Monday, 17 December 2007

Tribunal claims increase

Shropshire employers are being warned to make sure they’re fully prepared for potential employment tribunals after a huge increase this year.

John Mehtam, our Employment Law Specialist, said national statistics had shown a massive rise in claims for equal pay and sex discrimination.

“The figures for 2007 also include age discrimination for the first time ever, with almost 1,000 claims since the legislation came into force in October 2006. So it’s important that employers take steps to protect themselves as the trend looks set to continue.”

John said companies should make sure they kept employment terms and conditions up-to-date for all their staff, including changes to salary and working hours.

“You should also have a discipline and grievance procedure in place, and more importantly, make sure your staff know it exists and how it works. Train your managers and supervisors to deal with problems as soon as they arise, always following the right procedures, and keep your staff informed of any changes that could affect their working day.”

John said employers should always be seen to be fair in their dealings with their staff, and if redundancies were necessary, they should help the staff affected to find new jobs.

“And no matter how serious the incident may be, never dismiss staff on the spot – there is always a procedure that must be followed.”

“The national increase in the number of employment tribunals is a warning to companies that they need to be fully prepared for possible claims, and that keeping up-to-date with ever-changing legislation is the only way to run a business.”

Young people at risk

It’s not just elderly people in Shropshire who need to worry about age discrimination – younger workers can be at risk too.

That’s the message from John Mehtam, from our Employment Law team.

“For possibly the first time in the UK, an employment tribunal has ruled that a 20-year-old woman was unfairly dismissed and discriminated against on the grounds of her age. This really is a landmark case, as it shows that age discrimination protection applies equally to younger people and more senior staff.

“Hopefully it will give younger people in the workplace the confidence to stand up for their rights, and help them realise they have the backing of the courts.”

John said it was important though that staff were aware that although a discrimination case like this was largely the same as one for an older person, there was also a justification clause.

“This means the younger worker and their lawyer will need to prove beyond doubt that the issue of their age was used to justify the discrimination, and not just that they felt that to be the case.”

But he said that although the case was likely to raise awareness of the issues, it was unlikely to lead to a huge increase in the number of claims.

“Despite the age discrimination being introduced over a year ago to protect workers of any age, statistics show that the majority of cases have been brought by older workers. Younger workers though should be reassured that if necessary, the law is on their side too.”

Wednesday, 28 November 2007

Joining forces for charity

We joined forces with two other Shropshire companies to raise more than £4,000 for a local charity.

With the Royal Bank of Scotland and Whittingham Riddell Accountants, both from Shrewsbury, Martin-Kaye Solicitors hosted a charity ball in aid of the County Air Ambulance at The Albright Hussey, in Shrewsbury.

We were very pleased to welcome so many people, and everyone was extremely generous which meant we raised £4,246 altogether.

An official presentation will now be organised to hand the money raised over to the Shropshire County Air Ambulance appeal.

Pic: Organisers of the charity ball were, from left, Phil Bowd from Whittingham Riddell, Sarah Heath from Martin-Kaye Solicitors, and Trevor Edge from the Royal Bank of Scotland

Tuesday, 27 November 2007

Alpha launch success

More than 40 companies attended the launch of our new business protection scheme in Telford which is believed to be the first of its kind in the UK.

Senior Partner, Graham Davies, said: "The response has been excellent, and Alpha was extremely well received at our official launch.

"The project has proved to be a very attractive proposition for a whole host of businesses and we’re looking forward to working with companies from all over the region."

Alpha is a comprehensive 24-hour business support package with particular emphasis on employment and Human Resources support – the scheme also provides insurance protection against claims.
The aim is to provide businesses with their own personal legal team, backed up by an insurance policy that protects them in the complex world of employment law.
The all-in-one package offers face-to-face legal advice and assistance with HR policies and practices, and also entitles businesses to a legal expenses insurance against fees, costs and tribunal awards.
Companies will also receive legal representation at any employment tribunal, monthly legal updates by email, in-house training workshops, and have access to a full range of discounted legal services for their business and their employees.
For more information about the Alpha project, email

Pic: At the launch of the Alpha project are, from left, John Mehtam and Graham Davies, from Martin-Kaye Solicitors

Law firm spreads the word

We're hosting a second series of advice forums in Shrewsbury following an unprecedented response from local businesses.

The move comes after we initially ran interactive HR and Employment Law in Practice (HELP) forums in Telford, and businesses in Shrewsbury were so impressed that they asked for their own programme of events.

So we took the forums to Shrewsbury on a trial basis, and the response has been so positive that we are now organising a second series of workshops.

Backed by the National Westminster Bank, the aim of the forums is to keep businesses up-to-date with what is happening in the world of employment law, and to offer them the chance to network with other employers and Human Resources people to discuss local trends.

On average around 40 businesses attended each event, and the feedback questionnaires which each delegate completed show an overwhelming demand for more. Delegates have also given us a list of specific topics they would like us to cover at future forums, and we are extremely pleased that Shrewsbury businesses are so keen to hear more about the advice we have to offer.

Tuesday, 6 November 2007

Healthy Hearts at Martin-Kaye

Martin-Kaye Solicitors is the first company in the region to take part in a health screening campaign for its staff.

We have signed up to the Healthy Hearts Campaign, in a bid to help employees find out more about the state of their health.

The mobile screening unit will visit our offices, and every employee who attends the session will receive a 30-minute consultation to assess their condition, with the results explained in private afterwards.

Senior Partner, Graham Davies, said: “We are extremely pleased that our staff are backing the Healthy Hearts initiative, and that they’re keen to take up this opportunity – in fact over 70 per cent of our employees have signed up.

“At the heart of every company is its workforce, and we want to help our employees to identify any potential risks so they can seek the right kind of treatment, which should help prevent problems in the future.”

The screening will include cholesterol, blood pressure and blood sugar analysis, as well as a general physical examination, a lung function test, and heart checks.
The Healthy Hearts Institute is based at Sandwell Medical Research Unit at West Birmingham Hospitals NHS Trust, and has already been piloted across the West Midlands. Hundreds of staff have so far benefited from the state-of-the-art check-ups, and now the screening programme is being extended to Shropshire.

Pic: Front row, from left, Graham Davies, Chris Mills and Fiona Macnamara, all from Martin-Kaye Solicitors, with the Healthy Hearts team

Monday, 5 November 2007

Alpha set for launch

We're about to launch a new business protection scheme which is believed to be the first of its kind in the UK.

The Alpha project will be officially unveiled at our offices in Euston Way, Telford, on Thursday, November 22, at 5.30pm.

It’s unusual for solicitors to organise a launch event for a new product, but this is such a ground-breaking scheme that we decided to take an unconventional approach.

Alpha is a comprehensive 24-hour business support package with particular emphasis on employment and Human Resources support – the scheme also provides insurance protection against claims. We have also worked closely with national insurers DAS, to ensure the back-up support is second-to-none.

The all-in-one package offers face-to-face legal advice and assistance with HR policies and practices, and also entitles businesses to a legal expenses insurance against fees, costs and tribunal awards.

Companies will also receive legal representation at any employment tribunal, monthly legal updates by email, in-house training workshops, and have access to a full range of discounted legal services.

We have committed a lot of time to this project in order to get the details just right, and judging by the response we’ve already had, even before the official launch, we’re convinced we have a real success on our hands.

The launch presentation is open to companies from all over the local area, and anyone interested in attending should email

Monday, 29 October 2007

Facing up to Facebook

Do your staff know just how far they can go when it comes to accessing social networking websites during office hours?

Our Employment Law Specialist, John Mehtam, said the number of people signed up to sites such as Facebook, MySpace and Bebo was increasing by the day.

“Obviously employers are well within their rights to restrict the amount of time their staff spend on sites like these during their working day, but it’s important that the guidelines are made very clear.

“Rather than banning them altogether, employers would be better placed if they took a sensible measured approach, and asked their staff to behave responsibly. No-one wants their employees spending hours every day organising their social lives when they should be working.

“But equally, drawing up policies in consultation with your staff will help them to have a clear understanding of what you will, and will not tolerate – after all, you’re paying them to do a job.”

Some employers also use internet management software to restrict access to some named websites during working hours.

“Talk to your employees, and explain that although you appreciate they all have the right to a social life, you need to make sure that productivity levels are maintained, and that you expect them to comply with the rules."

Friday, 19 October 2007

Thinking of others

Shropshire residents should consider leaving a donation to charity in their will to help avoid Inheritance Tax - that's the advice from Fiona MacNamara, from our wills and probate team.

“Gifts left to registered charities are exempt from Inheritance Tax, which makes them particularly good news for people whose estate is valued over the current £300,000 threshold.

“But they’re not just for the very wealthy – all kinds of people leave legacies as their way of helping good causes which are particularly special to them, such as children’s charities, or organisations which support cancer sufferers, the elderly, or animals.”

Fiona said the first step before you decide to leave a legacy was to check that the organisation had charitable status and was registered in the UK. "It’s then important that you ensure you keep your will up-to-date, as these decisions will play a key role in your future financial planning.

“And don’t be concerned that your legacy may not run into millions, charities are very grateful for anything they receive, and when the donations from several individuals are added together, they can have a massive impact.”

Fiona also said that many people who decide to leave money to charities are often elderly people who do not have any family.

“But there is an increasing number of people who want to help good causes and take advantage of the fact that charities do not face Inheritance Tax charges on legacies. The donation will also be excluded from any calculations to decide what Inheritance Tax charges your family will face after you die too.

“So not only can you help a good cause by leaving a legacy, you can also use it to help protect your family from escalating costs.”

Protect your contacts

If you keep your contacts lists on a company computer, beware as they will belong to your employer.

John Mehtam, our Employment Law Specialist, said the rules would apply even if some of the contacts were personal, or pre-dated you joining the company.

“The warning follows a High Court case which ruled against a member of staff who brought with him a career’s worth of personal and business contacts when he began a new job.

“He had gradually transferred the list to the company’s computer system, adding to it regularly, and maintained it through their Microsoft Outlook programme.

“But the problems arose when he decided to leave the company to set up a rival business – before he left, he copied the entire contents of his contacts list from the company system onto a memory stick for his own future use.”

John said the company was unhappy with his actions, and decided to seek an injunction to get the information returned. The judge ruled that the list belonged to the company.

“This case has huge implications for employees, and will be an unpopular move with many staff who routinely use work email, BlackBerries and mobile phones for both business and personal contacts.

“Businesses should make sure their staff separate personal and work information, and that the company has a clear email policy in place which is clearly explained to everyone. Separating personal contacts from business contacts will ensure that any problems in the future about rights over the information will be avoided.”

Friday, 28 September 2007

Check the small print

Shropshire companies in rented properties should check their lease carefully to avoid service charge arguments.

That's the message from Sarah Heath, our Commercial Property Specialist, who said tenants should seek professional advice before they entered into any rental agreement. "The drafting of the lease is the critical part of the deal and it’s crucial that tenants proceed with care."

Sarah said many landlords believed a commercial lease gave them the right to do anything they liked.
"Some landlords run up costly maintenance work bills, assuming that their tenants will not have checked the details of their lease, and so will just automatically pay up. But tenants should take care to check the small print of their lease, because although the service charge clause may seem complicated, generally if it doesn’t allow for something to be done, it can’t be done.

"Your professional adviser should also be able to help ensure your lease does not include catch-all clauses that will cover the landlord, and that it limits the amount that can be paid to any management company to an agreed percentage."

Sarah said the landlord could only recover the cost of the services which were set out in the lease, and even then, only if the right procedures had been followed. "The courts are more frequently taking a closer look at service charge issues relating to business leases – looking at the work the landlord has carried out, what the costs were, and whether the work was necessary from the tenant’s point of view.

"If you think the price of carrying out the work seems high, ask your landlord for detailed plans and, if your lease gives you the right, a breakdown of the costs." Sarah said whether the costs were reasonable would depend on the length and terms of your lease, and whether the landlord had considered all possible methods of repair, rather than just replacing everything.

"Tenants are no longer expected to pay for major refurbishment which they’ll see little or no benefit from in the lifetime of their lease, so if you’ve only got a short time left, consider whether your landlord’s request is appropriate. But you must not ignore the service charge issue and hope it will just go away – ask your landlord for full details, and if it gets very technical, instruct a surveyor to act on your behalf.

"And if you’re going to dispute the service charge, put your concerns in writing. This may help at a later date if you need to apply for compensation."

Perils of promoting your company

Shropshire company directors may face a prison sentence if they don’t take care with direct marketing campaigns.

Our Senior Partner Graham Davies said changes to the Data Protection Act now meant directors would be personally liable if their company did not stick to the rules.

"The Data Protection Act 1998 has been updated and as well as making directors personally liable, it also now carries the threat of a two-year prison sentence and heavier fines."

Graham said the simplest approach was for companies to send a traditional paper mailshot. "There’s far less red tape involved than if you decide to send an electronic mailshot, and less scope for getting things wrong. Generally you’re free to mailshot whoever you like, but if someone asks you to delete their details from your mailing list, you must do so immediately."

"The main message is that you can’t send unsolicited electronic marketing such as emails to anyone unless they have given you their permission – and don’t cut corners by buying lists from third parties without checking they’re legitimate.

"There are some exceptions, such as if you have collected the person’s contact details during the course of a sale or negotiations, and if the information you want to send them only relates to similar products or services. You must also give them the chance to opt out of receiving marketing material from you every time you contact them, and tell them who you are, providing a contact address."

Tuesday, 25 September 2007

Risks of tough talking

Shropshire employers should not to take the tough approach when it comes to firing their staff.

John Mehtam is our Employment Law Specialist and he said millionaire businessman Sir Alan Sugar’s direct style was not always the best example to follow.

“Sir Alan’s ‘You’re Fired’ catchphrase is believed to have led to a huge increase in the number of employment tribunals across the country as employers have followed his lead.

“Instead of going through the correct legal process, step by step, employers are finding themselves facing expensive tribunal action after taking the more direct approach.”

But John said Shropshire employers must consider the small print when it came to asking someone to leave their company. “If you don’t follow the right procedures, the staff you sack can take you to a tribunal and claim unfair dismissal.

“You cannot ignore the basic legal requirements, and it’s important to remember that The Apprentice is primarily a television show, designed to entertain its audience. Employers running a business on a more local level on a day-to-day basis must ensure their procedures are appropriate and legitimate, in order to protect their company from tribunal action.”

Beware - they may be watching

Job applicants should beware as their prospective employer could know more about them than they think.

John Mehtam, from our Employment Law Team, said despite the risks of breaching data protection rules, many employers admitted to searching the internet to find out more about candidates before an interview.

“Many employers use search engines to check up on applicants, and some even search social networking sites, so it’s important that candidates take care with the information they post on these sites,” said John.

John said some candidates were already tailoring their online personal details, as it was becoming increasingly clear that both future, and current employers may have access to them.

"This may appear heavy-handed, but it’s important to remember that the wrong kind of information could prejudice your entire career.”

And John said existing employees could also be at risk, although they may well be better placed to take action against your company.

But John said employers should also beware as a number of websites had already been set up to give employees the chance to have their say about their boss.

“The last thing you want is a bad impression of your company appearing online, as you are then unlikely to attract the best kind of staff, which could lead to untold difficulties in the longer term.”

Monday, 27 August 2007

Bosses must check warnings

Company bosses across Shropshire are being warned to double-check written warnings given to staff before they fire anyone.

John Mehtam, Employment Law Specialist at Martin-Kaye Solicitors, in Telford, said relying on warnings which may be out-of-date could lead to real problems.

“You may have reached the stage where you know your employee isn’t right for the job – you’ve given them numerous written warnings and believe it’s time to let them go.

“But even though you believe they’ve reached the point of no return, you still have to follow the correct procedures before you can dismiss them without fearing a tribunal claim. Even if the employee has a history of similar behaviour, you cannot just sack them immediately.”

John said companies should check the employee’s contract, and as a minimum take the following steps:

*Tell the employee in advance that you are planning a hearing about the issues, and invite them to a meeting
*Inform them of your decision
*Give them the right to appeal

“But after the meeting, even if it’s clear that the employee cannot continue in their position, and if they’ve been given a final written warning for doing the same thing before, don’t just assume you can take drastic action.”

John said employers should check the worker’s file, as generally warnings were valid for a maximum of 12 months.

“If it has expired, even by just a few days, you cannot rely on it, as the dismissal will be seen to be unfair.
“Don’t assume either that you can just make all warnings last forever as the advice is that they should only last for 12 months – although you can reserve the right to extend final written warnings for serious cases.

“To make sure you don’t get caught out, date each warning and ensure the duration is clearly recorded – then you should regularly check your employees’ files and throw out any that have expired.

“As well as helping you to avoid mistakes, this will also ensure you do not breach the Data Protection Act.”

Wednesday, 22 August 2007

Moves to improve rental standards

A Shropshire solicitor has welcomed plans calling for tougher regulation of the rented property sector.
Nita Patel, of Martin-Kaye Solicitors, in Euston Way, Telford, said the Law Commission was investigating after they found a large amount of privately rented property was in a poor condition and was poorly managed.

“They have published a consultation document which looks at ways in which the private rented sector could be regulated more effectively, in the hope that landlords will take more responsibility for setting higher standards.

“The sector currently has a poor image, with people believing standards in such properties are low, and so it’s vital that things are improved if rented property is to fill the gaps in the increasingly difficult housing market.”

Nita said in many areas, local authorities were working with private landlords to offer a range of services, and codes of good practice had been set up.
“But the difficulty comes because the majority of private landlords do not belong to such schemes, and so enforcement is almost impossible.”

Nita said the consultation document suggests a partnership approach is the only way forward – this way the industry can take responsibility for ensuring the key standards, which are already set out in legislation, are met.

“The hope is that all private landlords will either join a local authority accreditation scheme; become a member of one of the associations of private landlords; or let their premises through an accredited letting agent.

“Changes such as this will help to ensure tenants are protected and that they are offered properties which are habitable and well-managed.”

Under the new proposals, which are out for consultation until October, the Government would also give a central organisation powers to approve industry schemes and to ensure they worked effectively.
The plans would too, as a last resort, be able to prevent a landlord or agent not signed up to one of the approved schemes from letting residential property.

Monday, 20 August 2007

Lawyers advice to directors

Company directors whose role involves giving professional advice should not assume their company will carry the can if they make a mistake

Stuart Haynes, of Martin-Kaye Solicitors, in Euston Way, Telford, said: “Many directors believe they are protected from legal action directed at them as individuals, and indeed, this can be one of the main benefits of forming a company rather than acting independently.

“This is all well and good, and for the majority of incidents, it is usually the company, and not the individual who would face the consequences.”

But Stuart said there were circumstances where a director could find they were facing direct personal action.

“You could find yourself personally at risk if you’ve effectively created a one-to-one relationship with your client, and led them to believe that you’ve taken personal responsibility for their case.

“To avoid this happening, make it clear to all clients that you are acting on behalf of the company. You should sign your letters ‘for and on behalf of the company’, and avoid giving the impression that you’re acting in person on the project.”

Stuart said an added precaution was to take out Directors and Officers insurance, to cover individuals for any direct claims made against them.

“If you work for the company, it’s likely you’ll be an employee as well as a director, so make sure there’s a professional indemnity policy in place which covers you, and that it includes ‘run off’ cover.

“Then even if a claim is made after the policy has ended, there’s a period of additional time, usually up to several years, that the policy will still cover you for.”

Stuart said directors advising other businesses rather than private individuals could also limit their risk by having a written contract drawn up that contained an exclusion clause.

“As long as the clause is within reason, it could be an excellent way to protect yourself against the risks you may face.”

Helping staff to keep their cool

Shropshire employers must ensure they protect their staff from overheating in the workplace, a local solicitor has warned.

John Mehtam is the Employment Law Specialist at Martin-Kaye Solicitors, in Telford, and he said companies must help their workforce to keep their cool.

“Obviously this summer’s unpredictable weather has been difficult, but if things do warm up, it’s important to ensure your staff are well looked after.”

John said currently there was no maximum working temperature listed in the UK for office or industrial workers.

“The Health and Safety Executive and TUC recommend a maximum working temperature of not more than 30 degrees Celsius – but the World Health Organisation recommends a maximum of 24 degrees.

“This conflict makes setting a level difficult, but it’s important to apply common sense and ensure that temperatures are ‘reasonable’ or you may find you are failing to comply with the Health and Safety at Work Act.”

John suggested employers should carry out a risk assessment in the workplace and measure the temperatures their staff were working in.

“Supply plenty of water, and if the summer weather does eventually kick in, allow staff to take longer or more frequent breaks, particularly in manufacturing industries.
“Be flexible with start and finish times, to allow staff to work at cooler times of the day, and provide refreshments. Make sure you supply workplace thermometers, as this is a legal requirement, and bring in electric fans and air conditioning equipment if required.

“Allow staff to rotate their duties too, so that they are not constantly carrying out tasks in the hottest part of the building, or which are the most physically demanding on a hot day.

“By tackling these issues sensibly, you can help create a more acceptable working environment and so avoid staff taking time off work through illness caused by excessive temperatures.

“You must provide a safe workplace for your staff, and this includes ensuring they are comfortable at all times.”

Monday, 13 August 2007

Warning over web addresses

Shropshire companies planning a new website must protect themselves and their web address or they could face serious business problems.

Stuart Haynes, of the Commercial Team at Martin-Kaye Solicitors, in Telford, said many firms with existing websites may well find they don’t actually own their own domain name.

“Having a good web presence is a key element in business, but putting together a website is not as easy as it sounds, so most people employ specialists to design it and sort out the domain name.

“But this can be a dangerous move, and if you’re planning to commission a new site, it’s vital you protect yourself from the very start of the process.”

Stuart said the most important point was to make sure your company “owns” the domain name. “This doesn’t mean you have to register it yourself, your web developer or web host can still do this for you, but you just have to know how the process works."

There are three contacts named when a domain is registered: the Registrant (legal owner of the site and the registered address); the Administrative Contact (person who administers the site); and the Technical Contact (person who deals with any technical problems with the domain).

“To ensure you remain in control, you need to be named as the Registrant and the Administrative Contact – only the position of Technical Contact should be left to the web host or developer, otherwise they will still be able to change the record,” said Stuart.

And he said leaving ownership to the web company could prove disastrous for your business.

“If you have a disagreement with your web company, they could take your site down, causing untold damage to your business not only through lost trade while the site is down, but also because it would have to be re-built with a different name.

“The same issue could arise if you change the agency you are using, because you could well find the name remains the property of the previous design firm.”

Stuart said for companies who were unsure whether they owned their own domain name, it was important to seek professional advice and take action as soon as possible.

“If you don’t own or administer the website, you can ask the web designer to transfer ownership to you, but if they refuse, there are steps you can take to get the records changed.

“The best approach is to specify in the initial contract that you will be the Registrant and Administrative Contact for the new domain name, as that way you’ll be in control from the very outset.”

Tuesday, 24 July 2007

Ex-wife warning for rich divorcees

Wealthy Shropshire men are being warned their finances may not be safe from their ex-wives, even decades after they get divorced.

The warning follows a court case where a millionaire has been ordered to pay his ex-wife over £200,000 – over 30 years after their divorce, and despite the fact she had left him and their three children for someone else.

Nadia Davis, who leads the Family Law Team at Martin-Kaye Solicitors, in Telford, said the latest ruling should set alarm bells ringing for wealthy couples.

“It’s clear that despite the ex-wife’s original divorce settlement where she kept the matrimonial home and received nominal maintenance payments, changes in the couple’s circumstances over the next 30 years meant she was entitled to more,” said Nadia.

“The husband continued to prosper and retired with a substantial fortune of between £5 million and £11 million pounds. The wife though made poor decisions and lost much of her money through bad investments.

“But the law says if one partner is receiving maintenance payments, even if they are only nominal, either person has the right to ask the court to replace the payments with a ‘clean break’ lump sum.

“So as the husband had gone on to achieve real financial success, the court ordered him to pay a lump sum to his ex-wife.

“He claims she is trying to get a second bite of the cherry when the whole point of divorce law is to help both partners lead separate lives.

“If The Court of Appeal allows the wife to keep the lump sum, the case may give the green light to many former wives to pursue their spouse for more money, particularly if they have done well financially since the divorce.

“It’s vitally important that husbands receive good advice at the time of their divorce, and heed the warnings that they may face further financial demands in the future, or they could get a nasty shock.”

Thursday, 19 July 2007

Sending a message to bosses

Shropshire companies should not ignore the skills and resources which employees with disabilities may have to offer.
That’s the message from John Mehtam, Employment Law Specialist at Martin-Kaye Solicitors, in Telford, who said businesses should consider employing staff from all sections of the community.

“The Government has launched a new initiative, ‘Employ Ability’, which aims to encourage companies to employ disabled people and dispel some of the myths.

“They believe that employers may be missing out on talented and motivated staff if they fail to look at disabled workers as a solution to vacancies in their workforce.”

Initially Employ Ability is being piloted in Leeds, Bradford, Manchester and Liverpool, but will be rolled out nationally in 2008.

“Currently the national employment rate for people with disabilities is 50 per cent compared to 74 percent for non-disabled people, and the initiative is aiming to bring a better balance to the national workforce,” said John.

“Employers may mistakenly believe that adapting the workplace to accommodate an employee with disabilities is expensive, when in fact generally the costs are negligible or cost nothing.

“And the new initiative will also help to improve employers’ access to practical information, making it easier for them to locate relevant support and advice.”

John said it was important to not only help employers recruit more people with disabilities, but also to help them retain staff who may become disabled while they were employed by the company.

“If circumstances like this arise, employers need help to handle the situation carefully and do all they can to prevent the employee having to leave their job unless it’s absolutely necessary.

“Today’s marketplace is becoming increasingly competitive, and for employers who are looking to recruit new staff, people with disabilities should not be ignored.”

Thursday, 28 June 2007

Message is loud and clear

Shropshire employers are being warned they must control noise levels in the workplace to protect their employees’ hearing.

John Mehtam, Employment Law Specialist at Martin-Kaye Solicitors, in Euston Way, Telford, said a national survey of bosses in the music and entertainment industry had shown worrying results.

“Almost 70 per cent of the employers questioned were completely unaware that they must comply with new Control of Noise at Work regulations which will come into force next April.

“This means bar, pub and club workers all over the UK are not receiving the support they need to protect their hearing.”

John said over half the employers surveyed also said they had no plans to offer hearing protection to their workers.
“This is despite shocking figures that show excessive noise in the workplace has led to deafness or other ear difficulties for around half a million people in the UK.

“It is one of the most ignored workplace risks, with only 10 per cent of the employers surveyed considering that excessive noise may be the biggest risk to their staff.”

John said the new rules would reduce the noise levels at which workers in the music and entertainment industries were required to wear hearing protection.

“The levels in both industries have been reduced by five decibels, to 80 decibels in the music industry and 85 in the entertainment industry, and employers must ensure that protection is available to all staff who may be affected.

“The guidelines also state that hearing protection must ensure that average noise levels reaching a worker’s ears are never above 87 decibels, so not only must you make sure protection is available, but also, that it’s effective.

“Employers in the music and entertainment industries must take these new rules seriously, and staff should ensure they know their rights – the changes are being introduced to protect workers, and it’s vital that protection is accessible to everyone.”

Thursday, 21 June 2007

Bankruptcy concern for divorcees

Shropshire couples should beware their divorce payouts could be at risk if their former partner is declared bankrupt.

The warning comes from Nadia Davis, who leads the Family Team at Martin-Kaye Solicitors, in Euston Way, Telford.

“Even when the financial deal has been agreed as part of the divorce proceedings, trustees appointed to handle the bankruptcy have the power to try to get their hands on the divorce settlement to pay off creditors.

“This means that just when a spouse feels everything has been sorted out, and they are financially in a secure position to face the future, their previous partner’s bankruptcy could come back to haunt them.”

Nadia said what was even worse, was that the settlement could be at risk for up to five years after the divorce is finalised.

“A case heard by the High Court did initially offer some hope to people who found themselves in this situation.

“The husband declared himself bankrupt, and his trustees tried to recover the assets which had been signed over to his former wife, in order to pay off his creditors.

“But a district judge ruled she should be allowed to keep the settlement she received.
“However, the trustees launched an appeal, and the High Court has now overturned the initial decision, which means the wife stands to lose the money and assets she received at the time of the divorce.

“Unless the wife takes her case to the Court of Appeal, the law will remain as it stands, and many wives will remain vulnerable to their ex-husband’s creditors in the future.
“In today’s climate of ever-increasing debt, it’s imperative that couples are fully aware of the risks involved when they reach a settlement in their divorce – it may not always be the closure they were hoping for.”

Warning on health and safety

Company directors across Shropshire must face up to their health and safety responsibilities, or risk financial penalties or even a prison sentence.

Stuart Haynes, from Martin-Kaye Solicitors, in Euston Way, Telford, said: “Health and safety law places duties on organisations and employers, and directors can be personally liable when these duties are ignored.

“Members of your Board have both collective and individual responsibility for health and safety, and it’s vital you take it seriously.

“More than 200 people are killed at work in the UK each year, and in the last 12 months alone, around 30 million working days were lost due to ill health and injuries caused at work – this cost UK business around £30 billion.”

Stuart said directors must show strong and active leadership and communicate their health and safety policies clearly with staff.

“If you employ five or more people, you must provide a written health and safety policy.

“You must also assess the risks to your employees, customers, partners and any other people who could be affected on your premises, and have effective procedures to monitor and use preventive and protective measures.”
He said it was also important for companies to seek professional advice, and consult employees on the risks they felt they faced on a daily basis at work, to develop policies which were appropriate and useful.

And it’s not just about drawing up a health and safety policy – Stuart said reviews of the procedures you put into place were just as crucial.
“If you introduce new working procedures or new machinery, or you go through major organisational changes, or there’s a change in national guidance, it’s vital you keep your policy up-to-date.

“The risks to directors on your board if you ignore such a key element of business could be disastrous – so to avoid financial penalties, or at the very worst, a prison term, think carefully about your responsibilities and take them seriously.”

Tuesday, 19 June 2007

Trainee set for 13,000ft jump to aid fundraising

A Shropshire trainee solicitor is taking the plunge - a skydive from 13,000ft to be precise - to raise cash for the Shropshire Star’s appeal to fund a medic for the County Air Ambulance.

Stephanie Powers, who works at Martin Kaye, Euston Way, Telford, said: “I had a skydive bought for me for Christmas by my partner James Poole because it was something I’ve wanted to do for a while. “I was thinking about possibly doing a jump for charity, rather than just doing a jump, and then I saw the Flying Doctor Appeal and thought maybe I could raise some money for that.”

Stephanie, who is 26 and lives in Wombourne, has never done a parachute jump before. “I did a bungee jump when I was in Ayia Napa with my friends,” she said. “I think it was only about 300ft and I really enjoyed that.”

The jump is booked for July 21 at the Skydive centre near Whitchurch. “I was a little bit nervous to start with, but I’m really looking forward to it now,” said Stephanie. Meanwhile a plastic duck race held as part of an annual fete at Neenton, near Bridgnorth, was a super success, and some of the proceeds are on their way to our appeal - the exact amount is not yet known.

Bobbie Jarvis, of the organising team, said: “What a day we had! The weather was beautiful and there were about 300 people who came during the afternoon and evening. “The duck race was completed in record time, thanks to Tony Garratt who set up a splendid course and made sure the water was available behind the ducks. “Claire Mottershead, who has organised the duck race for many years, celebrated her 80th birthday the week before and this was marked by a cake and ‘happy birthday’ being sung. First duck home was won by Mr F Griffiths from Bridgnorth.”

Thursday, 14 June 2007

Warning to protect workers

Shropshire bosses are being warned they must protect their staff from stress in the workplace if they want to avoid costly damages.

The warning comes after a woman was awarded over £130,000 when she suffered a nervous breakdown brought on by pressure at work.

John Mehtam, who specialises in Employment Law, at Martin-Kaye Solicitors, in Telford, said the case was a timely reminder for employers that they must take stress seriously.

“The woman had repeatedly told her employer about the amount of work she was struggling with, and she claimed they did nothing to help her tackle the issue.
“The High Court ruled that the demands made on her were totally unreasonable, and if action had been taken, her breakdown could probably have been avoided."

John said the employer in the case had referred the woman to a stress counsellor, but at no stage was anyone brought in to share her workload.
“Simply offering stress counselling is not a long-term solution – if the root of the problem is the amount of work an employee is facing, the management team have to tackle the problem directly.

“As an employer, you are ultimately responsible for the welfare of your staff, and it’s vital that you take their concerns seriously.

“Although access to stress counsellors and medical advice is a supportive step in the right direction, it’s not the answer to the problem as a whole.“Many employees feel under pressure, particularly when a company is working to meet tough deadlines, but it’s the employer’s responsibility to ensure their health does not suffer as a direct consequence of striving for business success.”

Friday, 8 June 2007

Husband leading divorce pay fight

A Shropshire solicitor has warned wealthy husbands look set to fight back following a rush of multi-million pound divorce settlements.

Nadia Davis, who leads the Family Law Team at Martin-Kaye Solicitors, in Telford, said the well-publicised cases had led to several wives becoming millionaires in their own right.

But now, it seems some of the husbands are planning to take action, and Nadia said many others could follow suit.

“It has been announced that Alan Miller, who was instructed to pay his wife £5 million – even though they had only been married for 18 months – has decided to challenge the ruling in the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.

“His original case and its result set the standard for this kind of case, and it has had far-reaching effects in divorce courts all over the UK,” said Nadia.

The Court decided no matter how long a couple had been married, the starting point for dividing the assets should be a 50-50 split.
“And although they said Mrs Miller did not ‘need’ 50% of the assets, they decided that was irrelevant, and that the assets should be divided equally.

“The same rules were applied to the case of Mr and Mrs Charman, and paved the way for her £48 million payout, despite the fact that Mrs Charman had run the home and it was Mr Charman who had built up the major share of their assets.”

Nadia said Mr Miller claimed that the law was now “confused and unpredictable” as family court judges were given too much discretion. He also claims the payout to his former wife had breached his human rights.

“Family Law teams such as ours will be following this appeal with great interest, as the European Court’s decision could have massive implications for day-to-day divorce hearings.
“District Judges work very hard to reach sensible decisions based on what is fair and reasonable, and they will no doubt be pleased to receive clearer guidance on the approach they should be taking.”

Monday, 4 June 2007

Curbing rogue IT userss

Shropshire employers must protect their business by taking a tough stance on staff who abuse IT and email services in the workplace.

Stuart Haynes, of the Commercial Team at Martin-Kaye Solicitors, in Telford, said many businesses did not have a clear policy about the private use of internet and email facilities.

“It’s important for employers to consider whether they should limit the use of email and internet to business purposes only, or whether they will allow reasonable personal use.

“The risk is that if you fail to take action, excessive private use can pose a real security threat to your business and its systems – if your employees are accessing all kinds of websites, you don’t know what information is being leaked about your company.”

Stuart said employers should draw up an “acceptable use” policy, which sets out what is, and what isn’t, acceptable when it comes to IT and email in the workplace.

“Each time a new employee joins your company, you should ask them to read, agree and sign the policy, to ensure they are fully aware of the penalties they will face if they break the rules. The policy should also make it clear that you reserve the right to monitor their private use.

“You need to set out clear boundaries on how much personal use is acceptable, and with the internet, your employees need to know which websites are appropriate.

“You should also warn them you will be able to check which sites they have visited, to remind them of their responsibilities.
“But most of all, once you have implemented the policy, you need to regularly update and police it, if you want to protect your business against unauthorised email and internet access.”

Thursday, 24 May 2007

Warning over DIY divorce aid packs

Shropshire couples who opt for a cheap do-it-yourself divorce could find it costs them greatly in the long-run.

Nadia Davis, who heads the Family Law Team at Martin-Kaye Solicitors, in Telford, issued the warning after Tesco launched a divorce advice pack costing just £7.

“DIY divorces can work well for cases where there are no children or assets from the marriage involved, but they are generally not suitable for more complicated cases.

“And although on the face of it, the self-help package seems like a cheap option, it could cost couples dearly in the future.”

Nadia said many people did not realise that even when there has been a Decree Absolute, both partners still have the right to pursue financial claims arising from the marriage – and this process can continue until they get remarried or die.

“At Martin-Kaye, we are seeing increasing numbers of people who have dealt with their divorces themselves and who are now facing difficulties.

“They thought they had resolved their financial issues amicably with their spouse at the time of their separation, only to find themselves on the wrong end of a court application for financial support several years later.

“These clients are horrified to learn that their former spouse can seek further financial relief, no matter what was previously agreed.

“And even worse, the Court will consider their financial situation as it stands at the time of the new application, when their finances have often significantly improved.”

Nadia said with proper legal advice at the time of the separation, the couple could ask for a Clean Break Order to be made alongside their divorce, to ensure they were protected.

“This ensures any agreement reached is recorded and takes away the power of the former spouse to pursue further claims, which means both partners can get on with their lives.

“Ultimately, people stand to lose a lot more if they are ordered to pay their former spouse financial relief, and that cheap DIY divorce could end up being very expensive indeed.

“Professional advice at the time of the separation is the best way forward, and will help protect both parties in the future.”

Fears over maternity pay rules

Small businesses in Shropshire will struggle to cope with new rules over extended maternity pay, according to a local solicitor.

John Mehtam, Employment Law Specialist at Martin-Kaye Solicitors, in Telford, said the changes meant statutory maternity pay would be paid to mothers for 39 weeks, rather than the previous 26 week period.

“This is of course great news for families, but a real blow to small businesses who are already struggling to manage and administer the long-term absence of employees on maternity leave.

“And with the news that the Government is committed to increasing paid maternity leave to a year and introducing additional paternity leave of up to six months by 2010, the situation will just become even more difficult.”

John said the changes under the Work and Families Act also included an increase in the number of days which a person could go into work during maternity leave without losing entitlements.

“Until now, women who worked for even a single day during their maternity leave have lost some statutory maternity pay, and employers have been unsure whether they are allowed to contact them while they are on leave.

“But now they will be allowed to work for up to ten days to help ease them back into the workplace, and help them keep up-to-date about major changes and training opportunities – it will also help employers plan more easily.”

The changes mean mothers will get 90% of their salary for six weeks, and then a maximum of £112.75 a week for another 33 weeks. They will also need to give employers two months’ notice of when they are intending to return to work.

The Act also allows fathers the right to ask for up to 26 weeks’ unpaid paternity leave.

“All these changes are extremely positive for families, but it’s clear that the burden on businesses is growing all the time,” said John.

“Helping families is a very welcome step, but businesses deserve support too and it’s important that action is taken to protect the local economy at the same time.”

Wednesday, 2 May 2007

Landlords may scrap deposit

Shropshire landlords may consider axing traditional tenant deposits rather than take part in a new protection scheme.

The new rules introduced earlier this month mean all deposits taken by landlords for assured shorthold tenancies in England and Wales must be protected.

Sarah Heath, who leads the Commercial Property team at Martin-Kaye Solicitors, in Telford, said the ruling would affect thousands of property owners.

“A national survey has shown that large numbers of tenants claim to have been cheated by landlords refusing to pay back their rent deposit – but now, under the new regime, landlords will have to choose either a custodial or an insured scheme, and provide their tenants with the contact details.”

Under the custodial scheme, the tenant pays a deposit to the landlord who has 14 days to send it to the scheme. At the end of the tenancy, the scheme returns the deposit.

Under the alternative insurances schemes, the tenant pays the deposit to the landlord, who retains the amount, but the landlord must also pay a premium to the insurer.

Both schemes feature alternative dispute procedures that can be used to help settle potential disputes.

“But many landlords are looking for alternative ways to approach the question of tenant deposits, rather than taking part in the schemes – simply not asking for one though means the landlord has no protection,” said Sarah

“You could consider taking post dated cheques, or charge higher rents and offer cash back at the end of the tenancy if there are no problems. Both these options though would require you to take part in the tenancy protection scheme.

“One solution could be to charge two months’ rent in advance – but although this may give the landlord some sense of comfort, the rent in advance could not be used to repair damage in the future.

“It’s clear that landlords need to be fully aware of the implications of the new rules, and ensure their procedures meet the guidelines. Taking care to draw up the right agreement in the first place will help prevent difficulties in the longer term.”

Monday, 30 April 2007

What to do when chasing cash

Shropshire companies who allow their customers too much time to pay overdue invoices are risking their credibility, according to a local solicitor

Chris Detheridge, of Martin-Kaye Solicitors, in Telford, said: “Most businesses know that when an invoice is outstanding, you have to chase it in writing – but how many times should you chase it?

“If you send too many reminder letters, giving the client too much time to pay, does it show you’re not serious and you’re prepared to wait a long time for your money?”

Chris said there was no legal minimum or maximum number of letters required by law, but a court would expect companies to try to resolve matters through negotiation first.

“Issuing court proceedings without having given the client a chance to state their case will not look good, and you could be penalised in terms of court costs.”

He said there were key things to consider, including the importance of the customer, the amount they owe, and the profit margin

“If the sum invoiced carries a low margin, you shouldn’t waste any time – one or two quick reminder letters is plenty.

“By the time you have sent an invoice, a statement, reminder phone calls and emails, the costs soon start to mount up – and by the time you get to sending formal reminder letters, the customer may already have had weeks of free credit.

“So the best advice is to send no more than one or two reminders by post before you take action. If you let things drift, your customer will take all the time they can before they pay because they won’t take you seriously.”

Call to display notices

Company bosses in Shropshire must make sure they protect themselves when it comes to health and safety issues.

And the protection is simple to arrange – all it takes is for two legal notices to be properly displayed.

Stuart Haynes, of Martin-Kaye Solicitors, in Euston Way, Telford, said: “Many employers have noticeboards in key areas of the workplace, such as the main reception area and the staff room.

“But if you don’t display key pieces of health and safety documentation, rather than just your current job vacancies, as a director you could be personally liable in the event of an accident and claim.”

Stuart said companies must display their current Employers’ Liability insurance certificate.

“And unless you want to issue each employee with a leaflet, you need to display the well-known “Health and Safety Law” poster.

“The current version is now pink and white, and it sets out your duties under health and safety legislation. It also has a series of boxes which need to be filled in, including the name of the person with day-to-day health and safety responsibilities, and the address of your local authority.

“It may sound absurd that displaying a poster could be so important, but it is required under the Health and Safety Information for Employees Regulations 1989.”

Stuart said if companies had a poster but it was dated prior to October 1999, it was no longer legal.

Employers also need to make display fire evacuation procedures, first aid assistance details, and a health and safety policy statement.

“Make sure you have a noticeboard in each area of your building, and that a specific employee is responsible for keeping the information on it up-to-date. And if you have more than one building, the notices must be displayed at each site,” he said.

Thursday, 26 April 2007

Warning over age laws

Shropshire employers must make sure they are complying with new age laws in the workplace, or prepare to defend costly claims.

John Mehtam, Employment Law Specialist at Martin-Kaye Solicitors, in Euston Way, Telford, said six months after the new laws had been introduced, some employers were still ignoring them.

“Research has shown that almost two thirds of the people surveyed felt the age laws had made little or no difference to the way people were being recruited.

“And many said they had seen ageist behaviour alive and well in their own workplace since the rules were introduced.

“But this has got to stop – employers must make sure they are complying with the rules or they could face real problems in the future.”

John said it was much simpler and cost effective for employers to recruit sensibly under the new rules, than to defend a discrimination claim at a later date.

“Make sure your advertising avoids phrases such as young professionals, or mature candidates, and really take a close look at the way your recruitment process is structured.

“The evidence shows that introducing new laws is just the start of the process, and it’s the way people interpret them in the longer term that is crucial to their success.

“Don’t just rely on your Human Resources teams to make sure your firm is following the right procedures – make sure you know exactly how your company’s recruitment programme operates.

“If you don’t, it will be you who faces any tribunal that may result, and ultimately you who faces the financial penalty too.”

Thursday, 19 April 2007

Couples warned to plan finances

Shropshire couples who live together are being hit hard financially when they separate – all because they don’t plan well enough for their future.

Nadia Davis, who leads the Family Law team at Martin-Kaye Solicitors, in Euston Way, Telford, said increasing numbers of cohabiting couples were running into financial difficulties when the relationship fell apart.

“The problem arises because many couples who set up home together don’t give enough thought to the arrangements of how they will own their property – and so, when they separate, they run into real problems.”

Nadia said that even if one person has contributed a greater share towards the cost of buying the home, there was no guarantee they would get that investment back if the couple split up.

“Many unmarried couples still don’t realise that the way they decide to apportion the legal title of the property when they first buy it is the crucial factor that will determine what they receive if they go their separate ways.

“It is vital that each partner is aware of this right at the beginning of the house-buying process, and that they think things through extremely carefully.”
Nadia said most couples chose to hold the legal title as joint tenants – this means each person would be entitled to 50 per cent of the equity in the property if they separated.

“This percentage would still apply even if one person had made a greater contribution towards the deposit, paid for expensive renovations, or maybe even covered all the mortgage payments during the relationship.”

She said there were though simple steps that could be taken when the couple decided to purchase a property which could help them avoid difficulties later.

“You could decide to own the legal title of the property as tenants in common in differing shares, to reflect the difference in contribution towards the purchase price.

“Or, even better, you could draw up a straightforward cohabitation agreement which has the added benefit that it can also cover any additional financial contributions made after the house purchase.

“Couples could save themselves a lot of heartache and unnecessary expense by seeking sensible legal advice when they decide to buy a property together.

“Buying a house is usually the biggest investment most people will make, and it’s just common sense to make sure you don’t lose out financially if the relationship doesn’t work out.”

Monday, 9 April 2007

Warning over immigrant workers

Shropshire company directors risk jail if they don’t ensure overseas workers have been cleared to work in the UK.

The influx of more than 420,000 workers from Eastern Europe in the last two years has led to a whole new source of employees for a wide range of companies.

But John Mehtam, from Martin-Kaye Solicitors, in Telford, said directors were personally responsible for ensuring the workers were here legally.

“The new pool of workers is an incredible opportunity for companies across the UK, but many directors may not be aware of the risks they are taking if they don’t pay particular attention to the small print.

“It’s vital that companies ensure the immigrants are here legally, because otherwise it will be your firm and not the immigrant who will be in trouble.

“In fact, if you are found to have staff who are working here illegally, you could face a jail sentence under the Immigration Asylum and Nationality Act 2006.”

John said the Home Office suggests employers ask to see either a full UK or European Economic Area passport; a British birth certificate and evidence of their National Insurance number; or a passport which is stamped to say the person has permission to work in the UK.

“Check carefully to make sure any photos on the identification they show you match their appearance, and that the dates of birth and names given on documents match perfectly.

“Overseas workers can be a useful addition to your company, and many British companies have been particularly delighted with the Eastern Europeans and their attitude to hard work.
“Many company directors also believe having overseas workers is good for company culture, so employing overseas staff brings a lot of positive points, as long as you take care with the documentation.”

Solicitor Promoted

A Telford solicitor has been promoted to the role of Associate with the legal firm she works for, just months after joining the team.

Sarah Heath leads the Commercial Property Team, at Martin-Kaye Solicitors, at The Foundry, in Euston Way, after joining the company from a leading practice in the West Midlands.

She is experienced in dealing with high value property deals, particularly for regional and national property developers, and portfolio management.

And Senior Partner, Graham Davies, said her dynamic approach and wide-ranging expert knowledge made her the perfect candidate to become an Associate.

“We have been extremely impressed by Sarah’s hard working style and her dedication to her career.

“We are very pleased she has agreed to become an Associate, and we believe she will play a key role in helping us to develop our strategies for the future, to help us remain at the forefront of the legal profession in the region.”

Sarah said she had chosen to join Martin-Kaye because they were recognised as one of the most forward-thinking and innovative firms in the area.

“Their aims and objectives are ambitious and challenging, but that’s exactly the kind of environment I believe is important if a business is to thrive in a competitive market place.

“I’m very proud to have been made an Associate after such a short time with the Practice, and I’m looking forward to helping shape the strategies that will build on the company’s already renowned reputation for high quality service.”

Pic: Sarah Heath – a new Associate at Martin-Kaye Solicitors

Monday, 2 April 2007

Top Honour

A Shropshire Legal Executive has been named as Student of the Year by the county Law Society.

Amy Tivenan works in the Property Department at Martin-Kaye Solicitors, in Euston Way, Telford, and won the Award after successfully completing her training at Radbrook College, in Shrewsbury.

She received the honour at the Shropshire Law Society annual dinner.

“I initially studied Law and Sociology at Cardiff University, and I enjoyed the law side of the course so much that I decided to explore the options of a career in the legal world,” said Amy, who was born and bred in Shrewsbury.

“I discovered my local college at Radbrook ran a post-graduate diploma for entry into the Institute of Legal Executives, and this seemed like a great opportunity.

“I was particularly attracted to the course as Legal Executives specialise in one field of law, and I felt that reflected the direction many legal practices are now taking.

“I thoroughly enjoyed the course and really appreciated the practical insight it gave me into the legal profession – I also felt the focus on the practical side of the industry made me more readily employable.”

Andrew Green, Managing Partner at Martin-Kaye Solicitors, said: “We are extremely proud of Amy, and the commitment and dedication she showed in her training is now reflected in her working style too.

“We are looking forward to her progress, and to helping her complete the five-year qualification period she needs to become a Fellow of the Institute of Legal Executives.”

Amy’s course tutor, Adrian Mason, said the ILEX Post Graduate Entry Diploma as an excellent route for students to follow in order to secure a career in the legal profession

“Amy was a great student and it was a pleasure to have her in the college. I am sure she will do very well at Martin-Kaye Solicitors and I wish her every success.”

Pic: Amy Tivenan celebrates her Student of the Year Award with Nita Patel (Partner/Head of Property) and Andrew Green (Managing Partner) at Martin-Kaye Solicitors

Loyalty rewarded at Martin-Kaye

A Telford law firm has rewarded long-serving staff who have clocked up over a century of service to the company between them.

Six employees were honoured at Martin-Kaye Solicitors, at The Foundry, in Euston Way, for their dedication and loyalty to the firm.

In a special presentation to mark the milestone achievements, the staff each received gift vouchers and a bouquet of flowers from Managing Partner, Andrew Green.

The longest serving employee to be honoured was Shirley Farlow, from the Accounts Department, who has given 25 years’ service to the Practice.

Recognised for over 20 years’ service were Hazel Mears, from the Probate Department, and Sharon Powell, Administration Manager.

And celebrating 15 years’ service were Julie Peate, Assistant Administration Manager, Judith Smout, from the Wills and Probate Team, and Rita Webb, from the Family Team.

Andrew Green said: “Martin-Kaye Solicitors is very proud to recognise such dedicated staff, many of who have been with us since the Practice first began.

“Without the support of such a flexible and well-trained team, we would not have achieved a nationwide reputation for high quality customer service and effective, appropriate expert advice.

“A company is only as good as its workforce, and we are supremely fortunate to have the backing of employees who really care about the service we deliver.”

Andrew said the support of the long-serving members of staff had been particularly invaluable during a hectic past 12 months, when the company had transferred to purpose-built multi-million pound offices in Euston Way.

“Our company has undergone a period of total transformation, not just in terms of our premises, but also in terms of our operational approach, and the patience and hard work of our staff has played a crucial role in helping us to tackle each challenge as it arose.”

Pic: At the long service award presentation at Martin-Kaye Solicitors are, from left, Sharon Powell, Hazel Mears, Julie Peate, Shirley Farlow, Managing Partner Andrew Green, Judith Smout, Rita Webb, and Partner Alison Carter

Smoking ban looms for employers

Shropshire businesses must take action now to prepare for the impending national smoking ban or face a last-minute panic.

John Mehtam, Employment Law specialist at Martin-Kaye Solicitors, in Telford, said the ban would become law on July 1, but companies should make provision as soon as possible.

“There are fewer than 100 days to go, and it’s important that businesses start to take this seriously,” said John.

“Many may already have smoking policies in place, but these will need to be formalised ready for the ban, as it means all enclosed or substantially enclosed workplaces must be smoke free.”

John said companies where employees still wanted to smoke after the ban takes effect would have to make arrangements for them to smoke outside the building

“It’s vital that businesses begin now to remove their smoking rooms, and put up no smoking signs, in order to prepare their workforce for the changes that will be compulsory.

“And any employer who fails to display the signs could be fined up to £1,000 – if they fail to stop their staff smoking in a smoke free place, the fine could be as much as £2,500.”

John said the ban would be enforced by environmental health officers from local authorities, so that it did not take up valuable police time.

“In preparation for the new law, some employers may want to consider offering smokers help to give up, and it’s also important to consult your staff on how your smoking policy will be implemented.

“You should also make sure everyone is fully aware how you will deal with people who try to ignore the ban, and that you will be taking the new law extremely seriously.

“The ban will improve the working environment for all employees, and companies just need to ensure they plan for it well in advance to help the transition run smoothly.”

Tuesday, 13 March 2007

Rich husbands wait for £48m divorce ruling

A Shropshire solicitor claims a multi-million pound divorce case which has been hitting the national headlines could turn the tide for rich husbands.

Nadia Davis, who leads the Family Team at Martin-Kaye Solicitors, in Euston Way, Telford, said the case was being seen as a landmark hearing for husbands who were unhappy about the payouts their wives could receive.

“The case is being heard at The Court of Appeal, and it really could bring a change in the way divorce settlements of this kind are considered.”

Nadia said the current case was an appeal by a wealthy husband against the court’s decision to award his wife a sizeable share of the family assets.

“The husband is an insurance tycoon who was ordered to pay his wife £48 million in their divorce settlement, which was the equivalent of 37 per cent of their overall assets.

“He had spent 35 years building up their £131 million fortune from almost nothing, and his wife had been the homemaker throughout their long marriage.

“But the husband claims it was thanks to his exceptional contribution that their fortune had grown, and that the amount paid to his wife was grotesque and unfair.”

Nadia said the tycoon’s wife claimed her contribution as his wife and the mother of his children entitled her to a substantial part of their joint wealth.

“If The Court of Appeal agrees with the husband in this case, and reduces the payout to his wife, it may well give hope to husbands everywhere who have built up substantial assets while their wife stayed at home to look after the family.

“When the marriage breaks down, husbands in this position often have to split the assets equally with their wife, but if the court allows this change, things could be very different in the future.
“It’s clear that the outcome of this case will have a real impact on the way divorce cases are dealt with by the lower courts, no matter what their financial value.”

Monday, 12 March 2007

Getting a better deal for tenants

Commercial tenants facing huge increases in service charges may be able to fight back, according to a Shropshire solicitor.

Sarah Heath, who leads the Commercial Property Team at Martin-Kaye Solicitors, in Telford, said some small businesses had reported increases of over 50 per cent in their annual service charge.

“The problem is that service charges in commercial leases, unlike residential leases, are unregulated.

“So the starting point is to make sure when you negotiate your original lease, you agree acceptable terms. If possible, try to agree a set limit on the service charge payable each year, or at least agree a percentage.

“If that wasn’t done at the time, read through your lease carefully – if it fails to mention service charges at all, you can refuse to pay your landlord’s demand.

“But it’s more likely that it will contain a service charge clause, so you should check what it covers."

Sarah said the clause should include phrases such as “costs and expenses reasonably and properly incurred”.

“If it does, you can at least challenge the landlord’s demand, and if the charges are unreasonable, you don’t have to pay it.

“The way forward is to request copies of invoices the landlord claims to have paid, for example for redecorating, and get at least three other quotes so you can compare them before you challenge the charges he’s asking for.”

Sarah said The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors was set to introduce changes in April this year to its voluntary code, in a bid to give clearer guidelines on what a landlord can and can’t do.

“But as this is only a voluntary code, it’s difficult to see how this can be regulated – the best thing to do is take expert advice to make sure the charges you’re being asked to pay are fair.”

Pic: Sarah Heath - Head of Commercial Property - Martin Kaye Solicitors

Hours policy warning

Shropshire employers must beware when it comes to refusing flexible and part-time working.

John Mehtam, Employment Law Specialist at Martin-Kaye Solicitors, in Euston Way, Telford, said changing legislation meant companies should ensure they were complying with the very latest regulations.

“The latest developments follow a case where an employee took her employers to a tribunal as they refused to let her work part-time after the birth of her child.

“She sued her employers under the Sex Discrimination Act 1975, as she said the requirement to work full time discriminated against women as, in the majority of cases, they were primarily responsible for child care.

“And she said at times, many women needed a part-time option, to make room for their family responsibilities, so the policy of only employing full-time workers was unfair.”

John said the case had been settled out of court, with compensation being offered, and the company involved was now reviewing its policies on part-time and flexible working.

“In a world where many people are juggling their job and caring for their families, whether that’s children or dependant relatives, companies need to ensure their policies are seen as fair.

“Currently working parents have the right to ask for flexible working, and from April this year, the right will be extended to people caring for relatives too.

“This means businesses will have to make provision for employees to work more unusual hours, or maybe give them the opportunity to work from home more often.
“Of course this could cause difficulties in terms of continuity in the workplace, but if employers begin to review their policies well before the rules change, it gives them the chance to seek professional help to draw up a new strategy that will benefit everyone.”

Warning on software

Shropshire company directors must ensure their computer software is legal or they could face court action.

Stuart Haynes, of Martin-Kaye Solicitors, in Telford, said a third of all software installed in the UK was illegal, and directors could face having to take personal responsibility for the crime.

“If you’ve bought computer software, it would be easy to assume that you can do whatever you like with it,” said Stuart.

“But that’s just not the case – when you purchase software, the copyright will almost always belong to someone else and all you have actually bought is a licence to use it.”

Stuart said this agreement would contain restrictions about who could use the software and for what.

“If you do anything that goes beyond this, you’ll be breaching the copyright and guilty of software piracy.

“And the Business Software Alliance has made it very easy for you to get caught out, as they offer a reward of up to £20,000 for employees to tip them off about illegal use.”

Stuart said directors may not even realise they were breaking the terms of the licence agreement.

“Maybe you are using the software on more computers than the licence allows – if so, you could face criminal and civil action, and as a director you could receive a criminal record as well as being struck off if you ignore the situation.”

Companies should carry out an audit of all their equipment and what software is being used, and check the small print on any software licences the company holds.

“You should then draw up a software register so you know exactly what software you have and how you can use it – this way you should avoid being caught out in the future,” said Stuart.

“To protect yourself, steer clear of any software that seems very cheap, that may be badly packaged, or that comes from a supplier you don’t recognise – not only might it be illegal, but it may also damage your computer network.”

Saturday, 10 March 2007

Rules will ban wind turbines from gorge

Shropshire’s world famous Ironbridge Gorge could be off limits to the growing invasion of controversial wind turbines, thanks to a new ruling.

The Government has announced “buffer zones” around the 24 recognised World Heritage Sites across the UK, in a bid to protect them from skyscrapers and intrusive home improvements, such as stone cladding and satellite dishes.

And a Telford solicitor believes the new guidelines could also protect the Shropshire landmark from the growing national threat of wind turbines.

Graham Davies, of Martin-Kaye Solicitors, in Euston Way, said the new laws were being introduced following concerns from UNESCO that Britain’s World Heritage Sites were being put at risk.

“They were worried that sites such as the Tower of London were in danger as a result of skyscraper developments being allowed nearby.

“And with the growing interest in seeking alternative power sources, the enormous wind turbines proposed in several areas of the UK could also be a threat.

“But thanks to the new ruling, the Ironbridge Gorge, and other listed sites across the country, would be protected from any future proposals for such developments.

“This is excellent news, as it’s vital that important historical sites like Ironbridge are preserved for future generations, without facing the onslaught of new developments which could ruin them forever.”

As well as protecting historic skylines from new high-rise buildings, the Government proposals suggest new powers to restrict stone cladding, dormer windows, and satellite dishes near the designated heritage sites.

This would ensure the landmarks are given the same kind of protection as national parks and areas of outstanding natural beauty.

“It’s clear that the Government is keen to protect World Heritage Sites across the UK, and I’m sure the new rules will be warmly welcomed here in Shropshire,” said Graham.

“The Ironbridge Gorge is one of our county’s most famous attractions, renowned all over the world, and protecting it from future development is definitely an important step which needs to be taken.”

Pic: Graham Davis - Martin Kaye Solicitors

Monday, 5 March 2007

Italian Job for County Lawyer

A Telford solicitor put his business development skills to the test as part of an international networking conference in Rome.

Graham Davies, Senior Partner at Martin-Kaye Solicitors, of The Foundry, in Euston Way, represented the firm at the latest meeting of the Integrated Advisory Group, IAG International.

“We are one of the founders of the organisation, which now has members from more than 70 firms across the world,” said Graham.

“It is made up of lawyers, accountants, tax advisers, and other professionals from across Europe, North and South America, and the Middle East.”

At the conference in Rome, Graham was asked to join a committee to organise an exhibition stand to promote IAG at a business forum in Rotterdam later this year.

“We are constantly looking at ways of attracting international business, as IAG has members all over the world who can offer invaluable advice to an increasingly wide range of clients.

“Thanks to my experience of working on business development strategies and long-term marketing plans for Martin-Kaye Solicitors, I was able to share my knowledge with other members of the committee, and we’re planning a really high profile presence at the Rotterdam show.”

Graham said at the latest meeting, two new members of IAG were introduced, from Mumbai and Argentina.

“Members are personally invited to join IAG, and we work very hard to select key firms from emerging markets across the world in order to build up the group and its networking opportunities.

“Martin-Kaye’s involvement with IAG has proved invaluable in helping us to attract clients here at home who are keen to develop their services overseas, as we are able to call on the expertise of other IAG members if we need specific advice.

“This has helped us to handle many cases where businesses want to set up all or part of their firm overseas, or where they need to become involved in cross border transactions.”

IAG International meets regularly to give members the opportunity to network with colleagues from other countries, to build strong international partnerships, and to develop business opportunities.

Thursday, 1 March 2007

Family law expert warns of pressures

Shropshire families are facing a tough future when it comes to balancing work and home life, a local solicitor has warned.

Nadia Davis leads the Family Law Team at Martin-Kaye Solicitors, in Telford, and she said research had shown many families were dreading the long-term prospect of trying to work and care for their extended family at the same time.

“The research was commissioned by the Equal Opportunities Commission, and showed that almost three quarters of people in the UK think things are only going to get more difficult over the next ten years,” said Nadia.

The figures showed that 82 per cent of people felt it was already difficult for parents to balance work and home life, and 72 per cent believed it would get worse in the next decade.

“It’s clear that if we are going to make life more comfortable for the majority of families, there will need to be changes in the workplace, with more widespread flexible working available, and improved childcare facilities.

“But it’s not only parents caring for children who are finding life difficult – more and more families are facing the prospect of caring for dependant relatives such as parents or grandparents.

“And the pressure can be unbearable when it comes to trying to balance out priorities and still hold down a full-time job.”

Nadia said the survey also showed that spending quality time with the family or finding time for key relationships was the biggest concern for 64 per cent of people, both men and women.

“This worry came ahead of money, health, work and local safety, so it’s obviously a major concern in a great many households – and interestingly, it was fathers who were most worried about the lack of time they spent with their family (74 per cent, compared to 68 per cent of mothers).

“The family unit has changed greatly over the years, and it’s frightening to think that so many families are now dreading the next decade – we need to work hard to develop a better balance between work and home life, and this has to start now.”

Thursday, 1 February 2007

Monday, 29 January 2007

HELPing hand in Shrewsbury

Businesses in Shrewsbury were so impressed with an interactive law forum held in Telford – they’ve asked for their own.

The HR and Employment Law in Practice forum, otherwise known as HELP, is organised by Martin-Kaye Solicitors, in Telford, and has been running for the past 12 months.

Now, as a result of customer demand, the law firm has joined forces with National Westminster Bank to organise a series of similar sessions in Shrewsbury.

Graham Davies, senior partner at Martin-Kaye, said: “We aim not just to tell people about what’s happening in Employment Law, but to offer them a chance to network with other employers and Human Resources people to discuss local trends.

“We knew the sessions were effective, and that we were generating a lot of interest, and it’s excellent news that businesses in Shrewsbury are keen to hear more about the advice we have to offer.

The first Shrewsbury workshop was held at The Lord Hill Hotel in the town, with many major local business names attending, and more companies are already showing an interest in the next event.

Brian Seadon, Senior Manager (Commercial Banking) from NatWest, said: “Employment Law is something all businesses have to grapple with and it is vital they get expert advice.

“We are pleased to be able to be part of these forums to help them find that support, and to offer added value to our services.”

The team is now planning to run the Shrewsbury forum for at least the next 12 months, and the sessions will be held every other month.

Pic: At the first Shrewsbury Help forum are, from left, John Mehtam (Martin-Kaye Employment Law Specialist), Brian Seadon (NatWest Bank), Graham Davies (Martin-Kaye Senior Partner), and Adele Robinshaw (NatWest Bank)

Wednesday, 17 January 2007

Warning for Bosses

Shropshire Businesses must make sure they are aware of the most significant transformation of company law in decades.

That's the warning from Stuart Haynes at Martin Kaye Solicitors, The Foundry, Euston Way, Telford, following the introduction of the new Companies Act.

"The new act bring the most wide-ranging changes to that legal system that many people can remember for a long time", he said

Stuart said the new legislation would have an impact on all private and public companies, as its far-reaching reforms cover such a vast area of law.

"The Companies Act 2006 is the result of a Department of Trade and Industry review, which was launched as far back as 1998", he said.

"If you ignore the new legislation, you and your employees will be taking unnecessary risks, and you could face serious consequences"

"In another twist, the position of all company secretaries in private companies is now voluntary, and auditors can agree with companies a limit to their liabilities."

Monday, 1 January 2007

Warning for Bosses

Shropshire Businesses must make sure they are aware of the most significant transformation of company law in decades.

That's the warning from Stuart Haynes at Martin Kaye Solicitors, The Foundry, Euston Way, Telford, following the introduction of the new Companies Act.

"The new act bring the most wide-ranging changes to that legal system that many people can remember for a long time", he said

Stuart said the new legislation would have an impact on all private and public companies, as its far-reaching reforms cover such a vast area of law.

"The Companies Act 2006 is the result of a Department of Trade and Industry review, which was launched as far back as 1998", he said.

"If you ignore the new legislation, you and your employees will be taking unnecessary risks, and you could face serious consequences"

"In another twist, the position of all company secretaries in private companies is now voluntary, and auditors can agree with companies a limit to their liabilities."

Protecting your ideas from risks

Shropshire companies are being urged to protect their work when it comes to business deals with other firms.

Stuart Haynes, of Martin Kaye Solicitors in Euston Way, Telford, said that at some time up to 70 per cent of directors had been known to risk their business ideas.

"This is known as intellectual property and is basically anything that your business creates, including an idea, a design, a work of art, or even a way of doing something that's unique.

"Anything you create in your business is yours, and should be formally protected, otherwise a competitor, or even someone you have hired to work for you could steal your ideas"

Stuart said many companies wrongly assumed that they owned the copyright on any work carried out by a third party they had hired, such as a designer.

"But if fact, if you're not careful, and if there is no written agreement, it is unlikely that the copyright will be yours, even though you've paid for the work and it's related to your business."

"This could mean the designer could sell the work to one of your rivals or even set up business themselves using those designs."

Stuart said companies could protect themselves by including a clause in their contractor's agreement which made it clear the company owned the copyright and intellectual property in anything that was produced.

"It isn't necessary to register the copyright in any original material you've created as you will have automatic protection. But you could use the copyright symbol on your business documents and include a copyright notice, which will make it clear you take the issue seriously. And if someone asks if they can use the material, agree in writing what you are prepared to allow them to do by creating a copyright licence agreement - you can also charge them a fee for using your work. Its vital that companies protect themselves from this king of issue, as intellectual property plays a crucial role in business success"