Monday, 21 July 2014

Weighty problem for employers

Employers are facing up to a weighty new employment issue – what to do if they feel obesity is preventing a worker from carrying out their duties efficiently.

Martin-Kaye Solicitors says bosses could soon have to start making more allowances for overweight staff after the European Court of Justice ruled it could be considered a ‘disability’.

Europe’s top court had been called in to rule on the issue of Danish childminder called Karsten Kaltoft, who weighed 25-stone, and said he was sacked by his employer. The court was asked to rule on the legality of the case, and it decided that anyone with a Body Mass Index of 40 or more could be considered disabled if the obesity had a real impact on their ability to work.

“British law gives protected employment rights to people who have a registered disability, but the question of whether this should include obesity has never been raised,” said Martin-Kaye employment law specialist Tina Chander.

“This European court ruling could have significant implications for employers. For example, they may have to start considering whether staff need parking spaces closer to the front door, specially adapted desks and chairs, or a change in their duties to reduce the amount of walking or travelling.

“This test case has been considered especially significant because of rising obesity levels across the UK. A survey in England in 2012 found that more than half of adults were technically obese or overweight.”

It was reported that Mr Kaltoft’s employer, Billund Kommune, sacked him because he was deemed unable to perform his duties due to his size, citing the fact that he required help from a colleague to tie up children's shoelaces.

The European Court of Justice were asked to decide whether obesity is covered under the EU's Employment Equality Directive, which outlaws job discrimination on grounds of disability.

Tina said: “This doesn’t just impact on existing staff. Employers will have to carefully consider how they go about conducting job interviews, making sure they are not guilty of discriminating against candidates on the back of first impressions over their size or shape.”

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Pitfall perils on the agenda

Company bosses from across the West Midlands have learned how to avoid the pitfalls of discrimination in the workplace, thanks to our employment law experts.

We held the latest in a series of seminars at The Ramada Park Hall Hotel in Goldthorn Park, Wolevrhampton, and over 30 businesses attended.

The HELP presentation – HR and Employment Law in Practice – was the third session of its kind, and followed previous events which covered topics such as compensation, covert recording, and settlement agreements.

Our Senior Partner, Graham Davies, said: “Discrimination is one of the most rapidly expanding areas of employment law at the moment, and our advice was extremely well-received. The feedback from our delegates has been incredibly positive, and we’re now already planning the fourth and final session in our series which will take place in September.”

Guest speaker on the day was Dr Mirza Ahmad, from St Philips Chambers in Birmingham, who explained there are a staggering 74 different varieties of discrimination of which companies need to be aware.

“It’s clear that businesses are more vulnerable than ever and the aim of our seminar was to bring local companies together so they could benefit from our expertise,” said Graham.

“And now, with such a successful series of seminars in Wolverhampton almost at an end, we are planning to run similar events in Telford and other parts of the Midlands, in order to arm businesses with the tools they need to protect themselves and to comply with ever-changing legislation.”

Graham said the HELP seminars were introduced after Martin-Kaye Solicitors opened their office in Wolverhampton and recognised a clear demand for effective and appropriate advice from the local business community.

“The HELP seminars have been widely recognised as an excellent addition to the business networking calendar in the Wolverhampton area, and we’re looking forward to seeing more employers at the September session.”

Pic:    Guest speaker Dr Mirza Ahmad at the Martin-Kaye Solicitors HELP seminar with senior partner Graham Davies

Friday, 27 June 2014

New role for Janet

A Telford lawyer has taken a step up by being made an Associate at Martin-Kaye Solicitors.

As well as her new title, Janet Hawley has also been promoted to the role of Deputy Manager of the residential property department at our head office in Euston Way, Telford.

“I’m extremely proud to have been given this opportunity and I’m very grateful to the senior management team for the chance to play a more active role in the way the company moves forward,” said Janet.

“My aim now is to help increase the turnover and profitability of the residential property department still further, and support the team manager in the day-to-day challenges of running such a busy area of the business.”

Janet joined Martin-Kaye Solicitors in 2007 as an Assistant Solicitor, and her responsibilities include leading a team of staff dealing with a large caseload of all types of property cases, including freehold and leasehold sales, and property purchases nationwide.

Our senior partner Graham Davies said: “We’re very pleased that Janet has taken on this new role, and we believe her experience will prove invaluable in helping to develop a focused and targeted strategy for the future.

“Our property team has had a very successful year so far, and demand for their services is continuing to grow right across the UK. So Janet will be working closely with other senior members of staff to ensure we deliver the very highest levels of customer service at all times, and that our growing reputation continues to flourish.”




Monday, 23 June 2014

Company bosses get discrimination advice

Company bosses will be offered tips on how to avoid falling into a growing number of discrimination traps at a special evening seminar this week.

The Ramada Park Hall Hotel at Goldthorn Park, in Wolverhampton, is hosting the latest in a series of ‘HELP’ sessions staged by law firm Martin-Kaye Solicitors, based at Bredon House on Tettenhall Road.

This third presentation, which starts at 6pm on June 26, is titled ‘Discrimination Traps for the Unwary Employer’, and follows previous events looking at topics such as compensation, covert recording, and settlement agreements

Our senior partner Graham Davies said: “Discrimination is one of the most rapidly expanding areas of employment law at the moment. There are a staggering 74 different varieties of discrimination for companies to bear in mind, and it’s clear from the raft of employment tribunals that businesses are more vulnerable than ever.

“The presentation is designed to bring Wolverhampton businesses up to date with the legislation, and equip them with the tools needed to ensure they comply with the rules, and avoid the pitfalls.”

The seminar will be run by members of our employment law team including John Mehtam, who said: “The HELP scheme stands for HR and Employment Law in Practice.

“After expanding our business to open a new office in Wolverhampton, it was clear there was a real demand for effective and clear advice that would help employers protect their business in the longer term. Our advice is designed to help employers avoid any difficulties when it comes to dealing with their staff and how to minimise potential ongoing risks to their business.”

Places at the session are deliberately limited, to ensure that everyone who attends gets the chance to be directly involved and ask as many questions as they like. To find out more, or to reserve a place, call June Noto on 01952 272222 or email junenoto@martinkaye.co.uk






Friday, 13 June 2014

Business boost thanks to innovative approach

Lawyers from Martin-Kaye Solicitors are to expand an innovative business support scheme that’s already achieving nationwide success.

The firm runs an employment and human resources support service called Alpha, which is marking its fifth anniversary this month. It was launched following extensive research and has been designed to deliver tailored support to businesses all over the UK.

Senior Partner, Graham Davies, said: “Our research showed that many companies were unhappy with the national firms and consultancies they were working with when it came to employment and HR support.

“They didn’t like the idea of being tied-in to a long-term contract, and they felt there was a lack of personal service when they needed it most.

“We found that companies also felt any advice they did receive was generally non-committal and watered down, possibly to avoid running the risk of an insurance claim.

“So we decided to tackle the issues and created Alpha to fill a genuine gap in the market, and our service has gone from strength to strength ever since.”

Graham said since Alpha was launched, over 150 companies had signed up to receive support – most have joined following recommendations from existing members, and some clients come from as far away as London and the North East.

“We don’t ask companies to sign a long-term agreement, but despite no formal tie-in, our renewal rate is over 98% which is testimony to the flexibility and effectiveness of the support we offer.

“Our aim now is to build on the strong foundations we have in place to increase the number of companies benefiting from our Alpha package, and to reach out still further to more companies even further afield.”

The Alpha service offers fixed price legal support 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and the employment and human resources advice is tailored to suit each individual business.

Martin-Kaye’s employment law specialists focus on delivering robust and clear advice that minimises the risk of tribunal claims, and all at a competitive price.





Thursday, 12 June 2014

Directors' death warning from legal firm

Company directors have been urged to consider what will happen to their business if they’re no longer there to run it.

Graham Davies, senior partner at our head ofice in Telford, said most business people were fully aware of the need to have a will in place to clarify their wishes after their death.

“But a company is a completely separate entity to your personal assets, and so can’t be disposed of through your will. If you die, your company will continue to exist, and it can either carry on or be wound down – any company shares though will count as a personal asset and can of course be passed on through your will.”

Graham said most small companies were run by sole directors, spouses or family members which made it all the more important to leave instructions for how the business should move forward.

“If your spouse or relative hasn’t previously been regularly involved in the day-to-day operation of your company, they could have real difficulties in knowing what to do if the main director dies. Sadly this kind of circumstance happens more often than it should, leaving the company in trouble and the family missing out on valuable income.”

Graham said directors should consider not only a personal will, but some form of company will too.
“This doesn’t need to be complicated – you can simply put together a ‘letter of instruction’ for the executors of your personal will.

“Set out how your company is run on a daily basis, and include the details of the main professional advisers you use. Give details of the company’s current assets and liabilities, and offer advice on who should run the company until all the formalities are completed.

“You do need to bear in mind though that a letter of instruction or any other documents you leave can always be ignored. As the company is separate from your personal assets, your letter is not legally binding so your guidance doesn’t necessarily have to be followed.

“But equally such a letter could prove invaluable at what would be an incredibly stressful time, and although you might think it’s a morbid subject, it’s a sensible step that could save a great deal of difficulty if the worst should happen.”

Friday, 6 June 2014

Own goal warning for employers


The World Cup is expected to plough big money into the economy over the coming weeks – but companies were today warned to get their workplace policies in order to avoid scoring an own goal.

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.

Tina Chander, employment law specialist from Telford-based Martin-Kaye Solicitors, said: “With the competition being held in Brazil this year, the four-hour time difference means this may not be quite such a big issue for UK companies.

“Most of the matches will not be kicking off until 5pm or later, which will avoid the peak of the day for many businesses. But it is still important for managers to make sure they have rigorous policies in place, and that they are communicated clearly to all staff.”

She added: “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 such issues as time off, sickness absence, or even time spent watching TV and monitoring social media.

“A more flexible approach is not always possible, however, for many 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.”

Tina added: “As an employer, you have to make the right decisions for your business. Being flexible will help to motive and engage workers, but you still need to keep your customers happy. The vast majority of workers will understand this, and appreciate openness and honesty.

“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.”