Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Are you sitting comfortably?

Employees need to be comfortable in the workplace but how far must their employers go to accommodate their needs?

Gemma Workman from Martin-Kaye Solicitors, in Euston Way, Telford, said employers should tread carefully when it comes to decisions about office furniture.

“Modern office chairs can be adjusted to accommodate a wide range of shapes and sizes, and they also come in different dimensions for both extra tall and smaller staff.

“But what if an employee would prefer to bring in their own seating because they found it more comfortable? In particular, how should an employer react if the choice isn’t a traditional chair?

“If your staff work with a computer, their seating will be subject to health and safety regulations which set out certain requirements that standard chairs must have, including a height-adjustable seat and a backrest that can be adjusted for both height and tilt.

“Chairs must also be physically stable and allow for freedom of movement, but national guidance also says employers should consider the possibility of staff using unconventional chairs too.

“It says that employees suffering from back problems may benefit from a chair that comes with a fixed backrest or a seat that has no backrest at all, such as a kneeling chair. But whatever they choose, it must still be stable on the floor.

“This means employees will not be able to use exercise balls as seating for example, as although they can help strengthen core muscles, it’s too easy for an employee to fall off and hurt themselves.”

Miss Workman said before agreeing to anything, employers should find out exactly why their staff may want to bring in their own seating.

“Is their current chair uncomfortable because it’s broken or because they are not a standard size? If so, then this is easily put right by ordering them a new chair. Or maybe the employee uses non-conventional seating at home and finds it more to their liking?

“If their request is purely down to personal choice, you should think carefully before giving them the go-ahead because it will make it very difficult to refuse any requests from other staff in the future.”

Miss Workman said there may be some merit in the request if the employee has a pre-existing medical condition, or if they’re recovering from a back or hip injury.

“But you should ask for a full assessment from an occupational health advisor before you say yes, and then providing their chosen chair is suitable, you can allow them to bring it in to the workplace.”

Monday, 15 May 2017

Off the record comments can be costly

Employers have been warned that their business could be at risk if they disclose confidential information – even if they think it’s “off the record”.

John Mehtam is the employment law specialist at Martin-Kaye Solicitors, in Telford, and he said businesses must be aware that the actual phrase ‘off the record’ had no legal status whatsoever.

“Don’t be fooled by the idea that disclosing information which is clearly confidential is nothing to worry about – you’ll be putting your business in jeopardy and it’s not a risk worth taking.”

Mr Mehtam said confidential information often included personal data that related to directors, owners, current and former employees, customers and clients.

“It may also include information about individual and or business tax affairs, legal and other professional advice that’s been received, and current and future business plans. But no matter what details you’re asked to pass on, both you and the person asking for the information will be breaching confidentiality rules, even if you both agree you’re speaking off the record.”

Mr Mehtam said it wasn’t just employers who could find themselves in trouble, and all employees should be told that the phrase is meaningless and that they should never reveal anything to a third party.

“If your staff are asked for confidential information, you should insist that they refer the request to a senior manager or director, as you as their employer could be held responsible for their actions if they pass anything on.”

And it’s not just random requests for personal information that can get an employer into trouble.

“If you’re approached for a verbal reference about a former employee, don’t say ‘yes if it’s off the record’ because it won’t be, and the employee is entitled to know what you said about them.

“A recent ruling by the Supreme Court has also confirmed that disclosing confidential information in off the record comments does not get around confidentiality obligations. They said off the record discussions gave the person making the disclosure – and the person asking for the private information – no legal protection at all.

“If someone even mentions off the record discussions, it should immediately set alarm bells ringing, and you should be on your guard from the start. Don’t put yourself and your business at risk.”

Wednesday, 3 May 2017

Michelle steps up at Martin-Kaye

A Telford lawyer with almost 20 years’ experience has now been named as an Associate at a leading local law firm.

Michelle Poulton began her career as a legal assistant in the conveyancing team with Martin-Kaye Solicitors, and she is now a qualified Licensed Conveyancer at the firm’s head office in Euston Way, in Telford.

Senior Partner, Graham Davies, said Michelle’s new position was
as a direct result of her dedication and commitment.

“We’re always keen to encourage staff to continuously develop their skills and it’s always a real pleasure to be able to give employees the opportunity to make positive progress in their career. Michelle is a key member of our conveyancing team and we’re very pleased to announce that she is now an Associate with the firm – an honour that we reserve for our most talented and committed staff.”

Michelle manages a small team of legal assistants and is responsible for both panel-based business and local estate agent referrals.

She also deals with a variety of property cases including remortgaging, transfer of equity, right to buy, equity release, and sale and purchase work.

“I’m delighted to have been promoted to the role of Associate, and I’m very proud that the hard work I’ve put in has been recognised in such a way. In my new position, I’m looking forward to playing an increasing role in helping to build the business even further, and to working with my team to ensure our clients receive the very best service at all times.”

Martin-Kaye’s experienced and knowledgeable property team is accredited under the Conveyancing Quality Scheme – the quality mark for legal experts in buying or selling property.

Pic: Michelle Poulton – the new Associate at Martin-Kaye Solicitors in Telford – with Senior Partner Graham Davies