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.