Wednesday, 23 August 2006

Getting the balance right

A Telford solicitor has warned that taking steps to prevent overseas workers coming to Britain to fill skills gaps could create problems for the UK economy.

John Mehtam, Employment Law Specialist at Martin-Kaye Solicitors, in Euston Way, said: "It's all a question of balance - and often workers from overseas are meeting the skills needs of UK businesses as they cannot find staff with the appropriate skills over here.

"There has been a lot of media coverage of the fact that more than 427,000 Eastern Europeans have come to work in Britain since the expansion of the European Union.

"Research commissioned by the Government had previously estimated the number of annual applications from the eight former Communist countries who joined the EU in May 2004 would be no more than five to 13,000.

"And obviously there are now concerns that with Romania and Bulgaria's expected accession to the EU in January, even more people will be seeking work in the UK.

"But there are restrictions already in place which have been designed to protect workers in the UK, and which employers must adhere to, or they can face tough fines."

John said overseas nationals were free to enter, stay and work in the UK including those from the European Economic Area, certain Commonwealth citizens, and overseas nationals with settled status.

"Some people can come to the UK without a work permit to work in certain occupations, such as trainee nurses, au pairs and private servants, or for a fixed time.

"But all other overseas workers must have a work permit from the Home Office, an immigration employment document, or other specific permission to work here."

John said the Asylum and Immigration Act 1996 ruled that employers would be committing a criminal offence if they employed someone who did not have permission to work here.

"And despite the rumours that overseas workers are doing the jobs for less money than their UK counterparts, the salary paid to an immigrant worker has to be at least equal and broadly the same as a UK worker would receive, or the work permit will be refused.

"It's clear that no-one wants to see a flood of overseas workers descending on the UK jobs market at the expense of UK workers, but it's also clear that in some businesses, they bring in valuable skills that cannot be found here at home."

Tuesday, 22 August 2006

Multi-national staff at law firm

A Telford law firm which has always been proud of its international links now has a truly multi-national workforce too.

Martin-Kaye Solicitors, based at The Foundry, in Euston Way, has welcomed three new employees from different corners of the world.

Senior Partner, Graham Davies, said: "We are already a founder member of IAG International, which is a networking group of lawyers, accountants, tax advisers, and other professionals from across the world.

"And now we're delighted to unveil our newest recruits to our team, who all have an international background."

Silvia Guillen, who is originally from Gran Canaria, qualified as a Spanish Lawyer in 1996, and after passing the Qualified Lawyer's Transfer Test, she also became a qualified solicitor in English Law in 2003.

"With so many people keen to buy holiday homes abroad, particularly in Spain, her background will help us to ensure our clients receive the very best advice from a lawyer who has experienced Spanish property law first hand," said Graham.

Lana Perkins is the second new face, and she is from Tallinn, in Estonia. She studied Law at the International University of Social Sciences, in Tallinn, and came to England when she married her husband who is from Shrewsbury.

"The legal profession has always been my passion, and I have found the people here to be very friendly and professional," she said.

Amanda Hunter, from Ontario, in Canada, joined Martin-Kaye Solicitors originally as a secretary and is now working towards a Legal Executive qualification as a member of the Commercial Property Team.

"It was always my aim to live and work in the UK by the time I was 25, as I just felt a real connection to England every time I visited, and I'm really pleased to have achieved my dream."

Nita is a new partner

Telford law firm, Martin-Kaye Solicitors, has appointed a new Partner.

Nita Patel, leads the private property department at the practice based at The Foundry, in Euston Way.

She has been with the company for over five years and is responsible for running the department handling all private property matters.

"I am extremely pleased to be recognised in such a way, and I'm really looking forward to being closely involved in developing the systems and strategies that will take the company into the future with confidence."

Nita studied Law at Westminster University in London, and trained with a city law firm where she specialised in property law.

After working with various firms in London and Buckinghamshire to widen her experience, she moved to the West Midlands six years ago.

"I manage a team of 35 employees, and my aim is to ensure our department continues to play a leading role in the property industry on a national scale.

"Being a Partner will give me an incredible opportunity to help build on Martin-Kaye's already strong reputation, and it's an achievement of which I am very proud."

Senior Partner Graham Davies said: "At Martin-Kaye, we believe in encouraging our employees to grow with the company.

"Nita is a perfect example of someone who has made the most of their time with us, maximising all the opportunities she has been given. Her appointment as a new Partner is testimony to the hard work she has put in."

Friday, 11 August 2006

Paternity leave nightmare

Small businesses in Shropshire could face a nightmare situation when new paternity leave rules are introduced next year.

John Mehtam, the Employment Law Specialist at Martin-Kaye Solicitors, in Euston Way, Telford, said the Work and Families Act 2006 could bring real difficulties for business owners.

"The rules extend the right for employees to request flexible working hours if they are caring for an adult and, from April next year, paid maternity leave will increase from six to nine months.

"Employers will also have to allow any unused maternity leave to be transferred to the baby's father and they will be able to take it as paternity leave.

"But this will create even more administration for small business owners, on top of the already huge demands they are facing on a day-to-day basis.

"Obviously it's good news for parents as they will have even greater choices when it comes to caring for their children, but the rules could well create a nightmare situation for small companies."

John said it could be particularly difficult for firms to make a thorough check on each family's circumstances, to ensure the system was not being abused.

"If, for example, the parents have separated, and the mother is with a new partner, then feasibly two men could claim paternity leave for the same child - how can an employer check if this is the case?

"The Government has warned that companies who don't comply with the new rules could face fines, but it will be incredibly difficult for employers to administer this scheme.

"It seems that a lot of responsibility will fall on small companies who already find it difficult to keep up with the ever-increasing legislation in the workplace, and it's a burden they could well do without."

Consultation on the proposed new laws has now ended, but employers are still waiting for the final details of the scheme to be confirmed.