Thursday, 31 January 2008

Time for a change?

Couples who live together but are not married should beware because the law does not recognise a “common law” marriage, according to Nadia Davis, who leads our Family Team.

But Nadia said attitudes towards marriage across the UK were constantly changing, and with legislation under review, maybe it was time for the law to change.

“Currently, just over half the UK population still thinks that common law marriage exists in law. In fact, according to this year's British Social Attitudes survey which was published just last week, 51% of those surveyed believed that cohabiting couples were protected by 'common law marriage', when this is just not the case.”

In the survey, people were asked specifically how they felt about cohabiting couples and the legal implications they faced.

“Altogether, 89% said that a cohabiting partner should be entitled to financial provision on separation if the relationship had been a long-term one, included children and had involved prioritising one partner's career over another. And 38% thought that a cohabiting partner should have a right to financial provision if the relationship only lasted two years and involved no children.

“These figures clearly show that people do not feel there is a need
to prolong the deep legal distinctions that are currently made between married and unmarried cohabiting families. With the current legislation under review by The Law Commission, maybe now is the time to redraw the rules when it comes to unmarried couples,” said Nadia.

Wednesday, 16 January 2008

Protect your business

Shropshire employers who take on illegal workers could face a prison sentence or massive fines. The message is delivered in a new campaign launched by the Government this week to promote new rules which will take effect in February.

John Mehtam, our Employment Law Specialist, said it was vital that companies took notice of the legislation. “For every illegal worker you negligently hire, you could be fined up to £10,000 or face up to two years in prison, so this really is a serious situation.

“And any employers who are found to be breaking the law could lose the right to recruit from outside the European Union altogether,” said John.

“Employers who condone illegal working attract illegal migrants, which means they can pay them less money and so undercut the wages that would be paid to legitimate employees.

“It’s important that Shropshire companies familiarise themselves with the changes, and seek professional advice if they are unsure of the procedures they should follow to make sure they don’t employ illegal workers.”

The Border and Immigration Agency undertakes regular enforcement operations against illegal working in the UK, and in 2006, they carried out over 5,200 raids, removing more than 22,000 people from the UK.

Sign of the times

Shropshire bosses must ensure they display their company names clearly or face court action. Chris Detheridge, from our Commercial Team, said the Companies (Trading Disclosures) Regulations 2008 brought important changes to the rules.

“”They affect companies registered in any part of the UK, and it’s vital that Shropshire businesses know where they stand.”

Chris said the regulations meant a company’s registered name must be clearly visible at any location where the business was carried out, as well as on company documents and websites. “The exception would be if the company location is primarily used for living accommodation because someone works from home.”

But Chris said it wasn’t enough for the company to display its name on a small discreet sign. “Wherever the name is displayed, it needs to be in letters which can be easily read by the naked eye, not on a tiny sign which no-one will spot.”

The new regulations replace the rules previously introduced by the Companies Act 1985, and the Business Names Act 1985, and it’s crucial that Shropshire businesses make sure they know what is involved.

Modern technology brings concerns

Modern technology in the workplace is a vital tool, but should never be used to take shortcuts - that's the message from our Employment Law Specialist, John Mehtam.

"In today’s competitive marketplace, no business would be able to survive without the very latest technology.
But there have been a number of cases where its use has just been a step too far.

“From the workers who were sacked with a phone message, to the employee who texted his employer to say he would be off sick, there are many cases which illustrate how modern technology can be exploited for all the wrong reasons.”

John said an employment tribunal had decided the employees from an engineering firm who were sacked by telephone had been unfairly dismissed, missing out on wages, holiday pay, pension contributions and redundancy pay. “Some of the workers did not receive the telephone message and turned up for work as usual the next day, where they were turned away, which is just unacceptable.” The staff affected by the case have now won compensation and are waiting to hear how much the will receive.

“In the case of the employee who sent text messages to his employer to say he would be off work, he was actually sacked. This was because the company said he failed to follow procedures for reporting sickness or absence – but an employment tribunal decided he had been unfairly dismissed, and said a drop of common sense should have been applied to sort out the situation.

“But this case just shows that practices such as text messaging which are now so commonplace for the large majority of the population can cause real difficulties in the world of business.

“The best approach is to use modern technology to help make your business effective and competitive, but don’t use it to take shortcuts that could cause confusion and misunderstandings.”