Friday, 20 December 2013

Fit and sexy remarks are costly


Company bosses must give staff the opportunity to make confidential complaints if they feel they are being harassed in the workplace, a legal expert has warned.

John Mehtam, our employment law specialist, highlighted a high-profile case involving 22-year-old Elizabeth Cowhig, who worked at a call centre for Liverpool-based electronics firm Digital Maintenance Ltd.

Line manager Owen Kennard, told Elizabeth she had ‘the best legs’ of all his staff, made inappropriate remarks about her being ‘fit’ and ‘sexy’, and at one point asked her to spend the night with him in a luxury hotel.

Shortly after trying to report the issue to the managing director, she was reprimanded, and then sacked without explanation. A tribunal awarded her £13,000 in compensation for sexual harassment.

John said: “Elizabeth could not claim for unfair dismissal because she did not meet the required length of service. But the right not to be sexually harassed at work kicks in immediately. It seems that where the company went wrong in this case was failing to provide employees with a proper facility to make a confidential complaint.

“Having a robust ‘dignity at work’ policy is not enough. Staff should be able to contact directors or proprietors personally if they wish to complain about unlawful treatment.

“By giving them the opportunity to make a direct report by a letter or e-mail marked as a confidential HR matter, an employer is seen to be taking all reasonable steps to prevent such instances occurring.”

John said: “When harassment or any kind of discrimination is alleged, the buck does not stop with the company; it’s the directors who can be held personally liable. By allowing employees to make a direct report, they cannot ever claim that their door was not open.

“Just because comments are dismissed as office banter, they cannot be ignored if the person involved is upset by them and directors must ensure they take any complaints very seriously.”

Meetings on the move


Motorway service stations aren’t just being used to break up long family journeys – they’re becoming popular options for business meetings.

Many sites are even setting aside designated private meeting rooms for corporate customers keen to escape the ‘coffee shop chaos’ of a bustling town centre.

“Finding a suitable spot to meet clients while on the move can be tricky, and there are some obvious advantages to using a motorway service station,” said Graham Davies, our senior partner.

“For starters, they are easy to find, and free parking is plentiful, in contrast to a town centre location where you often waste time trying to find a parking space, and end up clock-watching in a coffee shop instead of focusing on the business at hand.

“The negative is that there is a cost, of course, but since this is a new departure for many service stations, they are still relatively cheap. For example, Moto currently offers a meeting room for £30 for half a day, while others rent space at around £8 an hour.”

Midlands service stations hiring out meeting facilities include Cherwell Valley on the M40, and Donington Park on the M10, while free wi-fi is available at the M54 services near Shifnal.

Graham said: “At the moment, facilities for business meetings do vary from one service station to the next, but in some locations, there are even hot desks. So if your phone is out of power or you’re desperate to pick up or send an e-mail, make an urgent call, print or fax some kind of official document, the nearest motorway service station might have exactly what you need.”

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Talk it through to save penalties


Companies that refuse to consider mediation as a way of solving disputes could pay a stiff penalty if the case reaches court, according to one of our legal experts.

Andrew Oranjuik’s comments follow a landmark Court of Appeal ruling which presented a London commercial property tenant with a sky-high legal bill.

The landlord, PGF, was seeking more than £1 million in damages from its former tenant, OMFS, over the alleged disrepair of three office floors in a building on London’s Lombard Street. It had invited OMFS to mediate on two separate occasions, but been met with silence, and appeal court judge Lord Justice Briggs said a lack of response in the face of such an invitation was “unreasonable”.

Andrew, who is from our commercial team, said: “As a result of this, OMFS  was not allowed to recover a substantial proportion of its costs which it would otherwise have recovered. So the message is clear. If you are in a dispute, you can expect to be penalised if the idea of mediation has not been at least considered.”

He said: “Although not every case is suited to mediation, our experience is that it is very often an effective method of resolving disputes much quicker and cheaper than fighting in the courtroom to the bitter end.”

Mediation has been a popular alternative to court proceedings for 10 or 15 years when it comes to resolving commercial disputes. It involves both parties attending a session with a neutral third party, in an attempt to negotiate an out-of-court settlement.

“The Court of Appeal’s decision in the PGF case reiterates the importance of being prepared to consider the option of mediation. Although courts do not have the power to compel businesses to go down this route, the potential and costly consequences for a party that fails to engage in the process are now crystal clear. Failure to consider mediation could land a company with a significant bill which could have been so easily avoided.”

Plan now for new maternity rules



Businesses are being urged to start preparing for major changes to maternity leave rules, which could soon have significant impact on staff working patterns.

Under new Government proposals, mothers and fathers will soon be able to share the statutory maternity leave and pay entitlements.

“Eligible mothers and their partners will be entitled to be absent from work for up to 52 weeks to care for a newborn child, and take up to 39 weeks of shared maternity pay,” said our employment law specialist John Mehtam.

“Parents can choose to be at home together, or to work at different times and share the care of their child by taking the maternity leave in turns. If businesses embrace the changes, they can also benefit from being able to have more open discussions about patterns of leave with their employees.”

John, who leads our employment law team  in Telford and Wolverhampton, said it was important for companies to digest the personnel implications of the plans long before they are due to come into effect in 2015.

“Employers will not be obliged to agree to the leave pattern proposed by their staff, and employees will have to give at least eight weeks’ notice of their intentions to opt into the scheme. This is important, because there is a danger that the system could otherwise become complex and costly for companies to administer, and impact on productivity.

“The proposals are part of the Government’s pledge to support working families, so women do not feel they have to choose between having a successful career or having a baby. There is no doubt that, if the plans are given the go-ahead, parents will have much more flexibility to choose how they share care for their child in the first year after birth.”

He said: “Companies should not just look at this as an administrative headache. When worked correctly, employers can also gain from a system which allows them to keep talented women they may otherwise have lost.”

The proposals for shared parental leave and flexible working are included in the Children and Families Bill 2013 which is currently going through Parliament.

“The number of times a parent can notify their employer they want to take a period of shared parental leave will be limited to three. This is a sensible move; it balances the need for parents to use the leave flexibly against the uncertainty an employer may experience from unlimited changes.”

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Online risks of social media


Social media networking has rapidly become a crucial tool for thriving businesses, but many could be breaking the law just by using it.

Our senior partner Graham Davies said many companies were now engaging with their customers through all kinds of methods including Twitter and Facebook.

“In years gone by, a listing in the Yellow Pages or a local business directory was the way to go, but increasingly social media is becoming a tool that cannot be ignored. The trouble is that some businesses may not realise that data protection laws apply to social media just as they do to more traditional forms of communication.”

Graham said as well as interacting with customers on social media, some businesses also ran a company blog or a forum linked to their website.

“The Information Commissioner’s Office has warned that many companies could be breaching the Data Protection Act 1998 with their online activities. It has said companies should take just as much care with their efforts in the virtual world as they do with other methods of promotion, and the office is now paying close attention to what’s happening online.”

Graham said formal guidelines had been published by the ICO and that company bosses should ensure they followed them to the letter.

“Equally companies should be very cautious about approaching customers and potential customers with direct marketing. Whether you’re making a telephone call, sending a text message or an email, all these sales methods are covered by the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations 2003.

“There are strict rules about having the customer’s permission to send them information like this – and just because they’ve agreed to receive phone calls from you, you can’t then simply email them aswell with your latest offers.

“They must have specifically agreed to receive your information in their chosen form and one permission doesn’t automatically open the flood gates for you to bombard them with all your promotional merchandise. Bear in mind too, that the ICO can impose fines of up to £500,000 if you send unwanted email marketing messages, so it really does make sense to familiarise yourself with the finer details of the rules before you start a new campaign.”

Friday, 29 November 2013

HELP is on its way


Experts from the award-winning Martin-Kaye Solicitors are to take their skills on the road in a bid to help local employers.

The team from our office on Tettenhall Road, in Wolverhampton, is launching a brand new programme of seminars designed to help companies chart a course through the minefield of employment law.

John Mehtam, who leads the team, said: “We have run our popular HELP presentations all over the country, and now we’re introducing them to the Wolverhampton area. HELP stands for HR and Employment Law in Practice, and our events will offer a unique opportunity for business leaders to hear from the very best when it comes to tackling topical issues.”

The presentations will run bi-monthly throughout 2014, starting on January 23, from 5.30pm to 7.30pm, at The Ramada Hall Hotel, in Park Drive, Goldthorn Park.

“We will cover a wide range of topical issues which business owners face every day – such as long-term sickness absence, discrimination, and employees leaving the company and taking valuable information with them,” said John.

“We deliberately restrict the number of places available at these events to ensure that everyone who attends gets the opportunity to be directly involved and that delegates also get the chance to ask as many questions as they like.”

John said there was a big difference between theory and practice, and as more regulations were introduced, even the most experienced HR managers and business owners could find they needed the back-up of professional legal advice.

“Many of our delegates have said in the past that they particularly appreciate the opportunity to share the problems they’re facing with others in a similar position. They also felt that removing themselves from the day-to-day business environment created the perfect setting for them to focus on the specific subject concerned.

“In the longer term, we’re hoping to extend our HELP presentations to the wider West Midlands area too as we’ve seen a real demand from customers in that region for our expertise. It’s clear that our events are extremely effective in helping businesses to pro-actively understand and apply the relevant legislation rather than just dealing with the outcomes if things don’t go so well.”

Courts are not the only way

Our family law expert is concerned that divorcing couples would apparently head straight for the courts rather than consider the alternatives available.

Nadia Davis is the family law partner at our head office in Euston Way, Telford, and she has now qualified as one of the very first collaborative lawyers in the county.

“My new qualification means I work with couples going through a divorce on an agreement that shows they are committed to finding the best solutions through negotiation, rather than the courts. The agreement also prevents lawyers involved in the initiative from representing their client in court if the collaborative process breaks down. So this means everyone involved is absolutely committed to making it work,” said Nadia.

But sadly this alternative route to resolve disputes has not been adopted by everyone, and national research shows some worrying figures.

“A poll of over 4,000 British adults was commissioned by Resolution, an organisation for family lawyers and other professionals in England and Wales,” said Nadia.

“And the statistics showed that only 51 per cent of those who responded would consider a non-court based solution. This is particularly disappointing as mediation, arbitration and other forms of alternative dispute resolution provide a much more cost-effective and faster route when compared to time-consuming court proceedings.”

Nadia said the family court system was coming under increasing strain and that raising awareness of alternative approaches could solve a lot of problems.

“One of the benefits of the collaborative process is that it is not driven by a timetable imposed by a court. The process can be built around each family’s individual timetable and priorities, and sometimes only a handful of meetings may be required to resolve the case, which really is a much quicker way to deal with divorce.

“One of the biggest fears for anyone who is going through a family breakdown is the potential costs they may face, and our fixed fee structure, combined with the new collaborative approach, gives our clients a much clearer picture of how things are likely to proceed.”

Friday, 18 October 2013

Behind closed doors...


Details of disciplinary action in the workplace must stay behind closed doors, a leading legal expert has warned.

John Mehtam leads our employment law team at Martin-Kaye Solicitors, in Telford and Wolverhampton, and he said employers must be extremely careful in order not to reveal any confidential information.

“It doesn’t matter how well you train your staff, things can and do go wrong, and when this happens, the directors must tread very gently. A complaint from an important customer is not good news for anyone, and if you don’t intervene, you could lose their business altogether.

“But equally, your staff are entitled to their privacy, even if you do take disciplinary action, and you should never reveal the outcome of any decisions you make.”

John said directors must never refer directly to what’s gone on behind closed doors, nor must they even drop hints to the client as to what action was taken.

“If you do slip up, and the employee finds out, they could resign and claim constructive dismissal for breach of trust and confidence, and report you to the Information Commissioner’s Office.”

John said often though a client’s complaint came with a demand to know exactly what the company planned to do about the situation.“This of course puts you in a very difficult position, and the best course of action is to acknowledge their complaint, apologise if it’s appropriate and tell them you will investigate the matter fully.

“Once the process is complete, you can give them a generic reply to say the company has reviewed its procedures and ensured staff are properly trained to follow them, but stop short of mentioning any disciplinary action.

“You can’t tell them if the employee has been sacked either – even though they no longer work for your company, you still have to respect the rules.”

John said there was one exception to the confidentiality clause, and that was if the company needed the client’s help with the investigation, maybe requiring a witness statement from them. “In these circumstances, you’ll obviously have to put them in the picture, but you must stress that they need to keep everything under wraps, and you must never disclose the final outcome to them unless you have the employee’s permission.”

Friday, 11 October 2013

Think before you speak - or face the consequences


Staff who bad mouth their employer or the company they work for could face the sack, according to our employment law specialist.

But shockingly, if the remarks were made in a private setting, they could escape disciplinary action, no matter how derogatory their comments were.

John Mehtam said the immediate reaction would obviously be for directors to step in and discipline the employee. “But this situation needs to be handled sensitively, despite how angry an employer may feel at the time. We’re all guilty of talking down our job after a particularly tough day, but how can you tell when an employee has crossed the line?

“First you have to establish that the person passing on the comments is telling the truth – and not only do you need to find out what was said, you need to know the context of where the remarks were made.

“This is because comments made in private, perhaps between a husband and wife in their own home, are none of the directors’ business, even if the comments are terrible. But if they’re made in public, it’s a different matter. It’s easy to blur the two situations though – a conversation between two workmates in the pub, depending on the facts, could fall into either camp.”

John said if the comments were directed towards an existing or potential client, it would be hard for the employee to argue it was a private conversation.

“Before you step in, if the comments were made in public, you need to find out from anyone who was present just how bad the remarks were. Was it just a moaning session at the end of a difficult day, or a malicious and calculated attack on your company and its reputation?

“This will be the key as to whether formal disciplinary action is necessary. If the employee apologises quickly for their actions (to you and everyone else involved), then it’s unlikely sacking them could ever be justified. And even if it’s just a grumble, giving the employee a written warning is sure to discourage them from making similar mistakes ever again.”

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Property scheme is not all good news


One of our partners has hit out at a new scheme designed to help first time buyers get their foot on the property ladder. Nita Patel is head of the property team at our headquarters in Euston Way, Telford.

She said the news that the Government had brought forward the launch date for the Help to Buy scheme had been welcomed by many people as it would not only help first time buyers, but also people looking to move up the property ladder.

“Initially it had been planned to launch the scheme in January 2014, but the launch was brought forward which has been declared a positive move by many. But although the scheme will help buyers to purchase a property with as little as five per cent deposit, it’s clear that it just hasn’t been thought through as well as it could have been.”

Nita said the concept of the scheme was good, as at a time when the property market was recovering first-time buyers needed all the help they could get.

“It’s a great idea to help first-time buyers who don’t have rich parents to help them with their deposit so that they can buy a new home. But it fails to tackle the real problem, which is a lack of house building across the UK.

“The scheme will inflate house prices even more, which will just make properties even more unaffordable for generations to come. And another issue is that solicitors will probably have to charge additional fees for dealing with the extra paperwork that will be created as a result of the changes.

“I believe it’s maybe been created as a quick-fix and that it’s been developed so that the Government is seen to be doing something to help struggling first-time buyers. It would have been better to delay the launch as they had originally planned in order to iron out some of these issues and to pin down the finer details of the scheme before it was opened to the public.”

The Help to Buy scheme applies to all properties up to a value of £600,000, and involves the Government making a loan of up to 20 per cent of the cost of the new-build home. Buyers can then secure a deal with a deposit of as little as five per cent, and a 75 per cent mortgage to make up the rest of the cost.



Friday, 4 October 2013

Lawyer gives a stern reminder


A £13,000 bill handed out to office equipment giant Lyreco is a stern reminder of the dangers of failing to follow correct human resources practices, our employment law expert has claimed.

John Mehtam, from Martin-Kaye Solicitors in Telford, was commenting on the case brought against Lyreco by field sales representative David Atkin.

Mr Atkin, a member of the GMB union, was awarded the five-figure sum after winning his case for unfair dismissal against the company, which has an office in Telford, after being fired by his regional sales manager.

The judge said the disciplinary process leading to Mr Atkin’s dismissal was “at worst a sham, but at best lacked any form of investigation or analysis”.

John said:  “The judge also said it demonstrated practices which any human resources manager should quite frankly be ashamed of, and said the appeal was not worthy of the name.

“It is a very stern reminder to Shropshire companies that, if they do not have a proper infrastructure in place for dealing effectively with disciplinary matters, they could end up paying a stiff financial penalty.

“In particular, companies need to ensure they carry out a fair and thorough investigation into any staff disciplinary issues, apply a fair procedure, and under no circumstances must they pre-determine any disciplinary hearing.”

He said: “In Mr Atkin’s case, the judge clearly said that his regional sales manager did not approach the appeal with an open mind, and appeared to be partisan and biased.

“Employers who disregard these principles do so at their peril. They can face very serious sanctions including a rise in the compensation level awarded by the tribunal, and some very damaging, adverse publicity. This Lyreco case is an excellent example where the tribunal essentially lambasted the company for shortcomings in its disciplinary process.”

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Warm welcome in Wolverhampton


We'd like to thank everyone who attended the VIP launch of our new Wolverhampton office - it was an excellent evening and we really appreciate the support shown by other businesses in the area.

Here's a flavour of the evening and some of the guests who attended.



Hefty bills could hit hard


Company bosses who personally own their commercial premises could be landed with a hefty income tax bill if improvements are made, a leading legal expert claims.

“Owning your company’s trading premises can be tax efficient, but there are also drawbacks too,” said Stuart Haynes, from the commercial team at Martin-Kaye Solicitors in Telford and Wolverhampton.

“When you gain a financial advantage from the arrangement, even if this is the side-effect of a genuine business transaction, you will be hit with a tax bill under the ‘benefits in kind’ rules. This can happen in particular if you allow your company to use your property rent-free, and it spends money improving it.”

With a growing number of companies working from home-based premises, Stuart said this was becoming an increasingly important issue to consider.

He said: “There are solutions. For example, if you intend to create a home workspace by perhaps converting a loft into an office, you could grant your company a lease over this, so that it can pay for the work.

“You won’t then be taxed on this benefit in kind immediately – only when the lease expires. Bear in mind, though, that this only works with a lease. A rental agreement will not do.

“And drafting a lease agreement is a job for a lawyer, so make sure you get expert advice.” 

Friday, 27 September 2013

VIPs toast law firm's new offices


Around 100 guests attended a VIP reception to launch our brand new office in Wolverhampton.

Martin-Kaye Solicitors has its headquarters in Telford, but an increase in business from across the West Midlands has led to us opening new premises in the city.

Guests included the Mayor Councillor Milkinder Jaspal and Mayoress Jasbir Jaspal, and representatives from a wide range of businesses across the West Midlands region.

Martin-Kaye senior partner, Graham Davies, welcomed the audience and said his team were very keen to play an active role in the local business community.

“Wolverhampton has a proud history and a brilliant future, and we want to be very much a part of that future. Our VIP launch gave guests the opportunity to meet the lawyers who will be working in the city in a relaxed and sociable environment, and to find out more about our refreshingly different approach to doing business.”

Mayor Councillor Jaspal said: “We’d like to thank Martin-Kaye Solicitors for moving into Wolverhampton – working in partnership is very important as you can’t be successful on your own. If companies and organisations work with the council and each other, together we will prosper.”

Martin-Kaye’s new office at Bredon House, on Tettenhall Road, is now ready for business, and there has already been a great deal of client interest even before the doors opened.

Graham said: “Over the past couple of years, we’ve seen a marked increase in the number of enquiries coming from businesses in Wolverhampton and the Black Country. Our research shows there is a growing demand in the city for specialised legal services and we believe our range of skills will provide local businesses with greater choice.”

He said the firm was also keen to expand into the Wolverhampton area as it was developing into a vibrant area for business, particularly given the multi-million pound i54 development.

“It’s a natural expansion for our business as there is an even greater concentration of the size and types of businesses we act for, and in fact, many of our lawyers actually live or originate from the West Midlands, which makes the new office the obvious choice for us.”

Pic:    At the VIP launch of the new Martin-Kaye Solicitors office in Wolverhampton are, from left, John Mehtam (employment law specialist), Mayor Councillor Milkinder Jaspal and Mayoress Jasbir Jaspal, and senior partner Graham Davies

Thursday, 26 September 2013

IT shortcuts can cause headaches


A growing number of companies are allowing staff to connect their own IT devices to the company’s network in a bid to save costs and improve efficiency.

But the move could also be costing businesses lost time, and increasing their risk of penalties, according to our employment law expert John Mehtam.

“Depending on which report you read, the idea of bringing your own device to work is either hailed as a time and cost-saving breakthrough, or a risky waste of effort,” said John.

“Our view is that encouraging staff to use their own IT equipment at work is fine until something goes wrong. If your network crashes, you’ll lose productive time and suffer a great deal of stress, especially if you are the director of IT.”

John said: “But there’s more to worry about than that. If there is a breach of data protection rules, it is usually the company directors who are liable, and this could include tough penalties. So if you allow staff to use their own devices and your firm is registered under the Data Protection Act, you must take steps to ensure that any data stored on their devices is secure.”

He said the decision to allow staff to use their own hardware boiled down to three main questions; will it reduce the IT investment bill, will it improve and encourage more productive use of time, or will time be wasted transferring apps and data between company and non-company machines?

“If, after considering the pros and cons, you are happy to allow staff to use their own IT equipment, make sure you issue a firm policy on how this will work.

“The director in charge of IT should be consulted over every tablet, phone or laptop an employee wants to connect to the company’s network. And the business should emphasise that it will not pay either the running costs, or repair bills, for personal devices which are also used for work purposes.”

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Think twice about making that link


Office workers may need to reconsider how they use their LinkedIn social media accounts following a significant new court ruling.

The High Court has decided that a former employer is within its rights to continue exerting some control on a person’s LinkedIn account, if it is done to protect its business interests. This is despite the account being set up in the name of the employee, rather than the company concerned.

Employment law expert John Mehtam, a partner at Martin-Kaye Solicitors in Telford, said: “It is clear, following this ruling, that employers who encourage the use of LinkedIn need to have the appropriate guidance and policies in place. It is also wise to review employment contracts to ensure that any restrictions imposed on staff after termination of their employment are fit for purpose.”

His claims follow a case involving former staff members from Whitmar Publications Limited in Tunbridge Wells, who left to set up a new publishing company called Earth Island. The court heard how LinkedIn accounts set up during their time at Whitmar had been used as a source of email  addresses for a news release about the new company.

John said: “This was clearly a breach of good faith, and in the High Court of Justice, Mr Peter Leaver granted an interim mandatory injunction in favour of Whitmar. The issue has since been concluded by an out of court financial settlement, with Earth Island having to cover a substantial part of Whitmar’s legal costs.

“The case underlines the importance of imposing clear, express duties on employees and agents to promote the employer’s business on LinkedIn.

“It may also be worth considering including other clauses in a contract requiring staff to provide access to LinkedIn accounts, after termination, because although they appear to contradict LinkedIn’s user agreement, it would seem they have the law of the land on their side.”

Friday, 20 September 2013

New approach for Nadia


Our family law partner, Nadia Davis, has become one of the first solicitors in the county to qualify under a new scheme that takes a different approach to divorce.

She has now also qualified as a collaborative lawyer, and under the new initiative, couples going through a divorce and their solicitors sign an agreement to show they are committed to finding the best solutions through negotiation, rather than through court proceedings.

The agreement prevents the lawyers involved from representing their client in court if the collaborative process breaks down, so everyone involved is absolutely committed to making it work.

“I am very pleased to have qualified under this new scheme, and it means we can now offer an alternative approach for some couples that will mean court action is unnecessary,” said Nadia.

“At Martin-Kaye Solicitors, we’re committed to delivering the very best advice to our clients at all times and to continuously developing the services we can provide. So I believe it’s vital that our team regularly updates their skills and embraces new approaches to the ever-changing world of family law that could make a real difference to our clients.”

Nadia said one of the benefits of the collaborative process was that it was not driven by a timetable imposed by a court.

“The process can be built around each family’s individual timetable and priorities, and sometimes only a handful of meetings may be required to resolve the case, so it’s often a much quicker route to take.”

Martin-Kaye Solicitors also takes a different approach to many other law practices when it comes to the cost of legal advice. For a long time now, we have promoted fixed fees and pricing for a case even when the circumstances are unpredictable, and we have a fixed fee scale specifically for divorce cases.

“One of the biggest fears for anyone who is going through a family breakdown is the potential costs they may face, and our fee structure combined with the new collaborative approach gives our clients a much clearer picture of how things are likely to proceed.”

Thursday, 12 September 2013

We're spreading our wings!


Martin-Kaye Solicitors is branching out and we're opening a brand new office in Wolverhampton to meet an increase in demand from clients.

We'll still have our headquarters in Euston Way, in Telford, but an increase in business from across the West Midlands now means we need premises in the city too. The office at Bredon House, on Tettenhall Road, will open at the end of September.

Our senior partner Graham Davies said: “Over the past couple of years, we’ve seen a marked increase in the number of enquiries coming from businesses in Wolverhampton and the Black Country. And now we feel the time is right to develop an office in the area to meet the needs of all kinds of companies in the region.

“Our research shows there is a growing demand in the city for specialised legal services and we believe our range of skills will provide local businesses with greater choice. As a firm, we handle high value and complex deals, heavyweight commercial litigation, complex employment law issues and commercial property transactions – all the topics that today’s business world creates.”

Graham said the firm was also keen to expand into the Wolverhampton area as it was developing into a vibrant area for business, particularly given the multi-million pound i54 development.

“It’s a natural expansion for our business as there is an even greater concentration of the size and types of businesses we act for, and in fact, many of our lawyers actually live or originate from the West Midlands, which makes the new office the obvious choice for us. There is also a high percentage of start-up businesses in the region, and our commercial experience could prove invaluable in helping them to get started.

“Our well-established international links help us to stand out from our competitors too, and after nearly 30 years successfully delivering specialised services to businesses across Shropshire, it’s time to reach out to an even wider audience.”

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Payment scam warning


Companies are being warned to be on their guard against a new overpayment scam.

Our senior partner Graham Davies said: “The ‘target’ receives a letter with an enclosed cheque which says it is in settlement of an invoice. The scammer then quickly calls up claiming to have made a mistake, and politely requests that you return the money by an online banking transfer.

“And this is where the danger arises. The scammers are hoping that you will return the money before discovering that the cheque they sent to you is fake, and no money is in your account. Typically, this would be for a few thousand pounds, and the scammers often prey on more inexperienced members of staff.”

Graham said: “There are some fairly straightforward processes which companies can put in place to protect themselves from this. Firstly, warn your accounts department and make all refunds subject to the approval of a director, or second senior signatory.

“And secondly, if your company accepts cheques, encourage your accounts team to tick off those received against outstanding invoices, rather than paying them into the bank and reconciling your accounts later.

“In such tough economic times, no-one can afford to lose valuable income so it’s vital that you protect your company finances at all costs. Scammers are becoming increasingly creative in order to come up with new ways to target their victims, and it’s important to try to keep one step ahead of them by putting strict procedures in place.”

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Is your company website legal?


Regulators are to start examining company websites to ensure that their privacy policies don’t breach data protection laws. So, do businesses need to be worried?

Stuart Haynes, of Martin-Kaye Solicitors, in Telford, said: “The Information Commissioner’s Office, responsible for enforcing data protection laws in the UK, hasn’t really concerned itself with activities on the internet so far.

“But that is starting to change. It intends to start scrutinising companies’ online privacy policies, and naming and shaming those which do not comply with the rules.”

He said: “Not only are many website privacy policies shamefully flouting data protection laws, they are sometimes being used to try to protect businesses from legal liability, and not properly informing visitors about the processing of their personal data.

“At the moment, the ICO is only scrutinising a small number of websites, and your chance of falling under its spotlight is pretty remote. But this is probably the trigger which companies need to review their privacy policies, making sure you tell visitors to your website in clear terms exactly what their personal data will be used for.

“Businesses also have to provide details of their data controller, and name any third parties which may be given access to the website’s data.”

Stuart said: “The ICO has produced an easy-to-read three-page checklist, which explains how firms can set out some of the required information. And if you’re unsure of just what you need to do to comply with the rules, seek expert advice at the earliest opportunity. Don’t leave things until the eleventh hour or you could risk serious consequences in the longer-term.”










Monday, 9 September 2013

Who owns your company logo?


Businesses are being advised to make sure they don’t fall foul of copyright laws by checking that they actually own their company logos and artwork.

Graham Davies, our senior partner, said: “It is a common misconception that the rights for company artwork automatically transfers to them when a designer is paid for their work. But the designer remains the legal owner of the copyright unless they have officially assigned it to the company, and confirmed this in writing.

“Sometimes, it can be many years before a potential problem arises. And in this time the company’s logo would be well recognised, established, and a highly valuable asset.”

One of the UK’s top smoothie brands, Innocent, lost its distinctive logo some months ago when a court ruled it did not own the copyright – even though it had registered the artwork as a trademark.

Graham said: “To avoid costly disputes over who owns a company’s logo, make sure the designer expressly assigns the rights to their work and its copyright over to your company on completion of the contract. If a company doesn’t have this in writing, the designer still owns the copyright.”

Graham said the ‘in writing’ requirement applied not only to logos, but anything created by a third party such as brochures, websites, business cards and leaflets.

“Don’t assume something belongs to you, just because it has been produced for you, to your own specifications, and you have paid for it,” he added.  "This can be a minefield for companies who have worked hard to raise their profile and then find their image which has become so recognisable actually belongs to someone else. Make sure you resolve these issues at the very start and don’t let things drift or problems will almost certainly occur.”

Thursday, 29 August 2013

Video records need careful handling


A growing number of companies are now relying on video conferencing to conduct job interviews – so that they can keep a review of the conversations for their records.

The move, sparked by the widening availability of free computer software, has prompted calls from our employment law expert to ensure companies don’t fall foul of the law.

John Mehtam said: “A recent survey of human resources directors found that, in the past three years, 41 per cent have increased their use of video conferencing to conduct job interviews. They are taking advantage of improved hardware and software options which, in many cases, give the company access to applicants who don’t live locally.”

He added: “While this is all a clever, sensible and increasingly popular way of recruitment, it does come with a point of legal warning.

“You must always tell the job applicant that they are being recorded and obtain their express consent to comply with your data protection requirements, because the recording counts as their personal data. And you must also make sure you follow the exact same rules that you would apply if the person was being interviewed for a job face-to-face.”

John said: “There will be some Shropshire companies thinking this all makes perfect sense, but are worried about the cost implications.

“They need not, because as long as they have the necessary hardware like a PC, laptop, iPad or smartphone, the software you need to use – Skype - is completely free.

“To take advantage of its video conferencing facility, both you and the person you are interviewing merely have to have the camera enabled on their computer. And if you want to keep a record of the interview, there is a free video call recorder facility.”


Thursday, 8 August 2013

Mistakes can be costly


Directors must remember they could find themselves held personally responsible if their business makes a mistake, a local solicitor has warned.

Graham Davies is our senior partner and he said far from being untouchable, directors were likely to be in the firing line.

“When a company stops trading, generally any unsecured creditors will automatically lose any money or goods that they are owed. As a result of this, some directors believe that closing their business down could solve a whole host of problems. But in fact, taking the decision to bring down the shutters could lead to even worse difficulties and consequences.”

Graham said a prime example was the owner of a restaurant who was found to be employing several workers illegally. The UK Border Agency investigated and the company was ordered to pay a civil penalty of £25,000.

But the owner decided to transfer thousands of pounds out of the company bank account leaving insufficient funds to pay the fine, and he then declared the company insolvent and placed it into liquidation.

“The UKBA brought in the Insolvency Service and it did not take long to uncover the owner had taken in unlawfully transferring assets, which was a clear breach of his duty as a director,” said Graham.

“He has now been disqualified from being a director for eight years, which means he is unable to have any involvement with the promotion, formation or management of any UK company. The disqualification also means he cannot be a company secretary, or even become a non-executive director of a UK company. He’s banned too from being involved in a limited liability partnership and from acting as a trustee of a charity.

“It’s vital that directors are fully aware of their responsibilities and that it’s not just high profile cases that can trigger a disqualification – they can be given for lesser misdemeanours too including consistently late filing of statutory documents. Taking on a directorship is not a decision to be taken lightly, and brings with it a raft of rules and requirements which must be taken seriously.”

Friday, 2 August 2013

Christmas countdown is already here


Christmas is the perfect opportunity for Shropshire employers to save money – by insisting their staff take annual leave.

John Mehtam, our employment law specialist said even if an annual shutdown was not mentioned in their employment contracts, company bosses could enforce the rule.

But he warned that employers must provide as much notice as possible to ensure their workforce still had enough annual leave.

“If you find the days between Christmas and New Year are traditionally very quiet for your business, you may wonder what the point is of paying your staff when there’s not enough work to be done. So introducing an annual shutdown is an excellent idea which has many benefits including saving on heating and lighting costs.

"And even if there is no provision in your staff contracts for such a move, it’s still possible as you have employer’s rights under the Working Time Regulations 1998. You will though have to follow some very specific notification rules, or your directors could find themselves with all kinds of problems on their hands.”

In order to comply with the regulations, you must give any employees affected notice which is at least double the length of the annual leave you want them to take.

“So for two days’ annual leave you’d  need to give at least four days’ notice, and for a week’s leave, at least two weeks’ notice. If you do decide to adopt this approach, it’s far better to notify your employees as soon as possible.

"If you leave it until the statutory notification point, you could find some or all of them don’t have enough annual leave left, and can’t meet your annual shutdown requirements, so this is likely to defeat any cost-saving aims.

“You also don’t have to give the reason for the shutdown decision to your employees, although it may help the relationship with your staff if you do. Remember too that all staff must be treated equally and consistently, and that includes the directors. But if some directors need to be available during the shutdown period and not on annual leave, that’s perfectly justifiable.

“It may seem a crazy idea to be thinking about Christmas working arrangements in the middle of the summer, but now is the perfect time plan ahead and give your staff time to get used to the idea.”

Thursday, 25 July 2013

Lawyers hit back at unjust claims

One of our solicitors has hit back at claims that “ambulance chasing lawyers” are to blame for a huge rise in compensation claims. Alison Carter is a partner in our firm, who leads the personal injury team, and she has almost 20 years’ experience in the sector.

“I cannot believe the number of times lawyers are criticised for encouraging accident victims to take action when in fact it is claims management companies and insurers who contact victims to suggest they make a claim.

“It’s been a great concern to me for many years that insurers and data collection companies take such an aggressive stance to try to pressurise anyone involved in an accident to claim for compensation. It gives a bad and false impression of a profession that has helped genuinely, and often seriously, injured members of the public to seek compensation for their injuries when someone else has been at fault.

“Yes of course there are some bogus claims, but these are few and far between, and they are often caught out as soon as they start talking to an experienced personal injury lawyer.”

Alison said that previously, third parties did not charge a fee for passing on claims and victims approached solicitors directly.

“But a change in the law allowed claims management companies to be created and permitted insurance companies to charge solicitors for passing on personal injury claims. As the solicitors who actually do the work, we would have been more than happy for the old rules to remain in place, and for these ‘middle men’ who make financial gains from passing on details not to exist at all.”

Alison said the insurance industry had lobbied the Government so hard that significant changes to the claims processing system had already been made.

“But these changes have been ill-thought out and will be counter-productive. There was very little consultation with lawyers who handle the work, and this was a real missed opportunity. The new rules will prevent a lot of genuine claimants from pursuing their claims as there will be fewer solicitors offering the service and if the client submits a claim as an individual, they are likely to get much less compensation than they deserve.

“It’s long overdue that the true picture of the compensation claims industry is revealed, and that professional and experienced lawyers are no longer tarnished with a reputation they don’t deserve.”

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Putting companies in the picture

Companies planning a new website must ensure they have the legal right to use any images they include, our senior partner has warned.

Graham Davies said thanks to the Internet, it was all too easy to find suitable images online but companies needed to take a cautious approach.

“Running an internet search to find the images you need is all well and good, but you need to be sure who owns the rights to them. Don’t just assume that because the image isn’t necessarily attributed to anyone it’s safe to use it – many of the larger photo agencies have powerful software which constantly sweeps the Internet to check if anyone is using their images without permission.

“And if you do get found out,  you can expect a call from the agency involved who will track you down in order to demand you pay up for the breach of copyright, which they are perfectly entitled to do.”

Graham said any company considering a new website should make sure they only used images for which they had the legal owner’s permission.

“So there are several options open to you if you want to ensure you don’t get caught out. You could take the photos yourself, or ask one of your staff to do it if they’re keen on photography, or you could hire a professional photographer.

“If you do bring in an expert though, make sure you buy not only the images but their copyright too, or you may find you’re not allowed to automatically use the images anywhere else such as on brochures or other printed marketing material.

“Another suggestion is to source the images from a stock photo agency where you can pay to use them for commercial reasons. You will find some stock photo agencies also give you the option to control who else can use the images you choose and that they will track them for you to ensure no-one uses them without permission.

“This will cost more, but it will mean you can ensure your company’s website images are unique to you and not used all over the Internet by your competitors.”

Friday, 28 June 2013

Don't get mugged!

 

Personal injury experts at Martin-Kaye Solicitors are backing a national campaign to warn victims they could be missing out on fair compensation payouts.
 
Alison Carter, is head of our personal injury team, and she said accident or injury victims should tread very carefully.
 
“We’re backing The Law Society’s campaign that’s asking victims to think twice before they accept the first payment they are offered from an insurer. They’ve created a new website – www.dontgetmugged.co.uk – that explains how using a solicitor could make a real difference to someone’s claim.

“On average, research by the Financial Services Authority has shown that victims receive between two and three times more compensation if they consult a solicitor. So even though people may assume consulting solicitors is going to be a much more expensive process, it’s clear that you could actually get a far better deal if you take legal advice first.”

Alison said three million people were injured in accidents every year and so became involved in the often lengthy process of registering a claim. “If someone or something else is at fault, you have a right to compensation. The law is complicated, but a solicitor can help you make a claim and make sure you get a fair payout.”

Martin-Kaye’s personal injury team is renowned for its excellent customer service and earlier this year the team was named as the fourth most loved team of their kind in the UK. Leading business directory www.thebestof.co.uk ranked them as part of the website’s annual campaign where clients of UK businesses are given the opportunity to recommend their favourite companies.

As members of the regional branch of the website – www.thebestoftelford.co.uk – all testimonials from Martin-Kaye personal injury clients are regularly submitted and their score is then compared to all other similar teams across the UK.

“We’re particularly proud to be able to show that you don’t have to be city-based to deliver the best customer service and that companies like ours in the regions can compete effectively with the larger more high profile national names,” said Alison.

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Duo step up at Martin-Kaye

 

Two solicitors have been officially named as Associates at Martin-Kaye Solicitors. Tina Chander and Andrew Oranjuik have been recognised for their dedication and commitment to our company.

Senior partner, Graham Davies, said: “As a company we are keen to encourage staff to continuously develop their skills and it’s always a pleasure to be able to give employees the opportunity to make positive progress in their career.

“Tina and Andrew have made a real impact at Martin-Kaye, and their efforts have really paid off in terms of building strong relationships with both existing and new clients. To be named as an Associate is an honour we reserve for our most promising staff, and they certainly fit into that category very well.”

Tina manages the tribunal division of Martin-Kaye’s employment team, consistently increasing business, and ensures that the company’s profile is as high as possible to attract even more cases.

“I have successfully handled a number of extremely complex cases, and am working to build up a solid client base through our business support service, Alpha. It’s a great opportunity for me to be promoted to the role of Associate, and I’m very proud that my efforts have been recognised in such a way.”

Andrew is responsible for building on the already strong reputation of Martin-Kaye’s dispute resolution team.
“I work with clients across the Midlands and beyond, and have resolved a wide range of commercial disputes. I’m very pleased to have been named as an Associate, and I’m looking forward to playing an increasing role in building the business for such a forward-thinking and progressive firm.”

Pic:    New Associates at Martin-Kaye Solicitors, in Telford – Tina Chander and Andrew Oranjuik

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Courts shake-up must be handled carefully

Plans for a radical shake-up of the UK’s courts system have received a cautious welcome from a  legal expert in our firm. But Nikki Pickering warned that although the move to privatise the justice system could save up to £1 billion a year, the new arrangements would need to be sensitively handled.

“Officials have been exploring new ways forward after the Justice Secretary Chris Grayling called for an enquiry to make sure the courts and tribunal service provide value for money. And now, within just a few weeks, Mr Grayling will receive their findings and the changes could begin as soon as autumn this year.”

Nikki said under the new system, court buildings and thousands of court staff would no longer be controlled by the Ministry of Justice, and would transfer into the hands of private companies.

“The courts and tribunal system would be a wholly commercial enterprise, and although the move would save money, it would also bring its own challenges too. If the court buildings were transferred into private ownership, it would be vital for the legal system to retain control of opening hours and these should not be dictated by commercial decisions.

“What if a court needed to be opened on a Saturday for an emergency hearing and the commercial providers did not agree? These new proposals would change the very foundations of our legal system which has been in place since Magna Carta.

“And even though we’re all fully aware of the difficult financial climate, and the need to make swingeing cost savings, these must not be achieved to the detriment of keeping our legal system fair for everyone.”

If the new proposals go ahead, the courts and tribunal system would be funded through larger fees from wealthy clients and private sector investment, and by encouraging hedge funds to invest by an attractive rate of return.

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

On the lighter side...

Top things that sound dirty in law but aren't...

  • Have you looked through her briefs?
  • He is one hard judge
  • Counsel, let’s do it in Chambers
  • His solicitor withdrew at the last minute
  • Is it a penal offence?
  • Better leave the handcuffs on
  • For £200 an hour she’d better be good!
  • Can you get him to drop his suit?
  • The judge gave her the stiffest one he could
  • Think you can get me off

Let us know if you have any more gems like this!

Monday, 20 May 2013

Weighty issue for employers

Overweight employees who are struggling to carry out their job effectively have been warned they do not automatically have the right to claim their weight is a disability.

John Mehtam, our employment law specialist, said an Employment Appeal Tribunal had ruled that obesity itself wasn’t a disability.

“But if the employee’s weight is causing serious health issues, it could be that a tribunal would decide they did have the right to claim disability discrimination, so employers need to handle such a situation very carefully. The best way forward if you face a claim like this, is to always ask a medical specialist if your employee’s symptoms would improve if they lost some weight.

“Of course bringing up a tricky issue like an employee’s weight is difficult enough at the best of times, but if they go on to claim it’s a disability then things become even more uncomfortable.”

John said the ruling followed a claim made by an employee who weighed nearly 22 stone and suffered from a whole host of medical problems including asthma, diabetes, high blood pressure, anxiety and depression.

“The employee agreed to a health assessment which revealed that despite his symptoms, he had no underlying medical condition that would have caused his problems.

“But the employee disagreed and made a claim for disability discrimination, which was turned down at an employment tribunal. Still not happy with this decision, he took his case to an employment appeal tribunal which overturned the ruling and said he was disabled, even though his symptoms all appeared to have been caused by his weight. They stopped short though of defining obesity as a disability in its own right, but said someone who was overweight may be more likely to be considered to be disabled by a tribunal.

“Employers must tread very carefully as this topic is a minefield and can be a legal nightmare if a case does actually go before a tribunal. It’s vital to take professional advice at the earliest opportunity as such cases are not clear cut and given the sensitive nature of the subject, they can be awkward to handle before, during and after the hearing itself.”

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Solicitors have all the answers!


Staff from Martin-Kaye Solicitors in Telford have put themselves to the test to help raise cash for Hope House Children’s Hospice. We've signed up to the Hospice’s 2013 Corporate Challenge where local firms are given £50 and have 90 days to increase it by as much as possible.

So we have decided to hold a Blockbuster-style quiz at The White Horse, in Wrockwardine Wood, at 6pm tonight.

Clare Pitchford, who has organised the quiz on our behalf, said: “So far we have received excellent support towards our challenge, and this is just the start. We have many other exciting fundraising events in the pipeline including a big breakfast and a cake sale, so we’re hoping to boost our total still further. Our team would like to thank everyone for their generosity so far and hope they will continue to back our efforts so that we can raise as much money as possible for such an incredible cause.”

All the money raised in this year’s Corporate Challenge will be used to deliver vital services for local terminally ill children and their families at Hope House, in Oswestry. The Hospice says fundraising under the scheme can be as simple or as challenging as companies make it, either by organising a one-off event or activity, or by continually fundraising throughout the whole 90 days of the campaign.

Any companies interested in the Corporate Challenge should contact the Hospice Fundraising Office on 01691 671671 or visit www.hopehouse.org.uk

Pic:    Launching the Martin-Kaye Solicitors Corporate Challenge are, from left, Lesley Warburton (Martin-Kaye), Lynsey Kilvert (Hope House) and Clare Pitchford (Martin-Kaye)

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Social media contacts warning

Companies using corporate social media accounts must protect themselves and their followers if an employee moves on.
 
John Mehtam, our employment law specialist, said the issue of who actually owned the contacts and followers associated with these accounts was a difficult one.

“With the vast majority of businesses now taking to sites such as Twitter or LinkedIn to raise their profile, there may well be several employees posting messages about the company. But if one of those employees leaves the company, we have yet to see a trial in the UK to argue whether they can take the contacts with them. So employers should prepare themselves as this is clearly going to be a serious issue going forward, and as an employment lawyer I am already watching the legal developments carefully.”

John said when it came to LinkedIn, the law was likely to separate out ownership of a LinkedIn account from the ownership of the contacts attached to it.

“This is because the account was set up by the employee under a contract with LinkedIn – but any contacts made through a person’s employment are likely to belong to the employer and should be handed back when an employee leaves.

“And when it comes to Twitter, the situation is even more complicated. Companies are struggling to keep up with the pace of ever-changing social media trends, and may well not yet have any provision in their employment policies to protect themselves and prevent employees simply taking their followers with them if they leave.

“As an employer, you need to urgently review your employment contracts to ensure you include confidential information clauses on contacts made through Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook accounts.

“Make sure too that you regularly remind staff of your policy, and if an employee does leave, remind them again that they should delete any relevant contacts and profiles, and ask them to sign to confirm they have done so. Social media is now an integral part of everyday life, and companies must ensure they are adapting their corporate policies day by day to protect their assets and their reputation.”

Friday, 3 May 2013

Unfair dismissal - one smoking hot claim


Directors sacked an employee for smoking in his company vehicle and yet although it’s against the law, and there was a clear no smoking policy in place, his dismissal was ruled as unfair. Where did the directors go wrong? Our employment law specialist, John Mehtam explains.

The employee had received a brand new company vehicle and two colleagues reported seeing “someone smoking in a new company vehicle outside the office”. Initially they couldn’t identify who it was, but said “he refused to stop smoking when challenged”, so the directors concluded that because the person was in a new vehicle, it had to be the employee concerned.

At a disciplinary hearing, the employee said he “did not recall the incident” but the directors had no reason to doubt the witnesses as they had both worked for the company for a long time, so the employee was sacked for breaching the company’s smoking policy.

The dismissal letter said: “there may have been some confusion over the date you were seen smoking, but the actual date of the alleged offence is of little consequence.”

The employee claimed unfair dismissal because of the confusion over dates, the way he was identified, the potential impartiality of the witnesses, and the failure to investigate his location at the time of the alleged incident.

The tribunal ruled that smoking in a company vehicle contrary to the employer’s smoking policy could be grounds for dismissal, but in this case, the disciplinary proceedings were neither fair nor reasonable.

Take this as a warning – if an allegation could lead to dismissal, you must be able to pin-point the specifics of the incident, because a tribunal won’t allow a slapdash attitude to important events because of the potentially serious consequences for the employee.

And you must also be able to properly identify the employee – if the company had installed tracking devices in company vehicles, they could have proved where the employee was at the time and used the data as evidence.

Thursday, 25 April 2013

Don't leave empty premises vulnerable

Squatters are now targeting empty commercial premises after a change in the law left them vulnerable, and  property owners should take action as soon as possible to protect any vacant buildings - that's the warning from Stuart Haynes, who is the head of our Commercial Department.

“A change in the law means anyone squatting at a residential property could now face six months in jail and a maximum fine of £5,000,” said Stuart. “But the law covering commercial premises was left as a ‘civil wrong’, which means property owners have no choice but to go through a drawn-out court case to evict the squatters and reclaim control of the property.

“This means of course that squatters are now deliberately targeting empty commercial properties and it’s vital that owners do all they can to discourage anyone from choosing their building as their next home.”

Stuart said squatters tended to prefer properties that were furnished or had services which were easily accessible.

“So if possible, take out all free-standing furniture such as desks and chairs, so that life would be very uncomfortable for the squatters. You should also turn all services off at the mains, including gas and water, even if the property will only be empty temporarily. And if it’s likely to be vacant for a longer period of time, you could consider capping them off altogether.”

Stuart suggested installing locks or steel boards on the doors and windows, which would need to be heavy duty.

“Remember that squatters can claim a legal right of entry if they get in through open or previously vandalised entry points, and don’t forget to secure the roof as that’s always a popular way to get in.
 
“Make sure the property is inspected regularly and think about installing a temporary wireless alarm that records video footage which will provide hard evidence if you ever need to evict someone.”

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Digital age brings a challenge

Martin-Kaye's senior partner says today’s digital revolution is creating a whole new raft of challenges when it comes to personal accounts. 

Graham Davies said many people now had large collections of “digital possessions” – iTunes, films, e-book downloads.

“The cost of these assets can run into hundreds of pounds, but have you considered what would happen to them if you died? In this digital world, it’s quite possible that you’ll have an extensive collection, probably all held as digital downloads. And while no-one likes to talk about it, death is inevitable for everyone.

“Business people will probably have taken professional advice on estate planning and prepared a will, but does it cover anything you have in a digital format?”

Graham said currently the law says any books, music, or films held in this way (maybe in a cloud server or a service provider’s account) do not actually belong to the person who has downloaded them. “You only buy permission to use them personally, not to pass them on to anyone else – either while you’re alive or otherwise.

“So when you die, these possessions and any associated accounts die with you. Service providers usually automatically shut down accounts when they are notified of the account-holder’s death and they won’t release the password to a third party, even if you are the executor of the will.

“The best option is to copy your files onto a laptop or external hard drive – that way you can pass on the equipment to someone else, or include a list of all your online accounts in your will and store your passwords with your accountant or solicitor.”

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Red tape cut is welcome move


Businesses will now find it easier and cheaper to protect themselves from competitors thanks to a new ruling.
Our senior partner, Graham Davies, said the new revised mediation service launched by the Intellectual Property Office was a “breath of fresh air”.
“Many businesses, particularly the very smallest, underestimate the value of their ideas, systems, services and products, and they may not even realise protection is available. But I have seen businesses ruined as a direct result of a competitor or a former employee plagiarising their ideas, when all the time they could have had protection in place.”

The new-look mediation service has been designed to make it cheaper and quicker for small businesses to resolve their intellectual property disputes, and is an alternative to the often costly and lengthy court cases that companies face. It will offer access to a greater variety of mediation options including short telephone sessions, a wider range of specialist accredited mediators and reduced mediation fees.

“Previously businesses may have been wary about taking action because of the time and cost, but this announcement is a breath of fresh air which should make things much quicker,” said Graham. “Intellectual property is a complex legal area and expert advice is crucial before your business gets involved in a dispute – resorting to court action should be the last resort, and not the first step.

“This cut in red tape will certainly make the resolution of disputes much easier, and we welcome any initiatives that help small businesses to operate more freely and cost effectively.”

The IPO Mediation Service was originally established in 2006 to help resolve intellectual property disputes as quickly, effectively and efficiently as possible, but traditionally businesses have been reluctant to use it. Now it is hoped the modernised service will prove more user-friendly and more popular with the businesses who need its support.

Monday, 25 March 2013

Truth and lies - the real story

Over 50 employers from across the Midlands were given the chance to judge between the truth and lies of workplace law thanks to our employment law specialist, John Mehtam.

He's hosting a series of events around the region to share his knowledge, and his first event was held at the Ramada Park Hall Hotel, in Wolverhampton, when delegates heard the real story of Employment Law today.

“We were very pleased to see so many employers at the presentation and the response so far has been extremely positive,” said John. “It was a great opportunity for employers to learn about the current trends and for us to clear up some of the myths surrounding law in the workplace.”

John set out the right way to tackle various issues, and helped employers learn how to avoid falling into the most common traps. He covered topics such as sickness absence, dismissals and employee performance and helped the employers tell the difference between what is actually law and what may just be a myth.

“I will now be running more events of this kind across the region, and revealing the blunders frequently made by other employers in order that our delegates can learn from their mistakes,” said John. “These seminars are a perfect way for busy employers to keep up-to-date with the ever-changing world of employment law as they cover a vast subject in a concise, clear and convenient way.”

Pic:    Martin-Kaye’s John Mehtam at the Truth and Lies presentation in Wolverhampton



Friday, 22 March 2013

Simpler shares rules would be good news



Commercial law experts at Martin-Kaye Solicitors have welcomed proposals which could simplify the rules over company shares.
 
Stuart Haynes, from our commercial corporate team, said currently there were extremely strict regulations in place about how shares markets should operate within a business.
 
“New proposals have now been submitted to the Government to suggest a simplified shares process in a bid to encourage more employees to take up the offer, and to help improve the operation of internal share markets.
 
“These include reducing the number of shareholder votes required to authorise buying back shares from 75% to 50%, and allowing private limited companies to pay for their own shares in instalments. This is a very important move, as it will help companies who have been struggling to make enough distributable profits during the recession to reconsider their position, and allow them to re-organise and move forward.
 
“The new rules would also allow private limited companies to hold shares they buy back as treasury shares, which means they can be reissued.”
 
Stuart said the proposals would allow companies to approve multiple buy backs in advance through a single resolution, and private limited companies would be able to finance any buy backs connected to an employee share scheme out of their capital budget.
 
“It will be extremely interesting to see how these proposals develop, particularly given the ongoing economic difficulties the country is facing, as they really could help companies make some progress.The proposals are a good step in the right direction towards cutting red tape and simplifying processes to make companies more efficient and to reduce company costs.
 
“Let’s hope the final version of the proposals is as positive and helpful as this first initial batch.”



Pic: Stuart Haynes