Friday, 10 October 2014

HELP is at hand for local firms

Companies were offered expert advice on stepping up discipline in the workplace at the latest in a series of seminars organised by Martin-Kaye Solicitors.

The firm, which has offices in Telford and Wolverhampton, held the latest seminar in its long-running series at The Ramada Park Hall Hotel in Goldthorn Park.

The event was led by the company’s employment law specialist, John Metham, who said: “It was another hugely successful evening, where every seat was taken. This latest chapter in our HELP series – standing for HR and Employment Law in Practice – was designed to equip companies with the tools to deal with even the most stressful of situations.

“Our speakers covered issues around staff under-performance and discipline, as well as grievance procedures, which can be a minefield given the ever-changing legislation. No matter how well a business is run, problems with discipline and under-performance arise from time to time, so we were delighted that so many local companies came out to take advantage of some one-to-one time with experts.

“Our HELP presentations, covering a wide range of topics, continue to be warmly received by local businesses, and we will be announcing more dates and venues soon.”  

We deliberately restrict the number of delegates at each of our HELP sessions, so everyone who attends has the chance to play an active and purposeful role in the discussions.

“Fewer delegates means more opportunity to interact with our experts and the chance to ask direct questions particular to each company’s circumstances,” John said. “This is why we believe companies feel they get so much out of attending.”

Pic:    At the seminar are, from left John Mehtam (Martin-Kaye Solicitors), James Jagpal (Operations Manager at The Ramada Park Hall Hotel) and     Graham Davies (Martin-Kaye Solicitors)   

Monday, 22 September 2014

HELP is on its way

Are you worried your staff are under performing? Need to know more about how you can step up discipline in the workplace? Martin-Kaye Solicitors has all the answers you’ll need.

We're hosting our latest seminar in a long-running series at The Ramada Park Hall Hotel, Goldthorn Park, Wolverhampton, on Thursday, September 25, at 6pm.

Led by our employment law specialist, John Mehtam, the event is the most recent HELP presentation to be unveiled which is designed to help local employers get to grips with even the most stressful of situations.

“HELP stands for HR and Employment Law in Practice, and our aim is to equip employers with all the skills and knowledge they will need to tackle the trickiest of dilemmas in the workplace,” said John.

“This latest seminar will not only cover under performance and discipline, but also grievance procedures which can be a minefield, particularly given the ever-changing legislation.

“We’ll share our expertise and prepare employers so that if they face such a situation, they will be able to put their new skills into action and manage any issues effectively and appropriately.”

John said the HELP presentations had been warmly received by the local business community and had covered a wide range of topics.

“We’ve also deliberately restricted the number of delegates at each session, so that everyone who attends gets the chance to play an active and purposeful role in the discussions.

“Fewer delegates means more opportunity to interact with our experts and the chance to ask direct questions particular to each company’s circumstances.

“No matter how well-run your business is, problems with discipline, grievances and under performance will arise from time to time, and it’s vital that employers are well prepared in advance.”

To register their attendance at the event or to find out more about HELP seminars, employers should email, or call 01952 525951

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Directors learn the ropes

More than 30 company directors took the opportunity to hear from the experts at a special breakfast briefing in Telford.

Leading commercial law barristers, Mohammed Zaman QC and Shakil Najib, were the guest speakers at the presentation hosted by local law firm, Martin-Kaye Solicitors, at their offices in Euston Way.

The event was called: “Directors – Do You Know Your Duties?”, and the aim was to help anyone taking a seat at the boardroom table fully understand the responsibility they were being given.

Martin-Kaye commercial lawyer Andrew Oranjuik said feedback from the delegates who took part had been incredibly positive, and they had already asked the firm to deliver more events in the future.

“Our speakers certainly created a lively and vibrant atmosphere on the day, and delegates were impressed by their wide ranging knowledge and expertise. Many people take on the mantle of ‘company director’ without appreciating fully what the title involved, and they underestimate the need to keep up with ever-changing legislation.

“Our guests were certainly left in no doubt about what they were letting themselves in for, and heard that failing to comply with the rules could ultimately bring some very serious consequences.”

Andrew said Martin-Kaye Solicitors had deliberately restricted the number of places at the seminar so that everyone taking part had the chance to play an interactive part.

“It’s important for us that delegates are able to interact directly with our guest speakers, in order to learn as much as they possibly can while they’re with us – too many delegates sometimes means it is difficult to make your voice heard.”

The law firm is now planning a schedule of future events based on topics requested by delegates including corporate manslaughter and health and safety issues.

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Pensions rules could be costly

Companies could be hit with bills totalling tens of thousands of pounds if they are failing to automatically enrol staff into workplace pension schemes.

New rules mean every employer must enrol workers into a workplace pension scheme if they are aged between 22 and state pension age, and earn more than £10,000 a year.

And employment law expert John Mehtam, of Martin-Kaye Solicitors in Telford, said there were some hefty fines being lined up for companies which were failing to comply.

“Fines of £400, plus a further £50 per day, can apply to a company which is not complying with its auto-enrolment duties,” he said. “For now, the regulator will probably forego them if you prove you are acting quickly – but the honeymoon period is not going to last forever.

“Last year, household goods chain Dunelm found itself on the wrong end of the pensions regulator’s enforcement action after a report said it had failed in its auto-enrolment duties.

“It could have landed the company with hefty fines, and action could have also been taken against directors. But Dunelm acted swiftly to put matters right and the company and its directors walked away red-faced, but scot-free. It goes to show, though, that no company is too big, or too small, to be targeted.”

John said: “The regulator wants to see businesses beginning the planning process a year ahead of when they legally need to register. If your company is late starting the process, the most important thing is not to stick your head in the sand. Contact a pensions professional – or the regulator – to find out the most efficient way of getting on track.

“Remember, directors can be held personally responsible for any failures to comply with the rules, if it can be shown that they were aware of the situation. And in the most serious of cases, that can mean criminal proceedings.”

The automatic enrolment system began at the beginning of October 2012 with staff who work for the biggest businesses, with others being signed up over the following six years. It means millions of workers in the UK will see a slice of their pay packet being automatically diverted to a savings pot for their retirement.

Employers are obliged to pay into the fund as well, with the government adding a little extra through tax relief. Workers who already save in an existing pension scheme, or are self-employed, will not be signed up.

Thursday, 11 September 2014

E-cigarettes warning for employers

Employers could be powerless to stop workers from smoking e-cigarettes in company cars, even if they have an official ‘No Smoking’ policy in place, a Shropshire employment law specialist warns.

Rules introduced seven years ago to ban the smoking of tobacco in company cars does not cover inhalation of vapour in fast-growing electronic cigarettes, explained Tina Chander, of Martin-Kaye Solicitors in Telford.

“The legislation relating to smoking in vehicles, introduced in 2007, stated that smoking was banned in all vehicles used primarily for business purposes by more than one person.

“There are various penalties for this, but employers who flout the rules could face a fine of up to £2,500. But these regulations refer specifically to the act of smoking tobacco, rather than the inhalation of vapour, which is created by an e-cigarette. And that means it is possible, under the 2007 legislation, to use them legally in a company-owned vehicle.”

Tina added: “However, if your employee is one of the estimated 2.1 million e-cigarette users in the UK, a company’s hands are not completely tied.

“If your company’s no smoking policy does not cover the use of e-cigarettes, you can still warn the driver that such behaviour will not be tolerated in future, then make amendments to your rules. You can justify this change on the basis that holding an e-cigarette while driving is a potential distraction and therefore a serious health and safety issue.

“The number of e-cigarette users is growing fast, so if you are unhappy with the idea of company car users smoking them, it is worth checking out your small print as soon as possible.

“While the law of the land is clear on the smoking of products with tobacco or tar, creating carbon monoxide in the process, it is less black and white for people who are not puffing on the real thing.”

Friday, 29 August 2014

Is outsourcing a good idea?

A growing number of companies are outsourcing non-core services in an effort to save costs – but are they considering the potential pitfalls? - that's the question posed by our senior partner Graham Davies.

He said: “When it is done well, outsourcing can save you money on things such as physical overheads and payroll costs, and allow you to focus more carefully on offering a higher quality core product or service.

“It can also, sometimes, give you access to new technology or working systems without the need to invest heavily in the equipment yourselves. But there are some major pitfalls too, which companies must consider carefully before heading off down the outsourcing path.”

Graham explained: “Firstly, if the process is not managed properly, it could harm your company’s reputation. If the goods or services being provided on your behalf are not up to your usual standards, or are arriving late, then it is your image which will suffer, and not that of your supplier.

“It could lead to a rise in complaints, and ultimately end up costing you money through lost business or a tarnished reputation. It is always wise to insist on a test period with any chosen provider, retaining the right to cancel the agreement with immediate effect.

“Thorough research and a smooth handover period is essential. Don’t take at face value what the firms pitching for your business tell you – if they claim to have well trained and experienced staff, find out how they can prove it. I always think it is sensible to see their operation in full swing before putting pen to paper, and you should also ask for client testimonials.”

Graham said it was also important for businesses to remember that, although they may be outsourcing services, they remained legally responsible for the security of any personal data involved.

“Always enter into a written contract with the outsource company which specifies that they may act only on your instructions, and will take reasonable steps to prevent the unlawful or unauthorised processing of personal data.”

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Breaking the rules is a big mistake

 Companies caught breaking direct marketing rules could find themselves facing hefty fines as a growing number of authorities clamp down on offenders.

Local authorities, trading standards departments, and the Information Commissioner’s Office are all now pursuing firms which are flouting, or ignoring the law. It has been sparked by a rise in the number of small businesses cold-calling people who have registered with the ‘do not call’ list, run by the Telephone Preference Service.

Eliot Hibbert, from Martin-Kaye Solicitors in Telford, said: “The TPS is the official central opt-out register that allows people to indicate their preference not to receive unsolicited marketing calls.

“If a company ignores the list, even unknowingly, it will be in breach of the law, and it is clear that a growing number of organisations are prepared to prosecute.”

Eliot said: “Historically, it has usually been the Information Commissioner’s Office that investigates breaches of the rules, and it still has the power to impose fines of up to £500,000. But in the past few weeks, councils and trading standards departments have also been showing far more of an appetite for bringing prosecutions too.”

Apple Group Holdings Limited is one of the companies successfully prosecuted by trading standards officials, for continuously cold-calling people. The company, with offices in Dorset, Devon, Hampshire and the Isle of Wight, received a £36,000 fine. This successful prosecution, which is believed to be the first of its kind, could prompt other councils to take similar action,” Eliot said.

“It also means that individuals may also be more inclined to approach their local council about unwanted telephone calls, rather than the Information Commissioners Office.

“So what should a company do, to steer clear of the pitfalls? As always, if you follow the rules, you have nothing to fear. But the relevant legislation can be a minefield.

“If you undertake direct marketing of any kind, or you are thinking about doing so for the first time, it is worth downloading the free guidance details from the Information Commissioners Office.

“It explains how to comply with the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations, and how to screen telephone numbers against the TPS register. Follow its guidance to the letter, and you won’t go far wrong.”