Wednesday, 21 January 2015

What's the deal with flexible working hours?

Can company bosses ignore a request for flexible working hours from their staff?

The answer, in almost every single case, is ‘no they can’t’, according to employment law specialist John Mehtam, from Martin-Kaye Solicitors in Telford.

He said: “The law changed last summer to remove the statutory procedure which had to be followed when considering flexible working requests. But the law still requires employers to deal with all applications in what is described as a ‘reasonable’ manner.”

So what does ‘reasonable’ actually mean?

John said: “An employer must look carefully at the benefits of the requested changes in working conditions for the employee and the business, and weigh these against any adverse business impact of implementing the changes.

“Employers must remember that they are under no statutory obligation to grant a request to work flexibly if it cannot be accommodated by the business without causing significant inconvenience.”

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg found himself in hot water when he said on his LBC radio show that, although record numbers of workers were granted flexible working rights, employers could “ignore such requests if they want”.

John said: “There are a number of acceptable reasons for rejecting an application, but you can’t ever simply ignore it, as Mr Clegg incorrectly suggested. Companies would risk finding themselves facing an employment tribunal, and staff could have a case for a potential discrimination claim.”

All workers have the right to request flexible hours if they have worked for a company for at least 26 continuous weeks, and have placed their request officially, in writing.

Thursday, 18 December 2014

Tribunals specialist at Martin-Kaye

 An employment law expert who specialises in tribunals is the latest new addition to a Telford law firm’s growing team.

Lubna Laheria has joined Martin-Kaye Solicitors, in Euston Way, after studying in Birmingham, and working for four years at a leading national firm to complete her training contract.

She has wide ranging experience in representing both employers and employees in a range of tribunal claims, and her knowledge of employment litigation is particularly impressive.

Lubna advises on all kinds of issues including employment termination, settlement agreements, and disciplinaries and grievances.

“I have worked extensively in the world of discrimination law too, including advising employees on how to avoid claims, contractual matters and advising on TUPE issues,” said Lubna.

“I’m looking forward to the challenge of building on the strong relationships that Martin-Kaye already has in place with companies all over the local region, and to working with new ones too.”

Senior partner Graham Davies said Lubna’s appointment was excellent news for the company and she had already settled in well.

“Our employment law team is renowned for its effective and straight-talking advice, and it’s great to see Lubna joining such a positive and dynamic department. She has already met many of our existing employment clients, and we’re sure her knowledge and experience will mean she is able to play a key role in the life of one of our busiest and largest teams.”

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Multi-million pound sales boom is good news

Property experts at a Telford law firm have announced a record-breaking year after handling a staggering £300 million worth of business in the last six months alone.

Partner and head of residential property at the Telford offices of Martin-Kaye Solicitors, Nita Patel, said the figures were truly astonishing.

“We’ve had an incredible year so far, and if things continue to follow this trend, we’ll have beaten every single record we’ve ever set in almost 30 years of business which is phenomenal for such a small team.”

Since April this year, the team has cleared 1,170 transactions, with an average financial value of £250,000 per transaction.

“When we sat down to review our performance and calculate the figures, we realised we’d hit the £300 million mark, and we were just amazed. I’m just so incredibly proud of the team for working so hard and for showing such dedication to our clients throughout a financial period that everyone knows has been more than just a little difficult.”

Nita said the rosy financial picture was supported by excellent feedback from customer satisfaction survey results which echoed the stunning figures. Now the team is looking forward to the next six months with the aim of building on the impressive start they’ve already made to the year.

“We’ve been working on property transactions further afield across the UK too, as well as in Shropshire, and it’s been interesting to compare the different markets. It’s clear that compared to the wider UK, prices in the South are continuing to increase, but we’ve found the actual level of activity in the property market is pretty consistent across the board.

“One of the elements keeping the markets in check is that building societies are now being extremely cautious in the way they assess people’s ability to borrow, even down to asking precisely what people are spending their money on. This has resulted in lots of people extending their existing property rather than taking the plunge to buy a new one.

“But all the indications are that the property market will continue to remain buoyant into next year, and with such positive signs on the horizon, we’re looking forward to continuing our success.”

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Landlords get a helping hand

 Landlords who need to repossess a property don’t need to struggle on alone, a local law firm has said.

Jason Round, from the commercial team at Martin-Kaye Solicitors, in Euston Way, Telford, said the firm had launched a new three-stage service with no hidden surprises when it came to fees.

“The actual process of repossessing a property can be complicated, time-consuming and expensive, but it doesn’t have to always be that way.Our experts have created a package of support that will help landlords to take back their property as quickly as possible and at a reasonable cost.”

Jason said the Fixed Price Possession scheme had been designed to help landlords avoid the pitfalls of the repossession process.

“Sometimes, if things don’t go according to plan, the whole process may need to start again which of course incurs precious time and significant extra costs. Our specialised team has many years’ experience in property claims, and we can act quickly and at a very cost-effective fixed price rate so there are no surprises when the landlord gets the final bill.”

Jason said the support package offered a three-stage process in order to secure repossession of the landlord’s property.

“Stage one is where our team prepares and serves a notice on the tenant, giving a fixed date by which they need to leave – in reality, this is often the only step that is needed.

“If however, that first step isn’t enough, we will begin court proceedings against the tenant – the price will reflect whether or not the case actually goes to court – and if a possession order is granted, the court will insist your tenant leaves on the fixed date. The final stage comes if the tenant still refuses to leave despite the possession order – at this point, we will instruct enforcement officers to step in.

“At Martin-Kaye Solicitors, we pride ourselves on delivering advice that really makes a difference. We believe this clear and concise approach to repossession will be an attractive proposition for any landlords who are struggling with difficult tenants, and we’re sure it will prove to be a popular service.”

Thursday, 27 November 2014

School support package unveiled

A Midlands law firm has launched a new package of support designed to help schools and colleges take a more hands-on approach to human resources issues.

Award-winning Telford practice Martin-Kaye Solicitors has tailor-made its new HR Care For Education package for schools, academies, and colleges.

John Mehtam, from the company’s employment law team, explained: “The education landscape has changed significantly in recent years, with schools being encouraged to become more self-managing.

“When it comes to topics such as absenteeism, performance and recruitment, schools and colleges are now expected to handle these issues themselves, when previously they would have been handled by the local education authority.

“This is placing extra pressure on headteachers, principals and their support teams who are now facing the challenge of dealing with the stresses of HR for the first time.”

John said: “We acknowledge that for many schools, employing a full-time HR professional is expensive and unfeasible. Using the Martin-Kaye package allows schools to ensure that all HR matters are dealt with in an efficient manner which is fully legally compliant, without the burden of a full-time staff salary.

“And schools which sign up to the programme receive a free employment audit from the Martin-Kaye team, plus access to complementary services such as payroll support, training, occupational health and employment law advice.”

He said: “Our HR Care for Education package provides support and advice for schools as and when they need it, at a cheaper rate than employing an in-house HR professional. And it means schools can concentrate entirely on delivering high quality education to students while our experts deal with any HR issue that might be required.”

Martin-Kaye Solicitors is an award-winning law firm with offices in Telford and Wolverhampton, handling a wide range of issues including high value deals, heavyweight commercial litigation, complex employment law issues and commercial property transactions.

The independent firm has been in business for nearly 30 years delivering specialised services to all kinds of companies across the UK, and its Telford headquarters is one of the largest legal firms practising under one roof in the Midlands region.

To find out more about the HR Care for Education package contact John Mehtam on 01952 272222, email or visit

Fathers need help when it comes to paternity leave

New fathers are struggling to afford time off work to be with their babies because the statutory pay for paternity leave is so low, it is claimed.

Shropshire law firm Martin-Kaye Solicitors says one in three fathers are being forced to use their annual leave, instead of relying on paternity pay, to afford time off with their growing family.

John Mehtam, from the firm's employment team in Telford, said: “The statutory weekly rate of ordinary paternity pay currently stands at just over £138, before tax. This is just half the weekly salary for someone who is on the national minimum wage.

“It explains why, according to a survey for Mumsnet, more than one in six fathers take less than a week off work following the birth of their child. Of these, two thirds said it was because of financial issues, while a quarter were unable to secure time off from their employer.”

John said: “If you have been with your employer long enough to qualify for paternity pay, you must tell them that you intend to go on paternity leave at least 15 weeks before your baby's expected due date – otherwise, they are within their rights to turn you down. And if you change your mind about when you want to take paternity leave, the law says this can be done – but you need to give your employer 28 days' notice of the changed date.”

Several major companies, including PWC and Deloitte, have drawn up enhanced paternity packages in recent months. But they are in the minority, with only one in six companies currently topping up the statutory minimum paternity payment.

So what can you do if your employer doesn’t think they need to sanction paternity leave, or you feel they’re not paying the right amount?

John said: “Firstly, talk to your employer and make sure you get a written explanation. If that doesn’t work, you may have to make a formal complaint, or speak to your trade union or employees’ representative, if you have one. And you can also call HM Revenue & Customs employee's enquiry line for advice. The number is 0845 302 1479.

“In an ideal world, though, it is best for employers to offer flexible working arrangements which can be adapted to suit both parties, because a happy workforce is always a more productive workforce.”

Monday, 17 November 2014

How would your business cope?

 Ebola is claiming thousands of lives and wreaking economic chaos across Africa, and Midlands firms are being asked: “Are you geared up to cope in a major crisis?”

There are three key areas which employers need to examine, according to our employment law specialist, John Mehtam.

“Many organisations don’t pause to think how they will cope in the event of a major disaster or epidemic, thinking it will never happen to them.

“Right now, Ebola is in the news in Africa, but closer to home, we have had two recent outbreaks of foot and mouth disease, the swine flu pandemic of 2009, the volcanic ash disruption which caused air travel mayhem the following year, and now the bird flu outbreak in Yorkshire.

“Businesses need to consider their duty to protect the health and safety of staff, methods of dealing with potential staff absence, and how the possible suspension of ‘normal’ working practices will impact on people’s contracts of employment.”

Mr Mehtam, based at Martin-Kaye’s headquarters in Euston Way, Telford, said: “Companies have a duty to keep staff informed about any risks of possible outbreaks of disease, and take steps to ensure there is good hygiene.

“Many companies in the region have loyal staff who will struggle into work, even when they are not feeling 100 per cent.

“Managers might want to think about whether they should change their approach, and ask them to stay away, or offer them the chance to work from home.

“A well-advertised sickness policy might also help employers to reassure healthy, but worried staff, that work is relatively safe.

“Employers should also identify staff that could stand in for one another in the event of illness, as well as putting back-up plans in place. This might involve lining up potential external contractors.

“And managers must also bear in mind that the suspension of ‘normal’ working practices might mean the company needs to either amend contracts of employment, or suspend normal practices around returning to work, sick pay, or leave to care for dependant relatives.”