Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Sharp focus on company drivers

Company drivers now face tougher rules when it comes to making sure their eyesight is up to scratch. The rules came into force earlier this month and they mean anyone with a commercial licence will face much stricter checks.

Our senior partner, Graham Davies, said drivers of cars and light commercial vehicles will now need to self-certify every ten to 15 years that their eyesight is up to the job.

"This is the case whether or not they drive on business, and it's vital that they have a professional eye test first otherwise they could risk making a false admission.

"Previously drivers with Group Two licences, including anyone driving buses or lorries, was required to have an eye test every five years when they reached the age of 45 - now though all drivers in this group must be tested every five years, no matter what their age."

Graham said employers are also required to provide and pay for eye tests and glasses or lenses to any staff who use computers in the workplace.

"Despite the new testing rules, this will not be extended to anyone who drives as part of their job, but you do have a responsibility to ensure drivers are operating safely on behalf of your business.

"You should make it company policy that drivers have to comply with the new rules, and that they should make a regular declaration to you that they have done everything that's required. It's important to remind staff too that if they don't wear their glasses while driving, they could get points on their licence and a fine of up to £1,000 for which they would be personally liable.

"Even though you're not legally obliged to pay for company drivers' eye tests, you may decide you will as a gesture - and of course you'll also be reassured then that the tests have been carried out. It's in everyone's best interests that your drivers are safe on the roads, so the price of the tests may well be a small price to pay for peace of mind."

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Protect your company - and your shares

Employers should steer clear of new plans to award company shares to staff in exchange for employment rights.

That's the warning from our employment law specialist, John Mehtam, who said the new plans that come into force in April could see employers needlessly giving away shares in their company.

"The new type of contract says that in return for shares in your company, the employee would give up their rights on unfair dismissal, redundancy, the right to request flexible working and time off for training.

"But in fact, when it comes to new staff, they are not actually entitled to unfair dismissal or redundancy rights until they've worked for you for two years.

"So they're only really giving up the right to request flexible working and time off for training, and in reality they don't have an automatic right to either - more importantly, these rights don't even begin from the first day they join you."

John warned though that even more worryingly, if someone on the new type of contract left the company or had to be sacked, the employer would not automatically get their shares back.

"So anyone who left under a cloud, or who wanted to be awkward, could hold you to ransom because you'll have to pay to get the shares back."

The new owner-employee contracts will be open to all new staff if the company wants to implement them, but they will be optional for existing employees.

"Clearly even though these contracts may seem like a good idea, as an employer you would be giving away far too much with very little in return," said John. "Employers should make sure they are fully informed of the tiniest details before taking this approach - or you may risk your company's future without any need to do so."

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Snow dilemma for working parents

Winter weather is causing a major headache for working parents - and it's no easier for their employers either.

Our employment law specialist, John Mehtam, says it's vital though that employers try to be as flexible as possible.

"No-one wants to receive the panic phone call that says your child's school is about to close due to snow - it's all well and good saying it's in everyone's best interests because of health and safety, but that doesn't help resolve the situation.

"By law, staff are entitled to take a reasonable amount of unpaid time off work to deal with family situations like this and employers must take a sensible approach, even though it causes disruption in the workplace."

John said employers must also be careful how they deal with incidents when employees have to take time off for emergency childcare when schools are forced to close.

"If you don't allow an employee to take time off to care for their child in such a situation, you could well be breaching their rights so it's important to handle the request sensitively."

John says the best policy is to have a bad weather plan in place so that everyone knows where they stand.

"It's not just about parents needing time off when schools are closed - what if your employees fail to arrive at the workplace at all because they claim they can't get through the snow and ice? You have a duty to protect their health and safety, but of course you also need to balance this with the needs of your business.

"Your staff have no automatic legal right to be paid if they can't get into work because of the weather, but check your contracts carefully as they may say differently. And if you've previously paid staff in similar circumstances, you may have already set a precedent which you now can't ignore."

John suggests considering several options if staff are unable to get to work, in order to ensure everyone's needs are met.

"Ask your staff to take paid annual leave if they have any left available, or suggest they work from home. Employees could also take the time off as unpaid leave if they have no alternative, or agree to make up the time lost by starting earlier, working later or taking shorter lunch breaks once they're back at work.

"Tricky weather conditions are difficult for everyone but by being flexible - whether you're an employer or an employee - everything should balance out in the end."

Thursday, 3 January 2013

Staff receive long-service awards

Staff from Martin-Kaye Solicitors have been recognised for their commitment and dedication.

We held a special presentation for four members of staff who have each completed 15 years' service.

The awards were made to Michelle Millward (from the property team), Nikki Pickering (who works in the family law department), Christina Martin (administration and personnel), and Joyce Green (archiving manager).

They all received gift vouchers from their chosen store and have been praised by our senior management team for their loyalty and hard work.

Alison Carter, who is a partner in our firm and who arranged the presentation, said: "We are extremely proud of our long-serving members of staff and to celebrate with four more employees who have reached an important service milestone is great news.

"Staff turnover in our practice is generally low and we have many employees who have been with us for over two decades.

"Their dedication ensures that our clients receive the very highest levels of customer service, and we are very grateful for their commitment to our business."

Alison said the firm rewards staff in three long-service categories - over 15 years, over 20 years, and over 25 years.

"We believe it is important to recognise our staff for their efforts, as without them, our firm could not possibly operate and it's thanks to them that the reputation of Martin-Kaye Solicitors continues to go from strength-to-strength."

Pic: At the presentation are, from left, Christina Martin, Joyce Green, Nikki Pickering, and Michelle Millward, receiving their gift vouchers from Alison Carter