Thursday, 18 December 2014

Tribunals specialist at Martin-Kaye

 An employment law expert who specialises in tribunals is the latest new addition to a Telford law firm’s growing team.

Lubna Laheria has joined Martin-Kaye Solicitors, in Euston Way, after studying in Birmingham, and working for four years at a leading national firm to complete her training contract.

She has wide ranging experience in representing both employers and employees in a range of tribunal claims, and her knowledge of employment litigation is particularly impressive.

Lubna advises on all kinds of issues including employment termination, settlement agreements, and disciplinaries and grievances.

“I have worked extensively in the world of discrimination law too, including advising employees on how to avoid claims, contractual matters and advising on TUPE issues,” said Lubna.

“I’m looking forward to the challenge of building on the strong relationships that Martin-Kaye already has in place with companies all over the local region, and to working with new ones too.”

Senior partner Graham Davies said Lubna’s appointment was excellent news for the company and she had already settled in well.

“Our employment law team is renowned for its effective and straight-talking advice, and it’s great to see Lubna joining such a positive and dynamic department. She has already met many of our existing employment clients, and we’re sure her knowledge and experience will mean she is able to play a key role in the life of one of our busiest and largest teams.”

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Multi-million pound sales boom is good news

Property experts at a Telford law firm have announced a record-breaking year after handling a staggering £300 million worth of business in the last six months alone.

Partner and head of residential property at the Telford offices of Martin-Kaye Solicitors, Nita Patel, said the figures were truly astonishing.

“We’ve had an incredible year so far, and if things continue to follow this trend, we’ll have beaten every single record we’ve ever set in almost 30 years of business which is phenomenal for such a small team.”

Since April this year, the team has cleared 1,170 transactions, with an average financial value of £250,000 per transaction.

“When we sat down to review our performance and calculate the figures, we realised we’d hit the £300 million mark, and we were just amazed. I’m just so incredibly proud of the team for working so hard and for showing such dedication to our clients throughout a financial period that everyone knows has been more than just a little difficult.”

Nita said the rosy financial picture was supported by excellent feedback from customer satisfaction survey results which echoed the stunning figures. Now the team is looking forward to the next six months with the aim of building on the impressive start they’ve already made to the year.

“We’ve been working on property transactions further afield across the UK too, as well as in Shropshire, and it’s been interesting to compare the different markets. It’s clear that compared to the wider UK, prices in the South are continuing to increase, but we’ve found the actual level of activity in the property market is pretty consistent across the board.

“One of the elements keeping the markets in check is that building societies are now being extremely cautious in the way they assess people’s ability to borrow, even down to asking precisely what people are spending their money on. This has resulted in lots of people extending their existing property rather than taking the plunge to buy a new one.

“But all the indications are that the property market will continue to remain buoyant into next year, and with such positive signs on the horizon, we’re looking forward to continuing our success.”

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Landlords get a helping hand

 Landlords who need to repossess a property don’t need to struggle on alone, a local law firm has said.

Jason Round, from the commercial team at Martin-Kaye Solicitors, in Euston Way, Telford, said the firm had launched a new three-stage service with no hidden surprises when it came to fees.

“The actual process of repossessing a property can be complicated, time-consuming and expensive, but it doesn’t have to always be that way.Our experts have created a package of support that will help landlords to take back their property as quickly as possible and at a reasonable cost.”

Jason said the Fixed Price Possession scheme had been designed to help landlords avoid the pitfalls of the repossession process.

“Sometimes, if things don’t go according to plan, the whole process may need to start again which of course incurs precious time and significant extra costs. Our specialised team has many years’ experience in property claims, and we can act quickly and at a very cost-effective fixed price rate so there are no surprises when the landlord gets the final bill.”

Jason said the support package offered a three-stage process in order to secure repossession of the landlord’s property.

“Stage one is where our team prepares and serves a notice on the tenant, giving a fixed date by which they need to leave – in reality, this is often the only step that is needed.

“If however, that first step isn’t enough, we will begin court proceedings against the tenant – the price will reflect whether or not the case actually goes to court – and if a possession order is granted, the court will insist your tenant leaves on the fixed date. The final stage comes if the tenant still refuses to leave despite the possession order – at this point, we will instruct enforcement officers to step in.

“At Martin-Kaye Solicitors, we pride ourselves on delivering advice that really makes a difference. We believe this clear and concise approach to repossession will be an attractive proposition for any landlords who are struggling with difficult tenants, and we’re sure it will prove to be a popular service.”

Thursday, 27 November 2014

School support package unveiled

A Midlands law firm has launched a new package of support designed to help schools and colleges take a more hands-on approach to human resources issues.

Award-winning Telford practice Martin-Kaye Solicitors has tailor-made its new HR Care For Education package for schools, academies, and colleges.

John Mehtam, from the company’s employment law team, explained: “The education landscape has changed significantly in recent years, with schools being encouraged to become more self-managing.

“When it comes to topics such as absenteeism, performance and recruitment, schools and colleges are now expected to handle these issues themselves, when previously they would have been handled by the local education authority.

“This is placing extra pressure on headteachers, principals and their support teams who are now facing the challenge of dealing with the stresses of HR for the first time.”

John said: “We acknowledge that for many schools, employing a full-time HR professional is expensive and unfeasible. Using the Martin-Kaye package allows schools to ensure that all HR matters are dealt with in an efficient manner which is fully legally compliant, without the burden of a full-time staff salary.

“And schools which sign up to the programme receive a free employment audit from the Martin-Kaye team, plus access to complementary services such as payroll support, training, occupational health and employment law advice.”

He said: “Our HR Care for Education package provides support and advice for schools as and when they need it, at a cheaper rate than employing an in-house HR professional. And it means schools can concentrate entirely on delivering high quality education to students while our experts deal with any HR issue that might be required.”

Martin-Kaye Solicitors is an award-winning law firm with offices in Telford and Wolverhampton, handling a wide range of issues including high value deals, heavyweight commercial litigation, complex employment law issues and commercial property transactions.

The independent firm has been in business for nearly 30 years delivering specialised services to all kinds of companies across the UK, and its Telford headquarters is one of the largest legal firms practising under one roof in the Midlands region.

To find out more about the HR Care for Education package contact John Mehtam on 01952 272222, email johnmehtam@martinkaye.co.uk or visit www.martinkaye.co.uk

Fathers need help when it comes to paternity leave

New fathers are struggling to afford time off work to be with their babies because the statutory pay for paternity leave is so low, it is claimed.

Shropshire law firm Martin-Kaye Solicitors says one in three fathers are being forced to use their annual leave, instead of relying on paternity pay, to afford time off with their growing family.

John Mehtam, from the firm's employment team in Telford, said: “The statutory weekly rate of ordinary paternity pay currently stands at just over £138, before tax. This is just half the weekly salary for someone who is on the national minimum wage.

“It explains why, according to a survey for Mumsnet, more than one in six fathers take less than a week off work following the birth of their child. Of these, two thirds said it was because of financial issues, while a quarter were unable to secure time off from their employer.”

John said: “If you have been with your employer long enough to qualify for paternity pay, you must tell them that you intend to go on paternity leave at least 15 weeks before your baby's expected due date – otherwise, they are within their rights to turn you down. And if you change your mind about when you want to take paternity leave, the law says this can be done – but you need to give your employer 28 days' notice of the changed date.”

Several major companies, including PWC and Deloitte, have drawn up enhanced paternity packages in recent months. But they are in the minority, with only one in six companies currently topping up the statutory minimum paternity payment.

So what can you do if your employer doesn’t think they need to sanction paternity leave, or you feel they’re not paying the right amount?

John said: “Firstly, talk to your employer and make sure you get a written explanation. If that doesn’t work, you may have to make a formal complaint, or speak to your trade union or employees’ representative, if you have one. And you can also call HM Revenue & Customs employee's enquiry line for advice. The number is 0845 302 1479.

“In an ideal world, though, it is best for employers to offer flexible working arrangements which can be adapted to suit both parties, because a happy workforce is always a more productive workforce.”

Monday, 17 November 2014

How would your business cope?

 Ebola is claiming thousands of lives and wreaking economic chaos across Africa, and Midlands firms are being asked: “Are you geared up to cope in a major crisis?”

There are three key areas which employers need to examine, according to our employment law specialist, John Mehtam.

“Many organisations don’t pause to think how they will cope in the event of a major disaster or epidemic, thinking it will never happen to them.

“Right now, Ebola is in the news in Africa, but closer to home, we have had two recent outbreaks of foot and mouth disease, the swine flu pandemic of 2009, the volcanic ash disruption which caused air travel mayhem the following year, and now the bird flu outbreak in Yorkshire.

“Businesses need to consider their duty to protect the health and safety of staff, methods of dealing with potential staff absence, and how the possible suspension of ‘normal’ working practices will impact on people’s contracts of employment.”

Mr Mehtam, based at Martin-Kaye’s headquarters in Euston Way, Telford, said: “Companies have a duty to keep staff informed about any risks of possible outbreaks of disease, and take steps to ensure there is good hygiene.

“Many companies in the region have loyal staff who will struggle into work, even when they are not feeling 100 per cent.

“Managers might want to think about whether they should change their approach, and ask them to stay away, or offer them the chance to work from home.

“A well-advertised sickness policy might also help employers to reassure healthy, but worried staff, that work is relatively safe.

“Employers should also identify staff that could stand in for one another in the event of illness, as well as putting back-up plans in place. This might involve lining up potential external contractors.

“And managers must also bear in mind that the suspension of ‘normal’ working practices might mean the company needs to either amend contracts of employment, or suspend normal practices around returning to work, sick pay, or leave to care for dependant relatives.”

Monday, 3 November 2014

Should your employees really be here?

Employers who fail to check whether temporary staff have a legal right to work in Britain could face fines of up to £20,000.

And employment law expert John Mehtam, from Martin-Kaye Solicitors in Telford, said turning a blind eye to the situation was no solution.

Under the Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Act 2006 requires every employer to prevent illegal working in the UK.

“This means it’s an employer’s responsibility to check that any potential staff have permission to work here, and the employer must also retain the documentation to prove it. If you do recruit someone or continue to employ someone who fails to provide proof that they are entitled to work here, you could face a civil penalty of up to £20,000.”

John said the documentation required was split into two lists – list A and list B. “If your potential employee has no restrictions on their right to work in the UK, they should be able to easily produce a document or a combination of documents from list A.

“But if there are restrictions – maybe they’ve been given a time limit to enter or remain – they won’t have the documents from the first list, so they’ll need to resort to a document or specified combination of information from the second list as set out by the Home Office.”

John said if an employer used an agency to hire temporary workers, the situation was slightly different. “As long as the agency worker remains employed by the agency throughout their contract, it’s the agency’s legal responsibility to check their work status. But don’t just assume that the agency will have done the checks.

“Always ask for written confirmation that the agency has investigated the employee’s status before they took them on. And if they are unable or unwilling to give that reassurance, you should start delving deeper as this could be a cause for worry.”

If an employer uses an agency to recruit an employee who will be working directly for their company, it’s once again the employer’s job to carry out all the right checks.

“Ask for the relevant documents in the offer of appointment letter you send to the employee, stressing that the offer is purely conditional on them having the right to work in the UK.

“Failing to protect your company when it comes to taking on temporary workers is a risk you can’t afford, so it’s vital you make sure all the paperwork is in order before they set foot in the workplace.”

Friday, 31 October 2014

Who is the rightful owner?

Companies who commission a supplier to create a product or design now need to take steps to protect their interests.

Graham Davies, senior partner at Martin-Kaye Solicitors, in Telford, said a seismic shift in the rules on intellectual property had completely changed the face of business.

“Previously, when a design was commissioned, the legal owner was the person who asked for it to be created, not the designer. But now the Intellectual Property Act 2014 has totally reversed the position, unless you stake your claim in the initial contract with the supplier.

“So whether you’re looking for a design for an industrial product, packaging, a logo, a new typeface in a brochure, graphic symbol or a part that will be used in a more complicated product, you need to know how the new rules apply.”

Graham said the Act came into force at the start of October, but would not be fully in place until the end of 2015.

“From now on, if your company commissions a design, you need to make sure that the contract declares you are its legal owner. You may well find that design companies will charge extra for the intellectual property rights, but that really will be a small price to pay compared to losing control of the design altogether.”

Graham said the idea behind the rule change is that for some time the Government was concerned that smaller companies were at a disadvantage when it comes to protecting their IP rights.

“All the law covering intellectual property was actually quite old, and so the new Act has been introduced to level out the playing field.”

But he stressed that any designs created by employees while they work for your company would remain the property of the employer at all times, with no change to that area of the law.

“So whether you’re creating a design for someone or you’re commissioning someone else to create something for you, it’s clear you need to know how the new rules affect your rights – don’t leave it to chance.”



Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Will writing is a serious business

Families are being urged to take extra care with the writing of their wills after the Ministry of Justice resisted calls to regulate the industry.

Wills and probate specialist Fiona Mainwaring, from Martin-Kaye Solicitors in Telford, said people should make certain their final wishes are heeded by using a firm of solicitors.

Changes to will-writing rules have just come into effect, but the Ministry of Justice has made it clear that it is not in favour of any form of regulation for will-writing.

The Legal Ombudsman had called for a voluntary complaints scheme to cover the growing number of unregulated wills and probate providers.

But the Ministry said “other options should be explored first, including better guidance for professionals and making better use of existing consumer information and protection”.

Fiona said: “The Law Society has been expressing concern for some time about the absence of regulation for will-writing and the damage this could have on the public. Anyone can set themselves up as a will writer, so it is important to distinguish between those who are unregulated, uninsured and untrained, and solicitors who are highly trained in this area.”

She added: “Anyone of any age who has assets, such as a house, savings or a business – or people they want to ensure are looked after – should make writing a will a priority.

“Not making a will can cause many months of grief for your loved ones. Talking about death and planning for the worst can feel uncomfortable, but you need to consider how much worse the situation would be if you died, or became too incapacitated to put your wishes down on paper.

“The latest law changes include amendments to the definition of a person’s individual personal belongings, and alterations to the rules over who can make a claim against a person’s estate. It is vital that your will writer is on top of all these issues.

“Anyone in doubt about a will writer’s qualifications can check out the Law Society’s ‘find a solicitor’ website, which lists 140,000 solicitors, by practice name, and location.”

Friday, 10 October 2014

HELP is at hand for local firms

Companies were offered expert advice on stepping up discipline in the workplace at the latest in a series of seminars organised by Martin-Kaye Solicitors.

The firm, which has offices in Telford and Wolverhampton, held the latest seminar in its long-running series at The Ramada Park Hall Hotel in Goldthorn Park.

The event was led by the company’s employment law specialist, John Metham, who said: “It was another hugely successful evening, where every seat was taken. This latest chapter in our HELP series – standing for HR and Employment Law in Practice – was designed to equip companies with the tools to deal with even the most stressful of situations.

“Our speakers covered issues around staff under-performance and discipline, as well as grievance procedures, which can be a minefield given the ever-changing legislation. No matter how well a business is run, problems with discipline and under-performance arise from time to time, so we were delighted that so many local companies came out to take advantage of some one-to-one time with experts.

“Our HELP presentations, covering a wide range of topics, continue to be warmly received by local businesses, and we will be announcing more dates and venues soon.”  

We deliberately restrict the number of delegates at each of our HELP sessions, so everyone who attends has the chance to play an active and purposeful role in the discussions.

“Fewer delegates means more opportunity to interact with our experts and the chance to ask direct questions particular to each company’s circumstances,” John said. “This is why we believe companies feel they get so much out of attending.”

Pic:    At the seminar are, from left John Mehtam (Martin-Kaye Solicitors), James Jagpal (Operations Manager at The Ramada Park Hall Hotel) and     Graham Davies (Martin-Kaye Solicitors)   


Monday, 22 September 2014

HELP is on its way

Are you worried your staff are under performing? Need to know more about how you can step up discipline in the workplace? Martin-Kaye Solicitors has all the answers you’ll need.

We're hosting our latest seminar in a long-running series at The Ramada Park Hall Hotel, Goldthorn Park, Wolverhampton, on Thursday, September 25, at 6pm.

Led by our employment law specialist, John Mehtam, the event is the most recent HELP presentation to be unveiled which is designed to help local employers get to grips with even the most stressful of situations.

“HELP stands for HR and Employment Law in Practice, and our aim is to equip employers with all the skills and knowledge they will need to tackle the trickiest of dilemmas in the workplace,” said John.

“This latest seminar will not only cover under performance and discipline, but also grievance procedures which can be a minefield, particularly given the ever-changing legislation.

“We’ll share our expertise and prepare employers so that if they face such a situation, they will be able to put their new skills into action and manage any issues effectively and appropriately.”

John said the HELP presentations had been warmly received by the local business community and had covered a wide range of topics.

“We’ve also deliberately restricted the number of delegates at each session, so that everyone who attends gets the chance to play an active and purposeful role in the discussions.

“Fewer delegates means more opportunity to interact with our experts and the chance to ask direct questions particular to each company’s circumstances.

“No matter how well-run your business is, problems with discipline, grievances and under performance will arise from time to time, and it’s vital that employers are well prepared in advance.”

To register their attendance at the event or to find out more about HELP seminars, employers should email junenoto@martinkaye.co.uk, or call 01952 525951

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Directors learn the ropes

More than 30 company directors took the opportunity to hear from the experts at a special breakfast briefing in Telford.

Leading commercial law barristers, Mohammed Zaman QC and Shakil Najib, were the guest speakers at the presentation hosted by local law firm, Martin-Kaye Solicitors, at their offices in Euston Way.

The event was called: “Directors – Do You Know Your Duties?”, and the aim was to help anyone taking a seat at the boardroom table fully understand the responsibility they were being given.

Martin-Kaye commercial lawyer Andrew Oranjuik said feedback from the delegates who took part had been incredibly positive, and they had already asked the firm to deliver more events in the future.

“Our speakers certainly created a lively and vibrant atmosphere on the day, and delegates were impressed by their wide ranging knowledge and expertise. Many people take on the mantle of ‘company director’ without appreciating fully what the title involved, and they underestimate the need to keep up with ever-changing legislation.

“Our guests were certainly left in no doubt about what they were letting themselves in for, and heard that failing to comply with the rules could ultimately bring some very serious consequences.”

Andrew said Martin-Kaye Solicitors had deliberately restricted the number of places at the seminar so that everyone taking part had the chance to play an interactive part.

“It’s important for us that delegates are able to interact directly with our guest speakers, in order to learn as much as they possibly can while they’re with us – too many delegates sometimes means it is difficult to make your voice heard.”

The law firm is now planning a schedule of future events based on topics requested by delegates including corporate manslaughter and health and safety issues.

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Pensions rules could be costly


Companies could be hit with bills totalling tens of thousands of pounds if they are failing to automatically enrol staff into workplace pension schemes.

New rules mean every employer must enrol workers into a workplace pension scheme if they are aged between 22 and state pension age, and earn more than £10,000 a year.

And employment law expert John Mehtam, of Martin-Kaye Solicitors in Telford, said there were some hefty fines being lined up for companies which were failing to comply.

“Fines of £400, plus a further £50 per day, can apply to a company which is not complying with its auto-enrolment duties,” he said. “For now, the regulator will probably forego them if you prove you are acting quickly – but the honeymoon period is not going to last forever.

“Last year, household goods chain Dunelm found itself on the wrong end of the pensions regulator’s enforcement action after a report said it had failed in its auto-enrolment duties.

“It could have landed the company with hefty fines, and action could have also been taken against directors. But Dunelm acted swiftly to put matters right and the company and its directors walked away red-faced, but scot-free. It goes to show, though, that no company is too big, or too small, to be targeted.”

John said: “The regulator wants to see businesses beginning the planning process a year ahead of when they legally need to register. If your company is late starting the process, the most important thing is not to stick your head in the sand. Contact a pensions professional – or the regulator – to find out the most efficient way of getting on track.

“Remember, directors can be held personally responsible for any failures to comply with the rules, if it can be shown that they were aware of the situation. And in the most serious of cases, that can mean criminal proceedings.”

The automatic enrolment system began at the beginning of October 2012 with staff who work for the biggest businesses, with others being signed up over the following six years. It means millions of workers in the UK will see a slice of their pay packet being automatically diverted to a savings pot for their retirement.

Employers are obliged to pay into the fund as well, with the government adding a little extra through tax relief. Workers who already save in an existing pension scheme, or are self-employed, will not be signed up.

Thursday, 11 September 2014

E-cigarettes warning for employers

Employers could be powerless to stop workers from smoking e-cigarettes in company cars, even if they have an official ‘No Smoking’ policy in place, a Shropshire employment law specialist warns.

Rules introduced seven years ago to ban the smoking of tobacco in company cars does not cover inhalation of vapour in fast-growing electronic cigarettes, explained Tina Chander, of Martin-Kaye Solicitors in Telford.

“The legislation relating to smoking in vehicles, introduced in 2007, stated that smoking was banned in all vehicles used primarily for business purposes by more than one person.

“There are various penalties for this, but employers who flout the rules could face a fine of up to £2,500. But these regulations refer specifically to the act of smoking tobacco, rather than the inhalation of vapour, which is created by an e-cigarette. And that means it is possible, under the 2007 legislation, to use them legally in a company-owned vehicle.”

Tina added: “However, if your employee is one of the estimated 2.1 million e-cigarette users in the UK, a company’s hands are not completely tied.

“If your company’s no smoking policy does not cover the use of e-cigarettes, you can still warn the driver that such behaviour will not be tolerated in future, then make amendments to your rules. You can justify this change on the basis that holding an e-cigarette while driving is a potential distraction and therefore a serious health and safety issue.

“The number of e-cigarette users is growing fast, so if you are unhappy with the idea of company car users smoking them, it is worth checking out your small print as soon as possible.

“While the law of the land is clear on the smoking of products with tobacco or tar, creating carbon monoxide in the process, it is less black and white for people who are not puffing on the real thing.”


Friday, 29 August 2014

Is outsourcing a good idea?


A growing number of companies are outsourcing non-core services in an effort to save costs – but are they considering the potential pitfalls? - that's the question posed by our senior partner Graham Davies.

He said: “When it is done well, outsourcing can save you money on things such as physical overheads and payroll costs, and allow you to focus more carefully on offering a higher quality core product or service.

“It can also, sometimes, give you access to new technology or working systems without the need to invest heavily in the equipment yourselves. But there are some major pitfalls too, which companies must consider carefully before heading off down the outsourcing path.”

Graham explained: “Firstly, if the process is not managed properly, it could harm your company’s reputation. If the goods or services being provided on your behalf are not up to your usual standards, or are arriving late, then it is your image which will suffer, and not that of your supplier.

“It could lead to a rise in complaints, and ultimately end up costing you money through lost business or a tarnished reputation. It is always wise to insist on a test period with any chosen provider, retaining the right to cancel the agreement with immediate effect.

“Thorough research and a smooth handover period is essential. Don’t take at face value what the firms pitching for your business tell you – if they claim to have well trained and experienced staff, find out how they can prove it. I always think it is sensible to see their operation in full swing before putting pen to paper, and you should also ask for client testimonials.”

Graham said it was also important for businesses to remember that, although they may be outsourcing services, they remained legally responsible for the security of any personal data involved.

“Always enter into a written contract with the outsource company which specifies that they may act only on your instructions, and will take reasonable steps to prevent the unlawful or unauthorised processing of personal data.”

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Breaking the rules is a big mistake

 Companies caught breaking direct marketing rules could find themselves facing hefty fines as a growing number of authorities clamp down on offenders.

Local authorities, trading standards departments, and the Information Commissioner’s Office are all now pursuing firms which are flouting, or ignoring the law. It has been sparked by a rise in the number of small businesses cold-calling people who have registered with the ‘do not call’ list, run by the Telephone Preference Service.

Eliot Hibbert, from Martin-Kaye Solicitors in Telford, said: “The TPS is the official central opt-out register that allows people to indicate their preference not to receive unsolicited marketing calls.

“If a company ignores the list, even unknowingly, it will be in breach of the law, and it is clear that a growing number of organisations are prepared to prosecute.”

Eliot said: “Historically, it has usually been the Information Commissioner’s Office that investigates breaches of the rules, and it still has the power to impose fines of up to £500,000. But in the past few weeks, councils and trading standards departments have also been showing far more of an appetite for bringing prosecutions too.”

Apple Group Holdings Limited is one of the companies successfully prosecuted by trading standards officials, for continuously cold-calling people. The company, with offices in Dorset, Devon, Hampshire and the Isle of Wight, received a £36,000 fine. This successful prosecution, which is believed to be the first of its kind, could prompt other councils to take similar action,” Eliot said.

“It also means that individuals may also be more inclined to approach their local council about unwanted telephone calls, rather than the Information Commissioners Office.

“So what should a company do, to steer clear of the pitfalls? As always, if you follow the rules, you have nothing to fear. But the relevant legislation can be a minefield.

“If you undertake direct marketing of any kind, or you are thinking about doing so for the first time, it is worth downloading the free guidance details from the Information Commissioners Office.

“It explains how to comply with the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations, and how to screen telephone numbers against the TPS register. Follow its guidance to the letter, and you won’t go far wrong.”

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Gemma takes an unusual route

Experts at Martin-Kaye Solicitors have welcomed a new colleague to their growing team who has taken an unusual route into the legal profession.

Gemma Himsworth, who has been appointed by the law firm in Euston Way, now specialises in family law, but she hadn’t always intended to follow that career path.

“I actually have a first class honours degree in Theology from Cambridge, but I then decided to choose a career in law so I initially worked as a legal secretary while I completed my law qualifications.

“I’ve specialised in family law for over eight years now, and the best part of my job is that I get to deal with legal principles that can often be extremely complex, but I also get the chance to meet a huge variety of people too.

“In the world of family law, you’re dealing with everyday issues that can affect anyone, and it’s incredibly rewarding when you get a good result for someone over an issue that directly affects their personal life.

“I’m very proud to work for Martin-Kaye Solicitors because I wanted to work for a modern forward-thinking firm that was professional but friendly at the same time. It’s a pleasure to work in such a close knit and welcoming team, particularly one which provides clients with such an excellent service.”

Senior partner Graham Davies said: “Gemma has fitted into the team extremely well, and we’ve all been impressed with her approach and enthusiasm. Working in family law means dealing with clients who are going through some difficult life experiences, and it’s important that we deliver legal advice and support that really does make a difference to their circumstances.”

Martin-Kaye’s family team are experienced in all aspects of matrimonial and family law, and will explore all avenues in order to resolve disputes swiftly, amicably and cost effectively. They are particularly experienced in dealing with the complexities of dividing assets after a relationship has broken down, especially where businesses, pensions, trusts and investments are involved.

Pic:    Gemma Himsworth has joined the family law team at Martin-Kaye Solicitors

Monday, 18 August 2014

Directors' duties - just what do they mean?

 Company directors are being invited to update themselves on the latest legislation at a special breakfast briefing in Telford.

One of the UK’s leading commercial law barristers, Mohammed Zaman QC, will be the guest speaker at the event on September 11.

Directors – Do You Know Your Duties?, has been organised by Telford law firm Martin-Kaye, and is being held at the company's headquarters at The Foundry, Euston Way, starting at 8am.

“Many people take a seat at the boardroom table without appreciating the full responsibilities of the role, or keeping abreast of changing rules,” said Martin-Kaye commercial lawyer Andrew Oranjuik.

“Mohammed Zaman is one of the best commercial law barristers in the country, and is renowned for his intimidating cross-examination skills, and his own unique and entertaining presentation style.

“So much complex legislation which could impact on company directors has been introduced in recent years, and it is sometimes hard to keep track. And in reality, if you don’t comply with the legislation, you could ultimately face serious consequences, so it really is crucial to be well-informed.

“The aim of this breakfast briefing is to give people the chance to update themselves on all the latest rules, from one of the best in the business, and to learn from shared experiences.”

Places at the seminar are limited, and anyone wanting to reserve their spot should call June Noto on 01952 272222, or email junenoto@martinkaye.co.uk.

“This is a rare opportunity for Shropshire businesspeople to meet and learn from one of the experts in his field, on their own doorstep. And who can afford to miss out on such invaluable advice when the consequences of getting it wrong could be so drastic?”

Friday, 15 August 2014

Eliot returns to the fold

A Midlands law firm has welcomed back one of its former trainees, to take up a senior post in its corporate commercial department.

Eliot Hibbert has rejoined Martin-Kaye Solicitors in Telford, where he began his career in the legal profession just under a decade ago.

The 35-year-old, who lives in Oswestry, has since gained experience with Aaron & Partners in Chester, Harrisons in Welshpool, and GHP Legal in Wrexham and Oswestry.

“It is a great pleasure for me to return to the firm which launched me in my legal career,” said Eliot, who will be one of Martin-Kaye’s commercial law specialists, based at Euston Way. “I’m looking forward to the challenges of managing the team, and working in a proactive environment, using the skills I have gained on a broad mixture of commercial property and general commercial work.”

Eliot, who grew up in Mid Wales, qualified in the corporate commercial department at Martin-Kaye in 2006 during his first stint with the company.

Our senior partner Graham Davies said: “We are delighted to welcome Eliot back into the fold. We know from his previous time with us that he is a great problem solver, and a person who is very easy to deal with.

“He has gained experience handling major commercial transactions valued at many millions of pounds, and also has valuable knowledge of the agricultural side of the Shropshire economy. We believe his impressive skills will mean he fits right back into the team, and that he’ll play a key role in building on the strong client relationships we already have in place.”

Pic:    Eliot Hibbert has returned to Martin-Kaye Solicitors in Telford

Monday, 4 August 2014

Cutting corners could be costly

Choosing a family member to handle your estate after you die could be a recipe for disaster, according to a family law expert.

Fiona Mainwaring is the probate specialist at Martin-Kaye Solicitors, in Euston Way, and she said research had shown more and more claims being made that wills had been mishandled.

 “The High Court has revealed that claims have more than tripled over the last year – from 107 to 368 in just 12 months – which is a huge increase in such a short time. The claims cover a range of complaints including executors stealing assets, committing fraud when it comes to distributing the assets, and favouring certain beneficiaries over others.

“It can’t just be a coincidence that the number of claims are on the rise at the same time that many people are appointing family members or friends to act as executors and trustees rather than appointing solicitors.

“So even though it may seem to be the more cost effective option, you could face even bigger costs in the long-run if you have to use the courts to get the assets back following a mistake or even theft by the executor.”

Fiona said with a high value estate, some executors may be enticed by the amount of money involved and be prepared to take big risks so that they benefit themselves. And others may be tempted to ‘misinterpret’ the will on purpose, to enable one beneficiary to receive more than someone else.

“In today’s world of blended families, relationships are becoming increasingly complicated, and the executor may believe one side of the family is entitled to more than the other. If they do decide to distribute the assets however they like, they will be failing in their duties as a legal executor, as they should be following the wishes of the person who has died as set out in their will.”

Fiona said the risk of things being handled badly would only increase as more and more people decide to handle probate themselves rather than taking expert legal advice.

“Obviously not everyone will have their own agenda when it comes to being the legal executor of a will, and the vast majority of people will take the responsibility seriously and carry out their duties just as they should be done.

"But whether it’s through a lack of understanding or actual fraud, there will always be someone who fails to carry out the task correctly.”

Monday, 21 July 2014

Weighty problem for employers

Employers are facing up to a weighty new employment issue – what to do if they feel obesity is preventing a worker from carrying out their duties efficiently.

Martin-Kaye Solicitors says bosses could soon have to start making more allowances for overweight staff after the European Court of Justice ruled it could be considered a ‘disability’.

Europe’s top court had been called in to rule on the issue of Danish childminder called Karsten Kaltoft, who weighed 25-stone, and said he was sacked by his employer. The court was asked to rule on the legality of the case, and it decided that anyone with a Body Mass Index of 40 or more could be considered disabled if the obesity had a real impact on their ability to work.

“British law gives protected employment rights to people who have a registered disability, but the question of whether this should include obesity has never been raised,” said Martin-Kaye employment law specialist Tina Chander.

“This European court ruling could have significant implications for employers. For example, they may have to start considering whether staff need parking spaces closer to the front door, specially adapted desks and chairs, or a change in their duties to reduce the amount of walking or travelling.

“This test case has been considered especially significant because of rising obesity levels across the UK. A survey in England in 2012 found that more than half of adults were technically obese or overweight.”

It was reported that Mr Kaltoft’s employer, Billund Kommune, sacked him because he was deemed unable to perform his duties due to his size, citing the fact that he required help from a colleague to tie up children's shoelaces.

The European Court of Justice were asked to decide whether obesity is covered under the EU's Employment Equality Directive, which outlaws job discrimination on grounds of disability.

Tina said: “This doesn’t just impact on existing staff. Employers will have to carefully consider how they go about conducting job interviews, making sure they are not guilty of discriminating against candidates on the back of first impressions over their size or shape.”

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Pitfall perils on the agenda

Company bosses from across the West Midlands have learned how to avoid the pitfalls of discrimination in the workplace, thanks to our employment law experts.

We held the latest in a series of seminars at The Ramada Park Hall Hotel in Goldthorn Park, Wolevrhampton, and over 30 businesses attended.

The HELP presentation – HR and Employment Law in Practice – was the third session of its kind, and followed previous events which covered topics such as compensation, covert recording, and settlement agreements.

Our Senior Partner, Graham Davies, said: “Discrimination is one of the most rapidly expanding areas of employment law at the moment, and our advice was extremely well-received. The feedback from our delegates has been incredibly positive, and we’re now already planning the fourth and final session in our series which will take place in September.”

Guest speaker on the day was Dr Mirza Ahmad, from St Philips Chambers in Birmingham, who explained there are a staggering 74 different varieties of discrimination of which companies need to be aware.

“It’s clear that businesses are more vulnerable than ever and the aim of our seminar was to bring local companies together so they could benefit from our expertise,” said Graham.

“And now, with such a successful series of seminars in Wolverhampton almost at an end, we are planning to run similar events in Telford and other parts of the Midlands, in order to arm businesses with the tools they need to protect themselves and to comply with ever-changing legislation.”

Graham said the HELP seminars were introduced after Martin-Kaye Solicitors opened their office in Wolverhampton and recognised a clear demand for effective and appropriate advice from the local business community.

“The HELP seminars have been widely recognised as an excellent addition to the business networking calendar in the Wolverhampton area, and we’re looking forward to seeing more employers at the September session.”

Pic:    Guest speaker Dr Mirza Ahmad at the Martin-Kaye Solicitors HELP seminar with senior partner Graham Davies

Friday, 27 June 2014

New role for Janet

A Telford lawyer has taken a step up by being made an Associate at Martin-Kaye Solicitors.

As well as her new title, Janet Hawley has also been promoted to the role of Deputy Manager of the residential property department at our head office in Euston Way, Telford.

“I’m extremely proud to have been given this opportunity and I’m very grateful to the senior management team for the chance to play a more active role in the way the company moves forward,” said Janet.

“My aim now is to help increase the turnover and profitability of the residential property department still further, and support the team manager in the day-to-day challenges of running such a busy area of the business.”

Janet joined Martin-Kaye Solicitors in 2007 as an Assistant Solicitor, and her responsibilities include leading a team of staff dealing with a large caseload of all types of property cases, including freehold and leasehold sales, and property purchases nationwide.

Our senior partner Graham Davies said: “We’re very pleased that Janet has taken on this new role, and we believe her experience will prove invaluable in helping to develop a focused and targeted strategy for the future.

“Our property team has had a very successful year so far, and demand for their services is continuing to grow right across the UK. So Janet will be working closely with other senior members of staff to ensure we deliver the very highest levels of customer service at all times, and that our growing reputation continues to flourish.”




Monday, 23 June 2014

Company bosses get discrimination advice

Company bosses will be offered tips on how to avoid falling into a growing number of discrimination traps at a special evening seminar this week.

The Ramada Park Hall Hotel at Goldthorn Park, in Wolverhampton, is hosting the latest in a series of ‘HELP’ sessions staged by law firm Martin-Kaye Solicitors, based at Bredon House on Tettenhall Road.

This third presentation, which starts at 6pm on June 26, is titled ‘Discrimination Traps for the Unwary Employer’, and follows previous events looking at topics such as compensation, covert recording, and settlement agreements

Our senior partner Graham Davies said: “Discrimination is one of the most rapidly expanding areas of employment law at the moment. There are a staggering 74 different varieties of discrimination for companies to bear in mind, and it’s clear from the raft of employment tribunals that businesses are more vulnerable than ever.

“The presentation is designed to bring Wolverhampton businesses up to date with the legislation, and equip them with the tools needed to ensure they comply with the rules, and avoid the pitfalls.”

The seminar will be run by members of our employment law team including John Mehtam, who said: “The HELP scheme stands for HR and Employment Law in Practice.

“After expanding our business to open a new office in Wolverhampton, it was clear there was a real demand for effective and clear advice that would help employers protect their business in the longer term. Our advice is designed to help employers avoid any difficulties when it comes to dealing with their staff and how to minimise potential ongoing risks to their business.”

Places at the session are deliberately limited, to ensure that everyone who attends gets the chance to be directly involved and ask as many questions as they like. To find out more, or to reserve a place, call June Noto on 01952 272222 or email junenoto@martinkaye.co.uk






Friday, 13 June 2014

Business boost thanks to innovative approach

Lawyers from Martin-Kaye Solicitors are to expand an innovative business support scheme that’s already achieving nationwide success.

The firm runs an employment and human resources support service called Alpha, which is marking its fifth anniversary this month. It was launched following extensive research and has been designed to deliver tailored support to businesses all over the UK.

Senior Partner, Graham Davies, said: “Our research showed that many companies were unhappy with the national firms and consultancies they were working with when it came to employment and HR support.

“They didn’t like the idea of being tied-in to a long-term contract, and they felt there was a lack of personal service when they needed it most.

“We found that companies also felt any advice they did receive was generally non-committal and watered down, possibly to avoid running the risk of an insurance claim.

“So we decided to tackle the issues and created Alpha to fill a genuine gap in the market, and our service has gone from strength to strength ever since.”

Graham said since Alpha was launched, over 150 companies had signed up to receive support – most have joined following recommendations from existing members, and some clients come from as far away as London and the North East.

“We don’t ask companies to sign a long-term agreement, but despite no formal tie-in, our renewal rate is over 98% which is testimony to the flexibility and effectiveness of the support we offer.

“Our aim now is to build on the strong foundations we have in place to increase the number of companies benefiting from our Alpha package, and to reach out still further to more companies even further afield.”

The Alpha service offers fixed price legal support 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and the employment and human resources advice is tailored to suit each individual business.

Martin-Kaye’s employment law specialists focus on delivering robust and clear advice that minimises the risk of tribunal claims, and all at a competitive price.





Thursday, 12 June 2014

Directors' death warning from legal firm

Company directors have been urged to consider what will happen to their business if they’re no longer there to run it.

Graham Davies, senior partner at our head ofice in Telford, said most business people were fully aware of the need to have a will in place to clarify their wishes after their death.

“But a company is a completely separate entity to your personal assets, and so can’t be disposed of through your will. If you die, your company will continue to exist, and it can either carry on or be wound down – any company shares though will count as a personal asset and can of course be passed on through your will.”

Graham said most small companies were run by sole directors, spouses or family members which made it all the more important to leave instructions for how the business should move forward.

“If your spouse or relative hasn’t previously been regularly involved in the day-to-day operation of your company, they could have real difficulties in knowing what to do if the main director dies. Sadly this kind of circumstance happens more often than it should, leaving the company in trouble and the family missing out on valuable income.”

Graham said directors should consider not only a personal will, but some form of company will too.
“This doesn’t need to be complicated – you can simply put together a ‘letter of instruction’ for the executors of your personal will.

“Set out how your company is run on a daily basis, and include the details of the main professional advisers you use. Give details of the company’s current assets and liabilities, and offer advice on who should run the company until all the formalities are completed.

“You do need to bear in mind though that a letter of instruction or any other documents you leave can always be ignored. As the company is separate from your personal assets, your letter is not legally binding so your guidance doesn’t necessarily have to be followed.

“But equally such a letter could prove invaluable at what would be an incredibly stressful time, and although you might think it’s a morbid subject, it’s a sensible step that could save a great deal of difficulty if the worst should happen.”

Friday, 6 June 2014

Own goal warning for employers


The World Cup is expected to plough big money into the economy over the coming weeks – but companies were today warned to get their workplace policies in order to avoid scoring an own goal.

According to the British Retail Consortium, the arrival of a World Cup can generate up to £1.25 billion in extra spending across the retail sector in Britain.

But away from the High Street, it can also have a damaging impact on company productivity as staff seek to book extra holiday, or call in sick, so they can watch the big games  . . . or recover from a late night of celebrations.

Tina Chander, employment law specialist from Telford-based Martin-Kaye Solicitors, said: “With the competition being held in Brazil this year, the four-hour time difference means this may not be quite such a big issue for UK companies.

“Most of the matches will not be kicking off until 5pm or later, which will avoid the peak of the day for many businesses. But it is still important for managers to make sure they have rigorous policies in place, and that they are communicated clearly to all staff.”

She added: “Flexibility on the part of both employers, and their employees is key to maintaining a productive business, and a happy, motivated workforce.

“To achieve this, it is important for Shropshire managers to have agreements in place regarding such issues as time off, sickness absence, or even time spent watching TV and monitoring social media.

“A more flexible approach is not always possible, however, for many businesses. If England do well, momentum for merchandise will undoubtedly build in the shops and pubs, and employers will need all the staff they can muster. In these instances it is vital that all requests for time off are dealt with fairly, and consistently.

“It’s also important to remember that not everyone likes football – there could be resentment from non-fans if they feel staff are being given special treatment which is not afforded to workers during other sporting events.”

Tina added: “As an employer, you have to make the right decisions for your business. Being flexible will help to motive and engage workers, but you still need to keep your customers happy. The vast majority of workers will understand this, and appreciate openness and honesty.

“But they must also be reminded that any unauthorised absence, suspicious working patterns, or evidence of turning up worse for wear after the previous evening’s excesses, could result in more than just a yellow card. It could lead to formal disciplinary proceedings.”

Thursday, 29 May 2014

Are you paying too much?

Companies could be paying more business rates than they need to – all for the sake of a tape measure.

Madelene Schofield-Whittingham who leads our commercial property team at Martin-Kaye Solicitors, in Telford, said many businesses would be unaware they were actually paying too much.

“You’ll find the current rateable value figure for your premises on your annual rates statement, or you can check it on the Valuation Office’s online database. But importantly, you should look closely at the description of your premises which is also included on the database because this is where mistakes could occur.

“The website will list your floor area, what the premises are used for, and the date on which they were last valued, as each of these elements affects the rateable value and so directly impacts on the amount of business rates you pay.

“Start with the basics – are the measurements correct? Don’t just assume they’re right – measure the space for yourself and double check. And has the Valuation Office included an accurate description of what your premises are used for? Maybe they have your premises listed as a shop but you actually use the property as offices?

“Check too whether similar premises in the area may have a lower rateable value than yours. There may be a good reason for this – perhaps they have a different frontage or access, but it’s wise to make the comparison in case you’re missing an opportunity to bring your rate down.”

Madelene said companies could check the value of neighbouring buildings by putting the postcode into the database.

“You need to consider though that if you’ve made changes to your premises since the last valuation took place, the rateable value may actually increase – and if you appeal, the local council will inspect your property which could mean you end up paying an increased premium.

“If you believe you have a genuine case, you can appeal to the local authority for a reduction in the rateable value, but you’ll need to be sure of your facts first. There are specialist rating firms that can help negotiate a reduction, but that will obviously cost more money – so by checking the details carefully yourself, you could save your company vital cash.”

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Boom in business brings in a new lawyer

Property experts at Martin-Kaye Solicitors have welcomed a new face to their team as demand for their services continues to grow.

Simon Jarvis has joined us at our head office in Euston Way, in Telford, after a huge increase in business for the property team thanks to an upturn in the economy.

He has over 10 years’ experience in property law and has handled all kinds of matters in the sector.

“I am very pleased to be joining Martin-Kaye Solicitors as their reputation for delivering high quality customer service is well-known, and I’m looking forward to the challenge of a new role,” said Simon. “I’m particularly keen to build on the firm’s excellent reputation and work closely with the rest of the property team to continue to develop the business still further.”

Simon’s expertise covers a wide range of property matters ranging from domestic purchases of freehold, leasehold, new-build and shared ownership properties, to acting on behalf of major national housing developers to help them acquire land for development.

Senior partner, Graham Davies, said: “We’re very happy to welcome Simon to our property team – his strong skills will prove invaluable and will fit perfectly with the rest of our existing staff. His performance so far has been very impressive, and we’re sure his knowledge and experience will make him a real asset to our team.”



Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Employers sign up for business advice


Employers from across the West Midlands have been finding out how to avoid the top ten legal blunders that could derail their businesses.

Over 40 employers attended our latest HELP seminar at The Ramada Hall Hotel, in Wolverhampton, run by our employment law team.

They heard from employment law expert, John Mehtam, who took them through the minefield of employment pitfalls and all the latest topical workplace issues.

“We were extremely pleased to see so many new faces at the second in our series of HELP presentations that have now been held in the Wolverhampton area,” said John.

“After opening our new office in the city, it was clear there was a real demand for effective and clear advice that would help employers protect their business in the longer term. HELP stands for HR and Employment Law in Practice, and our events offer a unique opportunity for business leaders to hear from the very best when it comes to tackling topical issues.”

This latest event in the series covered a wide range of topics including: employment tribunal fees and a cap on compensation; employer fines; compulsory arbitration; covert recording; and settlement agreements.

“One of our main aims is always to give delegates advice on how to deal with short and long-term sickness absence and how to avoid ‘open wallet surgery’ when it comes to dealing with claims at a tribunal,” said John.

“Our advice is designed to help employers avoid any difficulties when it comes to dealing with their staff and how to minimise potential ongoing risks to their business.”

Senior Partner Graham Davies said: “We deliberately restrict the number of places available at these events to ensure that everyone who attends gets the chance to be directly involved and that delegates also have the option to ask as many questions as they like.

“The Ramada has proved to be an excellent venue for our seminars too, and we’re looking forward to hosting more HELP sessions in the coming months. In the longer term, we’re hoping to extend our programme of events to the wider West Midlands area too as we’ve seen such a positive response from customers in that region.”

The next HELP presentation is planned for Thursday, June 26, at 5.30pm, also at The Ramada Park Hall Hotel in Wolverhampton.



Thursday, 24 April 2014

Barry joins the commercial team


Martin-Kaye Solicitors have appointed a highly experienced solicitor who is set to impress the business community with his knowledge of the corporate world.

Barry Doherty is a senior corporate solicitor who has many years of experience, and he has now joined the team in Euston Way, in Telford.

Senior partner Graham Davies said: “We are very pleased to have appointed Barry and to have attracted such a capable and committed lawyer. He has previously worked with leading city practices and has an excellent pedigree, so we’re looking forward to him playing a key role moving forward.”

Barry is a former partner of a national law firm in Birmingham, and has been listed in the Legal 500 as “practical and experienced, one to recommend”.

He specialises in all areas of corporate law including mergers and acquisitions, management buy-outs and buy-ins, and trade sales and disposals. He also handles company formations, reorganisations and restructuring, joint ventures, and shareholders agreements.

Barry is a course assessor for the Solicitors Regulation Authority too dealing with continued professional development training to solicitors and other professionals.

He said: “This is a great opportunity for me as Martin-Kaye Solicitors are an incredibly forward-thinking firm, with bright and exciting aims and objectives. I’m keen to make contact and meet up with as many key clients as possible in the coming weeks, in order to establish myself in the local business community, and would like to thank the existing team for all the support they’ve given me so far.”

Barry will be working closely with the rest of the commercial team – John Mehtam, Madelene Schofield-Whittingham, Andrew Oranjuik, and Graham Davies.

Pic:    Barry Doherty is the new Senior Corporate Solicitor at Martin-Kaye Solicitors in Telford

Friday, 11 April 2014

George beats injury to reach his goal


A Telford man has successfully completed a half marathon challenge despite only being given the all-clear to begin training just weeks before.

George Heron is our office assistant at Martin-Kaye Solicitors, in Euston Way, and he ran the Ironbridge Half Marathon in memory of his fiancée’s mum, Pat Downes.

His achievement is all the more impressive as he had been banned from running for five years after problems with his ankles – including surgery to insert metal pins in both joints – and only began training in February.

“After such a long time away from running, I knew completing a half marathon with only seven weeks training would be a huge challenge. But I was confident I could do it and I finished in two hours three minutes, so I’m really proud.”

George has so far raised £400 for Bowel Cancer UK (which is double his initial target) and his effort was particularly poignant as the event took place just days before the fifth anniversary of the death of Zoe’s mum.

“Everyone at Martin-Kaye has been extremely generous with their support, both financial and emotional, and I’m very grateful to all my colleagues, family and friends.”

Martin-Kaye Senior Partner, Graham Davies, said: “Given the difficulties that George has had, running the half marathon is nothing short of a minor miracle.

“We’ve been impressed by his commitment to his goal and it’s great to see him complete such a brilliant challenge all in aid of such a worthy cause.”

www.justgiving.com/GeorgeRunsIronbridge


Chasing commercial rent arrears - is it worth it?


Landlords could decide to cut their losses rather than chase tenants for outstanding arrears, according to a local solicitor.

Madelene Schofield-Whittingham, who heads up our commercial property team at Martin-Kaye LLP Solicitors in Telford, said chasing up outstanding rent could be a lengthy and difficult process.

“There are many options available to landlords who are concerned their tenants may be struggling to pay their rent. But sometimes it may be more sensible to just recover possession of the building while you still can, before the legal process takes over.”

Madelene said if a commercial landlord was determined to take an official stance, they should think carefully about what steps to take.

“If your tenant paid a rent deposit when they took on the lease, you may be entitled to use this to cover the rent due. And if your tenant has someone who stands as a guarantor to the lease, you may be able to call on them to pay the arrears.”

Madelene also said landlords may in some circumstances be entitled to seize, impound and sell any goods belonging to the tenant, or you could choose a right of re-entry and take back the tenanted property itself – as long as you stay within the confines of the law.

“If you decide to take court action and claim against the tenant to try to recover the debt, this is unlikely to be much use if the tenant is about to become insolvent. But if the property is sub-let, then in some circumstances the main landlord can ask an under-tenant to pay its rent directly to them and cut out the middle man.”

Until your tenant is formally declared insolvent, landlords are entitled to use any of the options available to them.

“After the tenant becomes insolvent, some remedies will only be possible if the insolvency practitioner or the courts give their permission – this is likely to be a long and expensive process, and permission is not always given.

“You may even find yourself in the difficult position of being unable to do anything with the property, with no right to take it back, and with a tenant who is in arrears. This is of course made even worse if you have a new tenant ready and waiting to take a lease on the property.

“Think carefully and take advice about the options available to you before you even start any formal proceedings – you may decide it’s not always worth the stress, cost and time to pursue someone who may never be able to pay up.”

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Strike action is bad news all round

Teachers’ strikes are making life difficult for parents – and they’re just as problematic for employers too.

Tina Chander, from the employment team at Martin-Kaye Solicitors in Telford, said with more possible strikes in the coming weeks, families and companies across the area would need to be prepared.

“There is often little advance warning that strike action will be taking place, and this is a nightmare for parents who suddenly find they need to arrange emergency childcare. And of course, if there is no alternative, they may well be forced to take the day off from work which in turn causes issues for their employer.”

But Tina warned that employers needed to try to be as flexible as possible in order to help parents handle a difficult situation.

“By law, staff are entitled to take a reasonable amount of unpaid time off work to deal with family situations like this, and employers must take a sensible approach, even though it causes disruption in the workplace. If you don’t allow an employee to take time off to care for their child in these circumstances, you could well be breaching their rights so it’s important to handle the request sensitively.”

Tina said companies needed to have a consistent approach when it came to dealing with employees needing to take time off to care for their children.

“Your staff have no automatic legal right to be paid if they can’t get into work, but check your contracts carefully as they may say differently. And if you’ve previously paid staff in similar circumstances, you may have already set a precedent which you now can’t ignore.”

Several options are possible if staff are unable to come into work, and as long as an employer is even-handed and applies the same rules across the board, then the system will be seen to be fair.

“Ask your staff to take paid annual leave if they have any left available, or suggest they work from home,” said Tina. “Employees could also take the time off as unpaid leave if they have no alternative, or agree to make up the time lost by starting earlier, working later or taking shorter lunch breaks once they’re back at work.

“Strike action is never an easy situation to handle, but by remembering that both parents and employers are affected, and by taking a flexible approach, everything should balance out in the end.”

Protect your business - and your future


Companies must ensure they take reasonable steps to protect themselves when key staff move on, a local solicitor has warned.

Andrew Oranjuik, from our litigation team at Martin-Kaye Solicitors in Telford, said it was vital that employers paid careful attention to the wording of each staff member’s contract right from the very start.

“When any new employee begins working for your company, set out in their contract a series of restrictions on how they will be expected to behave if they leave. These rules are called restrictive covenants and they are designed to help safeguard your business by stopping former employees giving away confidential information or stealing suppliers or clients. If you fail to include restrictions like this, your business could be in an extremely vulnerable position, and ultimately, your entire future could be at risk.”

Andrew said it was important though that any restrictions were worded in a way that they were considered “reasonable” otherwise they may not be enforceable.

“It’s clear that any restraints you include must not be excessively wide and they will usually only be valid for a set period of time. And if you include a clause that prevents the employee from working for a competitor, this will only be applicable if the restrictions are clearly in place to protect confidential information that you hold or your precious connections with customers.”

Andrew said if a former employee broke the rules, the employer would often seek an injunction from the court to stop any further breaches.

“This is particularly important if the employee has been dismissed or made redundant, as if there is any bad feeling, you will need to limit the amount of damage they can cause – both to your reputation and your business itself. If there is a major breach of the covenant – perhaps they have poached a key client – you can actually make a claim for damages, including the loss of profit your company has suffered as a direct result of their actions.”

Andrew said companies must also ensure they were vigilant in the period before an employee was due to leave.

“You must watch out for any attempts they make to encourage clients to follow them to their new employment, and look for any unusual activity such as printing or copying databases that could be crucial to your business. Most importantly, keep any evidence you find of any wrong-doing as you may need it if the case comes to court later.

“Introducing restrictive covenants may seem a tough stance to take, but you have to protect your business and the rest of your workforce, so you must take them seriously.”

Saturday, 29 March 2014

Staff discounts can prove costly


Companies have been warned that staff discounts may be a perk of the job but they can quickly get out of hand.

Tina Chander, from our employment law team at Martin-Kaye Solicitors in Telford, said many companies offered discounts on their products and services to their employees, and some also extended the offer to family and friends.

“Some of the biggest names in retailing in the UK are renowned for their amazing staff discounts – with companies like Waitrose, Sainsbury’s and John Lewis offering up to 20 or even 25%. But for smaller companies, what begins as a staff incentive can quickly snowball, and rather than having clear benefits for your business, it can become a nightmare.”

Tina said it wasn’t only companies that widened their offer to their employees’ extended families and friends who were at risk – those who only allowed employees to benefit from reduced rates were also vulnerable.

“You may find your staff agree to buy products or services for other people, and maybe decide to split the difference between them. In this way, your staff are receiving the cash you could have earned from a direct sale. If this is just a one-off, then you may not be too worried about the situation, but if begins to happen regularly, your profits could be hit hard.

“And equally if you open up the scheme to friends and family, your staff may agree to help anyone take advantage of the reduced prices, even people they haven’t met before, as long as there’s a financial benefit in it for them.”

Tina said companies were under no obligation to offer a staff discount to anyone, but if they decided to go ahead, they should have strict rules in place.

“It’s wise to agree that employees must work for you for a certain time before they qualify for a discount, and make it clear they should not personally profit from the scheme or if they do, they’ll risk being disciplined. Put a limit on how many times they can use the staff discount, and reserve the right to change the terms of the scheme or withdraw it at any time.”

Tina said the policy should be regularly reviewed and records of all discounts should be kept to help companies spot any potential over-use. “Everyone likes a bargain and everyone loves a perk, but it’s important to protect your business from people prepared to over-step the mark.”

Monday, 24 March 2014

Record keeping can be simplified


Small businesses struggling to keep up with time-consuming admin will be relieved to hear it can be kept to a minimum.

Tina Chander, from our employment law team, said keeping accurate company records was vital in order to stay on the right side of the law.

“You need to keep statutory records of course, but it’s about knowing what’s essential and how to keep on top of things with as little of your precious time taken up as possible.”

Tina said The Companies Act 2006 set out the rules for exactly what information every company needed to keep.

“You’ll need a register of members/shareholders, a list of directors and company secretaries, details of anyone who has a right over assets of the company such as a bank, minutes of directors’ and shareholders’ meetings, and accounts. And if you don’t keep proper records, as a director of the company you will be held personally responsible, so it’s important to know where you stand.”

Tina said for anyone who was the sole director and shareholder of a company, records were just something that had to be dealt with.

“But if there are other people involved, the importance of your company records is greater, as you may need to rely on them if a dispute ever occurs. Minutes of your board meetings will prove beyond a shadow of a doubt what was agreed, and so the records will protect you – this is something to take into consideration even if you don’t believe you are ever likely to disagree with your fellow directors.”

Tina said anyone who detested dealing with paperwork, or who was just too busy to find the time to keep the records up-to-date, could look at alternative arrangements.

“You can now use free or cost-effective software that will guide you through your record keeping electronically, which will reduce the time it takes, and which also ensures your records are in the right format. Or you could appoint an external company to handle your requirements, although this of course will be at an extra cost, but you might decide it’s worth it to have one less thing to worry about.”

Thursday, 20 March 2014

Deposit bonus for savvy tenants


Buy-to-let landlords have been warned that savvy tenants could be exploiting the rules to their own advantage when it comes to their deposit.

Andrew Oranjuik, from our litigation team, said most residential landlords were aware that if they received a deposit from a shorthold tenant, it must paid into a formal tenancy deposit scheme.

“The rules were introduced to stop landlords withholding the deposit at the end of a tenancy, often for the flimsiest of reasons. I believe it’s a good thing to have the rules in place to protect tenants, but landlords must be aware of the consequences they will face if they don’t follow the guidelines correctly.”

Andrew said that within 30 days of receiving the deposit, a landlord must pay it into an approved scheme and inform the tenant of their actions.

“If you don’t take this step, the tenant can take their case to court and the court will have no other option than to rule against the landlord, ordering you to pay the tenant between one and three times the value of the original deposit.This rule applies even if you have already returned the deposit to the tenant in full at the end of their tenancy.

“Such a move can bring a real windfall for your tenant, and we have seen a noticeable increase in tenants becoming more and more savvy and willing to cash in on their landlords’ failure to comply with the strict guidance.

“And not only could you find yourself facing a payout that seems unfair, failing to deal with your tenant’s deposit correctly could cause difficulties when you try to take the property back. With a rise in the number of people taking advantage of favourable price rates to acquire buy-to-let properties, issues like this can have a real impact on many people.

“You need to make sure every detail is correct before you let the property out, as it can be very expensive if anything is left undone.”

Friday, 28 February 2014

Recruitment headaches can be avoided

 Employers must protect themselves from unnecessary costs if a recruitment campaign goes wrong.

John Mehtam is our employment law expert and he said many companies turned to recruitment agencies to find key personnel for high profile positions.

“Recruitment agencies usually work on a commission basis, with their fee payable once the ideal candidate takes up their post. The fees are calculated on a percentage of the successful applicant’s overall remuneration package, not just their salary, and although these costs have reduced lately, you could still face a hefty bill.

“But the problem comes if the person who appeared to be the perfect fit for your company doesn’t work out. What if they resign in the first year for personal reasons? Or they take up another offer or you find they’ve lied about their qualifications and experience? You could find you’ve spent all that money and yet your vacancy is once again left empty and you’ve been left high and dry.”

John said there were steps companies could take to protect themselves before the process even began.

“Check your recruitment agency agreement allows for a refund of fees if the new staff member’s employment ends in the first year – if it doesn’t, make sure you insist on this point being included.”

John said most agencies would agree to refund their fees on a sliding scale, but employers should demand 100% be repaid if it turns out that the agency didn’t carry out sufficient pre-employment checks.

“You should be able to claim recruitment agency fees directly from the employee involved, but not if the agency has already reimbursed you. Set out the arrangement in their appointment letter, but make it clear that the clause will run out on the first anniversary of their employment.

“It’s difficult enough to find the right staff to ensure your business runs smoothly and efficiently, without being left out of pocket if things don’t work out, so employers must look out for themselves and protect their interests.”