Monday, 29 October 2007

Facing up to Facebook

Do your staff know just how far they can go when it comes to accessing social networking websites during office hours?

Our Employment Law Specialist, John Mehtam, said the number of people signed up to sites such as Facebook, MySpace and Bebo was increasing by the day.

“Obviously employers are well within their rights to restrict the amount of time their staff spend on sites like these during their working day, but it’s important that the guidelines are made very clear.

“Rather than banning them altogether, employers would be better placed if they took a sensible measured approach, and asked their staff to behave responsibly. No-one wants their employees spending hours every day organising their social lives when they should be working.

“But equally, drawing up policies in consultation with your staff will help them to have a clear understanding of what you will, and will not tolerate – after all, you’re paying them to do a job.”

Some employers also use internet management software to restrict access to some named websites during working hours.

“Talk to your employees, and explain that although you appreciate they all have the right to a social life, you need to make sure that productivity levels are maintained, and that you expect them to comply with the rules."

Friday, 19 October 2007

Thinking of others

Shropshire residents should consider leaving a donation to charity in their will to help avoid Inheritance Tax - that's the advice from Fiona MacNamara, from our wills and probate team.

“Gifts left to registered charities are exempt from Inheritance Tax, which makes them particularly good news for people whose estate is valued over the current £300,000 threshold.

“But they’re not just for the very wealthy – all kinds of people leave legacies as their way of helping good causes which are particularly special to them, such as children’s charities, or organisations which support cancer sufferers, the elderly, or animals.”

Fiona said the first step before you decide to leave a legacy was to check that the organisation had charitable status and was registered in the UK. "It’s then important that you ensure you keep your will up-to-date, as these decisions will play a key role in your future financial planning.

“And don’t be concerned that your legacy may not run into millions, charities are very grateful for anything they receive, and when the donations from several individuals are added together, they can have a massive impact.”

Fiona also said that many people who decide to leave money to charities are often elderly people who do not have any family.

“But there is an increasing number of people who want to help good causes and take advantage of the fact that charities do not face Inheritance Tax charges on legacies. The donation will also be excluded from any calculations to decide what Inheritance Tax charges your family will face after you die too.

“So not only can you help a good cause by leaving a legacy, you can also use it to help protect your family from escalating costs.”

Protect your contacts

If you keep your contacts lists on a company computer, beware as they will belong to your employer.

John Mehtam, our Employment Law Specialist, said the rules would apply even if some of the contacts were personal, or pre-dated you joining the company.

“The warning follows a High Court case which ruled against a member of staff who brought with him a career’s worth of personal and business contacts when he began a new job.

“He had gradually transferred the list to the company’s computer system, adding to it regularly, and maintained it through their Microsoft Outlook programme.

“But the problems arose when he decided to leave the company to set up a rival business – before he left, he copied the entire contents of his contacts list from the company system onto a memory stick for his own future use.”

John said the company was unhappy with his actions, and decided to seek an injunction to get the information returned. The judge ruled that the list belonged to the company.

“This case has huge implications for employees, and will be an unpopular move with many staff who routinely use work email, BlackBerries and mobile phones for both business and personal contacts.

“Businesses should make sure their staff separate personal and work information, and that the company has a clear email policy in place which is clearly explained to everyone. Separating personal contacts from business contacts will ensure that any problems in the future about rights over the information will be avoided.”