Thursday, 28 June 2007

Message is loud and clear

Shropshire employers are being warned they must control noise levels in the workplace to protect their employees’ hearing.

John Mehtam, Employment Law Specialist at Martin-Kaye Solicitors, in Euston Way, Telford, said a national survey of bosses in the music and entertainment industry had shown worrying results.

“Almost 70 per cent of the employers questioned were completely unaware that they must comply with new Control of Noise at Work regulations which will come into force next April.

“This means bar, pub and club workers all over the UK are not receiving the support they need to protect their hearing.”

John said over half the employers surveyed also said they had no plans to offer hearing protection to their workers.
“This is despite shocking figures that show excessive noise in the workplace has led to deafness or other ear difficulties for around half a million people in the UK.

“It is one of the most ignored workplace risks, with only 10 per cent of the employers surveyed considering that excessive noise may be the biggest risk to their staff.”

John said the new rules would reduce the noise levels at which workers in the music and entertainment industries were required to wear hearing protection.

“The levels in both industries have been reduced by five decibels, to 80 decibels in the music industry and 85 in the entertainment industry, and employers must ensure that protection is available to all staff who may be affected.

“The guidelines also state that hearing protection must ensure that average noise levels reaching a worker’s ears are never above 87 decibels, so not only must you make sure protection is available, but also, that it’s effective.

“Employers in the music and entertainment industries must take these new rules seriously, and staff should ensure they know their rights – the changes are being introduced to protect workers, and it’s vital that protection is accessible to everyone.”

Thursday, 21 June 2007

Bankruptcy concern for divorcees

Shropshire couples should beware their divorce payouts could be at risk if their former partner is declared bankrupt.

The warning comes from Nadia Davis, who leads the Family Team at Martin-Kaye Solicitors, in Euston Way, Telford.

“Even when the financial deal has been agreed as part of the divorce proceedings, trustees appointed to handle the bankruptcy have the power to try to get their hands on the divorce settlement to pay off creditors.

“This means that just when a spouse feels everything has been sorted out, and they are financially in a secure position to face the future, their previous partner’s bankruptcy could come back to haunt them.”

Nadia said what was even worse, was that the settlement could be at risk for up to five years after the divorce is finalised.

“A case heard by the High Court did initially offer some hope to people who found themselves in this situation.

“The husband declared himself bankrupt, and his trustees tried to recover the assets which had been signed over to his former wife, in order to pay off his creditors.

“But a district judge ruled she should be allowed to keep the settlement she received.
“However, the trustees launched an appeal, and the High Court has now overturned the initial decision, which means the wife stands to lose the money and assets she received at the time of the divorce.

“Unless the wife takes her case to the Court of Appeal, the law will remain as it stands, and many wives will remain vulnerable to their ex-husband’s creditors in the future.
“In today’s climate of ever-increasing debt, it’s imperative that couples are fully aware of the risks involved when they reach a settlement in their divorce – it may not always be the closure they were hoping for.”

Warning on health and safety

Company directors across Shropshire must face up to their health and safety responsibilities, or risk financial penalties or even a prison sentence.

Stuart Haynes, from Martin-Kaye Solicitors, in Euston Way, Telford, said: “Health and safety law places duties on organisations and employers, and directors can be personally liable when these duties are ignored.

“Members of your Board have both collective and individual responsibility for health and safety, and it’s vital you take it seriously.

“More than 200 people are killed at work in the UK each year, and in the last 12 months alone, around 30 million working days were lost due to ill health and injuries caused at work – this cost UK business around £30 billion.”

Stuart said directors must show strong and active leadership and communicate their health and safety policies clearly with staff.

“If you employ five or more people, you must provide a written health and safety policy.

“You must also assess the risks to your employees, customers, partners and any other people who could be affected on your premises, and have effective procedures to monitor and use preventive and protective measures.”
He said it was also important for companies to seek professional advice, and consult employees on the risks they felt they faced on a daily basis at work, to develop policies which were appropriate and useful.

And it’s not just about drawing up a health and safety policy – Stuart said reviews of the procedures you put into place were just as crucial.
“If you introduce new working procedures or new machinery, or you go through major organisational changes, or there’s a change in national guidance, it’s vital you keep your policy up-to-date.

“The risks to directors on your board if you ignore such a key element of business could be disastrous – so to avoid financial penalties, or at the very worst, a prison term, think carefully about your responsibilities and take them seriously.”

Tuesday, 19 June 2007

Trainee set for 13,000ft jump to aid fundraising

A Shropshire trainee solicitor is taking the plunge - a skydive from 13,000ft to be precise - to raise cash for the Shropshire Star’s appeal to fund a medic for the County Air Ambulance.

Stephanie Powers, who works at Martin Kaye, Euston Way, Telford, said: “I had a skydive bought for me for Christmas by my partner James Poole because it was something I’ve wanted to do for a while. “I was thinking about possibly doing a jump for charity, rather than just doing a jump, and then I saw the Flying Doctor Appeal and thought maybe I could raise some money for that.”

Stephanie, who is 26 and lives in Wombourne, has never done a parachute jump before. “I did a bungee jump when I was in Ayia Napa with my friends,” she said. “I think it was only about 300ft and I really enjoyed that.”

The jump is booked for July 21 at the Skydive centre near Whitchurch. “I was a little bit nervous to start with, but I’m really looking forward to it now,” said Stephanie. Meanwhile a plastic duck race held as part of an annual fete at Neenton, near Bridgnorth, was a super success, and some of the proceeds are on their way to our appeal - the exact amount is not yet known.

Bobbie Jarvis, of the organising team, said: “What a day we had! The weather was beautiful and there were about 300 people who came during the afternoon and evening. “The duck race was completed in record time, thanks to Tony Garratt who set up a splendid course and made sure the water was available behind the ducks. “Claire Mottershead, who has organised the duck race for many years, celebrated her 80th birthday the week before and this was marked by a cake and ‘happy birthday’ being sung. First duck home was won by Mr F Griffiths from Bridgnorth.”

Thursday, 14 June 2007

Warning to protect workers

Shropshire bosses are being warned they must protect their staff from stress in the workplace if they want to avoid costly damages.

The warning comes after a woman was awarded over £130,000 when she suffered a nervous breakdown brought on by pressure at work.

John Mehtam, who specialises in Employment Law, at Martin-Kaye Solicitors, in Telford, said the case was a timely reminder for employers that they must take stress seriously.

“The woman had repeatedly told her employer about the amount of work she was struggling with, and she claimed they did nothing to help her tackle the issue.
“The High Court ruled that the demands made on her were totally unreasonable, and if action had been taken, her breakdown could probably have been avoided."

John said the employer in the case had referred the woman to a stress counsellor, but at no stage was anyone brought in to share her workload.
“Simply offering stress counselling is not a long-term solution – if the root of the problem is the amount of work an employee is facing, the management team have to tackle the problem directly.

“As an employer, you are ultimately responsible for the welfare of your staff, and it’s vital that you take their concerns seriously.

“Although access to stress counsellors and medical advice is a supportive step in the right direction, it’s not the answer to the problem as a whole.“Many employees feel under pressure, particularly when a company is working to meet tough deadlines, but it’s the employer’s responsibility to ensure their health does not suffer as a direct consequence of striving for business success.”

Friday, 8 June 2007

Husband leading divorce pay fight

A Shropshire solicitor has warned wealthy husbands look set to fight back following a rush of multi-million pound divorce settlements.

Nadia Davis, who leads the Family Law Team at Martin-Kaye Solicitors, in Telford, said the well-publicised cases had led to several wives becoming millionaires in their own right.

But now, it seems some of the husbands are planning to take action, and Nadia said many others could follow suit.

“It has been announced that Alan Miller, who was instructed to pay his wife £5 million – even though they had only been married for 18 months – has decided to challenge the ruling in the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.

“His original case and its result set the standard for this kind of case, and it has had far-reaching effects in divorce courts all over the UK,” said Nadia.

The Court decided no matter how long a couple had been married, the starting point for dividing the assets should be a 50-50 split.
“And although they said Mrs Miller did not ‘need’ 50% of the assets, they decided that was irrelevant, and that the assets should be divided equally.

“The same rules were applied to the case of Mr and Mrs Charman, and paved the way for her £48 million payout, despite the fact that Mrs Charman had run the home and it was Mr Charman who had built up the major share of their assets.”

Nadia said Mr Miller claimed that the law was now “confused and unpredictable” as family court judges were given too much discretion. He also claims the payout to his former wife had breached his human rights.

“Family Law teams such as ours will be following this appeal with great interest, as the European Court’s decision could have massive implications for day-to-day divorce hearings.
“District Judges work very hard to reach sensible decisions based on what is fair and reasonable, and they will no doubt be pleased to receive clearer guidance on the approach they should be taking.”

Monday, 4 June 2007

Curbing rogue IT userss

Shropshire employers must protect their business by taking a tough stance on staff who abuse IT and email services in the workplace.

Stuart Haynes, of the Commercial Team at Martin-Kaye Solicitors, in Telford, said many businesses did not have a clear policy about the private use of internet and email facilities.

“It’s important for employers to consider whether they should limit the use of email and internet to business purposes only, or whether they will allow reasonable personal use.

“The risk is that if you fail to take action, excessive private use can pose a real security threat to your business and its systems – if your employees are accessing all kinds of websites, you don’t know what information is being leaked about your company.”

Stuart said employers should draw up an “acceptable use” policy, which sets out what is, and what isn’t, acceptable when it comes to IT and email in the workplace.

“Each time a new employee joins your company, you should ask them to read, agree and sign the policy, to ensure they are fully aware of the penalties they will face if they break the rules. The policy should also make it clear that you reserve the right to monitor their private use.

“You need to set out clear boundaries on how much personal use is acceptable, and with the internet, your employees need to know which websites are appropriate.

“You should also warn them you will be able to check which sites they have visited, to remind them of their responsibilities.
“But most of all, once you have implemented the policy, you need to regularly update and police it, if you want to protect your business against unauthorised email and internet access.”