Thursday, 27 November 2014

Fathers need help when it comes to paternity leave

New fathers are struggling to afford time off work to be with their babies because the statutory pay for paternity leave is so low, it is claimed.

Shropshire law firm Martin-Kaye Solicitors says one in three fathers are being forced to use their annual leave, instead of relying on paternity pay, to afford time off with their growing family.

John Mehtam, from the firm's employment team in Telford, said: “The statutory weekly rate of ordinary paternity pay currently stands at just over £138, before tax. This is just half the weekly salary for someone who is on the national minimum wage.

“It explains why, according to a survey for Mumsnet, more than one in six fathers take less than a week off work following the birth of their child. Of these, two thirds said it was because of financial issues, while a quarter were unable to secure time off from their employer.”

John said: “If you have been with your employer long enough to qualify for paternity pay, you must tell them that you intend to go on paternity leave at least 15 weeks before your baby's expected due date – otherwise, they are within their rights to turn you down. And if you change your mind about when you want to take paternity leave, the law says this can be done – but you need to give your employer 28 days' notice of the changed date.”

Several major companies, including PWC and Deloitte, have drawn up enhanced paternity packages in recent months. But they are in the minority, with only one in six companies currently topping up the statutory minimum paternity payment.

So what can you do if your employer doesn’t think they need to sanction paternity leave, or you feel they’re not paying the right amount?

John said: “Firstly, talk to your employer and make sure you get a written explanation. If that doesn’t work, you may have to make a formal complaint, or speak to your trade union or employees’ representative, if you have one. And you can also call HM Revenue & Customs employee's enquiry line for advice. The number is 0845 302 1479.

“In an ideal world, though, it is best for employers to offer flexible working arrangements which can be adapted to suit both parties, because a happy workforce is always a more productive workforce.”

Monday, 17 November 2014

How would your business cope?

 Ebola is claiming thousands of lives and wreaking economic chaos across Africa, and Midlands firms are being asked: “Are you geared up to cope in a major crisis?”

There are three key areas which employers need to examine, according to our employment law specialist, John Mehtam.

“Many organisations don’t pause to think how they will cope in the event of a major disaster or epidemic, thinking it will never happen to them.

“Right now, Ebola is in the news in Africa, but closer to home, we have had two recent outbreaks of foot and mouth disease, the swine flu pandemic of 2009, the volcanic ash disruption which caused air travel mayhem the following year, and now the bird flu outbreak in Yorkshire.

“Businesses need to consider their duty to protect the health and safety of staff, methods of dealing with potential staff absence, and how the possible suspension of ‘normal’ working practices will impact on people’s contracts of employment.”

Mr Mehtam, based at Martin-Kaye’s headquarters in Euston Way, Telford, said: “Companies have a duty to keep staff informed about any risks of possible outbreaks of disease, and take steps to ensure there is good hygiene.

“Many companies in the region have loyal staff who will struggle into work, even when they are not feeling 100 per cent.

“Managers might want to think about whether they should change their approach, and ask them to stay away, or offer them the chance to work from home.

“A well-advertised sickness policy might also help employers to reassure healthy, but worried staff, that work is relatively safe.

“Employers should also identify staff that could stand in for one another in the event of illness, as well as putting back-up plans in place. This might involve lining up potential external contractors.

“And managers must also bear in mind that the suspension of ‘normal’ working practices might mean the company needs to either amend contracts of employment, or suspend normal practices around returning to work, sick pay, or leave to care for dependant relatives.”

Monday, 3 November 2014

Should your employees really be here?

Employers who fail to check whether temporary staff have a legal right to work in Britain could face fines of up to £20,000.

And employment law expert John Mehtam, from Martin-Kaye Solicitors in Telford, said turning a blind eye to the situation was no solution.

Under the Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Act 2006 requires every employer to prevent illegal working in the UK.

“This means it’s an employer’s responsibility to check that any potential staff have permission to work here, and the employer must also retain the documentation to prove it. If you do recruit someone or continue to employ someone who fails to provide proof that they are entitled to work here, you could face a civil penalty of up to £20,000.”

John said the documentation required was split into two lists – list A and list B. “If your potential employee has no restrictions on their right to work in the UK, they should be able to easily produce a document or a combination of documents from list A.

“But if there are restrictions – maybe they’ve been given a time limit to enter or remain – they won’t have the documents from the first list, so they’ll need to resort to a document or specified combination of information from the second list as set out by the Home Office.”

John said if an employer used an agency to hire temporary workers, the situation was slightly different. “As long as the agency worker remains employed by the agency throughout their contract, it’s the agency’s legal responsibility to check their work status. But don’t just assume that the agency will have done the checks.

“Always ask for written confirmation that the agency has investigated the employee’s status before they took them on. And if they are unable or unwilling to give that reassurance, you should start delving deeper as this could be a cause for worry.”

If an employer uses an agency to recruit an employee who will be working directly for their company, it’s once again the employer’s job to carry out all the right checks.

“Ask for the relevant documents in the offer of appointment letter you send to the employee, stressing that the offer is purely conditional on them having the right to work in the UK.

“Failing to protect your company when it comes to taking on temporary workers is a risk you can’t afford, so it’s vital you make sure all the paperwork is in order before they set foot in the workplace.”

Friday, 31 October 2014

Who is the rightful owner?

Companies who commission a supplier to create a product or design now need to take steps to protect their interests.

Graham Davies, senior partner at Martin-Kaye Solicitors, in Telford, said a seismic shift in the rules on intellectual property had completely changed the face of business.

“Previously, when a design was commissioned, the legal owner was the person who asked for it to be created, not the designer. But now the Intellectual Property Act 2014 has totally reversed the position, unless you stake your claim in the initial contract with the supplier.

“So whether you’re looking for a design for an industrial product, packaging, a logo, a new typeface in a brochure, graphic symbol or a part that will be used in a more complicated product, you need to know how the new rules apply.”

Graham said the Act came into force at the start of October, but would not be fully in place until the end of 2015.

“From now on, if your company commissions a design, you need to make sure that the contract declares you are its legal owner. You may well find that design companies will charge extra for the intellectual property rights, but that really will be a small price to pay compared to losing control of the design altogether.”

Graham said the idea behind the rule change is that for some time the Government was concerned that smaller companies were at a disadvantage when it comes to protecting their IP rights.

“All the law covering intellectual property was actually quite old, and so the new Act has been introduced to level out the playing field.”

But he stressed that any designs created by employees while they work for your company would remain the property of the employer at all times, with no change to that area of the law.

“So whether you’re creating a design for someone or you’re commissioning someone else to create something for you, it’s clear you need to know how the new rules affect your rights – don’t leave it to chance.”

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Will writing is a serious business

Families are being urged to take extra care with the writing of their wills after the Ministry of Justice resisted calls to regulate the industry.

Wills and probate specialist Fiona Mainwaring, from Martin-Kaye Solicitors in Telford, said people should make certain their final wishes are heeded by using a firm of solicitors.

Changes to will-writing rules have just come into effect, but the Ministry of Justice has made it clear that it is not in favour of any form of regulation for will-writing.

The Legal Ombudsman had called for a voluntary complaints scheme to cover the growing number of unregulated wills and probate providers.

But the Ministry said “other options should be explored first, including better guidance for professionals and making better use of existing consumer information and protection”.

Fiona said: “The Law Society has been expressing concern for some time about the absence of regulation for will-writing and the damage this could have on the public. Anyone can set themselves up as a will writer, so it is important to distinguish between those who are unregulated, uninsured and untrained, and solicitors who are highly trained in this area.”

She added: “Anyone of any age who has assets, such as a house, savings or a business – or people they want to ensure are looked after – should make writing a will a priority.

“Not making a will can cause many months of grief for your loved ones. Talking about death and planning for the worst can feel uncomfortable, but you need to consider how much worse the situation would be if you died, or became too incapacitated to put your wishes down on paper.

“The latest law changes include amendments to the definition of a person’s individual personal belongings, and alterations to the rules over who can make a claim against a person’s estate. It is vital that your will writer is on top of all these issues.

“Anyone in doubt about a will writer’s qualifications can check out the Law Society’s ‘find a solicitor’ website, which lists 140,000 solicitors, by practice name, and location.”

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