Wednesday, 13 June 2018

World Cup woes for businesses

Companies could benefit from a huge boost in business thanks to the upcoming World Cup – but failing to get their workplace policies in order could see them scoring an own goal.

That’s the warning from John Mehtam, the Employment Law specialist at Martin-Kaye Solicitors, in Telford.

“According to the British Retail Consortium, the arrival of a World Cup can generate up to £1.25 billion in extra spending across the retail sector in Britain. But away from the High Street, it can also have a damaging impact on company productivity as staff seek to book extra holiday, or call in sick, so they can watch the big games – or recover from a late night of celebrations.”

Mr Mehtam said as the competition was being held in Russia this year, the time difference meant that many of the matches would be kicking off in the middle of the working day.

“This could be a real issue for many businesses, and with England’s group matches in the evenings and at weekends, shift workers could be affected too, so it’s important for managers to make sure they have rigorous policies in place, and that they are communicated clearly to all staff.

“Flexibility on the part of both employers, and their employees is key to maintaining a productive business, and a happy, motivated workforce. To achieve this, it is important for Shropshire managers to have agreements in place regarding issues like time off, sickness absence, or even time spent watching TV and monitoring social media.

“A more flexible approach is not always possible for some businesses – if England do well, momentum for merchandise will undoubtedly build in the shops and pubs, and employers will need all the staff they can muster. In these instances, it is vital that all requests for time off are dealt with fairly, and consistently.

“It’s also important to remember that not everyone likes football – there could be resentment from non-fans if they feel staff are being given special treatment which is not afforded to workers during other sporting events.”

Mr Mehtam said employers needed to make the right decisions for their own individual business.

“Being flexible will help to motivate and engage workers, but you still need to keep your customers happy. The vast majority of workers will understand this, but they must also be reminded that any unauthorised absence, suspicious working patterns, or evidence of turning up worse for wear after the previous evening’s excesses, could result in more than just a yellow card. It could lead to formal disciplinary proceedings.”

Wednesday, 30 May 2018

New face joins the Martin-Kaye team

Martin-Kaye Solicitors have welcomed a new commercial property solicitor to their team.

Jas Khela is the latest new face to join the law firm, in Euston Way, Telford, and he has wide-ranging experience after completing his training with a city centre legal practice in Birmingham, followed by a move to another Shropshire firm.

“I’m delighted to have joined such a forward-thinking and progressive practice, and everyone has already made me feel very welcome,” said Jas. "This is a great opportunity for me to develop my skills and to build a career as part of a dynamic and effective team.”

Jas will specialise in a wide variety of commercial property cases including: landlord and tenant issues such as new leases, surrenders, licences, and rent reviews; sales and purchases; and land development including conditional contracts and option agreements.

Martin-Kaye Senior Partner Graham Davies said Jas was an excellent addition to the commercial property department, and he was already building strong contacts with new and existing clients.

“We’re always looking for keen and ambitious lawyers to join us here at Martin-Kaye, and Jas fits the bill perfectly. His commercial property skills are excellent, and he’s working very well alongside colleagues who are keen to share their knowledge and experience with him.

“We believe the working environment we can offer is a great setting for lawyers who are looking to develop their skills and learn from our team, and we’re very pleased to see Jas fitting in so well.”

Martin-Kaye’s specialist partner-led commercial property team acts for both sellers and purchasers in all kinds of deals ranging from the property aspects of large restructuring deals, to the sale or purchase of the premises of a small business.

The team acts for both landlords and tenants in leasehold matters too, including rent reviews, security of tenure, new short or long-term leases, lease assignments, sublets and occupational licences.

Pic: Jas Khela is the new commercial property lawyer at Martin-Kaye Solicitors, in Telford

Tuesday, 15 May 2018

Fake reviews can be fatal

Business owners must take action over fake website reviews or risk their company’s reputation, and even its entire future.

Graham Davies, of Martin-Kaye Solicitors in Telford, said with competition for business so fierce, some companies and individuals had resorted to posting fake negative reviews on company websites.

“Research has shown that in 2017, 85% of hotels had been subjected to fake reviews – and that’s an increase from 65% just two years earlier.

“The hospitality industry has been a popular target, but many other industries and small businesses have also been affected. Of course, in business you’re never going to please all of your customers all of the time, but fake reviews left on your website can be extremely damaging.”

Mr Davies said firstly you should check whether the review came from an actual customer or not.

“If you believe it’s not a genuine customer, flag the review up with Google or whichever platform it has been posted on, although they won’t always agree to remove it and this process can take some time. If they won’t take the review down, you should post a reply – don’t be tempted to lose your temper as it will only reflect badly on your company and so help your competitor.

“Compose a dignified and polite reply that explains you have checked your records and that they don’t appear to be listed as a customer, but if they’d like to call you then you’ll deal with their concerns.”

Mr Davies said business owners should not be tempted to bring in a marketing firm that promised to fix their online reputation either.

“The Competition and Markets Authority has recently stepped up its campaign to root out companies who are employed to post fake positive reviews in a bid to redress the balance, so you could still be breaking the law.

“Most importantly, make sure you deal with the review one way or another – if it is a negative comment from a genuine customer, dealing with it constructively and (if it’s appropriate) on a public forum shows you appreciate their concerns and take them on board.

“It’s too dangerous to simply ignore negative comments online as they won’t simply disappear, and they could put the very future of your business at risk in the long term.”

Monday, 14 May 2018

Blame game needs to stop

A Shropshire lawyer has backed calls for changes to the divorce laws in England and Wales that date back almost 50 years.

Gemma Himsworth leads the family law team at Martin-Kaye Solicitors, in Telford, and she said surveys had shown that some couples were being forced into uncomfortable courtroom battles to establish who caused the relationship breakdown.

“There is no option for couples to opt for a no-fault divorce, and this is leading to unnecessary and unsuccessful court action which can be painful for everyone involved.”

Gemma is a member of Resolution, the national family lawyers’ association, which has recognised the need for a change in the law for many years and whose members have long campaigned for the law to be updated.

“At Martin-Kaye, we always try to keep conflict to a minimum in a divorce case anyway, no matter what the circumstances are. But I would welcome a move towards divorces where neither party has to blame the other, or bring up unpleasant history in order to prove their point.

“In my experience, turning a divorce into a battleground only inflames an already difficult situation, which is of no benefit to anyone,” said Mrs Himsworth.

The only ground for divorce in England and Wales is irretrievable breakdown of a marriage, and there are five specific types – three of which require allegations of fault: adultery, behaviour and desertion. The other two require a minimum of two years’ separation before either party can apply.

Mrs Himsworth said a supreme court hearing this month would consider the only successfully defended divorce case in recent years, where a woman claims she has been left trapped in a “loveless and desperately unhappy” marriage after judges refused to allow here to divorce her husband of 40 years.

“This case clearly indicates that divorce law which is now nearly 50 years old is not working in today’s modern world, and that reform has to be the way forward. But it will require Parliament to change the law and to make the legal divorce a much simpler process – it’s time to introduce a fairer, more child-centred and cost-effective system that causes less pain for everyone involved.

“It’s not right that couples should feel cornered and pressured into defending themselves in a divorce fearing they will get a worse result when it comes to their children or money. Now is the time to stop blaming each other and work together for a more peaceful resolution.”

Tuesday, 8 May 2018

Supporting the entrepreneurs of the future

Our Senior Partner Graham Davies has been helping the entrepreneurs of the future develop their business ideas.

He joined the students at Hadley Learning Community as part of this year’s National Enterprise Challenge, which is the UK’s largest enterprise education competition.

The aim is to create real life business challenges for students and 90 students from Year 7 took part.

“It was great to be involved with the young entrepreneurs who were all extremely enthusiastic about the projects they had been working on,” said Graham. “To see students developing their life skills and preparing for a future in the world of business was very inspiring, and I’m sure many of them will go far.”

This year’s challenge involved creating ideas for a game for KidZania London – an indoor city run by children and one of the main sponsors of the competition.

The winning team from Hadley Learning Community – I’m a kid get me out of here – will now go through to the local semi-finals, with the final taking place at The International Centre, Telford, in July.

Pic:Martin-Kaye’s Senior Partner Graham Davies (right) with students from the Hadley Learning Community at the National Enterprise Challenge event

Thursday, 19 April 2018

Cross border divorce is an issue

England could face a deluge of divorce cases from the other home nations if an estranged wife wins her current court case.

The wife and her aristocratic husband – who is a relative of the Duchess of Cornwall – are locked in a legal battle about whether arguments over their divorce settlement should be held in an English or Scottish court.

And now, family law expert Gemma Himsworth of Martin-Kaye Solicitors in Telford, said if the wife wins, the case would set a precedent that could bring a huge increase in similar claims.

“The case involves Charles Villiers and his estranged wife, Emma, who lived for all but one year of their 17-year marriage in Scotland. They separated in 2012, and Mr Villiers filed for divorce in Scotland in 2014. But Mrs Villiers applied to the English courts three months later for financial maintenance of £10,000 a month.”

Mrs Himsworth said under Scottish law, inherited wealth is not taken into account when assets are divided, and maintenance payouts are generally limited to three years. “But here in England, a divorcee can secure financial support for the rest of her life from her former spouse.”

In 2016, the courts decided the English High Court could help Mrs Villiers because she was then “habitually resident” in England – they ruled Mr Villiers should pay her £5,500 a month to cover interim maintenance while the divorce is finalised and her legal bills.

“Now though, Mr Villiers is challenging the ruling and insisting that an English judge had no right to intervene in a Scottish divorce. The case is still ongoing but once it has been decided, if Mrs Villiers wins then England and Wales could see a real surge in similar cases from Scotland, and an increase in the arguments between spouses about which court should hear their dispute.

“Mr Villiers claims that his wife is ‘trying it on’ and that the courts should throw out her case.

“It remains to be seen who will win their claim, but it’s clear that the case could be a turning point in the way cross-border divorces are handled and the way that settlements are decided, so we will be watching closely to see how things develop.”

Tuesday, 17 April 2018

Are networking events a data risk?

Most Shropshire businesses should by now be aware of the new data protection rules that will come into force in just a few weeks.

But how will the legislation affect any contact details you collect at networking events across the county?

Graham Davies, of Martin-Kaye Solicitors in Telford, said: “It’s a tried and tested approach – you attend a networking meeting and automatically swap business cards with the other people you meet at the event.

“But under the new General Data Protection Regulation policy that takes effect on May 25th, surely you’re breaching the rules unless you inform your new contacts about how you’re planning to use the information?

“In fact, as you have exchanged personal data at a business event, it’s clear that both parties can reasonably expect their new contact will be in touch at a later date – otherwise why would you have handed over your business card?

“So in this situation, under GDPR you wouldn’t need to request permission to use the contact details, and you can rely on the fact your new contacts must have been interested in hearing from you by virtue of them giving you their details.”

Mr Davies said technically the new rules would require you to provide a full description of how you were planning to use the information, but common sense should be applied.

“If you’re hosting an exhibition stand at the networking event and collecting business cards from delegates, you’d be wise to display a statement that explains you may use the details later. If you don’t have a stand, maybe ask your new contact if they’d like to be included on your mailing list as they hand over their card – you need to make sure they realise that you may be in touch.

“Then when you first make contact following the event, ensure there’s a clear link to your privacy notice, and always remind your contacts that they have the right to opt out of any further marketing communications.

“The new GDPR rules are complicated and will apply to all businesses, regardless of their size or sector, but when it comes to face-to-face networking, there is room for more flexibility given the setting where it happens.”