Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Christmas party woes don't need to be a nightmare

Staff Christmas parties can be an employer’s nightmare – but not if experts from a Midlands law firm have their way.

The team from Martin-Kaye Solicitors, in Wolverhampton and Telford, is urging local employers to sign up to an interactive seminar that could help them avoid the dreaded personnel hangover this year.

John Mehtam, who leads the team, said: “Christmas parties are well-known for causing a festive headache – and not just for any staff who have one too many to drink either.

“Statistics show that staff parties at this time of year can be a minefield – half of all parties end with work colleagues fighting; one in three parties brings allegations of sexual harassment; and one in five parties ends with an accident involving employees.

"And although traditionally parties take place away from the office and out of hours, as an employer you could well be held liable, particularly if alcohol has been provided.”

But John and his team are hosting a presentation on Thursday, December 3, at the Ramada Hotel, in Wolverhampton, at 6pm, which they believe is the perfect antidote to party-time stress.

“Our Christmas HR Sins presentation is designed specifically for employers and we’ll be sharing our expertise on the pitfalls you may face and, more importantly, the ways you can avoid them. We’d be very pleased to welcome employers from all over the region to our event, but anyone interested in attending will need to register in advance.

“It’s clear that employers really do need to be sensitive when it comes to handling the fallout from any staff Christmas party – in fact, three out of four bosses have admitted an employee has threatened to take them to an employment tribunal following bad behaviour at a festive gathering.

“And with almost two thirds of employees admitting to a one-night wonder that made the atmosphere at work awkward afterwards, it’s a situation that employers will find very difficult to ignore.”

To register for the event, email or call 01952 525951

Monday, 9 November 2015

Families making a wise choice when it comes to wills

A growing number of people are choosing solicitors to draft their wills – amid fears that many ‘DIY’ options might not be worth the paper they are written on.

Fiona Mainwaring, probate department manager at Shropshire law firm Martin-Kaye Solicitors, said a series of recent high-profile court cases had highlighted the dangers.

Solicitors have increased their share in the will writing market over the past four years, despite growing concerns of an increase in poorly drafted wills by unregulated will writers.

Fiona, based at Martin-Kaye’s headquarters in Euston Way, Telford, said: “There has been a spate of cases recently involving wills drafted by unregulated providers which have caused serious problems.

“For example, Barclays has this year been sued by Tinuola Aregbesola, who claims that a botched will deprived her of a stake in her late father's London home. It was drawn up using the bank’s £90 will writing service, which is unregulated.”

Latest figures show the use of will writing services provided by banks and other organisations has declined from 8.7 per cent in 2009 to 5.9 per cent in 2015, and is continuing to fall.

Fiona added: “It is evident from national research that the public prefer to use a solicitor to write their will, wherever possible.

“They are aware that, with a solicitor such as Martin-Kaye where we have a dedicated probate department, you can be assured of a valid will and if anything does go wrong, there is proper insurance and redress.

“This may not be the case with an unregulated provider and certainly isn't the case if you take the DIY option, and decide to write your own will. It may save you money in the short term, but with the average estate in the UK now standing at £160,000, it could be hugely costly if you only find out too late that the paperwork is flawed.”

“An off-the-shelf will may seem very attractive, but it can be a risky approach - if errors are made, or if the strict witnessing rules are not followed correctly, the document could be invalid.

“And the implications can be serious. Not only might you risk leaving your family with a financial and emotional mess, but your legacy could be eaten away by legal bills or unnecessary tax.”

Friday, 6 November 2015

Rogue landlords beware - you're being watched

Rogue property landlords who fail to act in the best interests of their tenants have been warned – the authorities are watching you closer than ever.

Solicitor Mohammed Ahsan, from Martin-Kaye in Telford, said: “Irresponsible landlords are giving the rental industry a bad name, and the Government is clamping down hard.

“More and more people are renting homes privately these days, instead of buying, and officials are determined to help make sure they have decent homes to live in. Most landlords act lawfully, but when rogue landlords break the rules, the message is clear – the authorities, and the courts, will go after them.

“Local authorities can issue penalties of up to £5,000 for non-compliance with rules, so it is more important than ever for landlords to ensure their paperwork meets with legal requirements.”

His comments come as a new survey of British tenants showed that both landlords and tenants were unclear what needed to be done both before and during a tenancy agreement. One in four tenants said their landlord had not provided them with any kind of written rental agreement, in the survey carried out by EasyRoommate.

“The survey also showed that 25 per cent of tenants said their landlord did not provide them with a satisfactory service for dealing with urgent house repairs. The Government says it is determined to crack down on rogue landlords, and has warned them they will be heavily fined for committing housing-related offences.

“These include providing a local authority with false or misleading information, permitting or causing a property to be overcrowded, illegally evicting or harassing a tenant, or letting a property to an immigrant who cannot provide the paperwork to prove they are in the country legally.”

It has also become a legal requirement this year for a landlord to fit at least one smoke alarm on every storey of a property, as well as a carbon monoxide alarm in any room with a solid fuel burning appliance.

“Ignorance of the rules is no excuse, so any landlord unsure about the new regulations should seek specialist legal advice – it’s far less expensive than the potential fines which are now being imposed on law-breakers.”