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

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.”

Friday, 16 December 2016

Christmas drinks event is a success

Thanks to everyone who attended our annual Christmas drinks and nibbles event! It was a great evening with over 80 people joining us at The Foundry, in Euston Way, Telford.

Here's a gallery of images from the night - lots of happy smiling faces and a lovely atmosphere! Did we catch you on camera?

Cllr Mak Singh, John Mehtam, Saroj Jakhu, Rakesh Saini, Gulshan Jakhu

Rakesh Saini, Cllr Mak Singh, Graham Davies
John Shepherd of Sport Mobile and Eliot Hibbert

Bill Dunphy of Signs Now UK, Heather Tweddle of Phillips & Co, Therese Dunphy of Signs Now UK
Matt and Charlotte Baker, Daniel and Kim Breeze, and Mohammed Ahsan 
Gary Matthews of Matrix Capital, Andrew Mason, Trevor Hirst of Quorum Logistics Support Limited 
Rob Orchard of Cyril Orchard Partnership, Graham Wynn of TTC Group

Ruling could change the face of the law

Relatives who believe they’ve been unfairly left out of a will could soon find it easier to challenge the decision.

Mohammed Ahsan, from Martin-Kaye Solicitors in Telford, said the Supreme Court was currently hearing a case that could change the face of the law.

“The case should clarify the law on challenging wills on the grounds that they don’t make reasonable provision for the relatives left behind, and potentially this will make it much easier for adult children to make a claim on the inheritance they believe is rightfully theirs.” Mr Ahsan said the case was an appeal by a group of animal charities who wanted to overturn a Court of Appeal decision.

“The Court of Appeal ruled in favour of a daughter who had been excluded from her mother’s will, after she left him with a boyfriend as a 17-year-old. The mother had initially left her £500,000 estate to charities including the Blue Cross, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, and the RSPCA.

“On appeal, the daughter who is now in her 50s, was awarded £143,000 to buy the rented home she was living in and an extra £20,000 for additional income.

“But now the charities have asked the court to consider whether the appeal court was wrong to overturn the decision and to allow the daughter to keep her state benefits.

“This case is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to relatives who feel they have been unfairly treated – and we have seen a real increase in enquiries from people who feel they haven’t received what they’re entitled to.

“Whatever decision the court makes, at least their judgement will give us some clarity on how to interpret the Inheritance Act 1975 and it will set out some guidelines for when challenges are, or are not, appropriate.

“It should also set out the criteria you need to meet in order to disinherit your adult children to make sure your wishes are followed and to ensure your will is executed effectively.

“Losing a loved one is always a stressful and emotional time, and so disputes over a will are likely to make things even worse. Taking expert advice is crucial before you decide whether challenging a person’s wishes is the right approach, so don’t be hasty, and talk to a professional adviser to find out where you stand.”

Wednesday, 14 December 2016

Paying the price for festive fun

Staff Christmas parties can be a nightmare with the fallout creating more than just a bad atmosphere in the workplace, a Telford lawyer has warned.

John Mehtam from Martin-Kaye Solicitors said when things go wrong during a festive celebration, many people believed the employer would be held responsible as they had organised the event.

But John has welcomed a new High Court ruling that cleared a company of any responsibility when an employee launched a violent assault on a colleague at a heavy drinking session straight after the firm’s Christmas party.

“Employers are usually held vicariously liable for any misdemeanours their staff commit ‘in the course of their employment’, but this latest case is a clear indication that liability can be different in every individual case.

“The incident occurred after the company party when half the guests decided to go on to a hotel where some were staying to continue drinking. The court decided that the drinks were separate from the Christmas party itself and at a separate location, with employees’ partners and other guests there as well as staff.

“The conversation had mainly been about non-work-related topics, but the attack was triggered by a work-related discussion when the managing director felt his authority was being challenged.

“Following the incident, the victim made a claim for damages against the company saying it was vicariously liable for the managing director’s conduct.

“Now even though the company had paid the taxi fares for the guests to return to the hotel – and indeed, was paying for some or all of the drinks – the court ruled that the attack was outside the managing director’s course of employment.

“They said the incident happened as a result of entirely voluntary and personal choices by the staff who had decided to take part in the heavy drinking session, and so the company could not be held responsible.

“A key point of their decision was that the attack happened during an impromptu drink which was not a part of the official work Christmas party.

“So just because the evening had begun as a work event, the decision by the employees to continue drinking afterwards was critical to the court’s decision as it was clearly a separate situation.

“Employees should remember that although Christmas parties are a great time to enjoy themselves while the company foots the bill, the onus is on them to behave in an appropriate and acceptable manner.”

Thursday, 1 December 2016

Do your staff have the right to work here?

A Telford solicitor has welcomed a tribunal ruling that backed an employer’s decision to sack a worker who could not prove he had the right to work in the UK.

John Mehtam leads the employment law team at Martin-Kaye Solicitors, in Euston Way, and he said the worker’s status had been uncovered when the employer ran a series of checks.

“The employee was Jamaican and the tribunal ruled that neither his passport or his birth certificate was sufficient evidence that he was legally entitled to work in the UK.

“There was no dispute about his entitlement to live here, it was purely a question of whether he had the right to work in this country. And the employer was absolutely right to take the decision to sack him, because if they were unable to obtain proof of his working status, they could have been fined up to £20,000 themselves and faced criminal action too.”

Mr Mehtam said the employee had been born in Jamaica and had lived in the UK since childhood, but his Jamaican passport had expired and he had no other evidence to prove he had the right to work here.

“The employer lent the worker the money to cover the cost of obtaining a valid Jamaican passport and the cost of an endorsement in the document confirming his employment status. But the worker failed to apply for the endorsement and the Home Office said the passport alone was not enough evidence – so after he failed to turn up to meetings arranged to discuss the situation, the employer dismissed him.

“He claimed he had been unfairly dismissed, but while the tribunal expressed its sympathy for him, it ruled that the employer was right to demand evidence of his status and that they had no option but to sack him.

“This ruling is a clear demonstration that employers need to ensure they are fully informed about the background of everyone on their books, and that they make the safety and reputation of their company a priority. Simply taking someone’s word for it when they claim to be entitled to work in the UK legally is just not an option.

“Companies must be aware that they will be the ones to face the fines and legal action if they fail to check the small print, and the onus is on the employer to take responsibility by asking the right questions.”