Thursday, 20 August 2015

Stewing over tea break dilemmas

British workers are renowned for their love of a tea break, but a Shropshire solicitor has warned they are not a given right.

John Mehtam is the employment law expert at Martin-Kaye Solicitors in Telford, and he said research had shown the average British worker enjoyed four cups of tea during every working day.

“But contrary to what your staff may believe, as an employer, you’re not required to provide staff with hot drinks or the facilities to make them.

“You might decide you want to provide milk, teabags and coffee – and given the emotional attachment many workers have to their beloved cuppa, it could be a sound business proposition!

“But it’s not something you’re required to do by law, and indeed, the cost of providing such refreshments over a year could add up significantly, particularly if you have a large workforce.”

John said providing a kitchen, kettle and fridge could also create potential health and safety issues which an employer may choose not to take on.

“Burns, electric shocks, or even food poisoning could all crop up, but if you have a sensible kitchen policy in place, that should go a long way to reducing the risks, so make sure it’s clearly set out in your staff handbook.

“Tea breaks may seem like an unassuming element of the working day, but throughout history, they have become an iconic symbol of British working patterns, and you may decide that failing to provide the equipment or the materials to make a hot drink would be a step too far.

“Our Alpha employment experts have wide ranging experience in creating bespoke, legally compliant policies for any business, and we can help you draw up a strategy that will keep your workplace kitchen – and your staff – safe, while maintaining a tradition that dates back hundreds of years.”

Friday, 14 August 2015

Social media - which side are you on?

Social media is changing the face of employment law – and employers need to stay one step ahead of the game. But what if an employee’s personal social media accounts start to conflict with your company’s business interests?

Employment law expert, Lubna Laheria, from Martin-Kaye Solicitors in Telford, said: “Social media is a fairly controversial aspect of employment law, and as technology evolves, it’s a sector that’s constantly changing.

“It has opened up great opportunities for companies when it comes to marketing and connecting with potential customers, clients or suppliers, but given that the vast majority of your staff are probably using social media in their personal lives too, what happens if conflicts arise?”

Lubna’s warning is particularly topical given a recent court case involving the retailer, Game. One of their managers, who was responsible for around 100 stores, was guilty of posting a number of offensive tweets.

He followed many of the company’s stores on Twitter from his personal account, mainly to monitor their activity, and 65 of the stores also followed him back, which meant they could see his personal tweets.

A fellow manager raised concerns over the tweets he posted, which insulted several community groups, and following a company investigation, the manager responsible was dismissed for gross misconduct.

“The Employment Appeal Tribunal decided that this was a reasonable dismissal, and they agreed that the tweets could not be considered private, particularly as the manager had followed 100 stores on Twitter ‘for a work purpose’,” said Lubna.

“Employers should make sure they have a detailed policy in place which clearly explains to staff what is expected of them when it comes to social media postings, and emphasise that personal and work-related accounts should be kept separate.

“Our employment law experts have wide ranging experience in tailoring social media policies that will meet the specific needs of your business, and it’s vital that employers protect their company’s reputation and brand by ensuring that staff follow the rules.”

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Extra HELP is on its way

Experts from a Midlands law firm were so inundated with bookings from local employers for their latest seminar that they’re planning a repeat event.

Lawyers from Martin-Kaye Solicitors, in Wolverhampton, organised the advice session at the Ramada Park Hall Hotel to help employers tackle staff sickness absence.

And it seems their choice of topic really touched a nerve with employers from across the region.

Speakers on the night were employment law specialists John Mehtam and Lubna Laheria, who shared their top ten tips on how to deal with the problem of staff taking a sneaky day off claiming to be ill.

Martin-Kaye Senior Partner, Graham Davies, said: “We were absolutely amazed at the number of employers who wanted to join us at the seminar, and it’s clear that staff sickness absence is an issue that affects companies of all shapes and sizes.

“To cope with the demand, we are now planning a re-run of the event so that we can accommodate another capacity audience and share our expertise.”

John Mehtam said the seminar was targeted specifically at business owners, leaders and human resources managers.

“Our aim was to explain how companies can tackle sickness absence but most importantly, how they can do it and still stay within the law. And although it’s frustrating for employers who hear lame excuses about why their staff can’t make it into work, it’s equally vital that those employers are able to recognise the difference when staff may actually be genuinely ill.”

John said employers must also handle the situation appropriately, knowing what their legal rights were, and take the action that best suited the individual employee’s circumstances.

The presentation was the latest in a series of HELP seminars run by Martin-Kaye which are designed to help employers learn how to deal with common situations they may face every day in their business.

HELP stands for HR and Employment Law in Practice and the events offer businesses a unique opportunity to hear from the experts when it comes to tackling topical issues.

Pic: At the Martin-Kaye seminar are, from left, John Mehtam, Lubna Laheria and Graham Davies

Monday, 3 August 2015

Bad advice costs victims dearly

Victims of professional negligence now have direct access to expert support thanks to a new website created by a Shropshire law firm.

The team at Martin-Kaye Solicitors, in Euston Way, Telford, has launched to deal specifically with cases where clients have lost out financially after receiving bad advice.

Andrew Oranjuik, the firm’s Head of Dispute Resolution, said: “We have created the website as a direct result of a surge in negligence claims against professional advisers, and the service is already attracting a lot of attention.

“Our aim is to help clients to recover any financial losses they have suffered as a result of mistakes made by their advisers, and our wide-ranging experience in this area of law will prove invaluable in taking the project forward.”

Martin-Kaye are members of the Professional Negligence Lawyers Association, and the law firm has been recognised by the Legal 500 as being particularly active in cases of this type.

Andrew has personally handled many claims against professionals including one case where the claimed losses were around £10 million. His team is also made up of Mohammed Ahsan and Jason Round.

The professional negligence claims service can be used to bring claims against all kinds of professionals including: solicitors, barristers, accountants, financial advisers, brokers, and surveyors.

“Most professionals are required by law to have indemnity insurance in place, which means if your claim is successful, the adviser’s insurer should pay the compensation,” said Andrew. “We recognise too that legal action can be expensive, so we have many different options when it comes to fees, such as ‘no win, no fee’ in suitable cases, legal expenses insurance, fixed fees, or ongoing payments as the case progresses.

“The thought of taking action against someone you once appointed as a trusted adviser can be daunting, but our aim is to take you through the process with a clear and strategic approach. Our experts have handled cases involving all sorts of professional advisers, so we’re extremely well prepared and ready to make your voice heard.”

Pic: Launching the new website are, from left, Mohammed Ahsan, Andrew Oranjuik and Jason Round at Martin-Kaye Solicitors

Friday, 31 July 2015

Customers have new rights - are you prepared?

Businesses who deal with the public on a daily basis should think about reviewing their terms and conditions in plenty of time before new rules come into force.

That’s the warning from Andrew Oranjuik, the head of dispute resolution at Martin-Kaye Solicitors in Telford, who said companies should be acting now before the rule change on October 1st.

“It’s about time that new customer service rules were introduced as the existing set are disjointed and outdated, so I’m very pleased to see the new Consumer Rights Act coming into force,” said Andrew.

“The difficulty is that many of the existing rules were introduced before the digital age came into being, and they are no longer fit for purpose.

“But now, customers will have the protection of a whole new raft of rules that are appropriate for the fast-moving technical world we now live in, and that cover the hi-tech digital processes that seem to have taken over our everyday lives.”

Andrew said the changes would bring in different levels of remedies depending on how defective the goods received were.

“They will consider whether the goods are defective, or whether they don’t meet the description the customer was given, and customers will have the right to reject the goods and claim a refund within 30 days. In fact, even after 30 days, the customer would still be entitled to have defective goods repaired or replaced.”

Andrew said one of the biggest changes was the introduction of new rules covering the quality of digital content such as music and film downloads, which demanded the files should be of a good enough quality and fit for purpose.

“Businesses will also have to make sure they adopt fair contract terms, and clearly set out the actions they will take over faulty goods and digital content in their terms and conditions.

“Of course, many businesses already operate fair practices and so they won’t really be greatly affected by the new rules. But even so, it’s a perfect opportunity to review both the company’s terms and conditions, and the sales process generally, to make sure everything meets the strict new criteria.”

Thursday, 30 July 2015

On the spot sackings are never a good idea

Sacking an employee on the spot may seem like a good idea, but Shropshire employers could face costly consequences - that's the message from Martin-Kaye's employment law specialist John Mehtam.

His message follows the case of a crop worker who was spotted by a passer-by  “watering the crops” rather than using a nearby portable toilet. The passer-by complained to the farm managers and reports said the worker had been ‘sacked with immediate effect’.

“The truth though is that well-worn phrase doesn’t actually add up as instant dismissal should never be seen as an option.

“If an employee has acted irresponsibly or caused an incident that cannot be ignored, then on the face of it, sacking them there and then may seem like a quick and easy resolution. But instant dismissal is never a good idea even if the sacking is for an obviously fair reason.

“Employers must always follow a fair and reasonable procedure in all disciplinary cases, because otherwise an employment tribunal could find in your employee’s favour, and you could face a fine of up to £5,000 for not following the rules.

“Employees who have only been with you for a short time who don’t ordinarily have a right to claim unfair dismissal may be able to bring a claim against you too if you sack them on the spot.”

John said employers needed to take care when dealing with dismissals and should follow the agreed procedures step by step.

“Instant dismissal puts an employer in a potentially vulnerable situation that could end up being extremely costly, so it’s important you don’t allow yourself to be caught out.

“Our Alpha experts can help with all aspects of the disciplinary process, and we specialise is helping employers work their way through the minefield of employment law avoiding the most common pitfalls on the way.”

Alpha is a business protection scheme created by Martin-Kaye that offers employment law advice and human resources support to UK companies 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Where there's a will...

Children who are ‘cut out’ of their parents’ wills could find it easier to claim part of their estate after a landmark legal ruling, a Shropshire lawyer has said.

Andrew Oranjuik claimed this week’s ruling by the Court of Appeal could pave the way for other wills to be overturned or changed by the courts, if they were deemed to be ‘unfair’.

Mr Oranjuik, head of commercial litigation at Martin-Kaye Solicitors in Telford, was commenting after the end of a 10-year legal battle by Heather Ilott, who went to court after her mother Melita Jackson left her entire £486,000 estate to animal charities.
Mrs Ilott, who has been estranged from her mother for 26 years and was claiming benefits, has now been granted a third of her late mother’s estate – a total of £164,000.
Mr Oranjuik based at Martin-Kaye’s Euston Way head office in Telford, said the decision could significantly weaken people's right to leave money to those they want to inherit it.

“In light of this decision, it is arguably now easier for an adult child to make out a claim for maintenance in the right circumstances,” he said.
“The case emphasises the long-established principle that the terms of a deceased person’s will do not always prevail.”

He added: “There has long been the ability for children of deceased people to claim reasonable financial provision for maintenance. That often involves the child having relied on maintenance provided by the parent or being dependent. 

“What is unusual about this case is that Mrs Ilott had been estranged from her mother for 26 years, and was not in any way dependent on her. 
“The court was however influenced by other factors. Mrs Ilott had a very small income and received tax credits and she had no pension. The fact that the named charities were unable to establish a need for the entire estate was also a factor, as was the fact that Mrs Jackson had no previous connection with them.”
Mr Oranjuik said: “Essentially this ruling means you can still disinherit your children, but if you want it to stand up in court, you will have to explain why, as well as explaining what connects you to those you do leave money to.
“That'll make it easier for adult disinherited children to challenge wills and claim greater sums by way of what the courts would deem a ‘reasonable provision’.”