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.”