Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Alpha celebrates a 10-year milestone

Legal experts at a Telford firm are celebrating 10 successful years of an initiative that’s reaching clients right across the UK.

The team at Martin-Kaye Solicitors, in Euston Way, initially launched their ALPHA service – a bespoke employment law and human resources package – after months of intensive research and surveys involving all kinds of businesses.

Senior partner, Graham Davies, said: “We wanted to measure how satisfied local firms were with their HR advisors, as companies were telling us they were becoming increasingly frustrated with the services they were receiving.

“And our survey work showed the support was patchy at best, with the so-called advice delivered over the phone by ‘consultants’. They also felt the advice was tailored to meet insurance company requirements and wasn’t robust enough – they found they were tied into restrictive deals for three to five years too.

“We knew we could do much better than that and identified a real gap in the market, so we spent a year putting together the ALPHA service which is now celebrating its tenth anniversary.” www.alpha-hr.co.uk 

Mr Davies said the firm had been continually surprised by the ongoing success of the service which was still growing today.

“From a standing start, hundreds of businesses have signed up to become members, with many here in Shropshire, but an increasing number from further afield and we now have clients from all over the UK. It’s even more satisfying to see that many clients who have been with us from the start of Alpha sign up year on year for an ongoing service as they’ve been so impressed with the support we deliver.”

The ALPHA service is led by John Mehtam, who is Martin-Kaye’s employment law specialist, and he is supported by a team of qualified lawyers who deliver the most appropriate advice in each situation.

“Not only do we provide employment law advice, we provide employment law solutions, and we’re not afraid to make tough and difficult decisions when required,” said Mr Mehtam.

“We work closely with each business to achieve the very best results for their individual circumstances, and we can offer a wide range of support – from a relatively inexpensive package, to setting up a sophisticated virtual HR team, and all without the lengthy tie-in agreements.”

Mr Mehtam said ALPHA members also had the option to take up advice from the wider range of commercial services provided by Martin-Kaye including corporate advice, litigation, and commercial property services.

Pic: Graham Davies, Emma Palmer, and John Mehtam celebrate the 10th anniversary of the ALPHA scheme at Martin-Kaye Solicitors


Friday, 9 June 2017

New nationwide service helps retirement plans

Homeowners looking to boost their finances in readiness for their retirement can now find professional and effective advice right here in Shropshire.

Experts at Martin-Kaye Solicitors, in Telford, have launched their own nationwide service – www.equishield.co.uk – to offer advice on equity release to help property owners raise much-needed capital.

Simon Wagner is a Partner at Martin-Kaye and has been instrumental in creating and setting up the new service.

“Many ‘baby boomers’ who are now approaching retirement are finding their pension plans are not what they had hoped for. But they are at the time in their lives where they will also probably have a significant amount of equity in their home which can be released to provide additional cash and income.

“Equity release has deservedly had some bad press in the past, but the introduction of a code of conduct – combined with more competitive interest rates and innovative mortgage products – has made it a far more attractive, mainstream product which is growing increasingly popular.

“We have worked with carefully-selected regional firms of solicitors to create a new national network – every firm has agreed to subscribe to the new code of conduct, and they all have vast experience and knowledge of this specialised subject.”

Mr Wagner said: “Retirement should be something to look forward to, but more and more people are retiring with debts they are struggling to repay, or a pension that won’t allow them to maintain their living standards.

“If all other options have been exhausted, equity release can help homeowners to reduce their monthly outgoings by taking out a loan against their property – they then have the option to repay the interest or allow it to roll up and only be repaid when the house is sold.

"But equity release is not the answer for everyone, and homeowners need to be sure it’s right for their individual circumstances – that’s where our Equishield service comes in.”

Mr Wagner said equity release was a specialised area and anyone considering taking this option should seek professional financial advice and independent legal support.

“Through Equishield, we have specialists here at Martin-Kaye who deal purely with equity release cases, so our clients can be assured they will always be seen by an in-house expert and their claim will not be passed on to an agency or sub-contracted out.

“Making the decision to free up finances from the value of your home is a big decision that should not be taken lightly as property owners will need to consider how it will affect the estate they leave behind. But with the right support and expert knowledge, it can be a real solution to making retirement a little more comfortable.”

Pic: Simon Wagner launches the new Equishield service at Martin-Kaye Solicitors


Thursday, 8 June 2017

Call for divorcing parents to take a new approach

Divorcing parents are being urged to put their children first to help them adapt to a new-look family structure.

Nadia Davis is the family law partner at Martin-Kaye Solicitors, in Euston Way, Telford, and she is a qualified collaborative lawyer – a legal expert taking a different approach to divorce.

“Previous cases have shown that children do better when their parents are able to remain emotionally strong and supportive during divorce cases. And parents who co-parent in a respectful manner help their children to cope better with this stressful time in a family’s life.”

Ms Davis said the collaborative divorce process encouraged couples and their solicitors to sign an agreement so show they were committed to finding the best solutions through negotiation, rather than through court proceedings.

The agreement prevents the lawyers involved from representing their client in court if the collaborative process breaks down, so everyone is absolutely committed to making it work.

“In a divorce that’s full of conflict, children become increasingly anxious, and the stress can actually lead to depression or troubled behaviour. And taking each other to court can make the process worse, rather than reducing the conflict.

“It’s the same for parents who stay in a turbulent marriage for the sake of the children – you could be creating more stress for the children than if you had a healthy divorce. To help children deal with a dramatic life transition, it’s important that they feel supported and emotionally secure through the difficult times.”

Ms Davis said the collaborative approach gave families the chance to instigate a kinder, gentler and healthier divorce which would be less complicated for everyone involved.

“And because the collaborative process is not driven by a timetable imposed by a court, the whole situation can be built around each family’s individual timetable and priorities. Sometimes only a handful of meeting may be required to resolve the case, so it’s often a much quicker route to take.

“At such a troubling time, it’s understandable that emotions are running high, but as parents, if you can take a sensible and conciliatory tone in your negotiations, your children will benefit all the more.”

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

Voting rights are not automatic

Employees don’t have an automatic right to take time out of their working day to vote in the General Election.

That’s the warning from George Heron at Martin-Kaye Solicitors, in Telford, who said employees should ensure they make the most of the extended opening hours at local polling stations – from 7am to 10pm.

“With such long opening hours, it’s highly unlikely that staff will be unable to attend at some point during the day – so there really is no need for them to be disrupting their working hours.

“And even if they can’t fit in a trip to the polling station outside of work, options such as postal voting or voting by proxy mean an employee would be on shaky ground if they tried to claim their employer was depriving them of their voting rights just by asking them to do their job.”

Mr Heron said if an employee really was struggling to get to the polls, there was nothing to stop an employer coming to an agreement with their staff.

“You may decide to allow them to start their working day slightly later, or they could simply take unpaid time off while they cast their vote. As long as you are consistent, there should be no issues – but you must not allow one employee to take time off to vote and then block another.

“Employers should also be wary of imposing last-minute overtime on staff who may have planned to vote at the end of their shift.”

Mr Heron said though that where trade union elections were concerned, shop stewards and staff representatives had a right to reasonable time off for union duties and activities, but any such time off could be unpaid.

“It’s vital that employers are consistent with how they treat their staff on Election Day, but employees also have to take personal responsibility to ensure they find the time to exercise their democratic right.

“Businesses need to know they can continue to operate normally on the day, without worrying about their operation being short-staffed at crucial times.

“With a turnout of around 60% predicted, around six in ten staff from any one workplace will want to vote, so the polls are open for such a long time to make sure everyone has the opportunity to take part, no matter how busy their day is.”

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Are you sitting comfortably?

Employees need to be comfortable in the workplace but how far must their employers go to accommodate their needs?

Gemma Workman from Martin-Kaye Solicitors, in Euston Way, Telford, said employers should tread carefully when it comes to decisions about office furniture.

“Modern office chairs can be adjusted to accommodate a wide range of shapes and sizes, and they also come in different dimensions for both extra tall and smaller staff.

“But what if an employee would prefer to bring in their own seating because they found it more comfortable? In particular, how should an employer react if the choice isn’t a traditional chair?

“If your staff work with a computer, their seating will be subject to health and safety regulations which set out certain requirements that standard chairs must have, including a height-adjustable seat and a backrest that can be adjusted for both height and tilt.

“Chairs must also be physically stable and allow for freedom of movement, but national guidance also says employers should consider the possibility of staff using unconventional chairs too.

“It says that employees suffering from back problems may benefit from a chair that comes with a fixed backrest or a seat that has no backrest at all, such as a kneeling chair. But whatever they choose, it must still be stable on the floor.

“This means employees will not be able to use exercise balls as seating for example, as although they can help strengthen core muscles, it’s too easy for an employee to fall off and hurt themselves.”

Miss Workman said before agreeing to anything, employers should find out exactly why their staff may want to bring in their own seating.

“Is their current chair uncomfortable because it’s broken or because they are not a standard size? If so, then this is easily put right by ordering them a new chair. Or maybe the employee uses non-conventional seating at home and finds it more to their liking?

“If their request is purely down to personal choice, you should think carefully before giving them the go-ahead because it will make it very difficult to refuse any requests from other staff in the future.”

Miss Workman said there may be some merit in the request if the employee has a pre-existing medical condition, or if they’re recovering from a back or hip injury.

“But you should ask for a full assessment from an occupational health advisor before you say yes, and then providing their chosen chair is suitable, you can allow them to bring it in to the workplace.”

Monday, 15 May 2017

Off the record comments can be costly

Employers have been warned that their business could be at risk if they disclose confidential information – even if they think it’s “off the record”.

John Mehtam is the employment law specialist at Martin-Kaye Solicitors, in Telford, and he said businesses must be aware that the actual phrase ‘off the record’ had no legal status whatsoever.

“Don’t be fooled by the idea that disclosing information which is clearly confidential is nothing to worry about – you’ll be putting your business in jeopardy and it’s not a risk worth taking.”

Mr Mehtam said confidential information often included personal data that related to directors, owners, current and former employees, customers and clients.

“It may also include information about individual and or business tax affairs, legal and other professional advice that’s been received, and current and future business plans. But no matter what details you’re asked to pass on, both you and the person asking for the information will be breaching confidentiality rules, even if you both agree you’re speaking off the record.”

Mr Mehtam said it wasn’t just employers who could find themselves in trouble, and all employees should be told that the phrase is meaningless and that they should never reveal anything to a third party.

“If your staff are asked for confidential information, you should insist that they refer the request to a senior manager or director, as you as their employer could be held responsible for their actions if they pass anything on.”

And it’s not just random requests for personal information that can get an employer into trouble.

“If you’re approached for a verbal reference about a former employee, don’t say ‘yes if it’s off the record’ because it won’t be, and the employee is entitled to know what you said about them.

“A recent ruling by the Supreme Court has also confirmed that disclosing confidential information in off the record comments does not get around confidentiality obligations. They said off the record discussions gave the person making the disclosure – and the person asking for the private information – no legal protection at all.

“If someone even mentions off the record discussions, it should immediately set alarm bells ringing, and you should be on your guard from the start. Don’t put yourself and your business at risk.”

Wednesday, 3 May 2017

Michelle steps up at Martin-Kaye

A Telford lawyer with almost 20 years’ experience has now been named as an Associate at a leading local law firm.

Michelle Poulton began her career as a legal assistant in the conveyancing team with Martin-Kaye Solicitors, and she is now a qualified Licensed Conveyancer at the firm’s head office in Euston Way, in Telford.

Senior Partner, Graham Davies, said Michelle’s new position was
as a direct result of her dedication and commitment.

“We’re always keen to encourage staff to continuously develop their skills and it’s always a real pleasure to be able to give employees the opportunity to make positive progress in their career. Michelle is a key member of our conveyancing team and we’re very pleased to announce that she is now an Associate with the firm – an honour that we reserve for our most talented and committed staff.”

Michelle manages a small team of legal assistants and is responsible for both panel-based business and local estate agent referrals.

She also deals with a variety of property cases including remortgaging, transfer of equity, right to buy, equity release, and sale and purchase work.

“I’m delighted to have been promoted to the role of Associate, and I’m very proud that the hard work I’ve put in has been recognised in such a way. In my new position, I’m looking forward to playing an increasing role in helping to build the business even further, and to working with my team to ensure our clients receive the very best service at all times.”

Martin-Kaye’s experienced and knowledgeable property team is accredited under the Conveyancing Quality Scheme – the quality mark for legal experts in buying or selling property.

Pic: Michelle Poulton – the new Associate at Martin-Kaye Solicitors in Telford – with Senior Partner Graham Davies