Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Employers sign up for business advice

Employers from across the West Midlands have been finding out how to avoid the top ten legal blunders that could derail their businesses.

Over 40 employers attended our latest HELP seminar at The Ramada Hall Hotel, in Wolverhampton, run by our employment law team.

They heard from employment law expert, John Mehtam, who took them through the minefield of employment pitfalls and all the latest topical workplace issues.

“We were extremely pleased to see so many new faces at the second in our series of HELP presentations that have now been held in the Wolverhampton area,” said John.

“After opening our new office in the city, it was clear there was a real demand for effective and clear advice that would help employers protect their business in the longer term. HELP stands for HR and Employment Law in Practice, and our events offer a unique opportunity for business leaders to hear from the very best when it comes to tackling topical issues.”

This latest event in the series covered a wide range of topics including: employment tribunal fees and a cap on compensation; employer fines; compulsory arbitration; covert recording; and settlement agreements.

“One of our main aims is always to give delegates advice on how to deal with short and long-term sickness absence and how to avoid ‘open wallet surgery’ when it comes to dealing with claims at a tribunal,” said John.

“Our advice is designed to help employers avoid any difficulties when it comes to dealing with their staff and how to minimise potential ongoing risks to their business.”

Senior Partner Graham Davies said: “We deliberately restrict the number of places available at these events to ensure that everyone who attends gets the chance to be directly involved and that delegates also have the option to ask as many questions as they like.

“The Ramada has proved to be an excellent venue for our seminars too, and we’re looking forward to hosting more HELP sessions in the coming months. In the longer term, we’re hoping to extend our programme of events to the wider West Midlands area too as we’ve seen such a positive response from customers in that region.”

The next HELP presentation is planned for Thursday, June 26, at 5.30pm, also at The Ramada Park Hall Hotel in Wolverhampton.

Thursday, 24 April 2014

Barry joins the commercial team

Martin-Kaye Solicitors have appointed a highly experienced solicitor who is set to impress the business community with his knowledge of the corporate world.

Barry Doherty is a senior corporate solicitor who has many years of experience, and he has now joined the team in Euston Way, in Telford.

Senior partner Graham Davies said: “We are very pleased to have appointed Barry and to have attracted such a capable and committed lawyer. He has previously worked with leading city practices and has an excellent pedigree, so we’re looking forward to him playing a key role moving forward.”

Barry is a former partner of a national law firm in Birmingham, and has been listed in the Legal 500 as “practical and experienced, one to recommend”.

He specialises in all areas of corporate law including mergers and acquisitions, management buy-outs and buy-ins, and trade sales and disposals. He also handles company formations, reorganisations and restructuring, joint ventures, and shareholders agreements.

Barry is a course assessor for the Solicitors Regulation Authority too dealing with continued professional development training to solicitors and other professionals.

He said: “This is a great opportunity for me as Martin-Kaye Solicitors are an incredibly forward-thinking firm, with bright and exciting aims and objectives. I’m keen to make contact and meet up with as many key clients as possible in the coming weeks, in order to establish myself in the local business community, and would like to thank the existing team for all the support they’ve given me so far.”

Barry will be working closely with the rest of the commercial team – John Mehtam, Madelene Schofield-Whittingham, Andrew Oranjuik, and Graham Davies.

Pic:    Barry Doherty is the new Senior Corporate Solicitor at Martin-Kaye Solicitors in Telford

Friday, 11 April 2014

George beats injury to reach his goal

A Telford man has successfully completed a half marathon challenge despite only being given the all-clear to begin training just weeks before.

George Heron is our office assistant at Martin-Kaye Solicitors, in Euston Way, and he ran the Ironbridge Half Marathon in memory of his fiancée’s mum, Pat Downes.

His achievement is all the more impressive as he had been banned from running for five years after problems with his ankles – including surgery to insert metal pins in both joints – and only began training in February.

“After such a long time away from running, I knew completing a half marathon with only seven weeks training would be a huge challenge. But I was confident I could do it and I finished in two hours three minutes, so I’m really proud.”

George has so far raised £400 for Bowel Cancer UK (which is double his initial target) and his effort was particularly poignant as the event took place just days before the fifth anniversary of the death of Zoe’s mum.

“Everyone at Martin-Kaye has been extremely generous with their support, both financial and emotional, and I’m very grateful to all my colleagues, family and friends.”

Martin-Kaye Senior Partner, Graham Davies, said: “Given the difficulties that George has had, running the half marathon is nothing short of a minor miracle.

“We’ve been impressed by his commitment to his goal and it’s great to see him complete such a brilliant challenge all in aid of such a worthy cause.”


Chasing commercial rent arrears - is it worth it?

Landlords could decide to cut their losses rather than chase tenants for outstanding arrears, according to a local solicitor.

Madelene Schofield-Whittingham, who heads up our commercial property team at Martin-Kaye LLP Solicitors in Telford, said chasing up outstanding rent could be a lengthy and difficult process.

“There are many options available to landlords who are concerned their tenants may be struggling to pay their rent. But sometimes it may be more sensible to just recover possession of the building while you still can, before the legal process takes over.”

Madelene said if a commercial landlord was determined to take an official stance, they should think carefully about what steps to take.

“If your tenant paid a rent deposit when they took on the lease, you may be entitled to use this to cover the rent due. And if your tenant has someone who stands as a guarantor to the lease, you may be able to call on them to pay the arrears.”

Madelene also said landlords may in some circumstances be entitled to seize, impound and sell any goods belonging to the tenant, or you could choose a right of re-entry and take back the tenanted property itself – as long as you stay within the confines of the law.

“If you decide to take court action and claim against the tenant to try to recover the debt, this is unlikely to be much use if the tenant is about to become insolvent. But if the property is sub-let, then in some circumstances the main landlord can ask an under-tenant to pay its rent directly to them and cut out the middle man.”

Until your tenant is formally declared insolvent, landlords are entitled to use any of the options available to them.

“After the tenant becomes insolvent, some remedies will only be possible if the insolvency practitioner or the courts give their permission – this is likely to be a long and expensive process, and permission is not always given.

“You may even find yourself in the difficult position of being unable to do anything with the property, with no right to take it back, and with a tenant who is in arrears. This is of course made even worse if you have a new tenant ready and waiting to take a lease on the property.

“Think carefully and take advice about the options available to you before you even start any formal proceedings – you may decide it’s not always worth the stress, cost and time to pursue someone who may never be able to pay up.”

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Strike action is bad news all round

Teachers’ strikes are making life difficult for parents – and they’re just as problematic for employers too.

Tina Chander, from the employment team at Martin-Kaye Solicitors in Telford, said with more possible strikes in the coming weeks, families and companies across the area would need to be prepared.

“There is often little advance warning that strike action will be taking place, and this is a nightmare for parents who suddenly find they need to arrange emergency childcare. And of course, if there is no alternative, they may well be forced to take the day off from work which in turn causes issues for their employer.”

But Tina warned that employers needed to try to be as flexible as possible in order to help parents handle a difficult 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. If you don’t allow an employee to take time off to care for their child in these circumstances, you could well be breaching their rights so it’s important to handle the request sensitively.”

Tina said companies needed to have a consistent approach when it came to dealing with employees needing to take time off to care for their children.

“Your staff have no automatic legal right to be paid if they can’t get into work, 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.”

Several options are possible if staff are unable to come into work, and as long as an employer is even-handed and applies the same rules across the board, then the system will be seen to be fair.

“Ask your staff to take paid annual leave if they have any left available, or suggest they work from home,” said Tina. “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.

“Strike action is never an easy situation to handle, but by remembering that both parents and employers are affected, and by taking a flexible approach, everything should balance out in the end.”

Protect your business - and your future

Companies must ensure they take reasonable steps to protect themselves when key staff move on, a local solicitor has warned.

Andrew Oranjuik, from our litigation team at Martin-Kaye Solicitors in Telford, said it was vital that employers paid careful attention to the wording of each staff member’s contract right from the very start.

“When any new employee begins working for your company, set out in their contract a series of restrictions on how they will be expected to behave if they leave. These rules are called restrictive covenants and they are designed to help safeguard your business by stopping former employees giving away confidential information or stealing suppliers or clients. If you fail to include restrictions like this, your business could be in an extremely vulnerable position, and ultimately, your entire future could be at risk.”

Andrew said it was important though that any restrictions were worded in a way that they were considered “reasonable” otherwise they may not be enforceable.

“It’s clear that any restraints you include must not be excessively wide and they will usually only be valid for a set period of time. And if you include a clause that prevents the employee from working for a competitor, this will only be applicable if the restrictions are clearly in place to protect confidential information that you hold or your precious connections with customers.”

Andrew said if a former employee broke the rules, the employer would often seek an injunction from the court to stop any further breaches.

“This is particularly important if the employee has been dismissed or made redundant, as if there is any bad feeling, you will need to limit the amount of damage they can cause – both to your reputation and your business itself. If there is a major breach of the covenant – perhaps they have poached a key client – you can actually make a claim for damages, including the loss of profit your company has suffered as a direct result of their actions.”

Andrew said companies must also ensure they were vigilant in the period before an employee was due to leave.

“You must watch out for any attempts they make to encourage clients to follow them to their new employment, and look for any unusual activity such as printing or copying databases that could be crucial to your business. Most importantly, keep any evidence you find of any wrong-doing as you may need it if the case comes to court later.

“Introducing restrictive covenants may seem a tough stance to take, but you have to protect your business and the rest of your workforce, so you must take them seriously.”