About the Ulster Society

Chartered Accountants Ulster Society is the oldest district society of the Institute and serves around 4,600 members throughout Northern Ireland. The Chair is Maeve Hunt.

The Ulster Society provides professional, educational and social services and events for its members (in practice, in business, in the public sector and charity/ voluntary sector) and is a strong voice for Northern Ireland's business sector. The Society also actively fosters relationships with other accountancy, professional organisations and government bodies.


PHC has been working closely with the Ulster Society and Towergate Health & Protection to offer Ulster Society members preferential terms on a comprehensive range of healthcare products. It’s now up for renewal and new members can join and benefit from this valuable offer. PHC’s insurance is underwritten by AXA PPP, the second largest private medical insurer in the UK. Their whole philosophy is built around being different, responsive and agile to meet the often complex health insurance needs of their customers. They focus on providing high quality insurance to its customers and we’re extremely happy to be partnering with them again for the next contract year. Some of the benefits available to you if you elect for PHC health insurance include: Medical History Disregarded (MHD) underwriting, previous medical conditions are automatically covered under the plan when you join the plan between the 1st June and the 1st July. A pre-existing conditions exclusion will only apply for cancer. If you are receiving active treatment for cancer or have recently been diagnosed with cancer, private treatment will not be covered. Plans can be tailored to meet individual budgets. Avoid NHS waiting times for accessing medical treatment, a fast track appointment service is included as standard. Unlimited out-patient cover is included for consultancy fee’s, scans, and diagnostic tests across all plans. In-patient treatment and day case surgery are also covered in full. 24/7 access to a counselling support service is included across all plans. A comprehensive range of Private and NHS hospitals across the UK are available for treatment. Instant referral service for Musculoskeletal & mental health treatment. Your individual plan will be part of a ‘pooled’ arrangement with other members. All premiums and claims are pooled together to help determine your renewal premium. The Society is delighted to offer these terms to its members through PHC and if you would like to find out more on the available plans and prices, please contact Towergate Health & Protection as soon as possible.  To find out more, please contact Towergate Health & Protection by emailing info_health@towergate.co.uk or complete and return the Ulster Society Medical Scheme Application 2020 form

May 11, 2020

The Ulster Society recently ran a webinar covering the UK Government supports for businesses affected by Coronavirus, specifically the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS) and the Job Retention Scheme.  Talking about the supports were Mark Sterritt, British Business Bank; Robert McCullough, Danske Bank and Shirley Blair, A&L Goodbody. A recording of this webinar is available HERE. Many members submitted questions during the webinar, not all of which could be answered on the day. A list of FAQs on CBILS and the Job Retention Scheme are given below (info correct as of 15 April). Thanks to our speakers for taking the time after the webinar to answer these. FAQs        CBILS  - Answers from Robert McCullough, Danske Bank EFLG Scheme had such a low take up in NI. Do you see this being the same? Absolutely not. We are seeing a significant inflow of applications and drawdowns already. The EFGS scheme was seen as overly complicated and carried a risk premium priced to the client. The banks pick up the risk premium as part of this scheme. If a business has substantial cash reserves, even if currently business has been severely affected by Covid 19, do they still qualify under the scheme? The Business needs to confirm that it’s been affected by Covid 19 to avail of the scheme but in our experience a business will not borrow until it has to. ie use its own reserves first. There may be an argument that cash reserves were being held for another purpose and have had to be repointed towards Covid support and in that instance there is a case for taking forward Where the business already has a funding facility with repayment terms, how do the repayment terms of a CBILS fit around those? Your lender will take account of those commitments when considering the business future repayment capacity. CBIL terms in Y1 are generous with grant funded interest and the opportunity to avail of capital holidays to try and ease the pressure on business and if that doesn’t work then some form of restructure may be more appropriate. Where existing facilities secure all business assets what form of security is being taken / looked for by the CBILS providers? The scheme sets out that all available security should be taken and then supported by a CBIL guarantee which covers the bank to a value of 80% of any outstanding debt once all security proceeds have been recovered. So if all available security has been utilised then the business should still proceed in seeking a CBIL loan using the government guarantee If a business has cash reserves that will take it through the initial 6 to 8 week period, should it delay applying for a CBILS at this stage? It would be prudent to at least have given some thought to what the requirements might be and certainly communicate your position to your lender in order that any subsequent application has no surprises and will probably flow through the system quicker. When all business restarts it is likely that working capital will be stressed until revenue flows and at that stage there will be further funding requirements - should businesses be building that requirement into a CBILS at this stage? Ideally yes, but just try to use best judgment and the bank will by sympathetic to the lack of clarity around future revenue streams. In event of default on CBIL loan, does bank utilise existing security held before calling on 80% guarantee?  Yes – those are the rules of the scheme. It is effectively a shortfall guarantee Job Retention Scheme – Answers from Shirley Blair Should the 80% gross be worked out on total gross or post salary sacrifice salary? Post salary sacrifice salary though it is open to the employee to waive the benefit and restore their salary to the higher level I have become aware that some staff that have been furloughed have been working from home, even though they have been advised to the contrary. How does that affect my company claiming under the job retention grant? The Scheme makes it clear that no work can be done. It's likely that if a company is aware that employees are doing work whilst they are intended to be on furlough, they should not claim under the Scheme for that employee. Depending upon the circumstances, that may then become a disciplinary issue for the employee. I have clients with essential businesses (e.g. food shop/ petrol stations) getting staff requests to be furloughed, eg. place me on furlough, my child has bad asthma.So family members who haven't received the letter advising them to shield.The employer does have work for these employees.Can employers take comfort in furloughing these employees? Furlough is not limited to redundancy situations. The Guidance states that employees with caring responsibilities can be furloughed. Are the average monthly earnings for the period prior to the date employee was furloughed? Yes Re JRS, the guidance suggests that compulsory commissions are included. What is the difference between a compulsory commission and a regular commission? No current guidance so this area remains unclear What does the guidance say about making up the pay beyond the 80% of some employees rather than others, particularly that of directors.   Nothing other than the making up of pay is at the employer's discretion. Normal employment law principles apply so employers must make sure not to offend any discrimination legislation and comply with the usual duties around reasonableness. The guidance says that directors can be furloughed and can carry out work to fulfil their stautory obligations. They should not do work of a kind they would carry out in normal circumstances to generate revenue or provide services to or on behalf of their company. Where does issuing fees, collecting cash, completing VAT returns and operating PAYE fit here? Can a director be involved in these activities and still be furloughed? A director who is furloughed can only undertake work to fulfil a duty or other obligation arising from an Act of Parliament relating to the filing of company's accounts or provision of other information relating to the administration of the director's company (para 6.6).  This is a very narrow interpretation of directors' duties. For people on Furlough do you have to pay them 100% of their pay for statutory holidays Governmental guidance is awaited Do staff earn annual leave entitlements if they are furloughed?  Governmental guidance is awaited Can you bring a member back to carry out administrative work for a week and furlough them again?   At present this may be possible, provided that the employee is furloughed in blocks of 3 weeks Can public sector / local government use furlough scheme?  Yes Can the furlough scheme be used for an individual employee who has dependents who need to 'shield'? Yes, if the employer and employee agree For employees on national living wage is it 80% of the NLW at 28/02/20 or of the current NLW from 1/04/20? The NMW/ NLW is not relevant to the calculation Can sole directors furlough if they cease working albeit doing minimal director duties A director who is furloughed can only undertake work to fulfil a duty or other obligation arising from an Act of Parliament relating to the filing of company's accounts or provision of other information relating to the administration of the director's company (para 6.6).  This is a very narrow interpretation of directors' duties. When I come to processing wages do I put through normal pay amounts for each employee and file my RTI or do I put through zero for each employee? Guidance awaited Can an employer pay the other 20% so that employee doesn’t lose out at all financially? Yes Can a furloughed employee engage in paid work for another company and be paid a commercial rate from new employer, as well as the furloughed pay? Yes, provided there is nothing that restricts that in the original employer's terms and conditions with that employee  Our company continues to trade as normal. However, some employees have had to self-isolate due to government advice. Can they be furloughed or are they due SSP? Self-isolating employees are only entitled to SSP for the duration of the self-isolation. Once that ends, they may be entitled to furlough  Under furlough, can staff be used as security duties which is NOT part of their normal work. In the case of an hotel, it needs people on-site to protect the premises for obvious reasons. An employee can do no work for their employer whilst on furlough If a furloughed worker can do voluntary work, does this mean general voluntary / charity work or can they do voluntary work for their employer? They cannot do anything that would generate revenue for their employer Can an employee take annual leave 1 day a week to make up full pay? Currently no guidance  How do you define someone whose pay varies? Is it regular overtime? Even though it isn't mentioned on their contract? There must be a contractual obligation to pay (whether implied or express is currently unclear) Re: employee consent if they were put on furlough as a necessity before it was clear that written consent was needed, can we now get them to retrospectively agree even they have started on furlough? No current guidance If an employee is on sick leave and contacts to say now available for work again and wants to be put on furlough – does the employer need a fit note or a return to work interview or other support to agree?  No current guidance requiring this, but it may be prudent to  

Apr 20, 2020

The Chairman of Chartered Accountants Ulster Society has called on the Northern Ireland Executive to implement “much needed reform” in the health and education sectors and to re-energise the local economy. Speaking to over 360 guests at the Ulster Society’s Annual Dinner, sponsored by Danske Bank and MCS Group tonight (5th March), Richard Gillan called on the Executive to provide investment in infrastructure and skills; and to adopt a business-friendly strategy. Richard Gillan said: “This is a testing time for the local economy. Factors such as Brexit and cut-backs in Government spending will be challenging, but our members see the restoration of the Northern Ireland Executive as a very positive move. “Whilst the restoration is most welcome, the last 3 years have left us with a lot of catching-up to do, and the Executive needs to prove itself and show that it can deliver for the wider economy. “There is a steep learning curve when it comes to managing the public finances. Right now, because of initiatives such as RHI, our members need to be convinced that our politicians can step up to the challenge. “The New Decade, New Approach document, promising significant investment, is a fantastic start. But it is just a start. Now we need to see the real benefits of having local politicians making local decisions and tackling local priorities. “Northern Ireland’s health and education systems are in considerable need of reform. We also need investment in skills, investment in infrastructure and an Executive which is willing to back business and help local companies compete on a global stage. “We need a concerted effort to devise a game-changing, business-friendly strategy to re-energise our economy, boost our competitiveness and put entrepreneurship at the fore. “The Executive will need to work as a cohesive unit in negotiations with HM Treasury, and be bold enough to introduce the measures and efficiencies that are so desperately needed in the Public Sector. “What Northern Ireland needs now is strong leadership." Also addressing guests at the Ulster Society Annual Dinner were Double Olympic Champion sailor Iain Percy OBE and former Ulster Rugby and Ireland captain, Rory Best OBE. The Chartered Accountants Ulster Society’s Annual Dinner took place at Titanic Belfast and was attended by 360 members and their business guests.

Mar 05, 2020