Friday, 16 December 2011

Award success for Martin-Kaye client

One of our clients has secured a prestigious business award for their innovative products. The Green Roof Tile Company, which is based on the Battlefield Enterprise Park in Shrewsbury, scooped the Lord Stafford Award for Sustainability for their new Envirotile product.

Stuart Haynes, who is a senior member of our Commercial Team, handles their account and was invited to attend the official presentation at the University of Birmingham's Great Hall. "It really was a fantastic evening and I'm so proud of Trevor Wakefield and his team - they've worked incredibly hard to develop the Envirotile and to see their efforts recognised at such a high level is a real credit to them," said Stuart.

The Green Roof Tile Company was created with the aim of helping the environment, and has developed a technically advanced alternative to the slate and concrete roof tiles currently on the market. They worked on the project with the University of Wolverhampton and received the award for their partnership approach.

The Lord Stafford Awards were developed in 1997 to celebrate and showcase the best in collaboration between business and universities, and for the first time this year the awards covered both the West and East Midlands with the winners across four categories.

Pic: Stuart Haynes (left) from Martin-Kaye LLP Solicitors and Trevor Wakefield from the award-winning Green Roof Tile Company

Thursday, 15 December 2011

It's a wrap!

Staff from our Personal Injury Team have Christmas all wrapped up when it comes to raising cash for charity.

They volunteered to help on the Christmas gift wrapping stand in Telford Shopping Centre, wrapping presents for members of the public for a minimum donation of £1, to raise money for the Midlands Air Ambulance.

Sophie Davies, for the team, said: "Midlands Air Ambulance staff, fundraisers and various local volunteers manned the stand for a week to raise vital charity cash. And we decided to volunteer our time for a day to help them boost their total - it turned out to be a very busy session for Santa's newest little helpers!"

The gift wrapping stand is opposite Debenhams in the town centre, and is supporting several different charities in the run-up to Christmas.

The Midlands Air Ambulance is the only charity responsible for funding and operating three air ambulances serving Shropshire, Staffordshire, Herefordshire, Gloucestershire, Worcestershire and the West Midlands.

Since 1991, the charity has responded to more than 34,000 missions averaging 3,000 per year or nearly ten each day, making it one of the longest-established and busiest air ambulance organisations in the UK.

Pic: Community fundraising manager for Midlands Air Ambulance Maria Jones (in red) with, from left, Lynsey Kilvert, Clare Pitchford, Sophie Davies and Alison Thornton (all from Martin-Kaye LLP Solicitors)

Friday, 18 November 2011

Good news on tribunal changes

Shropshire employers have had a double dose of good news from the Government this week. Our employment law specialist, John Mehtam, said legislation changes to reduce the number of employment tribunals and to boost the economy had been warmly welcomed.

"This is a rare occasion when legislation has been changed in favour of the employer, and it's great news for Shropshire companies at what is a very difficult time."

The first change comes into force on April 1 next year, when the qualifying period for unfair dismissal will be extended from one year to two years. "This means employees will need two years' continuous service with your company to claim unfair dismissal, and the Government estimates the change will reduce the number of tribunal claims by 2000 per year."

There will be some exceptions to the two-year rule though - employees will not be required to have been in their job for two continuous years in order to make a claim for:

Health and safety dismissals; pregnancy-related dismissals (only if the employer knew about the pregnancy); dismissals relating to trade union membership or non-membership; dismissals in connection with the national minimum wage; dismissals connected with refusing to exceed the 48-hour working week; dismissals for whistle blowing; unlawful discrimination (including sex, race, disability, age, sexual orientation, part-time workers, fixed term).

"As well as extending the qualifying period next year, April 2013 will introduce fees for people lodging a tribunal claim. The hope is that businesses will be encouraged to take on new people without the fear of spurious tribunal claims if things do not work out."

John said currently there was no fee for lodging a claim, and more than 80 per cent of tribunal claims lodged did not proceed to a hearing, with nearly half of those withdrawn by the employee involved.

"But even if they don't get to a hearing, you will still have spent time and money preparing a defence, so charging claimants at an early stage is designed to ensure both parties have a stake in proceedings."

Have yourself a jazzy little Christmas...

Businesses from all over Telford will be taking part in a Christmas celebration with a difference this year.

Telford Business Partnership has organised its annual festive event for Friday, December 2, at 5pm, but there will be no traditional turkey dinner on the night. Instead members will be tucking into a hog roast and enjoying the sounds of a jazz band at The Park House Hotel in Shifnal.

Our senior partner, Graham Davies, is this year's TBP chairman, and he said: "We hold an event every year for our members to get together and for years it has always been a traditional Christmas lunch. So this year we decided to do something different and the response from our members has been extremely positive. They've signed up early to make sure they get their tickets, and many are bringing friends and other colleagues too."

Guests on the night will be entertained by The Millennium Eagle Jazz Band and there will be a collection in aid of the County Air Ambulance and Hope House. The event is not just for members - it's for anyone who'd like to go along and enjoy a Christmas celebration with a difference.

Tickets cost £17 per person and to reserve your place, email or call 01952 567578.

Monday, 7 November 2011

Networking on the world stage

Martin-Kaye Solicitors have been building business connections with professionals from all over the world at an international convention. Stuart Haynes, from our Commercial Team, took part in the latest Integrated Advisory Group (IAG) meeting in San Francisco.

We are one of the founder members of the network which began in 1989, and which has 67 members from across Europe, north and south America, and the Middle East. It's made up of lawyers, accountants and tax advisers from 31 countries, and hosts three meetings a year in a different city each time.

"At Martin-Kaye, we're increasingly finding that we are dealing with cases which have an international element and our strong links with the IAG network are proving to be invaluable," said Stuart. "The IAG meetings give us access to the very best professionals from all over the world, which is extremely useful, and it means we can handle even the most complex international cases from right here in Telford.

"Not only is this convenient for our clients, many of whom have bases overseas, but more importantly, it also reduces their legal costs."

Martin-Kaye's international links are paying off more and more frequently, and the firm has recently used IAG members to complete work in Chile, Poland, South Africa, UAE, Spain, Germany and Italy.

Pic: Stuart Haynes attends the IAG International meeting in San Francisco

Monday, 31 October 2011

All you want for Christmas...

Staff Christmas parties could bring a whole host of unwanted festive gifts for Shropshire employers.

Lisa Batchelor, from our Employment team, said after such a difficult year, many employers would already have planned to reward their staff with a Christmas get-together.

"But such work-related social events can lead to all kinds of problems unless you make it clear in advance just what you expect from your employees. Staff who are in the festive spirit may well be tempted to drink too much and this can lead to arguments, inappropriate behaviour, and even violence.

"Some staff may also begin telling offensive jokes or harassing other guests - and it's not just men who are capable of such antics, women can be just as guilty."

Lisa said the difficulty was that is someone attended a function linked to their employment, the employer could be held responsible for their actions.

"So without being a killjoy before the festivities have even started, it makes sense to spell out to all employees what type of behaviour is expected of them at the event.

"Write out a statement explaining that misconduct will be treated seriously and that you will take disciplinary action if it occurs. And when it comes to something that could be taken as gross misconduct, such as fighting with a colleague or the misuse of illegal drugs, remind them this could lead to them losing their job altogether."

She said partners or guests who attended would also be expected to behave well, and if they acted badly, employers should not hesitate to ask them to leave.

"No-one wants to put a dampener on the festivities, but equally, as the employer, you must protect yourself and your business from out-of-control employees who go too far."

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Technology is a risky business

Social networking is changing the way employees communicate in the workplace, and Shropshire companies must take notice.

Our senior partner, Graham Davies, said it was crucial that employers reviewed their email and internet policies regularly.

"With technology moving at such an incredible pace, any policies you put in place may well be out of date in a very short time. So it's vital that every company looks closely at its procedures frequently in order to stay one step ahead."

Graham said in particular, policies on social networking and video sharing websites needed to be tightened up given the increasing interest in sites such as Facebook, twitter and LinkedIn.

"You may decide to ban your staff from posting anything about the work they do for your company or anything that could identify it, because you don't want internal discussions or decisions spread all over the internet. And don't allow workers to provide links to your company's website because you don't want to give the impression that you're officially linked to what they may have written in a personal capacity.

"It's also important to stress to employees that they must clearly state that any views they express are their own, and not your corporate opinion.

"Technology is changing the face of communication in all areas of our lives today, and it's up to you to ensure your staff don't damage your company's reputation with ill-considered messages and personal opinions."

Monday, 19 September 2011

Quiz brings charity cash

Business professionals from across Shropshire put their general knowledge to the test to help raise almost £1,000 for local charities. The quiz was organised by the Shropshire and Mid Wales branch of the Institute of Legal Executives and the Shrewsbury Young Professionals group, and around 125 people took part.

Organiser Sophie Davies is the vice-chairman and treasurer of the ILEX branch, and she's one of our senior legal assistants.

"We wanted to raise cash for local organisations and invited all local law firms and other local businesses to attend, and we were delighted with the response we had," she said.

The event was held at The Lord Hill Hotel, in Shrewsbury, and the money raised will be split between Severn Hospice and the Midlands Air Ambulance.

"We had great support from all kinds of businesses, including Martin-Kaye Solicitors, who kindly donated £100 - half of which will go to the charity total, and half paid for a pamper spa day for two at the Albrighton Hall Hotel, which was our top raffle prize."

Pic: Martin-Kaye senior legal assistant Sophie Davies, who helped to organise the quiz

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Hard work pays off for Amanda

Hard work and dedication has paid off for a Telford woman who has now qualified as a legal executive at Martin-Kaye LLP Solicitors.

Amanda Wickstead originally joined us as a legal secretary in the commercial corporate team, and after studying for her qualifications alongside her day-job, she has now been named as a Fellow of the Institute of Legal Executives.

"Before I could officially call myself a legal executive, I needed to complete five years' training, and two years had to be done in the work place after my final exams. My time at Martin-Kaye Solicitors has been an incredible learning curve so far, and I'm extremely grateful for their support during my training.

"I'm particularly indebted to Stuart Haynes, who leads the commercial corporate team, as he gave me the opportunity to take up this chance to develop my skills, and has been very helpful throughout the learning process."

Amanda is now working as a legal executive in the commercial corporate team dealing with commercial contract work and company secretarial work.

Monday, 22 August 2011

Lawyer takes a brave approach

Charity was the winner after one of our lawyers negotiated an unusual settlement in a dispute between two companies.

Mohammed Ahsan was the lead lawyer on the case which had run for almost five years and had involved hours of legal arguments and court proceedings.

"The dispute arose because the first company lodged a claim and the second lodged a counterclaim, and neither side was prepared to give way. It became a matter of principle that neither company wished to pay any money to the other side, and it looked as though we would have no option but to go to trial.

"But in a long and intense mediation session, I wanted to have one last attempt to resolve things, so I suggested our client would be prepared to pay £5,000 to a charity of the other side's choice in full and final settlement of the case," said Ahsan.

"And in a surprise twist, both companies accepted the deal. They agreed there would be no payment of legal fees and once the charity had been paid, the case would be over. This way both parties were able to resolve the issue, and charity is the winner at the end of the day."

Senior partner, Graham Davies, said: "We were particularly impressed with Ahsan's unusual approach, and it's a clear example of how our lawyers are prepared to think creatively in order to reach agreement for our clients. Long-running disputes take up valuable time and money, and this case shows that Martin-Kaye's lawyers can bring flexibility and lateral thinking to what can be a drawn-out and complicated process."

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Employers flock to law seminar

Our latest advice seminar was so popular it was booked up within hours of being announced.

We organised the presentation at our offices in Euston Way, in Telford, for employers struggling to cope with staff taking time off sick. And employment law specialist, John Mehtam, who leads our Alpha business team, said delegates who attended were very impressed with the advice they received.

"We had an excellent response to the presentation and feedback forms completed by employers who attended rated the seminar as probably the best we've ever done."

The session looked at the legal rules and implications involved in the correct management of both short term and long term sickness absence.

Our Alpha team were also joined on the day by leading barrister, David Maxwell, from St Philips Chambers in Birmingham, who is a specialist employment lawyer, a part-time employment judge, and who is recommended by the Legal 500.

This was the latest in a series of seminars run by our Alpha team who specialise in effective and robust advice for businesses in all aspects of human resources and employment law.

Pic: At the Alpha presentation are, from left, Tony Conlon from Henshalls, Barbara Morris from Salop Leisure, and John Mehtam from Martin-Kaye Solicitors

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Accident victims will miss out

New rules will mean victims injured in accidents that aren't their fault will face drastically reduced compensation payouts - that's the warning from Alison Carter who leads our personal injury team.

"Once the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill comes into force, anyone injured because someone else has been negligent will be considerably worse off. The proposed legislation will make it more difficult for victims to get justice and will also reduce the amount of compensation available because it restricts 'no win no fee' agreements."

In the last five years, almost 3 million people have used "no win no fee" agreements to fund their legal claims, and 80% said they were satisfied with the current system.

Under the current system, the victim keeps 100% of their compensation if they are successful in a personal injury claim, and they can take out insurance to protect them from having to pay the other side's costs if they lose. They can also recover the cost of the insurance from the person who is to blame, and if the case is a success, the victim's solicitor can recover their fee from the other side too.

"But under the new proposals, neither the insurance premium or the success fee can be recovered and the victim will have to foot the bill," said Alison.

"This means victims will face hefty reductions in the amount of compensation they receive, and that funding will be a stumbling block for anyone considering putting in a claim, as many people won't be able to afford to pay for the insurance and so won't be able to risk losing.

"Anyone who has been injured in an accident that was not their fault should make a claim sooner rather than later, so they can use the current system which is much fairer."

Friday, 15 July 2011

Look for cash closer to home

Shropshire businesses who need a vital cash injection could find the answer is closer to home than they think.

Stuart Haynes, from our commercial team, said despite the banks relaxing their rules, borrowing was still not an easy option for many companies. "So if you need to expand your business or need cash to invest in new equipment, you may find you have to consider alternative options."

Stuart said one possibility could be setting up a pension known as a Small Self-Administered Scheme (SSAS).

"They are designed specifically for small to medium-sized companies with a small number of director/shareholders - or even just one if you're a sole trader. This kind of scheme is allowed to lend to businesses where the pension fund holder is a director/shareholder, which is different from other types of pension fund."

Stuart said there was no specific limit on how much an SSAS could lend your company, but it couldn't lend more than 50% of its net assets. "Your company would have to pay a commercial rate of interest on the loan, but of course the money will go straight from your business into your own pension account, so it's effectively costing you nothing."

He said an existing pension fund could be transferred into an SSAS and your company could immediately access a loan worth up to 50% of what the fund was worth.

"There are many companies who can set up a fund like this for you, but it's vital to take professional advice in order to avoid any pitfalls and mistakes."

Sunday, 29 May 2011

Louise is in gear for TV race

One of our commercial property solicitors is set to make her television debut - but you may not recognise her as outside the office, Louise Clowes takes on a completely different character.

"I spend as much time as I can outside office hours cycling round the roads of Shropshire and Staffordshire, and now I've been given a great opportunity to race on television," said Louise.

She is taking part in four of the Halfords Tour Series Races which invite Britain's elite female cyclists to compete at locations all over the UK. As part of the Inverse/CyClaim RT ladies' team, Louise has raced in Peterborough, and will also compete in Stoke on June 7, Oldham on June 9, and Woking on June 14.

"I had previously competed in triathlons and cycling time trials, but I was really looking for something different.

"So this year I looked into road and circuit cycle racing, but I needed to go further afield to find a full ladies team in order to get the chance to take part in some of the bigger races. I competed in my first race at Hillingdon, near London, but it was a very steep learning curve and I was dropped from the back of the pack in about 12 minutes!

"But things have improved since then and now I'm really looking forward to the challenge the Halfords Tour Series brings - my team will be wearing bright yellow and black racing kit, so we should be easy to spot!"

Pic: Louise Clowes practises for the TV races

Sick of sickness?

Shropshire employers who are struggling to cope with staff taking time off sick now have the chance to take up expert advice. We've organised a special presentation at our offices in The Foundry, Euston Way, Telford, on Friday, July 1, at 10am.

Our employment law specialist, John Mehtam, who leads our Alpha business team, said there had already been a great deal of interest in the event from local employers.

"Many companies are struggling to cope when employees take time off sick, particularly in such tough economic times when they are already operating with a skeleton staff. So our seminar will look at the legal rules and implications involved in the correct management of both short term and long term sickness absence.

"The approach to both situations is entirely different, but both must be handled in the right way, and we will help employers avoid the common pitfalls they may face."

The Martin-Kaye Alpha team will be joined on the day by leading barrister, David Maxwell, from St Philips Chambers in Birmingham, who is a specialist employment lawyer, a part-time employment judge, and who is recommended by the Legal 500.

"This is the latest in a series of seminars run by our Alpha team who specialise in effective and robust advicefor businesses in all aspects of human resources and employment law."

Numbers for the seminar are strictly limited, so employers who would like to attend should reserve a place by calling 01952 272222 or email

Thursday, 19 May 2011

Where there's a will...

Shropshire people are being urged to write a will, after worrying figures showed more than six out of ten don't have one.

Fiona Mainwaring, our wills and probate specialist, said research showed that another one in ten people had a will but hadn't told anyone where it was kept.

"The research from also showed that two thirds of parents with children under five had not made wills, which is a particular concern. Writing a will is considered by some people to be a little morbid or just something they put off doing, but it really is a vital part of everyday life."

Fiona said it was extremely important that once a will was written, it was reviewed regularly, especially after a change in circumstances such as marriage, divorce, a house move, or a new baby arrived.

"A will can be revoked by marriage or divorce, so the onus is on the will writer to keep their documents up-to-date if their family situation changes. And although home-made wills are available over the internet, it's a key document that can affect the rest of your family's life, so think carefully about whether you're happy to rely on something that has not been drawn up professionally.

"A valid will ensures there are no misunderstandings after your death, and that your wishes will be carried out. Don't just assume that everything you own will go to your nearest relatives - if you don't leave a will that's correctly drawn up, you could find your hard-earned savings and property are swallowed up by the Government."

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

No special treatment allowed

New rules on agency workers are not designed to give them special treatment, just to level the playing field - that's the message from John Mehtam, our employment law specialist.

"The much-anticipated Agency Workers Regulations 2010 will come into force in October, but it's vital that employers prepare now and understand the finer details."

John said the new legislation meant from October 1, any agency workers taken on by Shropshire companies would be entitled to access all the facilities in the workplace such as the canteen, car parking, and creche from their very first day.

"They will also be entitled to information on any vacancies in your company from that first shift. But they will need to complete 12 weeks' service before they qualify for equal treatment such as basic employment rights and conditions.

"These rules are not designed to give agency workers special treatment - if there's a waiting list for car parking, they can join it, but not jump the queue, so they don't take priority over your existing staff. And they'll only qualify for the right to equal treatment if they stay in the same role with your company for the entire 12-week period."

John said official guidance had been issued by the Government to explain to employers how to identify basic rights and conditions, including pay, working time and holiday entitlement, and pregnant workers.

"The guidance still needs parliamentary approval, but this is unlikely to be a problem, so it's vital that employers get to grips with the new rules now - before they take effect."

Monday, 9 May 2011

Jason joins the commercial team

Martin-Kaye LLP Solicitors has welcomed a new legal executive to its commercial team.

Jason Round is our latest member of staff - he's a former store supervisor and is now training for a new career in the legal profession.

"I'm very pleased to have joined such a progressive firm, and I'm looking forward to the challenges my new role will bring," said Jason. "It's a huge change of direction, but it's something I've wanted to do for so long, that it's now fantastic to have taken the final step into the legal world."

Jason has already completed his Institute of Legal Executives (ILEX) Level 3 professional Diploma in Law and Practice, studying at Shrewsbury College, and is now working towards his ILEX Level 6 qualification.

"I'm studying at the same time as working every day in the practice, so it's a busy yet rewarding time."

Jason is handling debt recovery matters for both business and individual clients, contractual disputes and other dispute resolution cases."

Pic: Jason Round - the newest employee at Martin-Kaye LLP Solicitors

Sophie's in the running

Sophie Boden, from our private property team, has been nominated for a prestigious community award.

She's been named in the Special Young Person category in this year's Pride of Shropshire Awards, and was nominated by her father, Calvin.

"Sophie has recognised a need for women to feel safe and more confident, while making new friends," he said. "So, at the age of 19, she gained £5,000 funding, and organised five, six-week self-defence courses for women only, across Telford. While the money paid for the costs, she has spent three months of her own time setting this up and a further six weeks running the classes.

"She has done all this while helping me to look after my 15-year-old daughter - her sister - and holding down a full-time job in the process."

Sophie attracted over 250 people to her first course, leading to the launch of a permanent class for women which launched last month.

She said: "I wanted to set up the classes because I do strongly believe that we can cut the amount of successful violent and sexual attacks against women by giving women the basic knowledge and confidence that they need to defend themselves."

Sophie will find out if she's won the award at a special ceremony at Shrewbsury Town Football Club's Greenhous Meadow stadium in July. The Pride of Shropshire Awards are run by the Shropshire Star, in conjunction with Shropshire Council, dairy giant Muller, and a host of other local sponsors.

Pic: Sophie Boden who has been nominated for a Pride of Shropshire award

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Clamping vehicles could cost you dearly

Companies who resort to clamping vehicles illegally parked on their land could face court action and a fine - that's the warning from our senior partner, Graham Davies.

"Company parking spaces are an extremely precious asset, whether they're for directors, staff or probably more importantly, your customers. So when drivers choose to clog up your spaces when they have no intention of visiting your business, it's annoying and inconvenient."

Graham said many firms had resorted to using a clamping company as a deterrent, which had proved particularly successful.

"But as a direct result of some clampers operating in an over-zealous manner and clamping everything in sight, the Government has decided to introduce a new law - the Protection of Freedoms Bill.

"This will make it an offence to clamp vehicles, even if they are illegally parked on your company's land, and your directors will face a fine if you're found guilty of operating such a policy."

Graham said the new rules also made it an offence to block a vehicle in by parking behind it, so companies would have to consider other options to stop unwanted visitors using their parking spaces.

"If it's possible, fit a barrier - this could be a simple lockable pillar or a more sophisticated automatic arm. This is an excellent option as if someone sneaks into your car park while the barrier isn't in place, the new rules mean you can close the barrier and stop the vehicle leaving.

"Of course you will then still have the problem of the unwanted vehicle on your land, but it should act as a good deterrent to stop them parking there again."

If you display the appropriate notices, you can also set charges for parking without your consent, even if you don't have a barrier system.

"And if the driver escapes without paying, the new rules make the vehicle's keeper responsible so you can get their details from the DVLA and send them the bill - take a photo of the illegally parked vehicle too in case your claim is disputed."

Monday, 11 April 2011

Are you prepared to take a risk?

Changes to employment tribunal rules will make the system fairer - but Shropshire employers will need to be prepared to take a risk.

That's the message from Tina Chander, a solicitor in our employment team, who warned that the suggested new guidelines were a mixture of good and bad news.

"The current rules are weighted firmly in favour of the employee and claims that have no merit are often allowed to go forward as tribunals are reluctant to strike them out early in the process. And as the cost of defending a claim can rarely be recovered, it's often cheaper for an employer to pay out rather than go ahead.

"But the proposed changes will essentially make the employment tribunal system fairer, and the aim is to reduce the number of claims and unfair charges for employers.

"It's vital though that employers go into the system with their eyes open, as they will face the risk of an extra fine if they lose their tribunal case. The penalty could range between £100 and £5000, and would be on top of the compensation they will have to pay to the employee.

"So although the new rules would restore some balance to the system, employers will have to assess whether the risk of an additional fine is worth taking."

Last year there were over 235,000 employment tribunal cases across the UK, and the proposed new rules are designed to reduce this figure - consultation on the proposals will end later this month.

Tackle poor performers - no matter who they are

Shropshire employers must tackle staff who are under-performing - even if the culprit is a senior team member.

John Mehtam, who is our employment law specialist, said it was not just junior employees who could be guilty of failing to make the grade.

"Senior staff can perform poorly, and their actions can cost your company even more dearly than a junior member of the team who may not be working as hard as they should be.

"Your company cannot afford to employ anyone who is not pulling their weight, but most employers tend to focus on the poor performance of junior staff, when in fact it can also be a problem with managers and even fellow directors."

John said employers who suspected someone was performing below par should try to identify the root cause of the problem before taking any action.

"Don't rush into anything, because although the person's underperformance could be down to a lack of experience or the failure to delegate tasks effectively, it could also be due to other factors in the workplace. It could even be down to something they (and you) are unaware of altogether, such as a clash of personalities in their team."

John suggests employers should initially meet with the team member and informally raise their concerns.

"If you can identify issues, put in writing what improvements you want to see going forward and when you expect them to be made, and set a review date for a few weeks' time. But if things don't improve, you should consider disciplinary action if appropriate because managers are supposed to 'manage' and if they don't, you will be justified in taking the next step.

"You must make sure though that you've provided all the necessary support, including extra training, before you follow a disciplinary route, as otherwise your decision could be undermined."

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Contracts shape up for charity

Staff from Martin-Kaye LLP Solicitors have been encouraging local companies to support Red Nose Day 2011.

Members of our specialist employment law team have been visiting local businesses in fancy dress to give them the opportunity to take up a very special offer.

Event organiser, Lisa Batchelor, said: "In return for a donation to Comic Relief, we offered to take a look at the current employment contracts held by the first 25 businesses to contact us, to check they were in good shape. All the money we receive will be donated directly to the appeal and we made no charge for our time.

"We would usually charge between £200 and £300 to carry out this service, so we did suggest a guideline donation of at least £50 per business may be appropriate."

The team is hoping to raise over £1,000 for the appeal and all the money raised by Comic Relief will be used to help transform lives across the UK and Africa.

Pic: Lisa Batchelor (front) and Tina Chander set off on their quest to find local companies to support Red Nose Day 2011

Friday, 4 March 2011

Seminar gives sound advice

Thirty Shropshire employers have benefited from a seminar which tackled the latest changes in employment law.

We ran the presentation at our offices in Telford with the support of one of the region's leading barristers. Our employment law specialist, John Mehtam, who leads our Alpha business team, said the response from delegates had been extremely positive.

"They said the seminar was very informative and presented in a clear and effective way, and we hope they use the advice we gave to make a real difference to their business."

The seminar included discussions on: the abolitionof the default retirement age; changes to maternity and paternity leave; the extension of flexible working rights; equal treatment for agency workers; The Equality Act 2010; and The Bribery Act 2010.

The Alpha team were joined on the day by leading barrister, Ed Beever, from St Philips Chambers in Birmingham, who specialises in commercial and employment law, and who is recognised as one of the best in his field.

"As a direct result of requests from our delegates, we are now planning future seminars on a wide range of topics including performance management, bullying and harassment, maternity, paternity, and flexible working."

Pic: Barrister Ed Beever (left) and our employment law specialist, John Mehtam, at the seminar

Friday, 11 February 2011

Calling all Shropshire employers!

Shropshire employers are being urged to take advantage of a seminar that could change the way they do business.

We're hosting the event on Tuesday March 1, at 10.30am, at our offices at The Foundry, Euston Way, Telford, and we believe it could prove invaluable for local employers.

John Mehtam, our employment law specialist who leads our Alpha business team, said: "Every year there are more and more regulations which employers need to tackle, and 2011 is no different, but increasingly employers have less and less time to wade through the complicated rules. So we're hosting a presentation where our experts will explain the six key employment law updates that will directly affect businesses this year."

The topics are:
*Abolition of the default retirement age
*Changes to maternity and paternity leave
*Extension of flexible working rights
*Equal treatment for agency workers
*Equality Act 2010
*Bribery Act 2010

"We'll also be joined on the day by leading barrister, Ed Beever, from St Philips Chambers in Birmingham, who specialises in commercial and employment law, and who is recognised as one of the best in his field. This is the latest in a series of seminars run by our Alpha team who specialise in effective and appropriate advice for businesses in all aspects of commercial and employment law."

But numbers for the seminar are strictly limited, so employers need to reserve a place by calling 01952 272222 or email

Monday, 31 January 2011

Don't let debtors off the hook

Shropshire companies should not have to grin and bear it when it comes to clients stalling over paying their bills.

That's the message from our senior partner, Graham Davies, who said: "We've all encountered clients and customers who try to use delaying tactics when it comes to paying for work that's already been carried out.

"One of the most common tactics is to send a cheque for less than the amount that's owed, as they know it will cost you time and money to chase the balance. And sometimes this payment may be accompanied by a letter that says the amount is 'in full and final settlement'.

"Don't be afraid to bank the part-payment as soon as you receive it, as this will not jeopardise your right to receive the full amount.

"As long as there is no dispute over the amount that's owed, companies have every right to bank the interim cheque and demand the outstanding balance within seven days. You can also point out that if it's not received, further court action will automatically follow.

"But if there is a dispute, you need to take greater care, even if you believe the dispute is unwarranted."

Graham said if a cheque had been sent "in full and final settlement" in a case where the amount is disputed, the safest action would be to return the cheque, including a covering letter that answers the issues raised and requesting payment of the full balance as soon as possible.

"To minimise any future problems if you do cash the cheque, you should write to the debtor immediately to inform them you don't accept it as 'full and final settlement', and that you consider it a part-payment with the balance to follow.

"And don't waste time debating what action to take - the longer you wait, the more likely it is that the courts will say you have shown a strong indication that you're happy to accept the lower offer."

Thursday, 20 January 2011

Who pays the price?

Shropshire company car drivers could have parking fines deducted directly from their wages, our Employment Law specialist has warned.

John Mehtam said employees who picked up a fine while on work-related business may believe the company should foot the bill.

"But if your staff contracts have been prepared to include a specific clause, you can take the money out of their next salary payment. You do have to ensure though that the clause is clear and states that you will deduct any parking fines from their wages - if the contract doesn't say that, you can't take any money at all from the employee."

John said the contract must specifically state each kind of incident where the company reserved the right to make a deduction.

"As well as parking or speeding fines, which may occur in and out of working time, you might want to make reference to any overpayment of wages, and damage caused to company property by a staff member or someone from their family. And to deter employees from risking parking and other fines at all, you can impose an administrative charge through their contracts.

"You need to add a clause that says you reserve the right to apply an administrative charge to cover the costs of dealing with any fine, charge or penalty - and if you set it at a reasonable figure, it's more likely to be accepted by a tribunal as a fair term."

John said if your staff contracts did not include permission to deduct fines from salary payments, a company could still agree with the employee that they were personally liable - but written permission would be needed before any money is taken.

"And if the employee refuses to cover the costs, make it clear to them that any further parking tickets will lead to tough disciplinary action."

Friday, 7 January 2011

School closures hit business

Shropshire parents who face unexpected school closures due to adverse weather conditions may have to take unpaid leave to care for their children.

Emma Palmer, from our Alpha Team, said the difficult weather had already caused problems this year with schools being shut at short notice.

"Many companies will have received calls from employees who say they can't come into work because their child's school is closed. But even though this is obviously a difficult situation, the employee is not just automatically entitled to take the time off on full pay.

"You can ask them to take the time off as annual leave - but they may not have any leave left, or they may not want to use their holiday entitlement in this way. In these circumstances, parents do have the statutory right to take dependants' leave, which is also known as emergency leave.

"But they should be aware you are not required to pay them during the time they're away from the workplace. This kind of leave is also only designed to let them put alternative care arrangements in place - so if the school is closed for a whole week, they can't take it all as dependants' leave.

"It's a system that's been set up to cover one or two days' leave at most, so it's vital you don't allow anyone to abuse the policy."