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CLUB LAW AND MANAGEMENT

Questions and Answers

This month we have again visited the popular Question and Answer format for Club Law and Management. The ACC is very happy to offer guidance and support to Club Committees on all matters relating to the management and administration of a Club. Club Secretaries are encouraged to contact the ACC as the first port of call in the event of any question or query.

We have a Member wishing to be elected to the Committee. The problem is that the Member has previously been on the Committee but resigned part way through their tenure. Is there a time limit before they can be re-elected to the Committee after resigning?

I confirm that in the event of a Committee Member resigning, there is no provision within the Club’s Rules preventing that person from standing again for election or from being co-opted back on to the Committee as a casual vacancy. Some Clubs have Rules which do provide that such a person could not stand again for a fixed period, e.g. two years but his is not the case with your Club. 

If therefore this person is nominated for election, then they may stand and it will be up to the members to elect them or not. Also if there is a casual vacancy on the Committee, then the Committee could appoint this person but it would be entirely their choice and decision.

We are finding it difficult to recruit new members part way though the membership year as some Members of the Committee believe that new members have to pay an entire year’s subscription fee even if they join part way through the year. Are we able to charge the membership fee pro rata so that new members only pay for the remaining period of the initial year? We also reward new members and their proposers and seconders with bar vouchers, is this acceptable?

 A We can confirm that it is common for Club’s to charge pro rata membership fees as the year progresses. It is not sensible to charge a new member the full membership fee if they are only going to have to renew again in a few months’ time.

We can also confirm that a bar voucher as either a reward for existing members proposing new members or as an incentive for a new member to make early use of the Club are also common.

 We are having a problem with an employee and may have to dismiss them. However, we are aware that if they claim that they have been unfairly dismissed we may have to defend the case at an employment tribunal. If the employee successfully claimed that they had been unfairly dismissed, what at the likely damages that the Club could face?

It is very hard to estimate what award an Employment Tribunal may provide to an unfairly dismissed employee. The basic award is similar to a standard redundancy calculation but the Tribunal may also award a compensatory award element which is discretionary in nature. In calculating the compensatory award the Tribunal can consider loss of past and future wages. Typically the maximum an employee would expect to receive would be a basic award of up to £13,920 and a further compensatory award of up to 12 months gross pay. There are, however, circumstances which can increase the overall award given (dismissal for health and safety reasons for example have no upper limit on the award which can be awarded).

We are currently redesigning our website. Is there any reason that we cannot place the membership application form on the website? We think this may aid the recruitment of new members.

I do not think there is any reason the Club’s Membership form cannot be accessed and submitted electronically and as such it could be placed on the website. I think that Clubs have to move with the times and that an electronic submission of a membership request is perfectly acceptable.

The Committee would then have to verify that the proposer and seconder listed on the firm are willing to act in those roles. The key point is that you are not advertising for new members and you are not saying that all new members are welcome. By placing the membership request form on the website you are simply allowing interested members to submit a request which will then be considered by the Committee. It is very similar to leaving membership application forms around the Club when a private event is being held at the Club. Ultimately, the Committee is still making the final decision on whether or not a prospective member is granted membership.

We have a member who has been nominated for the Committee. We are also aware that he is on the Committee of another local community Club. Is he able to be elected to our Club’s Committee if he is already a Committee Member of another Club?

There is no legislation or Club Rules which would prevent a Committee Member holding a position of authority within another local Club and we have found that this is an increasingly common situation as people become members of different Clubs and fewer people are interested in active Club management. As a result, those who are interested find themselves involved in more than one Club’s management.

All Committee Members are expected to observe confidentiality regarding Committee Meetings and information. If it is found that a Committee person is passing confidential information to the other Club of which they are also a Member then they should be disciplined accordingly. In fairness though, there is likely to be little information which is going to be particularly sensitive if the other Club learns of it. I do, however, suggest that this opportunity is used to remind all Committee Members of the confidential nature of Committee Meetings and information particularly if such information would be of interest to a competing Club in the area. If a conflict of interest does arise then the Committee Member with the conflict of interest should excuse themselves from the meeting whilst the item is discussed.

The Members are ultimately responsible for the election of Committee Members, assuming there are sufficient candidates to create an election. The Members can then decide themselves if this is a person they wish to elect to the Club’s Committee and they can also remove any person should they choose to do so.

Our members approved at a previous Annual General Meeting that any increase in the Club’s subscription fee is capped at £1 each year. In recent years we have not increased the subscription fee but we would now like to increase the subscription fee by £5. Can we do this without further recourse to the members?

The Club’s Rules state that the Club’s Membership policy is determined by the members at a General Meeting. This is different from Club to Club; some Clubs Rules will state that it is the Committee that determine the subscription level.

Since the members have already approved the Club’s current policy then should the Committee wish to increase the subscription fee by £1 they can do so. For any increase beyond £1 then the Members would need to provide approval for such an increase at a General Meeting. Until such approval is gained, the Committee will be restricted to raising the subscription fee by £1 each year.

Q Our subscription rate is set at £25. Can you tell us if this is broadly similar to the subscription levels set by other ACC Clubs?

Broadly speaking, a subscription fee of around £25 is in line with many ACC Clubs. The key point is that, for any Club, the subscription fee is unlikely to be a huge revenue driver. It is the number of members and how frequently they use the Club which provides the majority of the Club’s revenue. There is therefore no point in pursuing a policy of higher subscription fees if the result of such a policy is a reduction of active Club members.

Q The Committee has been informed that wine has to be sold in 125ml quantities, in addition to the commonly sold 187ml and 250ml quantities. I assume that this relates to sales by the glass as some wines are only sold by the bottle.

As long as the Club chooses to purely sell wine in presealed bottles then you will not have to make the wine available in different measures.

The Club must ensure that the following drinks are available in the following measures, in addition to any measures already in use:
• beer or cider - half pint
• gin, rum, vodka or whisky - 25ml or 35ml
• still wine in a glass - 125ml

As well as making the drinks available in the above measures, the Club must also make customers aware of the availability of these measures – for example, by making their availability clear on menus and price lists, and ensuring that these are displayed in a prominent place in the relevant premises (e.g. at the bar).

However, the above condition does not apply if the drinks in question are sold or supplied having been made up in advance ready for sale or supply in a securely closed container. For example, if beer is only available in pre-sealed bottles the condition to make it available in ½ pints does not apply.

Should at any point in the future the Club wishes to make some of wines available by the glass then these would have to be provided in the above measure in addition to the customary measures of 175ml and 250ml. This requirement would only apply to the specific wines sold by the glass, the Club can continue to sell certain wines by the bottle only.

Q Do you have any more details on the pension revisions that are being introduced for employers from next year onwards? I understand that we will have to make mandatory contributions to an employee’s pension? Do you recommend a specific firm to assist us with employee pensions?

We recommend that Clubs deal with our preferred supplier, DBL Asset Management, when providing employee pensions. Their details are on our website and also included within the magazine. The pension changes do not affect Clubs until 2015. We will therefore be providing more information in the magazine regarding the changes nearly the implementation date.

The enrolment process will be simple and an employee may choose to opt out of the pension, if they wish. The Club will make a minimum contribution to the scheme. To help employers and employees adjust gradually, the plan is to phase in the minimum contribution levels.

Q At a recent AGM, it was voted to charge nonmembers an entrance fee. We are struggling to keep this consistent, with bar staff not always requesting the entrance fee at busy times. At our regular Committee meeting last night several of the members suggested that we scrap this entrance fee. Are we able to do this without asking the members to approve the change in policy?

As the members have made a decision at the Annual General Meeting about this policy then the Committee would need to ask the members at a further General Meeting for approval to change the policy. This is an unfortunate consequence of allowing the members to decide this type of policy at a General Meeting. Traditionally, policy decisions such as this are made by the Committee. It means that the Committee do not have the power to change the policy as a result of feedback received by guests and the bar staff. In future you may wish to allow the members to discuss policy questions such as this but to ensure that they are aware that the vote is only advisory in nature.

 Machine Games Duty: Late Filing Penalties Cancelled

HM Revenue & Customs updates for 2014/2015 (HMRC) have announced that penalties which were issued to people for late filing of MGD returns and late payments of MGD will be cancelled.

HMRC are not cancelling any other MGD penalties i.e. those issued for failing to register or making errors on a return. If HMRC have written to you charging you a penalty for filing your MGD return or paying your MGD late, they will automatically cancel the penalty. If you use the MGD Online Service you may still see the penalty on your MGD account. HMRC are working as quickly as they can to remove these penalties from MGD accounts. If you have already paid a penalty and you do not have any MGD debts, HMRC will refund the penalty to you. They will also pay you the interest due. HMRC will make refunds by payable order sent by post between now and the end of December. If you have already paid a penalty and you do have MGD debts, HMRC will use the penalty you paid to help pay these debts. They will refund any amount left over to you. If you have asked HMRC to review a penalty for filing your MGD return or paying your MGD late, this review is now closed. Any Clubs who have a problem with a MGD penalty which they consider should be refunded as a result of this decision, but has not been, can contact the ACC for assistance.

Clubtray

We have been informed that Clubtray have been contacting Private Members Clubs. Clubtray provide a website where Clubs and businesses can place adverts. For the avoidance of doubt, Clubtray are not recommended by the ACC and we have not given Clubtray permission to contact our Member Clubs. Any Club who has entered into an agreement with Clubtray is welcome to contact the ACC to discuss the situation.

Sky Sports Prices

In last month’s magazine we included the listings for the Barclays Premier League August – November schedule. We mentioned that there is a Special Sky CORCA Clubs deal which ACC Clubs should already be benefitting from and we hope that the prices below will assist Clubs in confirming that they are on the correct tariff. The Sky Package includes Sky Sports 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, F1, Sky Sports News, Eurosport and Eurosport 2 along with free WiFi and two additional viewing cards, to allow you to show multiple sports at the same time. Sky will show more than 800 football games this season, including 116 Premier League games and 129 Champions League games. Throughout the season, there is also rugby union to enjoy, with Autumn Internationals, golf, including the Ryder Cup, as well as cricket, darts, Super League, Formula 1 and more. All prices exclude VAT.

General Employment Rates Information and updates for 2014/2015

National Minimum Wage
On the 1st October 2014, the National Minimum Wage increases for all workers aged 21 and over from the current level of £6.31 to the new level of £6.50. The National Minimum Wage for workers aged 18-20 also increases to £5.13 and for workers aged 16 and 17 it increases to £3.79. We advise all Clubs to make sure that contracts are up to date and reflect the new rate where appropriate.

Statutory Sick Pay is payable up to £87.55 per week and is valid for 28 weeks. It is advisable in the case of sickness absence to review the employment contract in question to ascertain if the Club has committed to pay a limited amount of sickness time off at full pay.

Maternity, Adoption and Paternity Pay is paid at the lower figure of either £138.18 or 90% of the employee’s average weekly pay apart from for the first six weeks of maternity or adoption leave which is paid at 90% of the employee’s average weekly pay regardless. Maternity Pay and Adoption Pay are paid for up to 39 weeks whilst Paternity Pay is payable for up to 2 weeks.

Employer’s National Insurance Contributions
Clubs are required to pay 13.8% contributions for employees who earn above £153 per week. Nothing is due for employees who earn below this threshold. Currently Clubs are automatically eligible for a £2,000 National Insurance allowance and this should be utilised automatically through the Club’s pay roll system.