Tuesday, 23 February 2016

Time for justice for unmarried couples

A Shropshire solicitor is supporting calls for an update in the law on the rights of common-law partners following the latest in a series of court cases to spark a nationwide controversy.

Joy Williams lived with her partner Norman Martin for 18 years in a Dorset home which they jointly owned, but she faced losing his half of the property when he died without changing his will.

Mr Martin’s half of the property automatically passed to his estranged wife, until Ms Williams took the case to County Court where a judge overturned the ruling in her favour.

Nadia Davis, head of the Family Law department at Martin-Kaye Solicitors in Telford, said: “It is clear that Britain’s current laws on cohabiting couples need to be brought into the 21st century.

“It’s never clear from one case to the next whether courts are going to allow a deceased person’s estate to pass on to a surviving cohabiting partner – even if  they effectively lived together as husband and wife – so the situation certainly needs clarifying.”

She added: “Of course, the trauma of taking cases such as this through the courts can be easily avoided if couples who live together without being married ensure they have all the appropriate cohabitation agreements in place, and up-to-date wills.

"As the law stands right now, there is no such thing as a common-law husband or wife, and couples who live together do not automatically have the same rights as a married couple or those in a civil partnership.

“The last thing anyone wants to do, when they are dealing with the loss of a partner, is to find themselves being dragged through the courts in what is bound to be an emotionally exhausting – and potentially expensive – battle.

"Until the law on cohabitation is clarified, unmarried couples who live together should ensure they have agreements in place outlining who owns property and how bills are divided.

“People should always ensure that their wills are up to date and reflect their wishes, particularly if their circumstances or relationships change. It’s no good assuming that just because you live with someone that they will automatically inherit after your death – the system just doesn’t work like that.”

Monday, 22 February 2016

"Eggstra" holidays in the pipeline?

Thousands of workers could receive an extra two days of paid holiday as a result of the early 2016 Easter break, a local employment lawyer has revealed.

There are eight public holidays a year in England and Wales – but for companies which run their financial year from the start of April, the early Easter means only six will fall in 2016/17.

John Mehtam, employment law expert at Martin-Kaye Solicitors in Telford, said: “This is going to prove a problem for many employers – and it’s their staff who stand to benefit.

“It is very common for companies to offer 20 days of paid annual leave, plus bank holidays, as part of a standard contract. And this tallies with working time rules which dictate that employees who work a five-day week are entitled to a minimum of 28 days of leave per year.

“But the early 2016 Easter means that there is no Good Friday or Easter Monday in the 2016/17 financial year, so workers are two bank holidays short. If companies who run their years from April to April are going to honour their contractual obligations, it means they will have to honour an extra two days of paid holiday for their staff.”

Mr Mehtam said: “Companies cannot fall back on the argument that their staff received 10 days of bank holiday leave in the current financial year – it doesn’t work like that. In the eyes of the law, you can’t ‘store up’ holiday entitlement or claim that one year evens the other out.

“The 28-day statutory entitlement cannot be varied to take into account what may have happened in the previous 12 months.”

Mr Mehtam said any employer operating a financial year from April to April who failed to take into account the bank holiday anomaly could find themselves breaching their contract with staff.

“Employers will have to ensure they come up with a way of topping up their workforce’s holiday entitlement to ensure they are all receiving the statutory minimum 28 days, otherwise they could face some serious consequences.”

Monday, 15 February 2016

Businesses must beware the enemy within

Employers are being warned to keep their friends close – but their enemies closer if they want to protect their business.

Telford solicitor Andrew Oranjuik, from Martin-Kaye in Euston Way, is calling on all local employers to take the opportunity to hear from two of the UK’s top barristers who can offer invaluable advice.

“We’re hosting a special breakfast event at our Telford head office which has the capacity to change the course of an employer’s business for the better. And we’re delighted to announce that one of the UK’s most prominent QCs – Mohammed Zaman – has agreed to present the seminar, which is a real coup.”

The event – “Managing the Enemy Within” – will be held on Thursday, March 10, at 8.30am, and businesses must register in advance if they want to attend.

“Our guest speaker will give guests the inside track on how to protect their ideas and preserve confidential information, and how to prevent employees abusing the valuable information or indeed, taking it elsewhere,” said Andrew.

“We’re also very pleased to welcome leading commercial barrister Shakil Najib who will also share his knowledge at our event, so businesses really do have a unique opportunity to learn from two leading experts in their field.”

Andrew called on local businesses to sign up for the presentation which will also give them a chance to network with other like-minded companies from across the wider Midlands region.

“An important topic like this could already be affecting many companies in our area and they may be completely unaware of the risks they are facing. Even if the business is not immediately threatened, our speakers will share important advice that could safeguard the company’s future in the longer term.

“So it’s vital that employers don’t ignore the potential risks that previously loyal employees could pose if they decide to move on – and our seminar will ensure they know what to look out for and, more importantly, how to stop it happening in the first place.”

To sign up businesses should call June Noto on 01952 525951 or email junenoto@martinkaye.co.uk

Pic: Andrew Oranjuik (left) with Mohammed Zaman and Shakil Najib preparing for the presentation

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Employers find out Top 10 Tips

Business owners from all over Shropshire and beyond are set to learn more about how to avoid the top ten pitfalls when it comes to employment law.

The team from Martin-Kaye Solicitors, in Telford, are to take their message on the road in the latest in a series of seminars targeted specifically at local employers.

They have previously hosted events in Telford, Wolverhampton and the wider West Midlands, and now they are on their way to Shrewsbury for the latest presentation. It will take place on Thursday, February 25, at 12pm, at Shrewsbury Town Football Club, on Oteley Road.

John Mehtam, who will lead the seminar, said: “Over many years of dealing with employment and human resources problems for all kinds of companies, we have drawn up a ‘top ten’ list of common mistakes that it’s vital employers can identify.

“These blunders can lead to employers breaking the law and so leave them facing expensive claims or settlements, so if we can help identify the potential pitfalls, we can help local companies save valuable money and time.

“Most of these mistakes come about through a lack of understanding, or through employers taking the wrong action – but the good news is that every one of them is avoidable.

“We have always been delighted with the response to similar events and the sessions are always very lively with plenty of questions and answers. They are extremely interactive and a positive experience for everyone who takes part.

“Our team decided to hold a session in Shrewsbury following the great reaction we received to earlier events, and we’re already planning similar seminars in the future to allow even more delegates to join us.”

John said the latest event was the most recent in a programme of advice workshops which were designed to equip companies with the tools to deal with even the most stressful of situations.

Employers interested in attending should call June Noto on 01952 525951 or email junenoto@martinkaye.co.uk

Monday, 1 February 2016

Crime doesn't pay warning

A Midlands solicitor has warned that crime certainly doesn’t pay – particularly when it comes to inheritance issues.

Andrew Oranjuik, from Martin-Kaye Solicitors, in Telford, said a ruling from the High Court in the last few weeks had set out a stark warning for anyone who stood to be a beneficiary from someone’s will.

“The law says that anyone who stands to benefit from a will can lose their inheritance if they are involved in causing the death of the person that made the will – this may sound obvious, but it’s an area of law that’s not often tested.

“And now, the High Court has re-affirmed the point, after considering the case of a woman who died and left her entire £150,000 estate to her son in her will.

“The son, who was in his early 60s when his mother died, had lived with her for his entire life as he had poor life skills and his mother had done everything for him. He assaulted his mother at their home and she died from her injuries three weeks later, with the son then convicted of her manslaughter and sentenced to be detained in hospital.”

Andrew said in a murder case, the “forfeiture rule” had existed for many years where any beneficiary who causes someone’s death is prevented from inheriting anything in the will.

“But this was a manslaughter case, and so the court had the power to choose whether they should apply the forfeiture rule or not. They decided to refuse the son’s claim mainly because the assault leading to the mother’s death was serious and aggravated.

“And although the son had recognised mental health difficulties, they ruled that he had the capacity to know what he was doing and to understand the difference between right and wrong. So the court has given a clear message that crime doesn’t pay, and just because you’re named as a beneficiary in a will, your own actions could ultimately lead to you missing out if you break the law.”