12 months for producers’ costs to reach shop shelves. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has accelerated manufacturing costs such as energy and fertilizer. The federation’s boss, Karen Betts, warned prices would “absolutely” get worse before they get better.Food and drink price inflation rose to 8.7% in the year to May, according to the Office for National Statistics. “I think the peak could well be into next year and that prices could well rise some way above 10%,” said Ms Betts.People cut back on food shopping as price rises biteWhy are prices rising so quickly?Other groups, such as the Institute of Grocery Distribution, which provides analysis to major grocers, predict that prices could rise by as much as 15% as household staples such as bread, meat, dairy, fruit and vegetables become more expensive.The UK’s overall inflation rate hit its highest level for 40 years in May, as the costs of energy, fuel and food continued to climb. People struggling with the rising cost of living are already cutting back on groceries or even skipping meals, according to a BBC survey of UK households.’Breadbasket of Europe’Ms Betts told the BBC that food and drink manufacturers had already seen costs rise during the pandemic due to supply and labour shortages, but the Ukraine war had worsened the situation. “The manufacturers that I speak to are saying that at the moment all their input costs are rising, so that’s everything from ingredients to raw materials, energy, labour and they can’t see an end to that,” Ms Betts said.Both Russia and Ukraine are major suppliers of fertilizer, while Ukraine – known as the “breadbasket of Europe” – produces significant amounts of wheat, corn and sunflower oil.The conflict is disrupting the supply of these goods, however, driving up prices on international markets. Similarly, sanctions against Russia – a major oil and gas producer – have further pushed up global energy prices, hitting businesses and consumers alike. Image source, Getty ImagesMs Betts said there was “usually a seven-to-12 month time lag in the prices that food manufacturers pay before those price rises are felt on shop shelves”.”So, if it is costing more to plant and grow wheat or sunflowers for sunflower oil now then those price rises are going to take 12 months, perhaps longer than that to make their way into food prices in the UK,” she said.The UK’s overall inflation rate hit 9.1% in May and the Bank of England predicts it could reach 11% this year.Work and pensions secretary Thérèse Coffey told the BBC’s Sunday Morning programme: “The government knows this this is a challenging time for people.”The spike of inflation leading to a hike in bills is largely driven by after-shocks of Covid so the global supply chains are are still not flowing, but undoubtedly the decision we have made to tackle Putin and his invasion of Ukraine also has consequences particularly on energy costs.”She highlighted the government’s package of measures to help households with energy costs, including a £400 discount on fuel bills for all homes.More on this storyInflation pushes UK interest costs to May record23 JunePeople cut back on food and fuel as prices rise17 June

Argentina's economy minister makes sudden exit

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Published2 hours agoSharecloseShare pageCopy linkAbout sharingImage source, ReutersArgentina’s economy minister, Martin Guzmán, has resigned as the country’s economic crisis intensifies.Mr Guzman had been in office since late 2019 and led negotiations with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) over the restructuring of Argentina’s debt.He called for “a political agreement within the governing coalition” to choose his successor.Argentina is struggling with 60% inflation and a weak currency, as well as global food and energy price rises. Mr Guzmán stepped down after a week of economic turmoil, with the Argentine peso sliding against the dollar.His departure leaves a big question mark over Argentina’s future economic policy.In a letter to President Alberto Fernandez, Mr Guzmán hinted at internal divisions within the government.But it is no secret that President Fernandez is at odds with his deputy, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, over how to tackle the country’s economic problems.In fact, Mr Guzmán announced his resignation while Ms Fernández was giving the latest in a series of high-profile speeches lambasting her own government’s economic policies. Ms Fernandez, who was herself president from 2007 to 2015, is critical of what she sees as the government’s failure to ease the financial burden on ordinary Argentines.She and her supporters saw Mr Guzmán as excessive in his efforts to reduce the budget deficit and tighten monetary policy.If Ms Fernandez gets her way, the next finance minister will go easy on the fiscal rigour and increase the level of state intervention in the economy.But that might prove a bitter pill for the IMF to swallow, with some financial analysts already criticising the Fund for not setting tough enough conditions in its latest $44bn debt deal with Argentina.More on this storyFalklands loss echoes across Argentina 40 years on13 JuneWhy Argentina is embracing cryptocurrency22 AprilArgentina imposes ‘rich tax’ to fund Covid relief30 January 2021

The supermarket rows you don't usually hear about

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Published1 hour agoSharecloseShare pageCopy linkAbout sharingImage source, Getty ImagesRows between big brands and supermarkets normally remain behind closed doors, but now one has dramatically burst into the open. Britain’s biggest retailer Tesco is at loggerheads with Kraft Heinz, one of the world’s largest food manufacturers. It’s led to some of the country’s favourite products such as Heinz ketchup and baked beans disappearing from Tesco’s shelves. Kraft Heinz has hit the pause button on deliveries in a disagreement over how much Tesco is prepared to pay for its products. It’s an illustration of the challenges facing suppliers and supermarkets as they grapple with huge cost increases. But who should bear the pain of absorbing soaring raw material costs, energy price rises, and higher fuel bills for deliveries? Heinz pulls brands from Tesco shelves in price rowPeople buy less food at supermarkets as prices risePrice negotiations are happening across retail. They’ve been going on for many months. “Suppliers are now saying: ‘This is what I can afford to sell this product to you for. And if you don’t agree I am going to stop supplying you,'” says Ged Futter, founder of The Retail Mind. Image source, Getty ImagesHe knows more than most how fierce these discussions are. Mr Futter is a former buyer for Asda and now advises suppliers on how to negotiate with retailers. “I’ve got a client who’s having conversations as we speak with a retailer about a price that’s needed, and that needs to be agreed tomorrow and if they don’t agree it tonight the trucks will stop. “I’ve never seen as many suppliers prepared to stop the trucks and I’ve got examples from every single retailer, except Aldi, of clients having to stop the trucks.” Supermarkets have buyers who agree deals with suppliers to provide them with products. For many items, like olive oil and tinned tomatoes, it can be an annual contract. Both sides are allowed, under the Groceries Supply Code of Practice, to adjust terms and conditions. The editor-in-chief of the Grocer magazine, Adam Leyland, says in the past retailers typically demanded changes but now it is suppliers who are clamouring to renegotiate what they are getting paid.”Suppliers are saying we need change and we need it quickly. Supermarkets have been dragging their feet for a long time. This has been building from last year and the dial has now turned up. “It’s fraught on both sides. This is not an easy time.”Image source, Getty ImagesThe entire food supply chain is facing a once-in-a-generation style rise in costs. According to the Office for National Statistics, the rate of inflation for manufacturers has now hit 22%. So how do these negotiations work? Ged Futter says suppliers are often asked to fill out a cost justification sheet to help retailers determine whether price increases are merited. Everything that goes into making a product is broken down and scrutinised line by line. “Take cardboard. The supplier might say, ‘Ours has gone up by 40%.’ But the retailer might say, ‘Well our costs have only gone up by 20%, so I’m not giving you 40%, I’m giving you 20%,'” he says. And he claims some supermarkets use delaying tactics to put off an increase for as long as possible. “If a cost price increase is going to go live in 12 weeks’ time, for example, what you’ll probably get from quite a few retailers is radio silence for eleven and a half weeks.”Image source, Getty ImagesSupermarkets, with thin profit margins, are under pressure as well. There’s a battle in the aisles to keep prices as low as possible on the most popular products for customers. Buying teams are being hit by demands from hundreds of suppliers all at the same time. And they want to make sure any cost increase is justified. “There’s always an element of suppliers adding on a bit,” says one supermarket source. Some of the costs are being absorbed and some are being passed on to shoppers. Food price inflation is currently running at around 8%. Ged Futter says some of his clients are now in their fourth or fifth wave of cost price increases. So who blinks first in the spat between Tesco and Kraft Heinz? Image source, Getty ImagesTesco is double the size of its nearest rival and has huge clout. Kraft Heinz is a global giant and one of the few big manufacturers with the power to stand its ground. And, unusually, they’ve both issued public comments on the matter.Tesco says it isn’t prepared to pass on “unjustifiable price increases” to its customers. Heinz says its commodity and production costs are rising and it isn’t prepared to compromise on quality. Tesco clearly wants to be seen as a consumer champion as the cost of living crisis starts to bite. Adam Leyland thinks the supermarket is sending a broader message to its big suppliers as well. “I think they want suppliers to know that they’re not going to roll over and accept everything that’s pushed through,” he says.With hundreds of thousands of Heinz products sold every week, Tesco cannot afford to have empty shelves for long. The danger is shoppers may go elsewhere for their Heinz baked beans, and potentially their entire weekly shop. Mr Leyland says it’s a difficult balancing act to strike but that a deal will inevitably be done. “I think they will try to come to an elegant compromise.”More on this storyHeinz pulls brands from Tesco shelves in price row3 days agoPeople buy less food at supermarkets as prices rise24 JuneColgate products disappear from sale at Tesco9 FebruaryTesco pulls famous brands in price row13 October 2016

Fighting for rights for workers undergoing fertility treatment

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Published1 hour agoSharecloseShare pageCopy linkAbout sharingImage source, Claire IngleClaire Ingle began campaigning for more workplace rights for women undergoing fertility treatment, after having her first baby at the age of 41. She endured several cycles of in vitro fertilisation (IVF) treatment and says she found it almost impossible to manage the emotional toll alongside her work. “I didn’t know how to cope,” she says. “I was mentally broken.” Claire found handling the treatment, which involved lots of appointments and injecting herself in the stomach with fertility drugs, immensely hard to balance alongside her career. Although at the time she was working as an NHS human resources manager in Greater Manchester, she didn’t want to tell her employer about her treatment because she felt “embarrassed” and “ashamed of having to go down this route” and was worried it would affect her career. “It affected my capability in work. I couldn’t concentrate. I didn’t want to be near people that were pregnant as it really upset me. I remember locking myself in the toilet and crying,” Claire says.Image source, Claire IngleShe realised there was a significant gap in workplace support. In an attempt to prevent other women going through the same experience she co-founded Fertility Matters at Work. It aims to educate and help businesses understand how fertility issues affect their employees and their organisation. ‘Emotionally draining’Inspired by Claire and other women’s stories, Conservative MP Nickie Aiken started campaigning for a change in employment law.IVF: Putting on brave face at work was exhaustingShe recently presented her Fertility Treatment (Employment Rights) Bill, to Parliament. It would give individuals and couples the right to take time off to attend fertility clinic appointments, just as they are entitled to for antenatal appointments. Under the proposed legislation, employers would also be required to have a workplace fertility policy, which would include guidance on things like time off work for treatment and miscarriage, flexible working and access to HR support and counselling. Ms Aiken describes the long process of fertility treatment as “emotionally draining, costly [and] risky”.Image source, UK Parliament”The number of people hiding it from their employer and taking sick leave is shockingly high,” she says. “Undergoing treatment while juggling a career is very tough. Many people feel they cannot tell their employer, for fear of being overlooked for a promotion, or being made redundant.”Ms Aiken also researched countries that had already adopted fertility legislation, such as Malta. She said the country had recently introduced 100 hours of paid leave – 60 hours for the woman and 40 for the partner.What are my rights at work when having IVF? Currently, there is no legal right for time off work for fertility treatment, but any sickness should be treated like any other sickness if unable to workYou have pregnancy rights once you’ve had the last part of the IVF process (embryo transfer) and might become pregnantIf an employer sacks a pregnant employee, there are extra legal protections, but not if the staff member doesn’t disclose that she is pregnant or the employer could not have reasonably known that she was pregnantYou are protected by law against pregnancy discrimination for two weeks after finding out an embryo transfer was unsuccessfulSource: ACASResearch published in June from Manchester Metropolitan University on a small study of 80 women suggests existing policy is not sufficiently nuanced to be helpful. The women in the study said the support they received at work while going through fertility treatment was inadequate, resulting in high absenteeism and employee performance issues. In 2019, almost 53,000 patients in the UK underwent IVF treatment, according to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority. One-in-six heterosexual couples are affected by infertility, according to the Fertility Network UK and the NHS, while women in same-sex relationships and those choosing to become single parents using a donor, also rely on fertility treatment to conceive. And the painful truth is that IVF treatment offers no guarantee of becoming a parent. NHS data states that in 2019, about 32% of IVF treatment was successful for women under 35, dropping to just 11% for women aged 40. Image source, GateleyCurrent UK employment legislation gives those receiving fertility treatment all the same pregnancy and maternity rights as non-assisted pregnancies, but only if they become pregnant, although the protection kicks in earlier for those who conceive through fertility treatment.Helen Burgess, employment partner at Gateley Legal, says although there is currently no legal right for time off work for fertility treatment, an employer will often treat fertility appointments the same as any other medical or dental appointment.But she thinks some sectors might struggle with cover and rotas, if the fertility bill becomes law. She says it is difficult for women in public-facing roles like retail, hospitality, teaching or the emergency services to take unplanned time off. However, those employers will be used to covering for last-minute sickness absence.”Although predictability regarding time off is an issue, I don’t think the potential cost is significant,” she says. “Ultimately it depends on how many employees they need to cover for and how many cycles someone needs.”However, in the past six months, several UK-based companies, including Natwest, Centrica and the law firm Clifford Chance have launched fertility policies. Image source, Principal, Ed Mash 2022Another one is Phillips Law in Basingstoke, which helps those going through IVF with financial support and time off when needed.Jack Gardener, a parent and joint managing partner of the firm with over 70 employees, says he has witnessed the emotional and financial stress that can affect couples trying to conceive.He wants the policy at his firm to “raise awareness and start a conversation about fertility” and “give what can be a stressful process the highest chance of success possible”.”It is baffling that many large businesses support employees to purchase annual travel tickets, bicycles or cars but may not have considered providing financial help to their employees through what can be an expensive process,” he says.”I hope we will set an example for the law industry and beyond to think innovatively about the range of support they can provide their staff beyond the workplace.”

Flight cancellations aim to ease summer chaos

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Published41 minutes agoSharecloseShare pageCopy linkAbout sharingImage source, ReutersAirlines are expected to announce a series of cancellations to UK summer flights this week aimed at minimising disruption in the peak holiday season.A government “amnesty” to the rules on airport slots is in place until Friday, allowing airlines to change schedules without facing a potential penalty.Ministers told carriers to review their plans after chaos in May, blamed on a shortage of airline and airport staff.British Airways said the move would help provide “certainty” to customers.The airline, whose services from Heathrow are likely bear the brunt of this week’s cancellations, said the measures would make it “easier to consolidate some of our quieter daily flights to multi-frequency destinations well in advance, and to protect more of our holiday flights”.Airport slots provide airlines with the authorisation to take off or land at a specified time on a specified day. In usual circumstances, the carriers risk losing the slots – and taking a hit to their business – if they cancel flights.Will my summer holiday flights be cancelled?What are my rights if my flight is cancelled?Airlines told to cancel flights to stop travel chaosThe Department for Transport (DfT) amnesty will give airlines a short window to hand back the slots in the summer season they are not confident they will be able to operate.A DfT spokesperson said: “This will help passengers find alternative arrangements ahead of time, rather than face the kind of last-minute cancellations seen over the Easter and half-term holidays.”That earlier disruption prompted the government and the aviation regulator, the Civil Aviation Authority, to write to airlines telling them to ensure their summer timetables were “deliverable… based on the resources you and your contractors expect to have available”.Heathrow said the slot amnesty would “enable airlines to make early choices to consolidate their schedules, boosting the resilience of summer operations and giving passengers the confidence they deserve ahead of their journeys”. It added: “We encourage airlines to take this opportunity to reconsider their summer schedules without penalty and inform passengers as early as possible of any changes.”Rory Boland, editor of Which? Travel, said the move would also allow rival airlines to step in and fly the cancelled routes.He said: “Carriers must surrender their slots to other airlines if they are unable to fulfil them. This will help reduce cancellations and end the unsustainable practise of airlines flying near-empty planes to retain slots.”Thousands of aviation jobs were lost during the Covid pandemic and many businesses have struggled to recruit enough new staff in time to deal with resurgent demand for travel following the easing of rules.This week, Heathrow ordered flights to be cancelled because it could not handle them, while Gatwick Airport has said it is reducing the number of flights during summer because of staff shortages.It comes as Manchester Airport warned it would not be able to return to its pre-pandemic standards by autumn.Meanwhile, passengers also face the prospect of disruption from strikes involving airline staff over summer.Hundreds of British Airways workers at Heathrow Airport – mostly check-in staff – have voted to go on strike in July over pay, and unions are currently consulting engineers and call centre staff at Gatwick, Glasgow, Manchester and Newcastle on taking action.Unions have also called for EasyJet cabin crew based in Spain to strike for nine days this month as part of a dispute over pay.UEFA WOMEN’S EURO 2022: Watch every game live across the BBC and iPlayer’TROLLING, DIVERSITY AND SUPPORT’: Alex Scott looks at the future of women’s footballMore on this storyMore cancellations announced at Heathrow Airport2 days agoWill my summer holiday flights be cancelled?23 JuneWhat are my rights if my flight is cancelled?17 JuneGatwick cuts summer flights after staff shortages17 JuneAirlines told to cancel flights to stop travel chaos14 JuneTravel disruption as half-term getaway begins28 May

UK and New Zealand expand working holiday visas

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Published1 hour agoSharecloseShare pageCopy linkAbout sharingImage source, Getty ImagesThe UK and New Zealand will allow more younger people to live and work in both countries for longer.UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his Kiwi counterpart Jacinda Ardern agreed to extend the Youth Mobility and Working Holiday schemes.The age limit for applicants will go up from 30 to 35, and the maximum length of time people can stay in the host country will now be three years.It follows similar deal to allow young people to work and travel in Australia.Home Secretary Priti Patel said the move “will give even more young Brits and New Zealanders the opportunity to develop their skills, make life-long connections and contribute to their host country”.Image source, ReutersMs Ardern, who is in London for talks with Mr Johnson, said New Zealand had long advocated for improvements to working holiday visas.The NZ Labour Party leader previously lived in London when she worked in Whitehall as a senior policy adviser before entering politics.”I was one of many Kiwis to enjoy living and working in the UK, and we look forward to offering Brits the same wonderful experience in New Zealand,” she added.The prime ministers met at Downing Street following the Nato summit in Madrid which finished on Thursday.Ms Ardern said the pair would be discussing the free trade deal signed last year as well as the response to the war in UkraineMr Johnson praised the “very strong line” New Zealand was taking, and Ms Ardern said: “We have also provided our military aid via our partnership with you,” The Home Office said more information on the Youth Mobility and Working Holiday scheme will be announced next year.More on this storyUK agrees free trade deal with New Zealand20 October 2021

Rail strikes: No rush to call for more action, says union

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Published1 hour agocommentsCommentsSharecloseShare pageCopy linkAbout sharingImage source, Getty ImagesA rail workers’ union has said it is “not in any rush” to call for further strikes in July, following last week’s walkouts which caused significant disruption across the UK.Eddie Dempsey, senior assistant general secretary at the RMT, said the union did not “take these steps lightly”.Mr Dempsey, who is also leading talks with Network Rail, said it had been an intense week of discussions.The two sides are trying to reach an agreement to prevent further strikes.Shapps: Rail strikes ‘could be easily settled’Union urges government to engage in strike talksWhy are rail workers on strike?Thousands of members of the RMT who work for Network Rail and 13 train companies walked out on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday last week as part of a dispute over job cuts, pay and conditions.Half of the rail network was closed on strike days, while the knock-on impact meant services were also disrupted on the following days.The union has warned more strike action could follow.However, when asked on the BBC’s Today programme whether there could be further strikes in July, Mr Dempsey said: “We’ve told people we’re not in any rush.”I think we’ve made a pretty emphatic point with the strike action we put on. We don’t take these steps lightly. We’re in no rush to run into the boardroom and name further action.”The RMT and Network Rail are initially trying to reach an agreement on job security, before discussing pay and conditions.Mr Dempsey said the discussions this week had been “fairly intense”.”We’re progressing in terms of discussions. There are some fundamental issues of difficulty between us still, and that’s why we’re seeking feedback, but we haven’t gotten onto the question of pay yet,” Mr Dempsey said.”That’s going to be a really important issue, and whether or not there can be an offer that satisfies our people, we will have to wait and see.”Talks ‘constructive’It came as the lead negotiator for Network Rail, Tim Shoveller, said he was “cautiously optimistic” that an agreement would be reached with the RMT union to prevent further strikes.Speaking to the Today programme, Mr Shoveller said talks since last week’s walkouts had been “constructive”. On 20 June, the day before the first rail strike, Network Rail gave the RMT a letter inviting them to a formal consultation meeting on 1 July about introducing reforms to working practices which would involve job losses.A spokesperson told the BBC this week that although the letter had not been withdrawn, all sides had agreed to temporarily set it aside to enable talks to continue, and it would only come into play if talks stalled. Mr Shoveller confirmed to the BBC that the meeting originally planned for this morning to formally start that process would no longer take place. He said there was “no need” for it, as the best way to find a conclusion was through negotiation. He added that “the letter remains in place, but at the moment that is not preventing us from having the conversations we need to have”.Mr Shoveller described this as a “pragmatic position” after “pragmatic conversations” with the RMT this week, and there was no need to start that formal consultation for the moment.More on this storyWhy are rail workers on strike?6 days agoShapps: Rail strikes ‘could be easily settled’2 days ago

Energy firms' customer service worst on record

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Published8 minutes agoSharecloseShare pageCopy linkAbout sharingImage source, Getty ImagesCustomer service standards at energy companies have fallen to a record low as households are being hit by soaring bills, Citizens Advice has said.Standards have “plummeted” since June 2021 when several suppliers went bust due to high global gas prices, it said.The average waiting time on the phone to speak to a firm is now about six and a half minutes, compared to just under four minutes the year before.Citizens Advice called for improvements before bills rise again in the autumn.The energy price cap, which limits how much suppliers can raise the cost of household bills, went up by an unprecedented £700 a year to £1,971 in April for the typical household. Bills are expected to rise by a further £800 a year in October.The rise in bills is down to wholesale gas prices soaring in recent months. Demand increased as economies reopened following Covid restrictions, but Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has fuelled fears over supplies, pushing prices up further. The increase in the wholesale cost of gas – the price at which energy companies buy it – caught many suppliers out and meant they were losing money on price promises to customers. This led to several, mostly smaller, firms going bust and millions of customers being shifted to new suppliers.What can I do if my energy supplier goes bust?Between January and March 2022, Citizens Advice said its consumer service helpline saw more than 70,000 cases related to energy issues – a 63% increase on the same period the previous year.The charity said it was “particularly worried” about people on prepayment meters, who it said are at risk of having no gas or electricity if they can’t afford to top up.It warned that “without swift action” to tackle poor customer service, standards “will only worsen when bills are expected to hike again this winter”.Energy suppliers are obliged to help people who cannot afford their bills.”At a time when customers need all the support they can get, it’s worrying to see service performance is the worst on record,” said Dame Clare Moriarty, chief executive of Citizens Advice.”This leaves people frustrated and in the dark at the end of the phone.”We recognise call centre staff are working incredibly hard to answer as many calls as possible, but energy companies must do better.”Citizens Advice said companies were also getting slightly slower to respond to emails. On average, suppliers responded to 62% of emails within two working days, compared with 66% during the same period in 2021. ‘Up your game’The charity ranked energy suppliers through its “star rating” after looking at information from a number of sources, including its complaints to its consumer service and the energy ombudsman.It ranked Utilita, Ovo Energy, Ecotricity and E.On Energy as the four worst performing suppliers for customer service.All four firms were contacted for comment.Utilita, which was rated the worst of all, said it had “issues” with Citizens Advice’s approach to recording complaints, “regardless of whether we are at fault”.”Yet again, the Citizens Advice Star Rating fails to reflect neither the unique nature of our business nor the service our customers receive,” a spokesman said.It accused Citizens Advice of not adjusting its records to reflect “where the supplier has done nothing wrong, and we have had no contact with the customer”.”We acknowledge that we can do better, but we strongly believe Citizens Advice employs a methodology that is unfairly weighted against us as a smart prepay specialist.”Ofgem, the UK’s energy regulator, said it was working with suppliers to improve service, adding that “now is the time for them to up their game”.”Our top priority is to protect consumers, and as these stats from Citizens Advice show, there are areas where customers are simply not getting the service they desperately need and rightly expect in these very difficult times,” it said.”We are clear with suppliers – they must not use the current gas crisis as an excuse for poor performance or sharp practices.”More on this storyWhat can I do if my energy supplier goes bust?26 May

Russia moves to take control of Sakhalin-2 oil and gas project

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Published22 minutes agoSharecloseShare pageCopy linkAbout sharingImage source, Getty ImagesRussia has moved to take over a major oil and gas project in which Shell has a 27.5% stake.Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree on Thursday to take charge of the Sakhalin-2 project.The move could force Shell and Japan’s Mitsui and Mitsubishi to abandon their investments as the economic fallout of the Ukraine war spreads.Oil giant Shell said: “We are aware of the decree and are assessing its implications.”The decree said a new firm would take over all rights and obligations of Sakhalin Energy Investment.Shell said in February that it would to sell its Russian investments due to Ukraine conflict, including the flagship Sakhalin