Tuesday, 11 June 2019

Trio relocate to Wolverhampton office

A Midlands law firm is extending its reach by transferring three key members of staff to its Wolverhampton office.

Martin-Kaye Solicitors has its head office in Telford, and now a trio of residential conveyancers are relocating to the Tettenhall Road branch as a direct result of increased business in the area.

Partner Simon Wagner said the move was part of the firm’s ongoing expansion plans which have also seen them open another satellite office in Shrewsbury.

“We’re keen to continue to grow our business in a structured and targeted way, and we’ve seen a real rise in the number of conveyancing clients in the wider Wolverhampton area, so it makes absolute sense for some of our property team to operate from there.

Partner and head of department Nita Patel said: “Our residential property division is renowned for its excellent customer service and for its efficient and effective advice, and it’s exciting to see our team building new strong links with clients all over the region.”

The conveyancers who will be relocating are Wendy Pullar (licensed conveyancer), Amandeep Siddoo (solicitor), and Ellesse Wilson (legal assistant). Partner and head of department, Nita Patel, will be dividing her time between the Wolverhampton and Telford offices.

Wendy has worked for Martin-Kaye for almost nine years and specialises in buying and selling properties, transfers of equity, and re-mortgages.

“I’m looking forward to working in Wolverhampton as it’s a great opportunity to build the business, and it’s a new challenge that will give me the chance to meet our clients in that area face-to-face thanks to our more convenient location.”

Amandeep has been a solicitor for over 15 years working for another legal firm in Shropshire  as well as running her own business for a time. “I really enjoy conveyancing and have predominantly specialised in this area throughout my career – it’s always lovely to help people move into their new home.”

Ellesse is currently studying for her postgraduate diploma in legal practice after completing a law degree. “I can’t wait to get started at the Wolverhampton office and I’m looking forward to having more direct contact with the clients as they will be able to drop in rather than having to travel so far.”

Pic: From left, Ellesse Wilson, Nita Patel, Wendy Pullar and Amandeep Siddoo prepare for the transfer to Martin-Kaye’s Wolverhampton office

Monday, 3 June 2019

Emma leads the employment team

A long-serving employee at a Shropshire law firm has been promoted to lead its employment department. Emma Palmer has worked for Martin-Kaye Solicitors in Telford for 20 years, and she is now managing the employment team.

“I am absolutely delighted to be stepping up to my new role, and it’s great to have the opportunity to play a key part in developing the strategy to take the department forward,” said Emma.

As well as the overall management of the department, Emma works closely with John Mehtam who is the firm’s employment law specialist and also a partner in the practice. They were instrumental in setting up the Alpha service that Martin-Kaye delivers to businesses all over the UK, which has now celebrated its 10th anniversary.

“Alpha gives our clients the security of an employment and HR package that can offer support 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and we are reaching clients further and further afield.

“There are Alpha members all over the country, with the vast majority renewing year on year, and continuing relationships with them give us the chance to learn exactly what makes their companies tick so that we can tailor our support to their individual requirements.”

Emma said the focus of the Alpha service was pragmatic, robust advice, with the aim of minimising the risk of tribunal claims.

“As part of my new role, I’ll be working with the team to continue to develop Alpha and the services we deliver, and to increase the membership still further. It’s a pleasure to be working with colleagues who are dedicated and extremely knowledgeable, and I’m looking forward to seeing Alpha grow thanks to everyone’s commitment and hard work.”

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.