Friday, 27 August 2010

Check your dates carefully

Expectant parents across Shropshire whose babies are due from April onwards next year should be sure of their rights when it comes to time off work.

New rules introduced earlier this year mean if a child is due on, or after April 3, 2011, the father or mother’s partner will be entitled to 26 weeks’ additional paternity leave. But Emma Palmer, from our Employment Team, warned that babies may not stick to expected deadlines.

“The extra time off is on top of the existing two weeks’ paternity leave, which fathers can take within eight weeks of the birth, but babies are rarely on time.

“The new rules will only apply to births on, or after the April date, and the additional leave can only begin once the child is 20 weeks old. But what happens if your baby arrives early? Are you still entitled to take the additional paternity leave or do you lose your right to extra time off?

“The simple answer is if the original due date met the new criteria, your family will still be entitled to the additional leave – this is why the guidelines are based on the expected due date rather than the actual birth date, as it’s so difficult to predict accurately.

“But remember, before you can claim the additional leave, you must have a minimum of 26 weeks’ continuous employment at the 15th week before the expected week of childbirth. If you don’t, then no matter what day the child is born, you won’t be entitled to the 26 extra weeks. You will also only be allowed to take the extra time if the mother has returned to work – you cannot both be off work at the same time.

“And when it comes to money, you will only receive additional statutory paternity pay during what would have been the mother’s statutory maternity pay period. The rest of the leave will be unpaid, which may well make parents think twice before they go ahead.”

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Check the small print

Shropshire employees are being urged to make sure they understand the finer details of their payslips and not ignore the small print.

Lynsey Woolley, from our Employment Law team, said figures showed almost ten per cent of workers were unsure what some of the references meant.

“There is so much confusion about payslips that the Institute of Payroll Professionals has organised a national payroll week to help make things clearer.” The week will be held from September 6 to 10, and during the week employees will be encouraged to visit their payroll department to discuss any queries they may have.

“The aim of the initiative is to help employees decipher the small print because if they are unsure of what the details mean, they may not be getting paid correctly,” said Lynsey. “And it’s no good simply comparing your slip with the person who sits next to you in the office, as everyone’s wages can be different.”

She said an itemised payroll was a legal requirement, but the levels of National Insurance contributions, taxes or pension reductions, were not always easy to understand.

“It’s important that employees take this opportunity to seek advice in order to monitor their pay correctly, particularly in such difficult economic times.” Lynsey said employees should also keep copies of their payslips and any other related documents, such as P60s, for at least 22 months from the end of the tax year they correspond with.

“You may need these documents if you are applying for a mortgage or tax credits, so it’s vital that they are kept somewhere safe.”

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Think green - but stay safe

Property developers who strive to make their buildings more energy efficient could find they are breaching new rules, one of our solicitors has warned.

Louise Clowes, from our Commercial Property team, said several building regulations changes would be introduced later this year.

“Previously draughty windows and doors in old properties acted as escape routes for carbon monoxide. But with advances in insulation and the growing trend for very airtight houses which retain valuable heat inside, the energy efficient improvements could actually be putting people’s health at risk.”

Louise said the changes to the regulations would bring new requirements and guidance to make sure ventilation was increased in today’s properties.

“There will be several measures aimed at reducing the threat of carbon monoxide poisoning, including the installation of carbon monoxide alarms in houses with new solid fuel appliances. Developers will also have to follow guidance on improving ventilation, but at the same time improve energy efficiency of new homes by 25 per cent.”

Louise said it was a difficult time for property developers, as improving energy efficiency was a valid aim, but protecting health and safety was also vital.

“There are safeguards in place though, and the local authority building control body can take several actions if building work is carried out that breaches the rules. They can serve an enforcement which will allow 28 days for the work to be put right, or they can apply for an injunction for the removal or alteration of the work. And in the most severe cases, developers could face a fine of up to £5000 followed by £50 per day for each day the breach continues.

“Developers should make sure they are clear about the new guidelines, and that they don’t sacrifice good health and safety for the sake of a greener approach to property development.”