Friday, 13 July 2018

Partnership approach pays dividends

Lawyers from a Telford firm have joined forces with a network of city-based barristers to offer a fresh approach to family disputes.

The family law team at Martin-Kaye Solicitors, in Euston Way, Telford, is working with experts in Birmingham, to develop an arbitration scheme that could speed up difficult cases.

Gemma Himsworth, who leads the Martin-Kaye family division, said she and her colleague Jane Tinsley were in talks with some of the city’s top barristers.

“Arbitration is a little-known option for family disputes, but it’s something that we believe could be increasingly useful – particularly in the current climate when the court system is struggling and creating huge delays.

“There is of course no such thing as a quickie divorce, but the arbitration option is definitely something that could help ease the pressure on the legal system and help resolve family issues in a shorter time.”

Mrs Himsworth said divorce itself was a relatively straightforward process, as long as those involved had someone to assist with the correct paperwork.

“But the divorce doesn’t deal with the finances such as dividing up the house, business, income, and other assets – this is the part that often takes the longest time and costs the most money.

“We already regularly refer clients to mediation, but if the case can’t be resolved that way, traditionally the only other option has been for both parties to go to court.

“Now, thanks to our discussions with Birmingham-based barristers, we can suggest arbitration where both sides jointly appoint a fair and impartial family arbitrator to resolve the dispute.

“It’s a flexible and completely confidential process, but the huge advantage over something like mediation is that it results in a final decision – if both sides still can’t agree after arbitration, the arbitrator will make a decision for you.”

Mrs Himsworth said the arbitration process did come at a cost as the arbitrator had to be paid, but it often still led to cost savings because it led to a faster decision, potentially cutting down on the amount of time people had to maintain two households and two mortgages.

Thursday, 12 July 2018

Plan ahead for later years

A Telford solicitor has backed a campaign urging families to prepare for their later years to help avoid a possible dementia crisis.

Fiona Mainwaring, of Martin-Kaye Solicitors in Euston Way, said a report published by the Solicitors for the Elderly organisation warned that the UK was “sleep-walking” towards a dementia disaster.

“Around 12 million people in the UK who are at high risk of losing mental capacity have made no provision whatsoever for their future. This means millions of people have not planned ahead to ensure their wishes are followed and yet it’s very simple to do – you need to take professional advice and make a lasting power of attorney (LPA).

“The person you appoint will ensure that your wishes are followed if you cannot make decisions for yourself about your health, your financial affairs and about any ongoing care needs you may have.”

Mrs Mainwaring said a coalition of partners including AgeUK and the Alzheimer’s Society had been set up amid warnings of a looming “incapacity crisis”.

The Solicitors for the Elderly report, which was published in conjunction with the Centre for Future Studies, said research showed that 12.8 million people over the age of 65 run the risk of developing dementia.

“And yet, there are only 928,000 LPAs currently registered – by 2025, around 13.2 million people will be at risk but only 2.2 million LPAs are expected to be in place. It’s clear that the situation is untenable and it’s vital that more people plan ahead because otherwise, the UK care system will be overwhelmed and millions of people will lose their chance to shape their own future.

“Start a positive conversation with your family and friends about your future welfare, and seek out a family law solicitor to find out how to put a plan in place. This will make the decision-making process much easier for everyone.”

Charity director at AgeUK, Caroline Abrahams, agreed saying it was advisable to set up an LPA well in advance.

“You can specify what decisions you are happy for your attorney to make on your behalf, and you can also choose more than one attorney who could be a family member, a friend, spouse, partner or civil partner, or a professional adviser such as a solicitor.”

Thursday, 5 July 2018

Maria joins Martin-Kaye

A Telford law firm has appointed a new marketing specialist as part of its campaign to reach new clients across the UK.

Maria Smallcombe has joined Martin-Kaye Solicitors at their head office, in Euston Way, and she will be working closely with senior partner Graham Davies and his team to boost the firm’s profile.

She said: “I’m really looking forward to applying my marketing skills to a professional services environment as that’s a first for me, and it’s very interesting to see how the legal profession operates.

“I have worked in marketing for 20 years in a variety of areas including manufacturing, education, the arts, healthcare and IT, in both the public and private sectors. Now I’m enjoying the challenge of using my knowledge and experience to help Martin-Kaye to build on the strong reputation they already have, and being part of the team that develops strategies to attract new clients.”

Maria graduated from the University of Wolverhampton and initially worked in the travel sector before choosing to make marketing her career.

Graham Davies said: “At Martin-Kaye, we are always keen to continuously develop our strategies and to fine-tune our approach when it comes to finding new clients both close to home and further afield.

“It’s great to see Maria’s skills from her previous roles being used in a legal setting, and we’re keen to explore the fresh and innovative ideas she has to maximise our opportunities for new business.”

As well as offering general marketing support, Maria will also be involved in the organisation and administration of seminars, workshops and presentations – in particular, the popular Top 10 Tips and Blunders sessions presented by the firm’s employment law team to audiences all over the UK.

Pic: Maria Smallcombe joins the Martin-Kaye team in Telford 


Friday, 22 June 2018

Employers need to take action over avalanche of claims




Employers are facing an avalanche of claims following the Government’s decision to abolish tribunal fees – but a Shropshire law firm has the answers company bosses need.

Martin-Kaye Solicitors, in Euston Way, Telford, is hosting an interactive employment advice seminar that will see them share invaluable information to help employers protect their business from escalating claims.

The Top 10 Blunders seminar will take place at Martin-Kaye’s offices on Thursday, July 12, at 12pm, and will be hosted by the firm’s employment law specialist, John Mehtam. 

“Our presentations are always extremely popular wherever we hold them across Shropshire, Wales and the wider West Midlands, and this event is an opportunity for local companies to find out just how valuable the right advice can be.

“Statistically the number of claims now being lodged through employment tribunals is increasing at an unprecedented rate – in fact there has been a 500% rise since the fees that employees needed to pay to bring a claim were abolished.

“And with the avalanche of claims we’re seeing, some employees are bringing claims that stand little chance of succeeding, but employers have to take them all seriously and you need to be sure you’re complying with all the relevant legislation.”

Mr Mehtam said he would be sharing his advice to help businesses navigate through the increasingly-complicated minefield of employment law, and to help them avoid the most common pitfalls.

“We will include suggestions on how to tackle some of the most common workplace and HR issues including sickness absence, dismissals and poor employee performance – and perhaps more importantly, we will look at how to avoid these situations and how to protect your business.

“At Martin-Kaye, we’re committed to delivering effective and appropriate advice that really does make a difference to our employers, and our short sharp seminars are designed to get right to the point.

“With employers short on time, it’s almost impossible to keep up-to-date with ever-changing legislation, so our seminars offer clear, concise information in a time frame that suits our busy delegates.”

Businesses who would like to attend the seminar should contact Maria Smallcombe on 01952 272222 or email mariasmallcombe@martinkaye.co.uk  

Pic: Martin-Kaye’s Employment Law Specialist John Mehtam who will be presenting the Top 10 Blunders seminar at the firm’s Telford office

Wednesday, 13 June 2018

World Cup woes for businesses

Companies could benefit from a huge boost in business thanks to the upcoming World Cup – but failing to get their workplace policies in order could see them scoring an own goal.

That’s the warning from John Mehtam, the Employment Law specialist at Martin-Kaye Solicitors, in Telford.

“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.”

Mr Mehtam said as the competition was being held in Russia this year, the time difference meant that many of the matches would be kicking off in the middle of the working day.

“This could be a real issue for many businesses, and with England’s group matches in the evenings and at weekends, shift workers could be affected too, so it’s important for managers to make sure they have rigorous policies in place, and that they are communicated clearly to all staff.

“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 issues like time off, sickness absence, or even time spent watching TV and monitoring social media.

“A more flexible approach is not always possible for some 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.”

Mr Mehtam said employers needed to make the right decisions for their own individual business.

“Being flexible will help to motivate and engage workers, but you still need to keep your customers happy. The vast majority of workers will understand this, 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.”

Wednesday, 30 May 2018

New face joins the Martin-Kaye team

Martin-Kaye Solicitors have welcomed a new commercial property solicitor to their team.

Jas Khela is the latest new face to join the law firm, in Euston Way, Telford, and he has wide-ranging experience after completing his training with a city centre legal practice in Birmingham, followed by a move to another Shropshire firm.

“I’m delighted to have joined such a forward-thinking and progressive practice, and everyone has already made me feel very welcome,” said Jas. "This is a great opportunity for me to develop my skills and to build a career as part of a dynamic and effective team.”

Jas will specialise in a wide variety of commercial property cases including: landlord and tenant issues such as new leases, surrenders, licences, and rent reviews; sales and purchases; and land development including conditional contracts and option agreements.

Martin-Kaye Senior Partner Graham Davies said Jas was an excellent addition to the commercial property department, and he was already building strong contacts with new and existing clients.

“We’re always looking for keen and ambitious lawyers to join us here at Martin-Kaye, and Jas fits the bill perfectly. His commercial property skills are excellent, and he’s working very well alongside colleagues who are keen to share their knowledge and experience with him.

“We believe the working environment we can offer is a great setting for lawyers who are looking to develop their skills and learn from our team, and we’re very pleased to see Jas fitting in so well.”

Martin-Kaye’s specialist partner-led commercial property team acts for both sellers and purchasers in all kinds of deals ranging from the property aspects of large restructuring deals, to the sale or purchase of the premises of a small business.

The team acts for both landlords and tenants in leasehold matters too, including rent reviews, security of tenure, new short or long-term leases, lease assignments, sublets and occupational licences.

Pic: Jas Khela is the new commercial property lawyer at Martin-Kaye Solicitors, in Telford

Tuesday, 15 May 2018

Fake reviews can be fatal

Business owners must take action over fake website reviews or risk their company’s reputation, and even its entire future.

Graham Davies, of Martin-Kaye Solicitors in Telford, said with competition for business so fierce, some companies and individuals had resorted to posting fake negative reviews on company websites.

“Research has shown that in 2017, 85% of hotels had been subjected to fake reviews – and that’s an increase from 65% just two years earlier.

“The hospitality industry has been a popular target, but many other industries and small businesses have also been affected. Of course, in business you’re never going to please all of your customers all of the time, but fake reviews left on your website can be extremely damaging.”

Mr Davies said firstly you should check whether the review came from an actual customer or not.

“If you believe it’s not a genuine customer, flag the review up with Google or whichever platform it has been posted on, although they won’t always agree to remove it and this process can take some time. If they won’t take the review down, you should post a reply – don’t be tempted to lose your temper as it will only reflect badly on your company and so help your competitor.

“Compose a dignified and polite reply that explains you have checked your records and that they don’t appear to be listed as a customer, but if they’d like to call you then you’ll deal with their concerns.”

Mr Davies said business owners should not be tempted to bring in a marketing firm that promised to fix their online reputation either.

“The Competition and Markets Authority has recently stepped up its campaign to root out companies who are employed to post fake positive reviews in a bid to redress the balance, so you could still be breaking the law.

“Most importantly, make sure you deal with the review one way or another – if it is a negative comment from a genuine customer, dealing with it constructively and (if it’s appropriate) on a public forum shows you appreciate their concerns and take them on board.

“It’s too dangerous to simply ignore negative comments online as they won’t simply disappear, and they could put the very future of your business at risk in the long term.”

Monday, 14 May 2018

Blame game needs to stop

A Shropshire lawyer has backed calls for changes to the divorce laws in England and Wales that date back almost 50 years.

Gemma Himsworth leads the family law team at Martin-Kaye Solicitors, in Telford, and she said surveys had shown that some couples were being forced into uncomfortable courtroom battles to establish who caused the relationship breakdown.

“There is no option for couples to opt for a no-fault divorce, and this is leading to unnecessary and unsuccessful court action which can be painful for everyone involved.”

Gemma is a member of Resolution, the national family lawyers’ association, which has recognised the need for a change in the law for many years and whose members have long campaigned for the law to be updated.

“At Martin-Kaye, we always try to keep conflict to a minimum in a divorce case anyway, no matter what the circumstances are. But I would welcome a move towards divorces where neither party has to blame the other, or bring up unpleasant history in order to prove their point.

“In my experience, turning a divorce into a battleground only inflames an already difficult situation, which is of no benefit to anyone,” said Mrs Himsworth.

The only ground for divorce in England and Wales is irretrievable breakdown of a marriage, and there are five specific types – three of which require allegations of fault: adultery, behaviour and desertion. The other two require a minimum of two years’ separation before either party can apply.

Mrs Himsworth said a supreme court hearing this month would consider the only successfully defended divorce case in recent years, where a woman claims she has been left trapped in a “loveless and desperately unhappy” marriage after judges refused to allow here to divorce her husband of 40 years.

“This case clearly indicates that divorce law which is now nearly 50 years old is not working in today’s modern world, and that reform has to be the way forward. But it will require Parliament to change the law and to make the legal divorce a much simpler process – it’s time to introduce a fairer, more child-centred and cost-effective system that causes less pain for everyone involved.

“It’s not right that couples should feel cornered and pressured into defending themselves in a divorce fearing they will get a worse result when it comes to their children or money. Now is the time to stop blaming each other and work together for a more peaceful resolution.”

Tuesday, 8 May 2018

Supporting the entrepreneurs of the future

Our Senior Partner Graham Davies has been helping the entrepreneurs of the future develop their business ideas.

He joined the students at Hadley Learning Community as part of this year’s National Enterprise Challenge, which is the UK’s largest enterprise education competition.

The aim is to create real life business challenges for students and 90 students from Year 7 took part.

“It was great to be involved with the young entrepreneurs who were all extremely enthusiastic about the projects they had been working on,” said Graham. “To see students developing their life skills and preparing for a future in the world of business was very inspiring, and I’m sure many of them will go far.”

This year’s challenge involved creating ideas for a game for KidZania London – an indoor city run by children and one of the main sponsors of the competition.

The winning team from Hadley Learning Community – I’m a kid get me out of here – will now go through to the local semi-finals, with the final taking place at The International Centre, Telford, in July.

Pic:Martin-Kaye’s Senior Partner Graham Davies (right) with students from the Hadley Learning Community at the National Enterprise Challenge event


Thursday, 19 April 2018

Cross border divorce is an issue

England could face a deluge of divorce cases from the other home nations if an estranged wife wins her current court case.

The wife and her aristocratic husband – who is a relative of the Duchess of Cornwall – are locked in a legal battle about whether arguments over their divorce settlement should be held in an English or Scottish court.

And now, family law expert Gemma Himsworth of Martin-Kaye Solicitors in Telford, said if the wife wins, the case would set a precedent that could bring a huge increase in similar claims.

“The case involves Charles Villiers and his estranged wife, Emma, who lived for all but one year of their 17-year marriage in Scotland. They separated in 2012, and Mr Villiers filed for divorce in Scotland in 2014. But Mrs Villiers applied to the English courts three months later for financial maintenance of £10,000 a month.”

Mrs Himsworth said under Scottish law, inherited wealth is not taken into account when assets are divided, and maintenance payouts are generally limited to three years. “But here in England, a divorcee can secure financial support for the rest of her life from her former spouse.”

In 2016, the courts decided the English High Court could help Mrs Villiers because she was then “habitually resident” in England – they ruled Mr Villiers should pay her £5,500 a month to cover interim maintenance while the divorce is finalised and her legal bills.

“Now though, Mr Villiers is challenging the ruling and insisting that an English judge had no right to intervene in a Scottish divorce. The case is still ongoing but once it has been decided, if Mrs Villiers wins then England and Wales could see a real surge in similar cases from Scotland, and an increase in the arguments between spouses about which court should hear their dispute.

“Mr Villiers claims that his wife is ‘trying it on’ and that the courts should throw out her case.

“It remains to be seen who will win their claim, but it’s clear that the case could be a turning point in the way cross-border divorces are handled and the way that settlements are decided, so we will be watching closely to see how things develop.”

Tuesday, 17 April 2018

Are networking events a data risk?

Most Shropshire businesses should by now be aware of the new data protection rules that will come into force in just a few weeks.

But how will the legislation affect any contact details you collect at networking events across the county?

Graham Davies, of Martin-Kaye Solicitors in Telford, said: “It’s a tried and tested approach – you attend a networking meeting and automatically swap business cards with the other people you meet at the event.

“But under the new General Data Protection Regulation policy that takes effect on May 25th, surely you’re breaching the rules unless you inform your new contacts about how you’re planning to use the information?

“In fact, as you have exchanged personal data at a business event, it’s clear that both parties can reasonably expect their new contact will be in touch at a later date – otherwise why would you have handed over your business card?

“So in this situation, under GDPR you wouldn’t need to request permission to use the contact details, and you can rely on the fact your new contacts must have been interested in hearing from you by virtue of them giving you their details.”

Mr Davies said technically the new rules would require you to provide a full description of how you were planning to use the information, but common sense should be applied.

“If you’re hosting an exhibition stand at the networking event and collecting business cards from delegates, you’d be wise to display a statement that explains you may use the details later. If you don’t have a stand, maybe ask your new contact if they’d like to be included on your mailing list as they hand over their card – you need to make sure they realise that you may be in touch.

“Then when you first make contact following the event, ensure there’s a clear link to your privacy notice, and always remind your contacts that they have the right to opt out of any further marketing communications.

“The new GDPR rules are complicated and will apply to all businesses, regardless of their size or sector, but when it comes to face-to-face networking, there is room for more flexibility given the setting where it happens.”

Thursday, 29 March 2018

Tom takes on a new role at law firm

A Shropshire legal assistant has taken on a new role at a local law firm after impressing the management team with his hard work and dedication.

Tom Wickstead initially had a work experience placement at Martin-Kaye Solicitors in Euston Way, Telford, while he was still at school.

And then, after leaving Bangor University with his law degree, he spent seven years working for the National Health Service, before returning to Martin-Kaye as a legal assistant in the domestic conveyancing team.

Now, he will be assisting one of the firm’s Partners, Andrew Oranjuik, and his colleague Sara Brumwell with civil litigation, professional negligence and commercial litigation cases. Tom will also be involved in debt recovery operations.

Mr Oranjuik said: “We have been extremely impressed with Tom’s commitment and his attitude, and we felt this new role was the perfect opportunity for him to build on his already strong skills and expand his knowledge of different areas of law.

“He will work closely with senior members of the team who are all keen to share their extensive experience with him, in order to help him develop his legal career and build a strong future in the industry.”

As well as his day-to-day duties, Tom is also studying at the University of Law in Chester for his LPC (Legal Practice Course), which is also known as the Postgraduate Diploma in Legal Practice – the final stage before becoming a qualified solicitor in England and Wales.

He said: “I’m very proud to have been offered this new role and I am thoroughly enjoying learning more about different areas of law. Everyone has been so supportive, and that has made the transition to a new team much less daunting than it could have been – it’s a great opportunity and I’m relishing the new challenge.”

Pic: Tom Wickstead who has taken on a new role at Martin-Kaye Solicitors in Telford


Tuesday, 27 March 2018

Are your workers illegal?

Shropshire employers could be held personally responsible if they fail to check whether their staff have the right to work in the UK.

Employment law specialist, John Mehtam, from Martin-Kaye Solicitors in Telford, said 20 directors from 16 separate companies nationwide were disqualified in the last year for employing illegal workers.

“As well as a lengthy disqualification, the directors were also fined a total of £505,000, so it’s clear that turning a blind eye to the status of your employees is not a wise move.”

Mr Mehtam said no matter what size of company an employer may run, every director is legally required to ensure that the business is taking the necessary steps to prevent illegal working.

“Even if you’re a very small business, the legal requirement applies to all companies and all directors.”

He said directors should ask the prospective employee to provide the company with original documents showing they had permission to work in the UK, and then check the paperwork in their presence.

“You need to be sure that the documents are genuine, and that the person handing them over is the rightful owner – you should also check they confirm the person is allowed to do the type of work you have available.

“Double check too whether the paperwork says they have a permanent right to live and work in the UK, or whether it’s only a temporary permission. If it’s only temporary, you’ll need to carry out follow-up checks in the future.

“Take a copy of the original documents in a format which cannot be tampered with, and keep a record of the date the checks were made. You should never accept a copy of a document because it’s your responsibility to check it is valid, and if the document turns out to be fake, you’ll be held personally liable.”

Mr Mehtam said as well as disqualification, the maximum penalty for employing illegal workers due to inadequate employment practices is £20,000 per illegal worker.

“As long as you take precautionary steps to check the status of your employees, you should be able to defend yourself if an illegal worker is discovered on your payroll. Make sure you keep all the paperwork on file while the employee works for you, and for two years after their employment ends too.”

Wednesday, 21 March 2018

Join the club - no-one can avoid new data rules

Clubs and societies across Shropshire have been warned they must comply with new data protection rules, even if they only have a handful of members.

Graham Davies, of Martin-Kaye Solicitors, in Telford, said the new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) was due to come into force on May 25th.

“The new guidelines mean individuals will have greater control over how their personal information is collected and processed, and organisations will need to be more accountable when it comes to data protection.

“Any organisation that collects data must comply with the rules or face the threat of significant fines which could be crippling for a local club or society.”

Mr Davies said organisations who used a mailing list to promote fund raising events, or exhibitions, or who kept membership details on file would need to follow the new criteria.

“If your organisation is a one-person operation or you’re just a small group of committed supporters, there will be some work to be done ahead of the rules coming into force, but you have to take responsibility in order to be compliant.

“Make sure you have a process for collecting and storing data, and nominate someone to be your recognised data processor who will be responsible for making sure the process is followed.

“Draw up a simple document that you give to all members which sets out what data you collect and how it will be stored. Have a consent form that asks people’s permission to store their details – this is the ‘opt in’ policy – and make sure they have a copy and that you have a signed copy.

“Anyone who joins your group has the right to be removed from the list, to see what information you store about them, to have their history deleted, and to change the details you hold.”

Mr Davies said it was also vital that members knew who had access to the list, particularly if an outside body would be able to view the information.

“You should also make sure any data is stored safely – this is the most challenging issue as you’ll need to keep a regular watch on your systems to ensure they are up-to-date, but in today’s dangerous cyber environment, this is just good practice and common sense anyway.

“Make sure your data processes are clearly set out, so that anyone can repeat the procedure whenever a new member joins. Then once you have the processes and documents in place, it will be simple to regulate the system and ensure you comply with the new data rules.”

Thursday, 1 March 2018

Be ready to prove what you're owed

Businesses who are owed money when a customer goes bust will need to prove the value of the debt if they want to stand any chance of being repaid.

Andrew Oranjuik, from Martin-Kaye Solicitors in Telford, said the insolvency rules had been changed last year and it was vital that businesses knew how to make a claim.

“The changes simplified the insolvency rules in England and Wales in order to make it easier to make a claim online, and other changes were made to streamline claims by creditors.

“But if you are owed money, the most important criteria is that you can prove that the debt is actually owed.

“Under the previous rules, the Official Receiver or the insolvency practitioner representing the failed business would decide if they needed ‘proof of debt’ – if it was required, they’d send you a form to fill in. Now proof of debt is required for every claim, unless a court decides otherwise.”

Mr Oranjuik said if a business was owed a “small debt” – judged to be £1,000 or less – then purely writing to the Official Receiver or insolvency practitioner would be all that was needed.

“You’ll have equal rights to other creditors to any payments that are made by the debtor, but you won’t have a say in creditors’ meetings, so you’ll have to accept the terms that the other creditors agree.”

Mr Oranjuik said the problem was that businesses and individuals who went into liquidation or bankruptcy could not be relied upon to have accurate and up-to-date records.

“This means your debt may not show up, or it may show the wrong amount – if your records show a different amount from the debtor’s accounts, you may need to provide proof of debt even if it’s less than the £1,000 threshold. It’s particularly important to prove the amount if the debtor’s records show they owe you £1,000 or less, but they actually owe you more.

“Keeping clear and concise accounting records is a cornerstone of good business practice, and if you can prove your figures are accurate, it increases your chances of getting at least some of the money back that you’re owed.”

Tuesday, 27 February 2018

Home visits hazards warning

Employees have been reassured they have the right to refuse to carry out home visits if they fear for their health and safety.

Employment Law expert John Mehtam, from Martin-Kaye Solicitors, in Telford, said occupations such as sales staff, surveyors and professional advisers all required staff to visit customers’ homes.

“But there may be times when an employee feels the home is a hazard and employers must listen to their concerns and take them seriously.”

Mr Mehtam said health and safety regulations declared that employees could refuse to carry out a visit if they were exposed to ‘serious, imminent and unavoidable danger’.

“This would include situations such as gas leaks or a building collapse – less dangerous concerns may not be covered by the rules, but they can still cause a problem and as an employer, you have a duty of care to safeguard your staff. So it’s vital that you’re prepared for this kind of scenario, and that your staff understand the kind of circumstances where a refusal to carry out a visit will be acceptable.”

Mr Mehtam suggested the best way forward was to ask staff to call the office if they were unhappy about the situation they found on arrival at a customer’s home.

“This way, you can discuss the problem together and decide what to do, and there will be no confusion over how to proceed. If you believe their refusal to make the visit is unreasonable – that they’re effectively making a fuss about nothing – then you do have the option to take disciplinary action.

“But it’s better to work things out before the situation even occurs, so work with your staff to identify all the potential hazards they may encounter in someone’s home, such as dangerous dogs, damp, piled up rubbish, or fleas and mice. Then make your staff aware of the kinds of situation you think justify a refusal, and those that don’t – for instance, a house that’s just untidy or cluttered.

“You should also take the health of your employees into account as anyone with a pre-existing medical condition could be at more risk from particular potential hazards, such as damp and mould.

“As an employer, you need to protect the welfare of your staff as best you can, which is difficult as you have no influence over their working environment when it’s in someone’s home. But a clear and structured approach to the worst-case scenarios they may face will mean everyone knows where they stand.”

Tuesday, 20 February 2018

Don't assume new rules will bring fee changes

Businesses that handle customer contact details will still face a registration fee despite new rules being introduced that will transform the entire data protection process.

Graham Davies, of Martin-Kaye Solicitors, in Telford, said the new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) guidelines would come into force in May, and businesses were already preparing for sweeping changes.

“However, some companies may not be aware that even though GDPR will replace the current Data Protection Act, they will still need to pay a registration fee to the Information Commissioner’s Office.

“Currently businesses that process personal information must register with the ICO to say they are data controllers, and they must explain what personal data they collect and how it is used, as well as paying a notification fee.

“Under GDPR, businesses won’t need to notify the ICO in the same way, but they must not assume that the fees will be dropped too.

“The fees will be set according to your company’s turnover, how many staff you have, and how much data you process – but it’s important that business owners realise the new fee regime begins on April 1st, which is well before GDPR comes in.”

Mr Davies said it would be easy to assume that as the rules were changing, then so would the fees, but that was not the case.

“If your ICO notification renewal is due before April 1st, it’s vital that you don’t ignore it, because until GDPR comes into force, you’d be committing a criminal offence if you don’t notify the ICO, and you could face a fine of up to £5,000.

“But if your renewal date is after April 1st, the ICO will contact you to tell you what you need to do to comply with the new rules. It’s crucial though that businesses get to grips with the new data protection legislation sooner rather than later, as otherwise you could face serious consequences.”

The registration fees will vary according to the set-up of each individual business – a business with fewer than 250 staff, an annual turnover under £50 million, and processing fewer than 10,000 records a year would pay an annual fee of up to £55.

But if the company processes more than 10,000 records, the annual fee increases to £80, with another £20 top-up fee per year if it also carries out electronic marketing activities.

Monday, 19 February 2018

Superheroes take on a challenge!

A team of intrepid staff from a Telford law firm will be sharpening their superhero skills in a bid to raise funds for a local charity.

The colleagues from Martin-Kaye Solicitors, in Euston Way, have signed up for the Kapow! obstacle race at the West Mid Showground in Shrewsbury, on April 21st, in aid of the Severn Hospice.

They will be tackling a 5km course featuring inflatable obstacles that must be climbed and conquered, as well as navigating their way through bubbles, and of course, dealing with the unpredictable British weather.

If you'd like to support their efforts, here's the link:
https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/martin-kayekapow - thank you for your generosity!

Monday, 29 January 2018

Tread carefully with online messages

Employers should tread very carefully when it comes to monitoring their employees’ emails and messages, a local solicitor has warned.

Gemma Workman, from Martin-Kaye Solicitors in Telford, said employers should make their staff aware of any monitoring of their communications, as they could be guilty of breaching the employee’s right to privacy.

Her warning follows a court case where the European Court of Human Rights backed an employee who was dismissed after his employer found he’d been using a company online account to send private messages.

“In this case, the employee sent personal messages to his family, but he wasn’t informed that his emails and messages would be monitored.

“The court ruled that the employee’s privacy should have been protected by Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which guarantees respect for private and family life, so the employee won his case.”

The case involved an employee who worked in sales and who was asked to set up a Yahoo Messenger account to answer client’s enquiries. He had been warned not to use it for private matters, but was found to have been using it to exchange personal messages with family members.

“The court’s ruling is a warning to employers that they need to think very carefully about why they need to monitor an employee’s emails and what they are trying to protect,” said Miss Workman. “Usually it’s to ensure they are complying with the law and their obligations, and so that’s likely to be a legitimate reason.

“But you must warn employees in advance that you might monitor their emails and text messages, and that you reserve the right to do so. You could refer to this right in the staff handbook so it’s absolutely clear.

“Another option for employers though is to block employees’ access to personal emails on their systems altogether, rather than retaining the right to review their private communications. It’s clear that employers need to tread very carefully when it comes to online messages, and that they must ensure their staff know exactly where they stand.”


Friday, 26 January 2018

Customer data warning for businesses

Shropshire business owners could be missing out on valuable customer information if they don’t offer free Wi-Fi for customers and visitors.

But Andrew Oranjuik from Martin-Kaye Solicitors, in Telford, said it was vital that the information collected was handled sensitively and appropriately.

“For many businesses, there’s often a time when customers have time on their hands while they’re waiting at your offices, and it’s the perfect time for them to catch up on emails or check the latest news headlines.

“By offering free Wi-Fi, you’re not only keeping your customers happy, there are advantages for your business too – in particular, information.

“You are controlling the network connection, so you can set your website as the homepage and ask for customer data such as their name, email address, and age, which is extremely useful for future marketing campaigns.

“But make it very clear what your customers are signing up to and how the data will be used. Don’t ask for too many details either or you could put your clients off altogether.”

Mr Oranjuik said new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) rules which come into force later this year were also a consideration for business owners.

“Businesses will have to comply with much stricter guidelines and be far more transparent about how they process customer data.

“So collecting information while your customers are on your premises will need to be very carefully managed and you’ll need to provide an active opt-in where they individually agree to you holding their details. Of course, if they want to use your Wi-Fi network, they will probably be more than happy to let you have their personal information, so it’s a win-win situation.

“You’ll need to ensure you have business broadband with unlimited downloads, and keep the new ‘public’ network clearly separate from your business Wi-Fi network by giving it a separate name and access code. Don’t be tempted to work with an open network where no access code is required as non-customers will be able to make use of your Wi-Fi just by being in the area.

“Give your customers a user-friendly code and promote it clearly inside your building. You’ll also need to ensure you have the highest level of cyber security in place so that all data transmitted will be encrypted. Free Wi-Fi can give your business a head-start when it comes to collecting key information, but beware the new GDPR rules and make sure you’re handling the details you collect with care.”

Thursday, 25 January 2018

Don't be deceitful over divorce

Divorcing couples have been warned not to try to massage the truth on court papers to secure a better deal.

Gemma Himsworth, who leads the family law team at Martin-Kaye Solicitors in Telford, said research had shown there was an increase in the number of divorce petitions that were actually stretching the truth.

“Most people would assume that divorce papers would be an accurate reflection of why the marriage broke down and who was to blame.

“But in fact, only three in 10 people who were surveyed said the reason for their fault-based divorce closely matched the reason why they separated.”

Mrs Himsworth said some petitions included false claims and admissions of adultery, and the tweaking of separation dates to reduce the wait times in two and five-year separation cases.

“This is a very dangerous game to play and although it may seem tempting to try to make a divorce case easier and quicker, couples should be very careful if they decide to go down this route.

“A divorce petition is a document that goes before a court, and so it needs to be true and accurate otherwise there can be serious consequences. Taking such a risk can be costly, stressful and lead to the divorce taking longer to resolve, with the even bigger risk that you may have to start all over again or amend the petition if it is found to be incorrect.”

Mrs Himsworth urged divorcing couples to seek proper advice to enable them to navigate the grounds for divorce fairly and effectively.

“The trouble with fault-based divorces is that they don’t reflect the reality of relationship breakdown for most couples, and they also do nothing to help them deal with the aftermath of the break-up.

“The family justice organisation, Resolution, has campaigned for a no-fault divorce system and to ‘make no-fault the default. This could make a stressful situation much more comfortable for both partners, and reduce the chances of any additional conflict moving forwards.

“It’s time for divorcing couples to think very carefully before they are economical with the truth, and to work towards a positive and healthier result.”