Student Loans: are you paying back the right amount?

Members who are paying back a student loan should check that the correct amounts are being deducted.  

 There is no indication that this is a widespread or systematic problem, but the possibility of error exists and could have significant financial consequences.   We have had some examples over the last year of members who have became aware that they were overpaying on their student loan, and so we thought it was useful to raise awareness of the issue.

 Refunds can be made where mistakes are made, but note that issues need raising with the Student Loan Company.   The University payroll team is instructed by HMRC (who get their information from SLC) of any changes to student loan repayment plans, and are not otherwise able to make any changes.

 First of all, check that you are liable to make repayments. There are tens of thousands of people who are known to have started repaying too early. Liability only starts in the April after you graduate or leave higher education. And you don’t need to repay unless your earnings have reached the necessary threshold in any tax year.   The current threshold for those who started University during or after 2012 (England/Wales) is £25,000.  It’s different in Scotland and Northern Ireland.   

 Secondly, check that repayments have been stopped or started as appropriate if your earnings dropped below the threshold in a month – although the earnings threshold is for a tax year, the calculation will be on a monthly basis.

 Thirdly, check that you are not still paying despite having paid off your loan.   Again, tens of thousands of people have ended up overpaying because of the way in which HMRC annually report earnings to the Student Loans Company – eventually this should be detected and notified to the affected individual, but let them know if you spot it yourself.

 Finally, check that you are paying according the correct repayment plan.  Plan 1 is for those who took out their loan before 1 September 2012.  Plan 2 is for those who took out their loan on or after that date.   Repayment rates are calculated differently for each plan, which is why it matters.

 If you want more information or need to check any details, see the Student Loans Company website:  http://www.studentloanrepayment.co.uk

 If you have overpaid and want to be refunded, call the Student Loan Company on 0300 100 0611.  You might need personal data such as national insurance number, payroll number and PAYE reference.

 Example of newspaper coverage of student loan overpayment, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/money/student-money/hmrc-blames-student-loans-company-mass-overpayments/

Dan J Bye

 

Voluntary Living Wage – a qualified welcome


The National Minimum Wage became law in 1998, taking effect the following year.  It introduced different minimum hourly rates according to age bands. In 2015, George Osborne announced that for over-25s, the minimum wage would be renamed the National Living Wage and increased significantly.  This was primarily a way of outflanking the Labour Party, which had proposed a lower rise in the minimum wage.   The change was introduced from 2016.

 Confusingly, a voluntary “living wage” has been in existence since 2011, arising from campaigning going back to the early 2000s.   The Living Wage Foundation sets the level of the voluntary – or as we prefer to call it, Real Living Wage based on the cost of living.  The aim is to provide a worker with the minimum pay rate required to provide their family with the essentials of life, which the statutory so-called National Living Wage does not do.    Employers signing up to the Voluntary Living Wage undertake to maintain the pay of their lowest paid staff at the independently set level, and are recognised for doing so.

 Here at Sheffield Hallam, UNISON first raised the Real Living Wage issue back in 2012.  We therefore welcomed the University’s decision to pay the Voluntary Living Wage to our lowest paid colleagues from August.  

 This takes the form of a Voluntary Living Wage Supplement, paid to staff on Grade 2 (we do not use Grade 1 here) and the first spinal point of Grade 3 whose hourly rate would otherwise fall below that rate.  There are over 100 people impacted by this move.

 The Voluntary Living Wage was adjusted to £9 per hour in November, and affected staff should see that reflected in their pay packets soon.  

 Our welcome for this move is a qualified one, however, because the University has decided not to become an accredited Voluntary Living Wage employer.  Also, the method chosen to pay the Real Living Wage – a supplement on top of basic pay – flattens out the pay levels for staff on Grade 2.  Nor does the supplement apply to contract staff and casual staff who are not counted as employees, although it does apply to placement students and apprentices.

 Nevertheless, the move is a genuinely progressive move that benefits a large number of workers, and we hope that it will be maintained in the years to come.

UNISON and The Open University workshops 2019

Please note that annual leave or flexitime would need to be used if you want to attend.  Not covered by facilities time.

To Apply

Please complete a application form which can be downloaded from our website at:-  http://www.unison-yorks.org.uk/education.html

Forward your completed application form to your branch for approval.

If you have any questions please contact Tanya Shearer on email: t.shearer@unison.co.uk or Tel: 0113 218 2330 (Please note that places are limited so this will be confirmed to applicants directly)

 Places are limited so please do let us know as a matter of urgency if you are not able to attend so that someone else can attend in your place.

 

NATIONAL UNITY DEMONSTRATION AGAINST FASCISM AND RACISM SATURDAY 17 NOVEMBER

We are seeing the biggest rise in support for fascism, the far right, racism, Islamophobia and Antisemitism since the 1930s.

Hate crime has spiked to unprecedented levels. Whilst fascists and racists are mobilising on a scale not seen for decades, the far-right movements are gaining power across the globe.

The election of Jair Bolsonaro marks an extremely serious point in the rise of the global far right. It came a day after the shocking antisemitic attack on the Tree of Life Synagogue, Pittsburgh, in which 11 people were killed.

The majority of society opposes fascism and racism, but we can only defeat it if we come together and take action.

The 17th November is our chance to show that in our thousands and millions we are proud of our diversity, and we stand united in our determination to drive back this toxic wave of hate.

The demonstration is initiated by Stand Up To Racism, co-sponsored by Unite Against Fascism and Love Music Hate Racism, officially backed by the TUC and Unite, whilst also supported by Diane Abbott MP, John McDonnell MP amongst others.

Our Branch has agreed to pay the cost for 5 tickets for members who wish to attend the demo – this is on a first come first served basis.

 

 

 

 

 

 

HE PAY BALLOT: HAVE YOU RETURNED YOUR VOTE

To help us monitor turnout, please let us know you have voted.

This information will be used solely in order to monitor progress towards the threshold, and to inform our “get the vote out” activities – we are not asking for details of how you voted.

Either use the survey at http://unisonshu.org.uk/ls/payvote, or email dan@unisonshu.org.uk

The deadline for receipt of all ballots is Thursday 25th October.  If you have not received a ballot, there is still time to call the UNISON helpline on 0800 0857 857.

For more information see UNISON’s HE Pay website: https://www.unison.org.uk/at-work/education-services/about/higher-education/higher-education-ballot

A  pay  calculator,  to  help  you  work  out  how  much  your  pay  has  fallen  behind  is  here: https://unsn.uk/HEpaycalculator18

 

Higher Education Pay Offer 2018/19

What’s the issue?

As you may have seen in recent updates, Unison has been in discussion with other Higher Education unions about the employers’ pay offer for 2018/19. Here’s what the unions asked for and what was offered by employers:

 

Joint unions’ pay claim: Employers’ pay offer:
7.5% or £1,500 + a minimum wage of £10 per hour

 

2% or £425 (full time) whichever is higher

 

 

Due to the employers’ offer being significantly less than what was requested by all unions, Unison’s Higher Education Service Group Executive (HESGE) are recommending that members reject the employers’ offer.

How does this affect you?

  • The offer made by employers amounts to a real terms pay cut, inflation is higher than the 2% proposal
  • We have had several years of below inflation pay rises and yet living costs continue to rise, this offer does not address this
  • In the current climate, we are facing staff cuts in several areas of the University, which means we are facing an increase in workload without a meaningful pay increase

What happens next?

The Sheffield Hallam University Unison Branch will be running a consultative ballot which will be open for 3 weeks from Monday 9th July – Monday 30th July. This isn’t a ballot for industrial action; it is your chance to tell the branch what you think about the pay offer.

The more members that vote, the more accurately we can represent the views of this branch, so please look out for further details and do take part.

 

 

 

 

 

Stand as a branch officer

 

Are you looking for a challenge?

Why not stand for one of the following officer roles?

Communication Officer – Creating a positive image for the branch

Membership Officer – Develop recruitment and organising members

Welfare Officer – Making sure members seeking welfare assistance receive a prompt, supportive and effective response

Young Members Officer – Make sure young peoples’ voices are heard

Education Co-Ordinator – Training courses and education programmes for members, stewards, health and safety reps and branch officers

Equality Co-Ordinator  – Stand up for equality.  Equality is at the heart of the union

Contact Dan Bye, Branch Secretary  if you would like to know more.

 

Forthcoming UNISON events and meetings

If you are interested in attending any of the following events, click the event for further details.

UNISON National Deaf (BSL) Members network meeting, 27 June, UNISON Centre

UNISON National Disabled LGBT Members network meeting, 27 June, UNISON Centre

UNISON National Disabled Black Members network meeting, 28 June 2018, UNISON Centre

UNISON National Disabled Women Members network meeting, 28 June, UNISON Centre

National UNISON transgender & non-binary members meeting, 19 July, UNISON Centre

National UNISON bisexual members meeting, 19 July, UNISON Centre

UNISON National Disabled LGBT Members network meeting, 8 August,  UNISON Centre

UNISON National Deaf (BSL) Members network meeting, 8 August, UNISON Centre

UNISON National Disabled Women Members network meeting, 9 August, UNISON Centre

UNISON National Disabled Black Members network meeting, 9 August, UNISON Centre 

UNISON National Disabled LGBT members meeting, 13 September 2018, UNISON Centre

National UNISON Black LGBT members meeting, 14 September, UNISON Centre

HE PAY OFFER 2017-18

Many thanks to all those eligible members who participated in our pay offer consultation vote: just over 33% of you did so, which is an improvement on recent years. 

 The result locally was that 85% of respondents indicated that they wished to accept this year’s offer.

Our local outcome was reported to UNISON’s Higher Education Service Group executive, who discussed the results from all participating Branches and ratified members’ acceptance of the pay offer.

 Overall, UNISON members voted by 71.1% to 28.9% to accept the offer.

 The HE Unions have jointly reported to UCEA, the higher education employers’ organisation, that UNISON and GMB had consulted members and were accepting the offer; UNITE have rejected the offer but are consulting further before deciding on next steps; UCU was conducting an electronic ballot of members (due to end at the end of July) with a recommendation of “best that can be achieved by negotiation”; and EIS, the Scottish lecturer’s union, had conducted an initial consultation and would be consulting further over the summer.

 UNISON’s head of higher education, Donna Rowe-Merriman, commented:

“Members working in universities have reluctantly accepted this year’s offer.

 “Whilst higher than recent years, it still does not go far enough in compensating staff for successive years of low wage increases.

 The HE service group executive has already begun work on next year’s claim and will want to mobilise support from across HE to ensure decent pay for our members in future.”

 It should be noted that because not all the unions have concluded their consultation processes, it will obviously be some time yet before any pay uplifts can be applied, even assuming that each union ends up accepting the offer over the summer.