Monday, 20 March 2017

Employers bowled over by top advice tips

Over 40 employers joined lawyers from a Midlands firm to take part in an interactive employment advice seminar in Birmingham.

The Employment Law team from Martin-Kaye Solicitors, in Telford and Wolverhampton, teamed up with Monaco Insurance to host a Top Ten Employment Blunders seminar at Edgbaston Cricket Ground.

It was the first time the law firm had taken their renowned presentation to Birmingham, and the response from delegates has been so positive that more events are planned for the future.

Employment Law Specialist, John Mehtam, who led the presentation said the decision to take the seminar to the city was as a direct result of customer demand.

“We work very closely with Monaco Insurance, who are based in Edgbaston, and they felt the advice we had to offer would be very useful for their clients and for other businesses in the wider Birmingham area.

“Our presentations have always proved extremely successful in Shropshire, Wales, and the West Midlands, and now the response from our Birmingham audience means we will definitely be returning in the coming months.”

During the event, Mr Mehtam shared his advice to help businesses navigate through the increasingly-complicated minefield of employment law, and to help them avoid the most common pitfalls.

“We covered suggestions on how to tackle some of the most common workplace and HR issues including sickness absence, dismissals and poor employee performance – and perhaps more importantly, we looked at how to avoid these situations and protect your business.

“At Martin-Kaye, we’re committed to delivering effective and appropriate advice that really does make a difference to employers, and our short sharp seminars are designed to get right to the point.”
John said keeping up-to-date with ever-changing legislation was practically impossible for employers who were already battling with a packed schedule.

“That’s why our seminars are proving so popular right across the Midlands as we deliver clear, concise information in a time frame that suits our delegates.”

Pic: At the Edgbaston event are, from left, Graham Davies (Martin-Kaye), Kay Gill and Amrik Chote (both Monaco Insurance), John Mehtam (Martin-Kaye)


Friday, 17 March 2017

Ruling means hopes are dashed

Children unhappy with their inheritance who had hoped to find it easier to challenge a parent’s will have had their hopes dashed.

A ruling by the Court of Appeal had initially paved the way for wills to be overturned or changed by the courts if they were deemed to be ‘unfair’.

But this week, the Supreme Court has stepped in to clarify the rules, and the judges overturned the decision which had backed a woman who had been excluded from her mother’s will in favour of three animal charities.

Andrew Oranjuik, who is the head of commercial litigation at Martin-Kaye Solicitors in Telford, said the latest decision had now cemented a person’s right to leave money to those they want to inherit it.

“Finally there is now a very clear direction on how the rules should be interpreted, and it underlines the importance of having a formal and legally-binding will in place.”

Mr Oranjuik said the case involved 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 had been estranged from her mother for 26 years and was claiming benefits, had been granted a third of her late mother’s estate – a total of £164,000.

“But the Supreme Court has now overturned that result, and Mrs Ilott will only receive the original £50,000 that her mother had set out in her will. The judgement is excellent news for charities and will be a welcome relief that when a bequest is made, the person’s wishes should be respected.

“Many charities rely on legacies in wills and the three animal charities involved in this case will now receive the full amount they had been promised. The ruling also reaffirms a person’s right to have freedom of choice in what they do with their estate, meaning you can still disinherit your children in the knowledge that your wishes will be carried out.

“This case has been a 10-year battle which thankfully now is over – and although Mrs Ilott will not receive as much money as she had hoped for, at least the Supreme Court has put an end to the matter and clearly defined how the rules should be applied.”

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Headscarves ban is allowed

Employers can now ban staff from wearing headscarves and other religious symbols in the workplace – as long as they treat all religions equally.

The European Court of Justice has announced that firms can ban workers from wearing religious or political symbols in a landmark ruling that’s the first of its kind.

John Mehtam, who leads the employment law team at Martin-Kaye Solicitors, in Telford, said the ruling followed after Europe’s top court heard the cases of two women who were dismissed for refusing to stop wearing Islamic headscarves.

“The two cases were very different – in the first, a Muslim woman who was working as a receptionist was asked not to wear a traditional headscarf because the company had a strict rule in place banning visible signs of political, philosophical or religious beliefs.

“The Court of Justice said her dismissal for refusing to stop wearing the headscarf was justified because it was about all political and religious symbols, and was not specifically targeting Islam. But in the second case, the employee was asked to remove her headscarf after a client complained.

“The Court said that without a formal rule covering all religious symbols, simply wanting to ‘take account of the wishes of a customer’ was not enough to ban headscarves.

“It’s clear that companies right across the UK and Europe need to take the guidance on board and update their workplace regulations accordingly.

“If your company has a clear written rule in place (which employees are fully aware of), that bans all religious, political or philosophical symbols, then everyone will understand your firm’s position. But you must apply the rule fairly and equally, otherwise employees who are affected could challenge your request to remove their headscarf or religious symbols and you could face the prospect of an employment tribunal.

“This ruling is the first case of its kind to be heard in a series of legal disputes over the right for Muslim women to wear the hijab at work, but it surely won’t be the last.

“Employers need to keep their company workplace regulations up-to-date to ensure they meet the ever-changing circumstances that every business faces on a daily basis.”

Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Selling a business can be tricky

Selling your business could be difficult if minority shareholders decide to block the deal – but a Telford solicitor says there are steps you can take to ease the situation.

Andrew Oranjuik is a Partner at Martin-Kaye Solicitors in Telford, and he specialises in commercial litigation.

He said: “Sometimes an offer that’s too tempting to ignore comes in and selling your business seems like a great way forward. But if you don’t own all your company’s shares, you may need the approval of your shareholders to accept the deal.

“But shareholders can’t be forced to sell their shares and it’s unlikely a buyer will want to take on a company with minority shareholders hanging on, which means they could be a real stumbling block when it comes to sealing the deal.”

Mr Oranjuik said one solution would be for the company to sell its trade and other assets, rather than for the shareholders to sell their shares.

“But there’s a drawback as when you sell your business, the money from the sale goes to the company. For you and the other shareholders to access the money, it has to be paid out as a dividend or the company will have to be wound up, so this may mean more of the sale proceeds are lost in tax compared with a sale of shares.”

Mr Oranjuik said if the buyer was purely interested in buying the entire company, then selling shares was the only option.

“The best way to achieve this is to introduce a ‘drag along’ clause in your company’s shareholders’ agreement – this means if the majority of shareholders are keen to sell the business, then the others are required to agree.

“If you don’t already have a clause like this, then act now to add one to your agreement. It just requires a vote from all shareholders to have it added. But you may need to negotiate on the terms and conditions as minority shareholders will want assurances that they will get a decent deal if a buyer comes in.”

Mr Oranjuik said an agreement which included a drag clause would also have a tag along clause too.
“This gives minority shareholders the right to force majority shareholders to include them as part of any deal to sell their shares, ensuring their shares are not devalued as a result of a sale that goes ahead without them.

“No shareholders can be forced to sell their shares, but you can ensure clauses are in place to help smooth out the process if a tempting deal is on the table.”

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Regular rest breaks are a must

Employers must ensure staff are given the opportunity to take regular rest breaks throughout the working day – even if workers choose not to use them.

John Mehtam leads the employment law team at Martin-Kaye Solicitors, in Telford, and he said the onus was firmly on employers to make sure staff had chance for a break.

“Under the Working Time Regulations, an employee who works more than six hours is entitled to an uninterrupted rest break of at least 20 minutes. The break can be either paid or unpaid, but must be taken during the working day and not at the beginning or end of it by way of a later start or earlier finish – even if this would be more convenient for the company and/or the employee.”

Mr Mehtam said a tribunal hearing had ruled that employers should provide their staff with a statutory rest break, regardless of whether or not the employee requested one.

“But even though as an employer you must allow for a rest break, it’s up to the employee whether they actually use it or not. And if they choose to work through their break, staff can’t demand extra payment either.”

If the working day exceeds 12 hours, the statutory requirement is still only for one 20-minute rest break.

“There are though additional health and safety considerations that will need to be taken into account for longer shifts like this, and you’ll need to look at each employee’s circumstances when deciding what rest breaks may be appropriate.

“It’s vital that you ensure your company’s working arrangements allow employees to take the rest breaks they are entitled to, otherwise you will be contravening their statutory rights and you could face serious consequences.”

Mr Mehtam said information on working conditions was a key part of the support offered by Martin-Kaye’s Alpha team, which has wide-ranging experience in providing practical and effective advice on human resources and employment law issues.

“We can help employers negotiate the minefield of employment law and deal with situations as they arise in the workplace, helping companies to avoid the more common pitfalls.”
 

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Howzat for employment law advice!

Lawyers from a Midlands firm are set to take their highly-rated employment advice seminar to Birmingham for the very first time.

The Employment Law team from Martin-Kaye Solicitors, in Telford and Wolverhampton, has joined forces with Monaco Insurance to host a Top Ten Employment Blunders seminar at Edgbaston Cricket Ground.

Taking place on Thursday March 16th, from 6pm to 8pm, the event is designed to help businesses navigate through the increasingly-complicated minefield of employment law, and to help them avoid the most common pitfalls.

Employment Law Specialist, John Mehtam, will lead the presentation, and said the decision to take the seminar to Birmingham was as a direct result of customer demand.

“We work very closely with Monaco Insurance, who are based in Edgbaston, and they felt the advice we had to offer would be very useful for their clients and for other businesses in the wider Birmingham area.

“It’s the first time we’ve organised a seminar like this in this area, although our presentations have already proved extremely successful in Shropshire, Wales, and the West Midlands.”

Mr Mehtam will share his advice for employers about how to tackle some of the most common workplace and HR issues and, more importantly, how to avoid them and protect your business.

“At Martin-Kaye, we’re committed to delivering effective and appropriate advice that really does make a difference to employers, and our short sharp seminars are designed to get right to the point. We set the record straight and help employers to learn from the mistakes others have made, helping them to tackle employment law issues in the right way and helping them to understand how to avoid falling into the most common traps.”

He said keeping up-to-date with ever-changing legislation was practically impossible for employers who were already battling with a packed schedule.

“That’s why our seminars are proving so popular right across the Midlands as we deliver clear, concise information in a time frame that suits our delegates.”

The seminar will cover a variety of tricky areas including sickness absence, dismissals and poor employee performance.

To book a place contact June Noto on 01952 272222 or email junenoto@martinkaye.co.uk

Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Sexist dress codes need to go

Employers who enforce sexist dress codes could face tougher punishment according to a local solicitor.

John Mehtam, of Martin-Kaye Solicitors in Telford, said the Government was reviewing a report put together by the Women and Equalities Commission and the Petitions Commission.

“It all started with a parliamentary petition set up by receptionist Nicola Thorp which aimed to make it illegal for companies to force employees to wear high heels to work.

“She had been sent home from a job placement after being told it was her agency’s ‘grooming policy’ for women to wear two-to-four inch heels, and her petition received more than 150,000 signatures.”

Mr Mehtam said the Government was now considering the report and if it followed the recommendations set out in the document, employers could face stricter punishment and larger fines.

“The report is calling for more effective remedies such as financial penalties for employers who breach the law, and it could mean tribunals make a much tougher stance.”

The report includes medical evidence from the College of Podiatry suggesting that women who have to wear high heels for long periods of time could suffer long-term health difficulties.

“A web forum was also set up to gather evidence from women who had been forced to adhere to certain dress codes, and many said they had to wear high heels as part of a workplace policy in the retail, hospitality, airline or corporate industries,” said Mr Mehtam.

“But with the cost of employment tribunals rising, many women can’t afford to challenge these sexist policies, and so the practice has continued for much longer than it should have. Now that this report has been completed, it’s clear that employers need to act responsibly and take the findings into consideration.

“The best approach would be to stay one step ahead of the process and update your corporate dress code policies as soon as possible to reflect your commitment to protecting the health and safety of your employees.

“It seems very strange that in 2017 bosses still expect female employees to wear painful, inappropriate shoes and uniforms, and this report and the public response to the petition are a clear indication that it’s time for change.”