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Podcast: The Computer Weekly Downtime Upload – Episode 43

In this week’s episode of the Computer Weekly Downtime Upload podcast, Caroline Donnelly, Clare McDonald and Brian McKenna talk about the loan charge review that is bearing down on IT contractors, the Tech Talent Charter, Windows 7, and combating loneliness among remote workers

In this week’s episode of the Computer Weekly Downtime Upload podcast, Caroline Donnelly, Clare McDonald and Brian McKenna talk about the loan charge review bearing down on IT contractors, the Tech Talent Charter, Windows 7, and how remote workers can be socially included.

  • Caroline leads off the podcast with a summary of the state of play in the loan charge review controversy that is bearing down on one of Computer Weekly’s most important reader groups, IT contractors. Her story, “Loan charge under review: IT contractors slam government’s planned policy revamp”, has generated much response on social media. Caroline explains how the government introduced a policy in November 2017 that meant HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) could demand tax payment from contractors in respect of work done up to 20 years before, if they had opted for a non-taxable loan mode of payment.
  • A review of the policy was published in December 2019, reducing the liability period by 11 years, so that the loan charge is now only applicable to people who participated in schemes from 9 December 2010, and no longer applies to those who previously disclosed their involvement in the schemes to HMRC on their tax returns, if the agency failed to act on this information. But this still leaves many thousands of contractors with tax bills that could be life-changing. There seems to be an injustice in the retrospective cast of the policy, irrespective of the length of time stipulated, and contractors are campaigning for the policy to be prospective. This is an ongoing story, in which Caroline is immersed. There is much more to come.
  • Moving from tax to talent, Clare focuses discussion on the TechTalent Charter (TTC), to which more than 300 companies employing 700,000 people are signed up, and which is intent on improving diversity in UK business. The 2020 instalment of the TTC benchmarking report is signalling a move away from solely gender and towards diversity in tech more widely.
  • Data from the charter is proving that companies that have a concerted programme to improve diversity are succeeding in doing so. Over 200 of the signatories have an above-average number of women in technical roles, and 38% of those companies have a deliberate diversity strategy, reports Clare. Clare also says Debbie Forster, CEO of the charter, had always intended to start with women in tech, but then move onto diversity more widely. The TTC has a number of resources to help firms improve their approach to diversity and inclusion in a three-part toolkit.
  • On the podcast, the team often talks about cutting-edge IT and skills, but much of UK business IT is about keeping the lights on, so-called “business as usual”. Windows is the operating system underlying the bulk of what many UK workers do, and Windows 7 is now out of support. All good things come to an end, says Caroline – Game of Thrones, Meghan and Harry’s status in the House of Windsor, and now Windows 7. The team will discuss the end of life of Windows 7 further. But here they take a moment to mark its passing. Caroline and (especially) Clare also disclose a certain nostalgia for Windows XP: “It was easy, it was solid.”
  • Just as Windows is highly relatable for many IT users and managers, so, too is the management of remote workers. Brian talks about a Cath Everett feature we published on New Year’s Eve, “How to optimise remote workforces while tackling loneliness”, which poses the question of how remote working can be managed to optimise productivity while keeping employees socially connected to their companies.
  • The feature notes, says Brian, that a whitepaper from healthcare charity Nuffield Health points out that while working remotely can have a positive impact on staff wellbeing, if people do it for up to two and a half days a week, three or more days of not being present in the office can have a negative impact both on the individual and their colleagues.
  • Caroline notes that that the isolation that can come from remote working is indeed a problem for IT professionals, especially those who work in different time zones from their colleagues, and/or those who do it a lot and so are not able to decompress between work and life often enough. The feature has some tips for making remote workers feel socially included, and one of its case studies is the use of Facebook at Work by RBS.
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