Friday, 30 January 2015

Signing on the dotted line - it's a nightmare!

Be careful who you authorise to sign company documents on your behalf, if you want to avoid a Gordon Ramsay-style kitchen nightmare.

That’s the message from our senior partner Graham Davies, who has been digesting the implications of the celebrity chef’s latest court case.

The TV cook and restaurateur has been landed with an estimated £1.6 million bill after losing a court fight to free himself from a pub contract.

Ramsay accused his father-in-law Chris Hutcheson of secretly signing a deal to make the chef personally liable for the pub’s £640,000 annual lease.

Mr Hutcheson used a ‘ghostwriter’ machine to replicate the chef’s signature, but the court found that he was acting within ‘the wide general authority conferred on him by Mr Ramsay’.

Graham said the case raised important issues which ought to be acknowledged by Shropshire employers.

“It is clear from this ruling that a ghost signing machine can effectively sign a legally binding document. And so, if you give a member of staff authority to act on your behalf and use your ghost signature when a personal guarantee is required, you are likely to be bound by the terms of the guarantee.

“This case emphasises the importance of setting out exactly what an agent can and cannot do on your behalf, right from the outset. The ghost signature machines used to place Mr Ramsay’s signature on documents gave the appearance of a pen signature, with a fine nib being used.

“This judgement indicates that it would not be necessary to confirm that the person indeed made that signature with his own hand, which is a timely warning to all business people that they must take extra care over who has the right to authorise legal documents.”

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

What's the deal with flexible working hours?

Can company bosses ignore a request for flexible working hours from their staff?

The answer, in almost every single case, is ‘no they can’t’, according to employment law specialist John Mehtam, from Martin-Kaye Solicitors in Telford.

He said: “The law changed last summer to remove the statutory procedure which had to be followed when considering flexible working requests. But the law still requires employers to deal with all applications in what is described as a ‘reasonable’ manner.”

So what does ‘reasonable’ actually mean?

John said: “An employer must look carefully at the benefits of the requested changes in working conditions for the employee and the business, and weigh these against any adverse business impact of implementing the changes.

“Employers must remember that they are under no statutory obligation to grant a request to work flexibly if it cannot be accommodated by the business without causing significant inconvenience.”

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg found himself in hot water when he said on his LBC radio show that, although record numbers of workers were granted flexible working rights, employers could “ignore such requests if they want”.

John said: “There are a number of acceptable reasons for rejecting an application, but you can’t ever simply ignore it, as Mr Clegg incorrectly suggested. Companies would risk finding themselves facing an employment tribunal, and staff could have a case for a potential discrimination claim.”

All workers have the right to request flexible hours if they have worked for a company for at least 26 continuous weeks, and have placed their request officially, in writing.