Thursday, 26 March 2015

Fair pay for a fair day's work

Employees should not be deterred from fighting their corner when it comes to their right for equal pay.

John Mehtam is the employment law expert at Martin-Kaye Solicitors, in Telford, and he said secrecy surrounding the amount male and female colleagues were paid was often at the root of problems in the workplace.

“The Equality Act 2010, and before that, the Equal Pay Act 1970, back the principle that men and women should receive equal pay for equal work. And despite the fact that over the years some employers have tried to discourage staff from discussing these matters, it is actually against the law to victimise anyone who reveals their rate of pay, or anyone who asks the question.

“Employers cannot punish or dismiss anyone who submits an equal pay claim, and in some instances, failing to pay staff equally may even amount to sex discrimination. So if you suspect you’re not receiving the same pay rate as a colleague of the opposite sex, it’s vital that you take legal advice and force your employer to reveal exactly what the figures are.

“Although this may seem like a daunting prospect, and you may be worried about being labelled as a trouble-maker, don’t be put off – the law is on your side and you’re entitled to a fair rate of pay.”

John said equal pay claims were usually brought in an employment tribunal, but in some circumstances, a claim can also be made through the civil courts. “You can instigate an equal pay claim at any time during employment it relates to, or if the employment has ended, any time before the end of the qualifying period.

“This means differences in pay could date back up to six years before the date the claim was lodged, which could be extremely expensive for any employer found guilty of discriminating between male and female staff.”

John said new regulations introduced in 2014 had also brought in compulsory equal pay audits which must be carried out by larger employers.

“Any employer who fails to carry out an audit when they are required to, may face a fine of up to £5,000 – so not only could the bill for arrears be costly, but substantial fines could prove extremely damaging.”

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

HELPing hand pays off

Employment law experts from a Telford legal firm have hailed a new approach to delivering their message as a great success.

The specialists from Martin-Kaye Solicitors, in Euston Way, held one of their highly-renowned HELP seminars at Maesmawr Hall, in Caersws, and the response has been overwhelming.

Although the team has hosted similar events in Telford, Shrewsbury, Wolverhampton, and the wider West Midlands, this was the first time they had taken their roadshow across the border into Wales.

John Mehtam, who led the seminar, said: “We were delighted with the response to our event and the session was very lively with plenty of questions and answers – a really interactive and positive experience for everyone who took part.

“Thanks to the reaction we’ve received, and the interest this event has generated, we are already planning a similar seminar for later in the year to allow even more delegates to join us.”
The aim of the event was to help local employers learn more about the UK’s top ten employment law blunders.

“Over many years of dealing with employment and human resources problems for all kinds of companies, we have drawn up a ‘top ten’ list of common mistakes that it’s vital that employers can identify,” said John.

The latest event is the most recent in the firm’s HELP series – standing for HR and Employment Law in Practice – which was designed to equip companies with the tools to deal with even the most stressful of situations.

John said: “Our HELP presentations cover a wide range of topics, and they are always warmly received by local businesses, so this was a great opportunity to take our message across the border into Wales for the first time.

“We will definitely be hosting another similar event later in the year in that area as a direct result of customer demand, and we’re looking forward to sharing our expertise with even more new faces in the future.”

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Look out - there's a former spouse about...

Divorcees who make it big will need to spend their lives looking over their shoulders in case former spouses come forward to try to steal their fortune.

That’s the warning from family law expert, Nadia Davis, from Martin-Kaye Solicitors, in Telford, in the wake of a landmark court judgement made earlier today.

A former traveller made a claim for £1.9 million from her ex-husband who became a millionaire ten years after they split up. And even though she didn’t lodge the claim until nearly 20 years after their divorce, judges at the Supreme Court have ruled that she should receive a payout.

The exact amount will now be assessed.

“This ruling may shock many people as it’s a common misconception that once a divorce is finalised, any financial matters arising from the marriage are automatically brought to an end,” said Nadia.

“But in fact, this case is a clear indication that divorcing couples need specialist advice to ensure that any financial agreements are recorded in a binding Order of the Court. This is the only way to ensure that neither side can make any further applications for financial support in the future.

“Without such a document, both sides will run the risk of having to look over the shoulder for many years to come, especially if they go on to become particularly successful after the split as they will never know when their former spouse may stake a claim.”

Nadia said couples in the most danger were those who agreed a DIY divorce, coming to an agreement between themselves about the finances, and assuming those discussions were binding.

“It’s amazing how many people are then shocked to discover that their former spouse is still able to make a financial claim arising from the marriage, even though the divorce itself may have been finalised years before.”

The couple featured in today’s court case met as students, married in their early 20s, and lived a New Age traveller lifestyle, before separating in the mid-1980s and divorcing in 1992. In the mid-90s, the husband began a business career and became an extremely wealthy green energy tycoon. His former wife lodged her claim in 2011, and today’s landmark ruling could have huge implications for divorced couples all over the UK.

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Top title for specialist team

Legal experts at a Telford law firm have achieved yet another high profile national award thanks to their exceptional performance.

Martin-Kaye Solicitors, in Telford, have been named as winners of the award for Excellence in Intellectual Property Disputes in Acquisition International Magazine’s annual awards.

Senior Partner, Graham Davies, said: “This is the latest in a series of national titles for us, and we’re absolutely delighted to have secured another award that recognises the very high standards we set ourselves. It’s particularly satisfying to take this award as the winners are chosen through votes cast by a combination of clients, other professionals and our peers.

“At Martin-Kaye, we are one of the very few law firms outside major cities to have our own specialist commercial litigation team, and this award is evidence of the fact that our efforts are working.

“To be named as the ‘clear and deserving’ winner is a huge honour for our team, and we’re very proud that our hard work has been acknowledged at such a prestigious level.”

This year’s AI Award follows hot on the heels of another win in the same competition last year for the commercial team, when they were named as Midlands Litigators of the Year. And the firm has continued to receive impressive recognition in the independent UK Legal Director Legal 500 year-on-year too.

Organisers said the Acquisition International 2015 Dispute Resolution Awards were designed to “commend those in the dispute sector dedicated to providing exceptional services throughout the industry”.

“These prestigious global awards identify the main players in what is a fiercely competitive market,” said a spokesman. “From a combination of peer reviews and in-house research, the judges pinpoint the most feared litigators, the most creative arbitrators and the most skilled mediators across a range of industries.

“From very small niche practices to large corporations, we ensure that the winners have been selected on merit and that the results are based on the votes received, backed up by our own in-house research efforts.”

Pic:    Celebrating their award success at Martin-Kaye are, from left, Jason Round, Mohammed Ahsan, Graham Davies and Andrew Oranjuik

HELP travels over the border

Employment law experts from Martin-Kaye Solicitors are set to take their message on the road in a new move to expand their business.

Our specialists will be holding one of their highly-renowned HELP seminars at Maesmawr Hall, in Caersws, on Thursday, March 19. And although they’ve hosted similar events in Telford, Shrewsbury, Wolverhampton, and the wider West Midlands, this will be the first time they have taken their roadshow across the border into Wales.

John Mehtam, who leads the employment law team, said the aim of the event was to help local employers learn more about the UK’s top ten employment law blunders.

“Over many years of dealing with employment and human resources problems for all kinds of companies, we have drawn up a ‘top ten’ list of common mistakes that it’s vital employers can identify.

“These blunders can lead to employers breaking the law and so leave them facing expensive claims or settlements, so if we can help identify the potential pitfalls, we can help local companies save valuable money and time. Most of these mistakes come about through a lack of understanding, or through employers taking the wrong action – but the good news is that every one of them is avoidable.”

This latest event is the most recent in the firm’s HELP series – standing for HR and Employment Law in Practice – which was designed to equip companies with the tools to deal with even the most stressful of situations.

John said: “Our HELP presentations cover a wide range of topics, and they are always warmly received by local businesses, so it’s a great opportunity to be taking our message across the border into Wales for the first time. Our advice is designed to help employers understand how to avoid making these common mistakes in the future, and we’re looking forward to meeting a brand new group of businesses and helping them tackle these tiresome difficulties.”

Martin-Kaye deliberately restricts the number of delegates at each of its 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,” said John.

Attendance at the event is initially by invitation, but anyone interested in taking up any spare places should contact June Noto on 01952 525951.

Thursday, 5 February 2015

Debt recovery steps up a gear

Businesses are taking a far more hostile approach to recovering outstanding debts, a Shropshire commercial law specialist has warned.

The risk of being served with a winding-up order by creditors is greater than ever, according to Andrew Oranjuik, of Martin-Kaye Solicitors in Telford.

He said: “The traditional way of recovering a debt always used to be bringing proceedings through the county court or High Court. But increasingly, creditors are seemingly more willing to serve a statutory demand, or winding-up petition, to claim the money they are due.

“Although this option has always been available, it has become far more prevalent as businesses step up efforts to recover outstanding debts as quickly and efficiently as possible. Court proceedings can take a considerable time to resolve, but serving either a statutory demand or a winding-up petition will bring the matter before the court much more quickly.”

Under current legislation, a company is deemed to be insolvent if it is served with a statutory demand and neglects to pay the outstanding amount, or reach agreement, within 21 days – even if it’s not actually insolvent.

Mr Oranjuik said: “If it gets to this stage, the creditor can use its demand as a basis to place the business into liquidation.

“There are measures which debtors can take to protect their position, however. If there is a legitimate dispute, they can contact the creditor at the earliest possible opportunity and ask them to confirm in writing that the demand is withdrawn. If this request is refused, then a court application can be made to prevent the creditor from either beginning or continuing winding-up proceedings.

“If a business finds itself being served with a statutory notice or winding-up order, it is important for them to take specialist legal advice immediately. Our commercial team has many years’ experience dealing with cases like this, and companies should ensure they take action as soon as they can or face serious consequences.”


Friday, 30 January 2015

Signing on the dotted line - it's a nightmare!

Be careful who you authorise to sign company documents on your behalf, if you want to avoid a Gordon Ramsay-style kitchen nightmare.

That’s the message from our senior partner Graham Davies, who has been digesting the implications of the celebrity chef’s latest court case.

The TV cook and restaurateur has been landed with an estimated £1.6 million bill after losing a court fight to free himself from a pub contract.

Ramsay accused his father-in-law Chris Hutcheson of secretly signing a deal to make the chef personally liable for the pub’s £640,000 annual lease.

Mr Hutcheson used a ‘ghostwriter’ machine to replicate the chef’s signature, but the court found that he was acting within ‘the wide general authority conferred on him by Mr Ramsay’.

Graham said the case raised important issues which ought to be acknowledged by Shropshire employers.

“It is clear from this ruling that a ghost signing machine can effectively sign a legally binding document. And so, if you give a member of staff authority to act on your behalf and use your ghost signature when a personal guarantee is required, you are likely to be bound by the terms of the guarantee.

“This case emphasises the importance of setting out exactly what an agent can and cannot do on your behalf, right from the outset. The ghost signature machines used to place Mr Ramsay’s signature on documents gave the appearance of a pen signature, with a fine nib being used.

“This judgement indicates that it would not be necessary to confirm that the person indeed made that signature with his own hand, which is a timely warning to all business people that they must take extra care over who has the right to authorise legal documents.”