Wednesday, 22 May 2019

Employers urged to act fast over new starters

Employers are being urged to take decisive action as quickly as possible when it comes to the fate of new starters in the workplace.

John Mehtam is the employment law specialist at Martin-Kaye Solicitors in Telford, Shrewsbury and Wolverhampton, and he has called on bosses to take a swift and direct decision over staff on probationary periods.

“Recruitment can be very expensive and there’s never any guarantee that you’ve chosen the right candidate, so it makes sense to employ new recruits on an initial probationary period until you’re sure.

“This status though has no basis in employment law and is purely contractual, so it’s important to have the right processes and contracts in place to ensure things go smoothly whether they turn out to be a success or whether you need to dismiss them.”

Mr Mehtam said despite what contracts of employment may say, management teams should be applying a two-year probationary period as that’s the time frame in which employees are ineligible to bring a claim in an employment tribunal. Contracts should also give the option of scrapping any contractual disciplinary or performance procedures for probationary or short service employees to avoid claims for wrongful dismissal.

“Most probationary periods will include a shorter notice period – some are as short as one week – which gives you the option to terminate the person’s employment quickly if things don’t work out, and this means a smaller payment in lieu of notice too.

“It’s important to take action sooner rather than later if you decide to end the person’s employment and not drag things out unnecessarily – that way you can move on and find the right person for the job, and the employee will have a clear picture of where they stand.

“You may feel that you must have seen something in them initially as you wouldn’t have employed them otherwise, and perhaps you’re dreading the time and cost involved of starting the whole recruitment process all over again.

“But don’t let that put you off – take action as soon as you feel things are not going to end well, but make sure you keep track of the employee’s performance, and keep records with dates and times, and details of what was discussed and agreed.

“This attention to detail will prove invaluable when you do decide that things aren’t working out, as you can use the information to set out the precise reasons for their contract being terminated in a dismissal letter. Remember that you will need to follow a fair and reasonable dismissal procedure, and that you’ll need to be able to show why the employee was not suitable for the role.”

Wednesday, 8 May 2019

Social media warning for business owners

Shropshire business owners have been warned to tread carefully when it comes to boosting their social media profiles.

Andrew Oranjuik, of Martin-Kaye Solicitors in Telford and Shrewsbury, said many business people were already aware of the networking opportunities created by sites such as LinkedIn.

“It makes a lot of sense to boost your LinkedIn presence by accepting connection requests as it expands your network of connections and could lead to potential new business. Statistics show that at the start of this year, there were 27 million registered LinkedIn users in the UK which is a huge pool of opportunities – and while most of them are genuine, inevitably there is an increasing number of fake profiles appearing.

“These profiles can be used for a whole host of unsavoury purposes including spamming your profile about goods and services – or worse still, they may want to connect in order to steal your personal data and the data of your first level connections.”

Mr Oranjuik said the more information your LinkedIn profile contained, the greater the risk.

“If your profile contains your full name, all your previous positions, your current employer, and your entire education and contact details, the information could be harvested and sold on which could ultimately result in identity theft.

“Thankfully there are often tell-tale signs that help to identify fake profiles – take a close look at the profile picture for a start. Does it look like a stock photo image or does the person look too ‘perfect’? Scammers often use pictures of models to encourage people to accept their connection request and sometimes the work experience or job role listed doesn’t match the age of the person in the photo.

“Check whether the profile looks as though it’s been put together in a hurry – are there spelling mistakes or grammatical errors?

“A lack of personal content on a profile should also ring alarm bells. Fake profiles usually contain little or no information about the actual person such as their hobbies, group memberships or recommendations.”

Mr Oranjuik said genuine connection requests were likely to come from someone already connected to one of your current first or second level connections, so it was important to see whether you knew anyone in common.

“Check too whether there is a logical sequence of career progression in the employment section too, from entry level upwards. Fake profiles often suspiciously start from senior level.

“The main advice is to tread carefully – if the request comes from someone who isn’t known to one of your first-level connections, don’t accept it if you have any doubts at all as it’s a risk that could have serious consequences for you and your business.”

Monday, 29 April 2019

Harassment claims must be taken seriously

Workplace harassment allegations against senior staff must be taken seriously no matter how tenuous they may appear, a Shropshire solicitor has warned.

John Mehtam, who leads the employment law team at Martin-Kaye Solicitors in Telford, said harassment allegations were always difficult, but even more so now in the wake of the worldwide #MeToo campaign.

“Making an allegation against a senior colleague or a director is a brave step for any employee, and it’s vital that the company and its other directors take the accusations seriously and that the board remains impartial.

“This means you’ll need to carry out a reasonable and thorough investigation, but you shouldn’t appoint another director or senior manager or anyone else in-house to do this – it’s much more appropriate to appoint an experienced external source.”

Mr Mehtam said there were several options when it came to possible candidates for the role. “You could choose a firm of solicitors, or alternatively an employment law consultant or experienced human resources advisor could carry out the process.

“But you’ll need to make sure they are well-versed in the relevant law, and that they have carried out similar investigations before.”

He said once the investigation was completed, the investigator’s findings should be passed to the company board.

“It will be the board’s decision on whether any further action should be taken, not the investigator’s. Their role is purely to prepare the evidence for the board to consider.”

Mr Mehtam said ultimately if the accusations of harassment against a director were proven, the director could be sued personally.

“This means there’s a lot riding on the outcome of the investigation for the director concerned and for the company as a whole. So the appointment of an external investigator will ensure that everyone involved is treated in a neutral manner, and that the investigation itself is transparent, fair and impartial at all times.”

Monday, 15 April 2019

Blame game divorce will be over

A Shropshire lawyer has hailed a ground-breaking change in divorce laws in England and Wales as long overdue.

Gemma Himsworth leads the family law team at Martin-Kaye Solicitors in Telford, and she said the Government’s decision to introduce legislation to end the unnecessary “blame game” over divorce was great news.

“At Martin-Kaye, we always try to keep conflict to a minimum in a divorce case anyway, no matter what the circumstances are. And now the Government has listened to calls for reform to move towards divorces where neither party has to blame the other, or bring up unpleasant history in order to prove their point.

“This is welcome news for families caught up in a divorce, particularly those with children, as turning a divorce into a battleground only inflames an already difficult situation, which is of no benefit to anyone,” said Mrs Himsworth.

Under current law, spouses need to prove at least one of five “facts” – adultery, behaviour, desertion, two years’ separation (if the other spouse consents to the divorce), or five years’ separation (if the other spouse disagrees).

The new legislation proposes that the ability of one spouse to “contest” a divorce should be removed, and that irretrievable breakdown of a marriage will be listed as the sole ground for divorce. Instead of proving one of the five “facts”, divorcing couples will need to provide a statement of irretrievable breakdown.

The two-stage legal process of decree nisi and decree absolute will be retained, with a minimum timeframe of six months for the process to take place.

Mrs Himsworth 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.

“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. The current divorce laws in England and Wales date back almost 50 years and they are clearly not working in today’s modern world. The new legislation will create a fairer, more child-centred and cost-effective system that causes less pain for everyone involved.”

The Government has said the legislation will be introduced as soon as parliamentary time allows.

Monday, 11 March 2019

Lawyers celebrate Court of Appeal success

Experts from a Telford law firm are celebrating victory in a landmark case at the Court of Appeal in London.

Andrew Oranjuik, from Martin-Kaye Solicitors, in Euston Way, said the case would be an important ruling for anyone considering future appeals.

“The case involved the time limits set for bringing cases to court, and our success will be an important reference point for lawyers evaluating how they should conduct an appeal.”

Mr Oranjuik said in claims for unresolved unpaid debts, the claim must be lodged with the court within six years of when the debt became due, otherwise it would not be allowed to proceed.

“Our case involved a builder who claimed our client owed him for work done at their property. Initially a judge in the county court ruled that the six-year time period started in November 2008, and that as the builder failed to lodge his claim with the court before the six years were up, they dismissed his claim as it was out of time.

“But the builder took his case to the Court of Appeal in London to try to overturn the judge’s decision by arguing that our client had made some payments towards the alleged debt during the time period – which would mean the start date was later and his claim was lodged in time.

“The Court of Appeal though decided that despite some payments being made during the six-year window, it was not clear what the payments were for, and the court did not agree that they would have triggered a re-start to the crucial time slot.

“The court also ruled that the builder had not mentioned the interim payments during the county court trial and so they could not be considered at an appeal hearing – if he had mentioned them, the trial would have been conducted differently.

“They dismissed the builder’s appeal and he was ordered to pay our client’s legal costs, which is an excellent result for our client and our team as a whole,” said Mr Oranjuik.

“To have secured a victory on such a high-profile stage is always extremely satisfying, and it’s even more pleasing to see that our case will now act as a reference point for lawyers planning appeals in the future.”

Martin-Kaye Solicitors handled the case in partnership with barrister Aidan Reay from Kings Chambers, in Manchester.

Friday, 8 March 2019

Act fast on inheritance claims

Disgruntled relatives who feel they have missed out on an inheritance only have a short time to make a claim, a Shropshire solicitor has warned.

Sara Brumwell, from Martin-Kaye Solicitors in Telford, is an associate of the Association of Contentious Trusts and Probate (ACTAPS), and she said claims must be issued by the courts or settled within six months of probate being granted after someone dies.

“This is really a very short period for potential claimants to take advice and start the claims process, so it’s vital that anyone who feels they have missed out should move as quickly as possible.”

Sara said only certain categories of people were permitted to bring a claim against the estate of someone who had died if they felt ‘reasonable financial provision’ had not been made for them.

“Under The Inheritance Act, you can bring a claim if you are the spouse or civil partner of the person who has died, or if you are the former spouse or civil partner – as long as you haven’t remarried or entered into another civil partnership.

“You can make a claim if you’re the child of the deceased, or if you were treated by them as a child of the family through marriage or a civil partnership.

“And if you were living with the deceased as ‘husband or wife’ or as a civil partner for two years before they died, or if they were supporting you at the time of their death, you would also qualify to launch a claim.”

Sara said the Court did have the power to extend the six month time limit, but only in limited circumstances.

The Inheritance Act only applies to the estates of people who were living in England and Wales when they died, and not to any other parts of the UK, but the country where the claimant lives is not relevant.

Sara said: “As the process of launching an Inheritance Act claim is subject to such tight time limits, in most cases a claim is issued to prevent a technical timeout – but very few claims actually make it to trial, with most being settled by negotiation or mediation.

“But for anyone who feels they may have a claim, it’s important to take advice from a contested probate specialist as soon as possible otherwise you could miss out altogether.”

Thursday, 7 March 2019

Howzat? Solicitors sign sponsorship deal

A Shropshire law firm has gone into bat to support a local cricket club in the county town.

Martin-Kaye Solicitors, which has recently opened a new branch office in Shrewsbury, has signed a deal to sponsor the Beacon Cricket Club, in Frankwell.

Partner Simon Wagner, who leads the Martin-Kaye team in Shrewsbury, said: “Beacon Cricket Club is just a short distance from our new office, and we are very happy to be supporting them with this sponsorship deal.

“We were looking for a community group or organisation to back in order to give something back to the local area, and they fitted our objectives perfectly. The club is very well-organised and caters for players of all ages, with a particular focus on developing young talent.

“The main element of our sponsorship will be the club’s President’s Day on Sunday, August 4, when we will be presenting the trophies and enjoying the popular community event.”

Beacon Cricket Club development officer, Steve Reese, said: “We’re delighted that Martin-Kaye Solicitors have chosen to sponsor our club, and we’re very grateful for their support. We are indebted to all our sponsors and volunteers, and we’re looking forward to a busy year ahead for cricket both locally and internationally. It’s a great time for businesses like Martin-Kaye Solicitors to become part of our team.”

Beacon Cricket Club was formed in 2004, and now runs three senior Saturday sides, two midweek teams, and multiple junior age groups.

Last year saw the successful launch of a women and girls’ section, hosting and entering soft ball festivals around the county, and an under-13 girls’ team who won the North Shropshire Forum League.

Now a thriving division with over 30 women and girls involved, the club is hoping the section will continue to grow by attracting players of all ages and abilities.

As well as its Shrewsbury office, Martin-Kaye Solicitors has its head office in Telford, and a branch in Wolverhampton.

Pictured: Signing the deal are, from left, Ray Collins (Chairman of Beacon Cricket Club), Simon Wagner (Martin-Kaye Solicitors), David Pharo (President of Beacon Cricket Club) and Graham Davies (Martin-Kaye Solicitors)