Friday, 25 June 2010

No age limit will bring extra burden

Shropshire employers will face an extra burden if the idea of axing the traditional retirement age of 65 goes ahead as planned.

Lynsey Woolley, from our Alpha Team, said the Government’s plans to abolish the default retirement age, and to extend the age when employees are entitled to take their pension to 66, would bring real challenges.

“The Government has been under pressure from many organisations who want the retirement age extended or removed completely. This means justifying a retirement age used by a company will be in its own hands if the default retirement age is axed, and companies will not simply be able to end an employee’s contract just because they turn 65.

“It will be vital for employers to monitor staff closely, as if they are asked to retire – whatever age the employer selects – there will need to be enough evidence to back up the decision.

On the positive side though, Lynsey said the decision to axe the age limit could help towards reducing age discrimination in the workplace. “It could have a dramatic impact on the way older workers are perceived, and on perceptions about their ability to contribute to the company.

“Tough decisions like this all create an extra burden for employers, but with people living longer, it’s clear that something has to be done to keep the balance right.”

Monday, 14 June 2010

Green thinking will pay off

Green-thinking Shropshire landlords should work with tenants to reduce the environmental impact of commercial buildings across the county.

Louise Clowes, from our Commercial Property Team, said by working in partnership landlords and tenants could make a huge difference.

“A green lease is not a legal requirement, but it’s a way for landlords and tenants to work together towards reducing the impact their building has on the environment. Usually the green provisions will include improving the energy efficiency of the building, but may also include waste and water management, and transport matters such as providing bike racks or car sharing schemes.”

But Louise said the green clauses did not have to be part of a lease – they could also be included in the rules of the overall industrial estate, or in a general environmental policy for the building itself.

“The most obvious advantage of introducing green policies is that reducing the amount of energy that’s used will cut costs, as will reducing the amount of waste that’s produced. Larger organisations may also decide to use the green lease as part of an overall scheme to demonstrate their commitment to corporate social responsibility objectives.”

Louise said there were some barriers though if landlords were considering adopting greener leases. “Generally improvements to an industrial estate introduced by a landlord are not recoverable through a service charge, and so landlords might be reluctant to spend a lot of money introducing new technologies for no financial return.

“Tenants with shorter leases may also decide they don’t want to spend money on capital items, which might only pay for themselves once their lease has ended. But if you’re really committed to reducing the impact your business premises have on the environment, there are ways to move forward – it just takes determination and effort, but the results will be worth it.”

Friday, 11 June 2010

Don't believe the myth!

Shropshire couples are being warned there’s no such thing as a “quickie” divorce.

Rebecca Littleford, from our Family Team, said with domestic violence predicted to increase during the World Cup, more and more couples may face marital difficulties.

“We’ve all heard the stories about celebrities wanting their marriage over quickly when it falls apart – and the latest couple in the news, Cheryl and Ashley Cole, appear to be no different. But although you can start divorce proceedings immediately if it’s based on the other person’s adultery or unreasonable behaviour, the divorce process itself actually takes months.”

Rebecca said the divorce could be speeded up if the couple were prepared to take a non-confrontational approach.

“This would mean both sides working together on the draft divorce petition so that the finer details, including arrangements for any children in the family, would be agreed before it goes to the courts. If you can agree this kind of detail in advance, the case will proceed more smoothly and hopefully more quickly. If either side starts to contest the petition, it will take longer and of course the costs of the divorce will grow.”

Once the petition has been filed with the courts, your spouse has the opportunity to decide if they want to fight the divorce – and it’s only after they agree not to fight it, that you can apply for a Decree Nisi. "This is not a divorce, it’s just an indication from the courts that they agree in principle with the action,” said Rebecca.

“In fact, apart from in some highly unusual cases, six weeks and a day must pass between Decree Nisi and Decree Absolute. It’s only once the Decree Absolute has been issued that the couple will actually be divorced.

“Clearly divorce is a dramatic step, and a truly life-changing event, and even if things do get heated over the next few weeks during the World Cup, it’s important not to make any hasty decisions. Statistics show that domestic violence levels do increase during the tournament, particularly if alcohol is involved.

“But take time out and diffuse the situation – walk away from arguments which threaten to escalate, and really consider whether things have broken down irretrievably before you start divorce proceedings.”

Thursday, 3 June 2010

It's a team game

Teamwork is the key to a successful World Cup, and not just on the football pitch, according to one of our Employment Law specialists.

Tina Chander said: “Major sporting occasions can divide as well as unite workplaces, and it’s important that employers are prepared for this summer’s World Cup. Many staff members will want to watch the matches, but there will be others who have no interest in the football at all.

“Employers will need to balance the needs of both camps, and use teamwork to get the best out of their staff, finding compromises where possible that will keep everyone happy.”

Tina urged employers to be flexible by possibly changing the start and finish times of the working day, or allowing a longer lunch break so staff could catch the match. “Be honest and open with your staff though, and if you can’t accommodate any changes to your working practices, say so.

“You should also be fair with the way you respond to requests for time off and avoid favouritism. Don’t forget to ensure those people who are not interested in football are treated equally too.”

She said employees who were unable to get to a television for a big match may well turn to the internet instead. “Make sure you are clear about your policies on this and whether you will allow it, as there is likely to be an increase in the use of social networking sites such as Facebook or Twitter, or in viewing sports news websites.

“And inform your staff that sudden absences that just happen to coincide with the time of a big match will not be tolerated, and that you will take disciplinary action if necessary. The way to win a World Cup is down to teamwork, and that approach is just as important in the workplace too if companies want to successfully balance business and football.”