Monday, 29 March 2010

Pack products with care

Shropshire manufacturers are being advised to ensure they don’t fall foul of environmental legislation surrounding packaging of their products.

“The Government is keen to promote how keen it is on green issues, but it doesn’t make quite so much noise about how much money it makes out of its environmental laws,” said Telford lawyer Graham Davies.

Graham, who is our Senior Partner, said: “Its favourite money maker – the speed camera of the environmental world – is a piece of legislation known as the Producer Responsibility Obligations (Packaging Waste) Regulations.

“The Environment Agency is actively searching for businesses which are not registered with PROR, or another packaging compliance scheme. And when it does prosecute, it goes for as much money as possible.”

The regulations, described by Graham as “really just a paper exercise”, apply to larger firms handling over 50 tonnes of packaging. They challenge businesses to provide evidence of paying for the recovery and recycling of a specified proportion of packaging waste including wood, aluminium, steel, cardboard and plastic.

Graham said two of the most recent businesses to be prosecuted for non-compliance had been fined £54,000 and £62,248, and landed with thousands of pounds in legal costs.

“Both firms stated that they did not know the regulations applied to them, but clearly the court did not deem this as a defence. The Environment Agency now has teams which monitor businesses, and any business that the inspectors feel PROR apply to, but which hasn’t taken steps towards compliance, will receive a letter.

“If you are unfortunate enough to get one of these letters, don’t ignore it. It means you’ve already been caught – failure to meet with the Agency’s demands will only make things worse.”

Thursday, 25 March 2010

Secrets revealed online

Social networking websites are helping Shropshire employers to research potential employees before they meet them.

John Mehtam, our Employment Law Specialist, said: “The social networking phenomenon is everywhere, with more and more people choosing to sign up every day. And now, as well as social benefits, employers are turning to these sites to check out potential recruits.

“In fact, one in four employers who screened candidates through social networking pages uncovered potential problems they were then able to avoid.”

John said all employers traditionally paid great attention to paper CVs when looking for new staff, and carefully prepared questions in advance to discover just what each person had to offer. “But how do you know that the details they have provided are accurate? Social networking sites give you the perfect opportunity to verify their claims.”

He said the most popular site was Facebook, but many professionals were now turning to LinkedIn (www.linkedin.com), which has more than 55 million members worldwide.

“It gives members the chance to stay in touch, and they can also use it to locate contacts in their own industries and other sectors. Most people list detailed information including their qualifications and career history, and unless someone has restricted who can view their profile, it’s simple to find them through the search facility on the home page.”

John said searching most sites was free and should take just minutes – then if something does show up, you can either ask the candidate to clarify it or reconsider hiring them.

“Careful research can save you difficulties in the long run, and equally it’s important to remember that if you’re using social networking sites yourself, take care with what you post or your competitors could find out more than you’d bargained for.”

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Take a break - now!

Shropshire employees who spend their working day in front of a computer must take regular screen breaks – but do they really need software to tell them that?

Tina Chander, from our Employment Team, said some companies had resorted to installing software that prompted staff to take a break.

“Difficult as it may be to believe, screen breaks are specifically mentioned in health and safety legislation, and in the official guidance produced by the Health and Safety Executive. The rules say employers must plan their staff’s workload so there are periodic breaks from the computer or changes in activity. But if this doesn’t happen naturally, employers must step in and take deliberate action.

“Some computer software companies have tapped into this market developing packages where a message appears on the screen, or some even cause the computer to freeze. But it really is a case of using common sense, and in the vast majority of computer-based jobs, screen breaks will occur naturally,” said Tina.

She said employees would probably also find it irritating if they were in the middle of writing an important report, only to be told by their computer they should take a break.

“Employers should not be fooled into thinking they have a legal duty to buy this kind of software. Instead of paying out on this unnecessary expense, company bosses should ensure that managers know they must prompt staff to be sensible and take regular breaks. There’s no legal justification to buy screen break software, and the only thing it will achieve is to interrupt productivity and annoy your staff.”

Monday, 8 March 2010

Law firm backs charity run

Staff from Martin-Kaye Solicitors have backed an intrepid marathon runner’s efforts to raise cash for charity.

Catherine Finn-Bellingham, from Chirk, is running this year’s London Marathon in April, and will be raising funds for Spinal Research.
Her niece, Lynsey Kilvert, is one of our Senior Legal Assistants and we have been holding charity events to help boost Catherine’s cash total.

Lynsey said: “We have raised over £200 by organising a dress down day, a cake sale, and holding at quiz at the Hare and Hounds, in Oakengates.
We wanted to support Catherine’s challenge, and I’m extremely proud of her for the dedication she’s shown in preparing for the marathon. It’s not the first time she’s put herself to the test though, as she also ran the Great North Run for the same charity last year.”

Catherine chose to raise funds for Spinal Research as she has had back problems herself in the past, and also has friends and relatives who have been affected in a similar way.


Pic: Catherine Finn-Bellingham (left) receives the cheque from Lynsey Kilvert, of Martin-Kaye Solicitors