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Club Law and Management

by Philip Smith, Secretary of the A.C.C.

Q. We have heard about Machine Games Duty which apparently is due to come into effect next year. Do you have any information on this new tax system for Gaming
Machines?

A. The Government has announced a new Gaming Machines taxation system, named Machine Games Duty (MGD), which is due to be  implemented from the 1st February 2013. The system is designed to be revenue natural, in other words it is not
designed to raise more tax than is currently raised. Once MGD is implemented it will replace both AMLD & VAT on Gaming Machines with a flat  percentage rate on the net takings of Gaming Machines. We can confirm that
category B3A  machines will remain
completely free of taxation and will not be included within the new system. It is currently not known
at this stage what  the percentage rate will be set at.  Depending on what the final percentage rate is set at, we are broadly supportive
of this change and consider that the
elimination of the  upfront AMLD cost for Clubs will be beneficial. Effectively, from 2013, the only costs associated with Gaming Machines will be a percentage of the net revenue with no upfront
costs at all. Clubs which have AMLD
licenses which need to be renewed
during the  forthcoming year may therefore wish to renew on a
monthly basis so that they are not
paying for a Licence past February 2013. We will continue to update to the magazine as more details about
this new taxation method become
available.

 

Q. We are currently in the
process of dismissing an employee. A Committee
Member  mentioned that they had heard of businesses using
‘Compromise Agreements’
when dismissing employees to reduce the  possibility of the employee claiming unfair dismissal at a later date.  Would it be possible for the Club to use a ‘Compromise Agreement’?

A. Clubs are able to use Compromise Agreements. Such agreements restrict  the right of an employee to claim  for either unfair or constructive  dismissal. Compromise  Agreements can be used when an  employee has left the service of the  Club for any reason (including dismissal or redundancy). In  return for a monetary settlement  the employee agrees not to file a  complaint for either unfair or  constructive dismissal. The  amount of money which is paid is at  the discretion of the Club and would  usually be based on the facts of the  specific case. If the employee refuses  such an agreement then they remain free to pursue a  claim for unfair/ constructive  dismissal. If they accept the  Compromise  Agreement
they will be unable then file a claim
for unfair dismissal.
In order to use a Compromise
Agreement a local solicitor should be contacted and asked to prepare and approve all the
relevant  documentation. Clubs should not undertake  Compromise
Agreements without seeking professional advice first.

 
 
 

Q. We are holding a
disciplinary meeting for one of our employees. Instead
of having the entire Committee attend, we consider that a
smaller  Sub-Committee, which
is familiar with the employee and the case in question, should
conduct this meeting. Is this acceptable and also, how much
information should we give to the employee in advance of the disciplinary meeting?

A. Whilst any decision taken should be endorsed by the entire Committee it is  reasonable to allow the Committee to nominate
a Sub-Committee to conduct the hearing and then report back to the main Committee with  their recommendation.
The employee should be
provided with any information which is relevant to the complaint
which is going to be discussed at the hearing. Little will be gained
from the meeting if the employee is not made aware of the points of contention in advance of the hearing and will therefore not be in a position to provide accurate and full answers when requested. Indeed, if the employee is not given full details of the complaint being made, then the disciplinary procedure will effectively be invalid.

 

Q. We have been asked by members if the Club could offer a joint ‘Husband and Wife’ Membership’  option for a discounted rate compared to two single membership
subscriptions. Is this possible? Our Club Rules do not mention
this subject, would they need amending?

A. Whilst the terms ‘Joint Subscription’ and ‘Joint Membership’ are frequently used, it is important to be aware of the
differences. A ‘Joint Membership’policy means that two people are subscribed under a system that would identify them as a single Member (one vote at the Annual
General Meeting for instance). The legal complications of
‘Joint Membership’ can prove so complex that such a category is almost impossible to implement.
A ‘Joint  Subscription’, however, is relatively simple and would permit a reduced  subscription rate for
two people but they would remain
individual Members in their own right.
In order to introduce a joint
subscription, a Rule change would not strictly be  necessary. Your Rules state that the annual subscription shall be determined
by the Members at the Annual General Meeting. The Committee
would simply ask the Members to
approve the introduction of a joint subscription and set the  applicable subscription rate, presumably with guidance emanating from the Committee on this point. The Committee would need to issue guidance over  whom would be applicable for a joint
subscription and it may be sensible for the Committee to retain a degree of discretion on this point.

 
Q. A hearing for a member
was held last night. The
appeal was made by a former
member who was recently
expelled. The Rules of our Club
provide that a person who has
been expelled has the right to
appeal.
The appeal panel would like to
know if it is possible to offer
him a 12 month suspension
with a proviso that once he has
served this term that he will be
allowed back into the Club as
a probationary member for a
period of time, namely 5 years?
A. The appeal panel can choose
to uphold the original
expulsion, replace the expulsion
with a suspension of Membership
or decide that no action should be
taken against this Member.
Under the Rules of the Club, a
Member can only be suspended
for up to twelve months. After
the suspension has expired then
the Member will then return to
full Membership of the Club. It
is not possible for a Member to
return on a probationary basis.
The appeal panel should be made
aware that the Club does not have a
probationary Membership category
in existence.
 

Q. We are holding a disciplinary Meeting and
as Secretary I would usually
expect to take the Minutes. However, I have been heavily
involved in the disciplinary
investigation so I with be
required to take on a different
role during the Meeting. We
have a former Secretary, who
has not been involved in this
case, who is willing to take
the minutes. Would this be
appropriate?

A. The person you describe would
seem to be an appropriate
person to take the minutes. In
fairness, provided the Minutes are
accepted by a subsequent Meeting
as being an accurate reflection of
what took place it is not terribly
important who actually takes the
Minutes. The important thing is
that the Minutes are accurate and
succinct.

 

Q. We have an employee who
has been off work sick for
over three months. Is it possible
to dismiss an employee who is
on long term sickness?

A. Yes, but great care must
be taken. The inability of
an employee to do a job, for
whatever reason, is a valid reason
for dismissal. However, the case
of the employee who becomes
physically or mentally unable to
do his or her job because of illness,
or is persistently absent from work
because of illness, clearly demands
special consideration. Employment
Tribunals recognise that - especially
in smaller businesses - it will often
not be possible for the organisation
to ‘carry’ the ill employee, and they
understand that a time comes when
the employer can no longer be
expected to keep open the post of
an employee who is off sick.
We would advise any Club with
a similar problem to contact the
ACC prior to taking any action so
that we can provide appropriate
advice for the Club’s situation.

 
 
 

Motion Picture Licensing Company (MPLC)

It has come to the ACC’s attention that Clubs may have received, or are about to receive, correspondence from the MPLC which indicates that they are required to pay for an ‘Umbrella Licence’. This is an annual licence from MPLC which allows commercial premises to broadcast copyrighted material such as film DVD’s to the public.

Clubs do not need an MPLC licence for ordinary broadcast television such as Freeview or SKY TV. For Clubs which just use Freeview broadcasts or similar the only license that is required is a Television Licence. In the ACC’s experience it is rare that a Conservative Club would need to obtain the aforementioned licence as most Conservative Clubs do not screen commercial film DVD’s inside the Club. Should any Club consider that they do need to obtain one of these licenses we would suggest that they contact the ACC first so that we can offer specific advice on whether a licence is required.

Alcohol Price Increases

The ACC is aware that at the beginning of 2012 the majority of breweries raised, or are planning to, raise, their list prices in relation to the majority of their lines. We have spoken to the breweries  concerned and accept that these price rises are down to external factors such as increased production, ingredient and transport costs, together with Motion Picture Licensing Company (MPLC) general inflation. However, we are concerned that these price rises place an additional burden on Clubs in a time when many Clubs are already struggling.

The ACC intend to write to the Chancellor of the  Exchequer raising this matter to ensure that the Chancellor is aware of the difficulties Clubs are facing.