Wednesday, 26 April 2006

Encourage sick staff back to work

Shropshire companies should work hard to rehabilitate staff who have been off long-term sick, a local solicitor has said.

John Mehtam is the Employment Law Specialist at Martin-Kaye Solicitors, in Euston Way, Telford, and said making an effort with staff who have been absent for a long time could bring real dividends.

“Encouraging a sick employee back to work earlier will mean you can reduce the unnecessary cost of finding someone else to do their job temporarily, and it also helps to motivate the employee.”

He said that long-term sickness absence was reported to cost UK business over £3.8 billion every year.

“But by making the effort to rehabilitate your sick staff, you really can help your business and the employee at the same time.”

John said research had shown that where companies did not attempt to rehabilitate their staff, 80 per cent of people on long-term sickness never returned to work.

“And yet if you do work together, you can reduce the unnecessary costs of recruiting a temporary replacement, avoid disability claims as you will be seen to have tried to make reasonable adjustments, and increase the productivity - an employee who returns part-time is better than not at all.”

Employers should work on a rehabilitation programme, to help the employee return to work as smoothly as possible.

“Stay in touch with the employee to stop them feeling isolated, and also to keep up to date with how their health is progressing.

“With their permission, contact their doctor, and ask if a phased return may be possible, perhaps part-time or with changes to their duties.

“And after consulting their doctor, work with the employee to produce a plan setting out duties and working hours, which may need to be changed in the short-term, and also allow for regular progress meetings.”

John said after a trial period on the amended terms, progress should be measured to see if the employee is able to return full-time, or if the current arrangement needs to go on longer.

“If it’s clear that the arrangement has not, and will not, work, it should be safe to dismiss the person on medical grounds - but keep good records of the reasonable actions you have taken to try to help them return to work, to avoid a disability discrimination claim.”

What's the risk with health and safety?

Companies in Shropshire must take the health and safety of their staff seriously if they are to avoid potential legal action, according to a Telford solicitor.

John Mehtam, the Employment Law Specialist at Martin-Kaye Solicitors, in Euston Way, said employers who were well prepared were more likely to avoid accidents on their premises.

"There has been a lot of talk in the media about a so-called 'compensation culture', where the slightest incident brings a claim against your company.

"But in reality, many claimants fail to realise that an injury isn't enough - to succeed with a claim, they will be required to prove it's your company's fault."

John said many companies worried about receiving random inspections from the Health and Safety Executive.

"They generally tend to concentrate on businesses which are more high risk from a health and safety point of view, such as the construction industry or companies with a previous history of problems.

"Your company is really most at risk of an inspection following an accident where someone is injured, or if an employee you have dismissed decides to report you."

Companies who employ five or more staff are required to have a written health and safety policy, which should set out how you approach the issues at work and what you expect of your staff.

"You should also carry out risk assessments, which need not be complicated, although if your workplace has a lot of hazards, such as open machinery, more detail will be required."

John said it was important to remember that visitors to your premises, as well as staff, could be at risk.

"Look for obvious hazards and decide who may be harmed and how; evaluate the risks and assess whether there are enough precautions in place; record your decisions; and review your assessments regularly.

"By making good use of a sensible health and safety policy, you can protect your staff, your visitors, and of course, your company as a whole."

Tuesday, 25 April 2006

More protections for part time workers

Shropshire employers are being warned they must not discriminate between full-time and part-time workers.

The warning comes from John Mehtam, who is the Employment Law Specialist at Martin-Kaye Solicitors, in Euston Way, Telford.

He said a landmark case in the House of Lords should prove extremely helpful to part-time employees fighting to receive equal rights to their full-time colleagues.

“The case involved a group of part-time firefighters and was the first test of the Part-Time Workers (Prevention of Less Favourable Treatment) Regulations 2000,” said John.

The Fire Brigades Union had argued that under the regulations, the part-time firefighters, who also had other jobs, were not being treated equally.

They were not allowed to join the pension scheme, and received less favourable sick pay and acting-up pay.

“The Court of Appeal backed the claim that both retained and full-time firefighters are employed under the same type of contract, but said those working full-time obviously carried out additional work.

“But it’s clear that their work is substantially the same and all tasks carried out by the firefighters, whether they are part-time or full-time are essential to the overall service they deliver.

“As a result of these decisions, employers will not now be able to treat part-timers differently, and many will have to reconsider the terms and conditions they offer.

“They will also be unable to dismiss part-timers’ claims just by comparing them to the additional work carried out by people working longer hours.

“Employers must beware that this ruling paves the way for far greater protection for part-time employees, and creates a real chance for them to be treated equally in the workplace.”

Monday, 24 April 2006

Firms should reclaim domain names

companies will now find it easier to reclaim website names which include their title or trademark, thanks to a High Court ruling.

Tom Esler, who leads the Dispute Resolution Team, at Martin-Kaye Solicitors, in Euston Way, Telford, said the ruling was a great step forward.

“Previously many people thought if a website name was registered, even though it was not being used, there was little the trademark owner could do.

“But this new ruling will make it much easier for companies to take possession of a website name which has been registered by someone else, even if there is no evidence that anyone is trying to use it unlawfully.”

Tom said the judge had ruled that holding the domain name without a good reason meant the third party company possessed “an instrument of fraud”, and he insisted it be assigned to its lawful owner.

“The third party company had registered the domain name the same day that the new company had been formed, and so a large volume of emails, potentially confidential and sensitive, could have been received and read.”

He said usually companies who were concerned about domain names which could be confused with their firm initially took a cautious approach to the problem.

“It’s usual to write to the third party company and explain they shouldn’t use the website address as it would be breaching the trademark rules.

“Due to previous legal rulings, they cannot offer it to another business or try to sell it back to the company which owns the trademark, so the simple solution is for them to give it back, and many did just that.

“Now with the backing of this latest ruling, it will be possible to insist that they return the domain name to the rightful owner.

“This is a major step forward in ensuring that doing business in cyber space adheres to rules that would apply in a more general day-to-day setting.”

Tom said if any company was concerned that a website address containing their title or trademark was being used by someone else, they should seek legal advice.

“It’s important to ensure you follow the procedures correctly in order to protect the interests of your business.”

Saturday, 1 April 2006

Newsletter Number 12

Issue 12 Front CoverIssue 12
Double success at Martin-Kaye

We’re celebrating a double success after securing two awards for the quality of our services.

» Read more