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.”

Thursday, 24 November 2016

What's in a name?

We’re often asked where the name Martin-Kaye Solicitors comes from – here our Senior Partner Graham Davies explains more…

"We’ve been in business now for over 30 years, and as we approach the end of another year, we’re looking ahead to the coming 12 months and the challenges they will bring.

"The end of another year can also be a time of reflection, and after three decades of Martin-Kaye Solicitors, I’d like to share the story behind our name.

"The simple answer is that it is the name of the most senior of the three founding partners of the firm – Andrew Green, me, and Niel Martin-Kaye.

"We started the practice from scratch in 1985 and quickly realised that Niel was ahead of his time with his positive approach and forward-thinking style.

"His vision put us ahead of many of our competitors both in terms of the way we use systems and technology, and in our management style.

"And we still continue to benefit from this innovative approach to business today – I’d very much like to think that the culture created in those early days has now been adopted by the younger Partners of the firm.

"Apart from being an original thinker and a man with passion and energy, Niel had the most outrageous and mischievous sense of humour, often providing much-needed inspiration in times of stress and difficulty.

"Sadly Niel died in September 2001 – within around a year of his retirement from the firm – there were few like him, and the name and spirit he gave us all those years ago is the legacy that continues to this very day."

Monday, 21 November 2016

What's your business really worth?

Entrepreneurs considering selling their business need to be realistic about its true value before they put it on the market.

Eliot Hibbert from the Martin-Kaye Corporate Commercial Team said in reality, a business was only worth what someone was willing to pay for it.

“Many small business owners grow attached to their business as they’ve put in so much hard work to develop it – but this can lead to them valuing their companies at a higher level than is sensible. Anyone seriously considering selling their business will need to have realistic expectations about its value before they even think about selling.”

Eliot said there was no single formula that could be used to precisely value every private business – sellers would want to drive the price up and potential buyers would want the opposite.

“Although there are relatively easy ways to value certain parts of the business – such as stock; assets like land, machinery and equipment – there will also be elements of the business that are much more difficult to put a price on.

“These intangible elements include goodwill such as trademarks, branding, key people, the size and quality of the customer base, and the reputation of the company, which are notoriously difficult to value. In many cases, it will come down to how keen a potential buyer is to acquire your business.”

When looking at the overall value of a business, there are a number of different valuation methods that are commonly used from using earnings multiples, to calculating how much it would cost to create a similar business.

“There are outside factors to consider too such as the economic climate as clearly a buyer may be more cautious when buying a business during an economic downturn.

“And on the other hand, when times are good, more companies tend to want to grow by buying other firms and finance is more freely available to help them achieve their aims.

“With more potential buyers in the market, you’re more likely to get a higher price when the economy is booming. So entrepreneurs who are serious about selling their business need to think carefully about the timing and the honesty of the value they’ve put on their company before they take the plunge.”


Friday, 18 November 2016

Honesty is the best policy

Partners must be completely honest about their finances when a relationship ends as the courts will not tolerate anything less.

That’s the warning from Nadia Davis who leads the Martin-Kaye family law team, who welcomed the outcome of a court case involving two women who disagreed over a financial settlement.

One of the women accepted £200,000 when the couple split up, but the case will now be reanalysed by the High Court after she claimed her ex-partner had ‘misrepresented’ the size of her fortune.

“The case confirms that same sex couples have the same rights under family law as heterosexual couples, and the woman will now have the opportunity to open discussions on a fair settlement based on her ex-partner’s true assets,” said Nadia.

“This has got to be the right outcome of a case like this – both parties need to give full and transparent financial information during the proceedings in order to achieve a fair result.

“Honesty about the financial situation of a couple is the bedrock of matrimonial cases and if one partner flouts that, they should expect that the court will punish them by overturning any original payout decision to get to the truth.

“For the court to do otherwise would encourage dishonesty and could create a cheat’s charter that would enable partners to hide their true wealth.

“This ruling clearly sets out the way the courts feel about such a dishonest approach and the steps they’re prepared to take to ensure the truth comes out.”

Thursday, 17 November 2016

Landmark ruling opens flood gates

A landmark tribunal verdict that ruled that Uber drivers are employees and not self-employed has opened the flood gates, according to a Telford solicitor.

The employment tribunal found in favour of two drivers who argued that they were in reality “employed as workers and should benefit from the minimum wage, holiday pay and sick pay”.

And now Gemma Workman, who is an employment lawyer at Martin-Kaye Solicitors, said the result could bring in hundreds, if not thousands, of similar claims for companies all over the UK.

“This case is one of the biggest in the land of employment law given its implications – it’s as high profile as the British Gas case that ruled commission payments should be included in holiday pay calculations.

“And, just like the British Gas case, the fallout from this ruling is expected to run on for some time.”

Gemma said the ruling meant that Uber drivers would now be classed as workers and would be entitled to paid holiday, a maximum 48-hour working week – subject to an opt out agreement – and the national minimum wage.

“The two drivers were test cases selected by the GMB Union and law firm Leigh Day to represent the claims of 19 Uber drivers – and now, following their success, hundreds more claims are expected to follow.

“The case is important for all kinds of companies across the UK who claim to link freelancers or small businesses with customers and yet say they are not employers themselves.

“Uber has said it will appeal the ruling, but it’s obvious this isn’t over – watch this space,” she said.


Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Joint venture for Midlands legal firm

Lawyers from a Midlands firm have joined forces with a local accountancy practice to present an advice seminar with a difference.

The team from Martin-Kaye Solicitors in Telford and Wolverhampton are hosting the event on Thursday, November 3, at 6pm, at The Hawthorns, home of West Bromwich Albion Football Club, and guests from all over the Midlands region are invited to attend.

Martin-Kaye senior partner Graham Davies will introduce the seminar which will give delegates the chance to learn more about how to save tax and protect their business assets.

“We have hosted regular seminars in the area offering effective and no-nonsense advice on all kinds of topics related to employment law, and this time we decided to widen the scope of our event even further by introducing a financial element from Luckmans in Birmingham.

“In just one hour our delegates will hear about opportunities to save tax, including an update on the very latest tax saving devices through their business and property assets. And we’ll share our top tips on how to protect your business assets from former employees and competitors, as well as reviewing the options for succession planning.

“It’s sure to be an extremely popular event and tickets are going fast with over 60 tickets booked already, so anyone interested should get in touch to reserve their place as soon as possible.”

Delegates will also have the opportunity to put their individual questions to the guest speakers and join in an informal and useful networking session at the end of the event.

Martin-Kaye Solicitors are renowned for their ongoing programme of seminars where they share advice for employers on how to tackle some of the most common workplace and HR issues and, more importantly, how to avoid them and protect your business.

“Our short sharp seminars are designed to get right to the point with our team setting the record straight and helping employers to learn from the mistakes others have made.”

To find out more about the latest event, or to reserve your place, contact June Noto at Martin-Kaye Solicitors on 01952 272222 or email junenoto@martinkaye.co.uk

Wednesday, 28 September 2016

Tribunal washes its hands of case

A Telford solicitor has welcomed a tribunal ruling that upheld a decision to sack a baker for failing to wash his hands.

John Mehtam is the employment law specialist at Martin-Kaye Solicitors, in Euston Way, and he said the experienced baker should have known better.

“The case involved well-known bakers Greggs who sacked the employee after he failed to wash his hands before returning to a food production area. He had claimed that their actions were too harsh, but the tribunal threw the case out, saying he could not now be trusted to follow hand-washing rules and so he posed an unacceptable risk to the company’s customers and reputation.”

The baker admitted he was aware how important it was to wash his hands, and confirmed that staff training and the company handbook had made it very clear.

“For Greggs, it was obvious that taking a zero-tolerance approach was a reasonable and sound decision because in their industry an outbreak of illness traced back to them could have serious consequences for their reputation and success as a business.

“And given that the baker had 11 years’ service in the job – and experience in the food industry of over 25 years – he really should have known better.”

Mr Mehtam said the tribunal’s decision reinforced the need for companies to have clear and robust procedures in place, as well as the importance of ensuring all staff understood their responsibilities.

“In this case, it was the company’s hygiene rules that were broken, but similar circumstances would arise if it was a breach of a company’s health and safety procedures too.

“Workplace legislation is constantly changing, and it’s vital that employers ensure their policies and procedures are up-to-date. This is easier said than done though, given the pace of change, and the time pressures business owners face, so taking professional advice can be crucial.

“Our experts have a wealth of experience in this area and we can review a company’s existing systems and practices, and help draw up a plan moving forward that will ensure both staff and your company’s reputation are protected.”