Wednesday, 5 September 2018

Late payment doesn't need to be an issue

Shropshire firms who are struggling with late payments should consider changing their terms and conditions to avoid the issue.

Andrew Oranjuik from Martin-Kaye Solicitors, in Telford, said a survey of 3000 SMEs in eleven countries had revealed that UK firms are the worst affected by late payments.

“The survey showed that almost one in five of all invoices paid to small companies are late, and around 10% of the invoices become bad debts. To make matters worse, not only are small firms battling with late payment but they also spend an average of 15 days a year chasing up the money they are owed.”

Mr Oranjuik said another survey had shown that SMEs in the UK were paid on average 18 days late, compared to nine days in the rest of Europe.

“It’s a very difficult situation because some SMEs may feel awkward about chasing up outstanding accounts – maybe you don’t want to jeopardise your relationship with the client, or maybe you simply don’t have the time or capacity to do it. But there are steps you can take that could help resolve the issue without the need to resort to tough tactics.”

Mr Oranjuik said some companies offered incentives to encourage customers to pay quickly.

“You could donate a small percentage of the balance to charity, or offer discounts to customers who settle their bill within seven days rather than the recognised term of 30 days. But this is a risk of course because clients who pay on time may find out and could demand discounts too. And why should you take a financial hit because your clients can’t pay on time?

“So think logically about how to make it easier for customers to pay on time – start by making it as simple as possible for them to make a payment, and ensure you send your invoice to the right person.

“And have you considered reducing your terms of payment? 30 days has been the accepted timeframe for a long time, but given that invoices and banking are now often electronic, it’s possible to speed up the process.

“Try reducing your terms to 14 days – the customers who tend to pay later than 30 days may still pay late, but if they pay their bill before 30 days then at least your cash flow will have improved.”

Wednesday, 29 August 2018

Don't believe the urban myth

Cohabiting couples in Shropshire must not believe in the urban myth that by living together they will receive the same status as married couples.

Gemma Himsworth, who leads the family law team at Martin-Kaye Solicitors, in Telford, is backing a national campaign to ask the government to change the law on cohabitation to bring it into the 21st century.

"As the law stands right now, there is no such thing as a common-law husband or wife, and couples who live together do not automatically have the same rights as a married couple or those in a civil partnership. But it’s time for change – and a coalition of legal organisations is calling on the government to take action.”

Mrs Himsworth is a member of Resolution, a national organisation of family lawyers and other professionals who promote a non-confrontational approach to family problems.

“As an organisation, Resolution has joined forces with a wide range of other legal groups from across the UK to urge the government to review and change the rules on cohabiting to give couples – at the very least – basic legal protection.

“In England and Wales, currently one in eight adults is cohabiting, and that figure has steadily increased since 2002. But surveys have shown as many as two in three cohabiting couples are unaware there is no such thing as common law marriage in England and Wales.

“These couples think they have the same legal and financial rights and protections as married couples, but it’s just not the case.”

Mrs Himsworth said this lack of understanding could lead to significant problems if the relationship ends, or if one of the partners dies.

“It’s never clear from one case to the next whether the courts are going to allow a deceased person’s estate to pass on to a surviving cohabiting partner – even if they effectively lived together as husband and wife – so the situation certainly needs clarifying.

“Of course, the trauma of taking cases such as this through the courts can be easily avoided if couples who live together without being married ensure they have all the appropriate cohabitation agreements in place outlining who owns property, how bills are divided, and they prepare up-to-date wills.

“The last thing anyone wants to do, when they are dealing with the loss of a partner, is to find themselves facing what is bound to be an emotionally exhausting – and potentially expensive – legal battle.

“It’s no good assuming that just because you live with someone that they will automatically inherit after your death – for now, the system just doesn’t work like that.”

Thursday, 16 August 2018

Advice clinics for employers

Employers from all over Shropshire will have the opportunity to seek expert legal advice in their lunch hour thanks to a local law firm.

Martin-Kaye Solicitors, in Euston Way, Telford, is launching a series of Employer Clinics aimed at busy companies who are pressed for time during the working day.

The one-to-one sessions will take place through September and October, and employers and HR managers will get the chance to meet up with one of Martin-Kaye’s experienced employment law solicitors to discuss any issues their company is facing.

The Martin-Kaye employment team is offering a free first appointment (lasting around 20 minutes) where companies can explain any issues and receive advice on what to do next.

Appointments will take place between 1pm and 2pm, with the timings scheduled specifically to avoid the busiest hours of the working day.

John Mehtam, who leads the employment law team, said: “At Martin-Kaye, we’re committed to delivering effective and appropriate advice that really does make a difference to local companies.

“With employers short on time, it’s almost impossible to keep up-to-date with ever-changing legislation, so these sessions will give companies direct access to our experienced team, and we can get right to the point with some practical advice.

“It’s a similar approach to the employment law seminars that we run, where we offer clear, concise information in a time frame that suits our busy delegates. These short sharp sessions are the perfect way for busy companies to find out all about the latest developments in employment law.”

Mr Mehtam said so far, clinics had been planned for September 21, September 28, and October 5 – all at the Martin-Kaye offices in Telford.

“We’re looking for companies to sign up for the clinics and would like to hear from any business who feels they may benefit from some professional legal advice.”

The clinics are open to employers from all sectors and the topics up for discussion are likely to include some of the most common workplace and HR issues including sickness absence, dismissals and poor employee performance.

To book an appointment call Andrea Henley at Martin-Kaye on 01952 566920 or email andreahenley@martinkaye.co.uk

Friday, 27 July 2018

Healthy approach to hygiene pays off

Shropshire employers could reduce staff sickness rates by introducing simple hygiene rules, according to a local solicitor.

Gemma Workman is an employment lawyer at Martin-Kaye Solicitors, in Telford, and she said surveys had revealed mixed results when it came to the number of days that employees were calling in sick.

“The Office for National Statistics has unveiled its latest data that shows approximately 137.3 million working days were lost to illness or injury in 2016.

“That’s the lowest rate since their records began over 20 years ago and it averages out at 4.3 days per worker. Yet other surveys have shown sickness rates are rising – an XpertHR poll of over 1.6 million employees showed the annual average was 6.6 days.”

Miss Workman said the ONS figures showed that one in every four days that staff stayed at home was down to a cough, cold or similar bug.

“Their survey also noted that manual workers were 17% less likely to call in sick due to colds, stomach aches and headaches than people who worked in offices. But back pain was, perhaps unsurprisingly, more common for people who had a physical job.”

Miss Workman said stepping up workplace hygiene could have a real impact on sickness rates, in particular, the use of sanitising hand gels.

“Some studies have shown that when the gels are available, the number of sick days falls – in Germany, colds and flu were 5% to 7% less in workforces where people used the gels five times a day.

“Even just making the gels available in prominent locations across your workplace will make people think more about hygiene, and you could also put up posters to encourage staff to wash their hands properly.

“It’s horrifying to think that 62% of men and 40% of women don’t wash their hands after going to the toilet, and it’s also no wonder that germs spread so easily when you look at those figures.

“Taking hygiene seriously could have a really positive effect on both the wellbeing of your staff and on the productivity and finances of your business. Reducing staff sick days will save on the expense of lost staff time, and also the cost of bringing in extra staff to cover for their absence.”

Thursday, 26 July 2018

Time to change the divorce law

A Shropshire lawyer has warned divorcing couples that they must prepare their petitions carefully after a landmark ruling by the supreme court.

Gemma Himsworth leads the family law team at Martin-Kaye Solicitors, in Euston Way, Telford, and her warning follows the high profile divorce case where a wife must now stay married to her husband until 2020 at the earliest.

“The wife wanted to divorce her husband after 40 years of marriage, but the supreme court decided to rule against her. She will now face the prospect of staying married to her husband until 2020 at the earliest because the husband won’t consent to the divorce, and the court decided she hadn’t been able to prove his unreasonable behaviour.

“This is a shocking case, and one that most people will be surprised by, but it’s a clear demonstration that couples must draft their divorce petitions carefully and pay great attention to the smallest of details.”

Mrs Himsworth said five judges had upheld the rulings of a family court and the court of appeal that Tini Owens must stay married to Hugh Owens. Tini says her marriage to Hugh, who is in his 80s, is loveless and broken down. She said he had behaved unreasonably and that she should be allowed to end her marriage.

Her husband though has refused to agree to a divorce and denies her allegations about his behaviour, saying if their marriage had irretrievably broken down it was because she had an affair, or because she was “bored”.

“Some of the judges on the panel said they were troubled by the case and the decision they had made, but that it was not for judges to change the law,” said Mrs Himsworth. “The court said that Mrs Owens would be able to divorce in 2020, when the couple will have been separated for five years. But clearly this case is an indicator that the law needs to change as divorce laws in England and Wales date back almost 50 years.

“Surveys have shown that couples are 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 like the Owens case which can be painful for everyone involved.”

Mrs Himsworth 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.

“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.”

Wednesday, 25 July 2018

Employers take up valuable advice

More than 50 employers took the opportunity to find out how to protect their business from escalating tribunal claims at a Telford seminar.

The event was hosted by Martin-Kaye Solicitors at their offices in Euston Way, and the aim was to help employers recognise the top ten employment law blunders that companies commit, and the best way to avoid them.

John Mehtam, who is Martin-Kaye’s employment law specialist, led the seminar, and said there had been an excellent turnout, with a good mix of businesses from all kinds of sectors.

“We were delighted to welcome so many employers to our free event, and it was great to see many new faces from the local area who were all keen to take advantage of our advice. Employers are now facing an avalanche of claims following the Government’s decision to abolish tribunal fees, and our seminar was designed to help them learn more about protecting their business.

“Our presentations are always extremely popular wherever we hold them across Shropshire, Wales and the wider West Midlands, and this event in particular was a great success.

“Statistically the number of claims now being lodged through employment tribunals is increasing at an unprecedented rate – in fact there has been a 500% rise since the fees that employees needed to pay to bring a claim were abolished.

“And with the avalanche of claims we’re seeing, some employees are bringing claims that stand little chance of succeeding, but employers have to take them all seriously and you need to be sure you’re complying with all the relevant legislation.”

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

“We included 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 how to protect your business.

“With employers short on time, it’s almost impossible to keep up-to-date with ever-changing legislation, so our seminars offer clear, concise information in a time frame that suits our busy delegates.”

Pic: Martin-Kaye’s Employment Law Specialist John Mehtam who presented the Top 10 Blunders seminar at the firm’s Telford office


Friday, 13 July 2018

Partnership approach pays dividends

Lawyers from a Telford firm have joined forces with a network of city-based barristers to offer a fresh approach to family disputes.

The family law team at Martin-Kaye Solicitors, in Euston Way, Telford, is working with experts in Birmingham, to develop an arbitration scheme that could speed up difficult cases.

Gemma Himsworth, who leads the Martin-Kaye family division, said she and her colleague Jane Tinsley were in talks with some of the city’s top barristers.

“Arbitration is a little-known option for family disputes, but it’s something that we believe could be increasingly useful – particularly in the current climate when the court system is struggling and creating huge delays.

“There is of course no such thing as a quickie divorce, but the arbitration option is definitely something that could help ease the pressure on the legal system and help resolve family issues in a shorter time.”

Mrs Himsworth said divorce itself was a relatively straightforward process, as long as those involved had someone to assist with the correct paperwork.

“But the divorce doesn’t deal with the finances such as dividing up the house, business, income, and other assets – this is the part that often takes the longest time and costs the most money.

“We already regularly refer clients to mediation, but if the case can’t be resolved that way, traditionally the only other option has been for both parties to go to court.

“Now, thanks to our discussions with Birmingham-based barristers, we can suggest arbitration where both sides jointly appoint a fair and impartial family arbitrator to resolve the dispute.

“It’s a flexible and completely confidential process, but the huge advantage over something like mediation is that it results in a final decision – if both sides still can’t agree after arbitration, the arbitrator will make a decision for you.”

Mrs Himsworth said the arbitration process did come at a cost as the arbitrator had to be paid, but it often still led to cost savings because it led to a faster decision, potentially cutting down on the amount of time people had to maintain two households and two mortgages.