Thursday, 21 August 2014

Breaking the rules is a big mistake

 Companies caught breaking direct marketing rules could find themselves facing hefty fines as a growing number of authorities clamp down on offenders.

Local authorities, trading standards departments, and the Information Commissioner’s Office are all now pursuing firms which are flouting, or ignoring the law. It has been sparked by a rise in the number of small businesses cold-calling people who have registered with the ‘do not call’ list, run by the Telephone Preference Service.

Eliot Hibbert, from Martin-Kaye Solicitors in Telford, said: “The TPS is the official central opt-out register that allows people to indicate their preference not to receive unsolicited marketing calls.

“If a company ignores the list, even unknowingly, it will be in breach of the law, and it is clear that a growing number of organisations are prepared to prosecute.”

Eliot said: “Historically, it has usually been the Information Commissioner’s Office that investigates breaches of the rules, and it still has the power to impose fines of up to £500,000. But in the past few weeks, councils and trading standards departments have also been showing far more of an appetite for bringing prosecutions too.”

Apple Group Holdings Limited is one of the companies successfully prosecuted by trading standards officials, for continuously cold-calling people. The company, with offices in Dorset, Devon, Hampshire and the Isle of Wight, received a £36,000 fine. This successful prosecution, which is believed to be the first of its kind, could prompt other councils to take similar action,” Eliot said.

“It also means that individuals may also be more inclined to approach their local council about unwanted telephone calls, rather than the Information Commissioners Office.

“So what should a company do, to steer clear of the pitfalls? As always, if you follow the rules, you have nothing to fear. But the relevant legislation can be a minefield.

“If you undertake direct marketing of any kind, or you are thinking about doing so for the first time, it is worth downloading the free guidance details from the Information Commissioners Office.

“It explains how to comply with the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations, and how to screen telephone numbers against the TPS register. Follow its guidance to the letter, and you won’t go far wrong.”

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Gemma takes an unusual route

Experts at Martin-Kaye Solicitors have welcomed a new colleague to their growing team who has taken an unusual route into the legal profession.

Gemma Himsworth, who has been appointed by the law firm in Euston Way, now specialises in family law, but she hadn’t always intended to follow that career path.

“I actually have a first class honours degree in Theology from Cambridge, but I then decided to choose a career in law so I initially worked as a legal secretary while I completed my law qualifications.

“I’ve specialised in family law for over eight years now, and the best part of my job is that I get to deal with legal principles that can often be extremely complex, but I also get the chance to meet a huge variety of people too.

“In the world of family law, you’re dealing with everyday issues that can affect anyone, and it’s incredibly rewarding when you get a good result for someone over an issue that directly affects their personal life.

“I’m very proud to work for Martin-Kaye Solicitors because I wanted to work for a modern forward-thinking firm that was professional but friendly at the same time. It’s a pleasure to work in such a close knit and welcoming team, particularly one which provides clients with such an excellent service.”

Senior partner Graham Davies said: “Gemma has fitted into the team extremely well, and we’ve all been impressed with her approach and enthusiasm. Working in family law means dealing with clients who are going through some difficult life experiences, and it’s important that we deliver legal advice and support that really does make a difference to their circumstances.”

Martin-Kaye’s family team are experienced in all aspects of matrimonial and family law, and will explore all avenues in order to resolve disputes swiftly, amicably and cost effectively. They are particularly experienced in dealing with the complexities of dividing assets after a relationship has broken down, especially where businesses, pensions, trusts and investments are involved.

Pic:    Gemma Himsworth has joined the family law team at Martin-Kaye Solicitors

Monday, 18 August 2014

Directors' duties - just what do they mean?

 Company directors are being invited to update themselves on the latest legislation at a special breakfast briefing in Telford.

One of the UK’s leading commercial law barristers, Mohammed Zaman QC, will be the guest speaker at the event on September 11.

Directors – Do You Know Your Duties?, has been organised by Telford law firm Martin-Kaye, and is being held at the company's headquarters at The Foundry, Euston Way, starting at 8am.

“Many people take a seat at the boardroom table without appreciating the full responsibilities of the role, or keeping abreast of changing rules,” said Martin-Kaye commercial lawyer Andrew Oranjuik.

“Mohammed Zaman is one of the best commercial law barristers in the country, and is renowned for his intimidating cross-examination skills, and his own unique and entertaining presentation style.

“So much complex legislation which could impact on company directors has been introduced in recent years, and it is sometimes hard to keep track. And in reality, if you don’t comply with the legislation, you could ultimately face serious consequences, so it really is crucial to be well-informed.

“The aim of this breakfast briefing is to give people the chance to update themselves on all the latest rules, from one of the best in the business, and to learn from shared experiences.”

Places at the seminar are limited, and anyone wanting to reserve their spot should call June Noto on 01952 272222, or email junenoto@martinkaye.co.uk.

“This is a rare opportunity for Shropshire businesspeople to meet and learn from one of the experts in his field, on their own doorstep. And who can afford to miss out on such invaluable advice when the consequences of getting it wrong could be so drastic?”

Friday, 15 August 2014

Eliot returns to the fold

A Midlands law firm has welcomed back one of its former trainees, to take up a senior post in its corporate commercial department.

Eliot Hibbert has rejoined Martin-Kaye Solicitors in Telford, where he began his career in the legal profession just under a decade ago.

The 35-year-old, who lives in Oswestry, has since gained experience with Aaron & Partners in Chester, Harrisons in Welshpool, and GHP Legal in Wrexham and Oswestry.

“It is a great pleasure for me to return to the firm which launched me in my legal career,” said Eliot, who will be one of Martin-Kaye’s commercial law specialists, based at Euston Way. “I’m looking forward to the challenges of managing the team, and working in a proactive environment, using the skills I have gained on a broad mixture of commercial property and general commercial work.”

Eliot, who grew up in Mid Wales, qualified in the corporate commercial department at Martin-Kaye in 2006 during his first stint with the company.

Our senior partner Graham Davies said: “We are delighted to welcome Eliot back into the fold. We know from his previous time with us that he is a great problem solver, and a person who is very easy to deal with.

“He has gained experience handling major commercial transactions valued at many millions of pounds, and also has valuable knowledge of the agricultural side of the Shropshire economy. We believe his impressive skills will mean he fits right back into the team, and that he’ll play a key role in building on the strong client relationships we already have in place.”

Pic:    Eliot Hibbert has returned to Martin-Kaye Solicitors in Telford

Monday, 4 August 2014

Cutting corners could be costly

Choosing a family member to handle your estate after you die could be a recipe for disaster, according to a family law expert.

Fiona Mainwaring is the probate specialist at Martin-Kaye Solicitors, in Euston Way, and she said research had shown more and more claims being made that wills had been mishandled.

 “The High Court has revealed that claims have more than tripled over the last year – from 107 to 368 in just 12 months – which is a huge increase in such a short time. The claims cover a range of complaints including executors stealing assets, committing fraud when it comes to distributing the assets, and favouring certain beneficiaries over others.

“It can’t just be a coincidence that the number of claims are on the rise at the same time that many people are appointing family members or friends to act as executors and trustees rather than appointing solicitors.

“So even though it may seem to be the more cost effective option, you could face even bigger costs in the long-run if you have to use the courts to get the assets back following a mistake or even theft by the executor.”

Fiona said with a high value estate, some executors may be enticed by the amount of money involved and be prepared to take big risks so that they benefit themselves. And others may be tempted to ‘misinterpret’ the will on purpose, to enable one beneficiary to receive more than someone else.

“In today’s world of blended families, relationships are becoming increasingly complicated, and the executor may believe one side of the family is entitled to more than the other. If they do decide to distribute the assets however they like, they will be failing in their duties as a legal executor, as they should be following the wishes of the person who has died as set out in their will.”

Fiona said the risk of things being handled badly would only increase as more and more people decide to handle probate themselves rather than taking expert legal advice.

“Obviously not everyone will have their own agenda when it comes to being the legal executor of a will, and the vast majority of people will take the responsibility seriously and carry out their duties just as they should be done.

"But whether it’s through a lack of understanding or actual fraud, there will always be someone who fails to carry out the task correctly.”

Monday, 21 July 2014

Weighty problem for employers

Employers are facing up to a weighty new employment issue – what to do if they feel obesity is preventing a worker from carrying out their duties efficiently.

Martin-Kaye Solicitors says bosses could soon have to start making more allowances for overweight staff after the European Court of Justice ruled it could be considered a ‘disability’.

Europe’s top court had been called in to rule on the issue of Danish childminder called Karsten Kaltoft, who weighed 25-stone, and said he was sacked by his employer. The court was asked to rule on the legality of the case, and it decided that anyone with a Body Mass Index of 40 or more could be considered disabled if the obesity had a real impact on their ability to work.

“British law gives protected employment rights to people who have a registered disability, but the question of whether this should include obesity has never been raised,” said Martin-Kaye employment law specialist Tina Chander.

“This European court ruling could have significant implications for employers. For example, they may have to start considering whether staff need parking spaces closer to the front door, specially adapted desks and chairs, or a change in their duties to reduce the amount of walking or travelling.

“This test case has been considered especially significant because of rising obesity levels across the UK. A survey in England in 2012 found that more than half of adults were technically obese or overweight.”

It was reported that Mr Kaltoft’s employer, Billund Kommune, sacked him because he was deemed unable to perform his duties due to his size, citing the fact that he required help from a colleague to tie up children's shoelaces.

The European Court of Justice were asked to decide whether obesity is covered under the EU's Employment Equality Directive, which outlaws job discrimination on grounds of disability.

Tina said: “This doesn’t just impact on existing staff. Employers will have to carefully consider how they go about conducting job interviews, making sure they are not guilty of discriminating against candidates on the back of first impressions over their size or shape.”

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Pitfall perils on the agenda

Company bosses from across the West Midlands have learned how to avoid the pitfalls of discrimination in the workplace, thanks to our employment law experts.

We held the latest in a series of seminars at The Ramada Park Hall Hotel in Goldthorn Park, Wolevrhampton, and over 30 businesses attended.

The HELP presentation – HR and Employment Law in Practice – was the third session of its kind, and followed previous events which covered topics such as compensation, covert recording, and settlement agreements.

Our Senior Partner, Graham Davies, said: “Discrimination is one of the most rapidly expanding areas of employment law at the moment, and our advice was extremely well-received. The feedback from our delegates has been incredibly positive, and we’re now already planning the fourth and final session in our series which will take place in September.”

Guest speaker on the day was Dr Mirza Ahmad, from St Philips Chambers in Birmingham, who explained there are a staggering 74 different varieties of discrimination of which companies need to be aware.

“It’s clear that businesses are more vulnerable than ever and the aim of our seminar was to bring local companies together so they could benefit from our expertise,” said Graham.

“And now, with such a successful series of seminars in Wolverhampton almost at an end, we are planning to run similar events in Telford and other parts of the Midlands, in order to arm businesses with the tools they need to protect themselves and to comply with ever-changing legislation.”

Graham said the HELP seminars were introduced after Martin-Kaye Solicitors opened their office in Wolverhampton and recognised a clear demand for effective and appropriate advice from the local business community.

“The HELP seminars have been widely recognised as an excellent addition to the business networking calendar in the Wolverhampton area, and we’re looking forward to seeing more employers at the September session.”

Pic:    Guest speaker Dr Mirza Ahmad at the Martin-Kaye Solicitors HELP seminar with senior partner Graham Davies