Friday, 27 July 2018

Healthy approach to hygiene pays off

Shropshire employers could reduce staff sickness rates by introducing simple hygiene rules, according to a local solicitor.

Gemma Workman is an employment lawyer at Martin-Kaye Solicitors, in Telford, and she said surveys had revealed mixed results when it came to the number of days that employees were calling in sick.

“The Office for National Statistics has unveiled its latest data that shows approximately 137.3 million working days were lost to illness or injury in 2016.

“That’s the lowest rate since their records began over 20 years ago and it averages out at 4.3 days per worker. Yet other surveys have shown sickness rates are rising – an XpertHR poll of over 1.6 million employees showed the annual average was 6.6 days.”

Miss Workman said the ONS figures showed that one in every four days that staff stayed at home was down to a cough, cold or similar bug.

“Their survey also noted that manual workers were 17% less likely to call in sick due to colds, stomach aches and headaches than people who worked in offices. But back pain was, perhaps unsurprisingly, more common for people who had a physical job.”

Miss Workman said stepping up workplace hygiene could have a real impact on sickness rates, in particular, the use of sanitising hand gels.

“Some studies have shown that when the gels are available, the number of sick days falls – in Germany, colds and flu were 5% to 7% less in workforces where people used the gels five times a day.

“Even just making the gels available in prominent locations across your workplace will make people think more about hygiene, and you could also put up posters to encourage staff to wash their hands properly.

“It’s horrifying to think that 62% of men and 40% of women don’t wash their hands after going to the toilet, and it’s also no wonder that germs spread so easily when you look at those figures.

“Taking hygiene seriously could have a really positive effect on both the wellbeing of your staff and on the productivity and finances of your business. Reducing staff sick days will save on the expense of lost staff time, and also the cost of bringing in extra staff to cover for their absence.”

Thursday, 26 July 2018

Time to change the divorce law

A Shropshire lawyer has warned divorcing couples that they must prepare their petitions carefully after a landmark ruling by the supreme court.

Gemma Himsworth leads the family law team at Martin-Kaye Solicitors, in Euston Way, Telford, and her warning follows the high profile divorce case where a wife must now stay married to her husband until 2020 at the earliest.

“The wife wanted to divorce her husband after 40 years of marriage, but the supreme court decided to rule against her. She will now face the prospect of staying married to her husband until 2020 at the earliest because the husband won’t consent to the divorce, and the court decided she hadn’t been able to prove his unreasonable behaviour.

“This is a shocking case, and one that most people will be surprised by, but it’s a clear demonstration that couples must draft their divorce petitions carefully and pay great attention to the smallest of details.”

Mrs Himsworth said five judges had upheld the rulings of a family court and the court of appeal that Tini Owens must stay married to Hugh Owens. Tini says her marriage to Hugh, who is in his 80s, is loveless and broken down. She said he had behaved unreasonably and that she should be allowed to end her marriage.

Her husband though has refused to agree to a divorce and denies her allegations about his behaviour, saying if their marriage had irretrievably broken down it was because she had an affair, or because she was “bored”.

“Some of the judges on the panel said they were troubled by the case and the decision they had made, but that it was not for judges to change the law,” said Mrs Himsworth. “The court said that Mrs Owens would be able to divorce in 2020, when the couple will have been separated for five years. But clearly this case is an indicator that the law needs to change as divorce laws in England and Wales date back almost 50 years.

“Surveys have shown that couples are being forced into uncomfortable courtroom battles to establish who caused the relationship breakdown. There is no option for couples to opt for a no-fault divorce, and this is leading to unnecessary and unsuccessful court action like the Owens case which can be painful for everyone involved.”

Mrs Himsworth is a member of Resolution, the national family lawyers’ association, which has recognised the need for a change in the law for many years and whose members have long campaigned for the law to be updated.

“It’s not right that couples should feel cornered and pressured into defending themselves in a divorce fearing they will get a worse result when it comes to their children or money. Now is the time to stop blaming each other and work together for a more peaceful resolution.”

Wednesday, 25 July 2018

Employers take up valuable advice

More than 50 employers took the opportunity to find out how to protect their business from escalating tribunal claims at a Telford seminar.

The event was hosted by Martin-Kaye Solicitors at their offices in Euston Way, and the aim was to help employers recognise the top ten employment law blunders that companies commit, and the best way to avoid them.

John Mehtam, who is Martin-Kaye’s employment law specialist, led the seminar, and said there had been an excellent turnout, with a good mix of businesses from all kinds of sectors.

“We were delighted to welcome so many employers to our free event, and it was great to see many new faces from the local area who were all keen to take advantage of our advice. Employers are now facing an avalanche of claims following the Government’s decision to abolish tribunal fees, and our seminar was designed to help them learn more about protecting their business.

“Our presentations are always extremely popular wherever we hold them across Shropshire, Wales and the wider West Midlands, and this event in particular was a great success.

“Statistically the number of claims now being lodged through employment tribunals is increasing at an unprecedented rate – in fact there has been a 500% rise since the fees that employees needed to pay to bring a claim were abolished.

“And with the avalanche of claims we’re seeing, some employees are bringing claims that stand little chance of succeeding, but employers have to take them all seriously and you need to be sure you’re complying with all the relevant legislation.”

Mr Mehtam said during the event he shared advice to help businesses navigate through the increasingly-complicated minefield of employment law, and to help them avoid the most common pitfalls.

“We included suggestions on how to tackle some of the most common workplace and HR issues including sickness absence, dismissals and poor employee performance – and perhaps more importantly, we looked at how to avoid these situations and how to protect your business.

“With employers short on time, it’s almost impossible to keep up-to-date with ever-changing legislation, so our seminars offer clear, concise information in a time frame that suits our busy delegates.”

Pic: Martin-Kaye’s Employment Law Specialist John Mehtam who presented the Top 10 Blunders seminar at the firm’s Telford office

Friday, 13 July 2018

Partnership approach pays dividends

Lawyers from a Telford firm have joined forces with a network of city-based barristers to offer a fresh approach to family disputes.

The family law team at Martin-Kaye Solicitors, in Euston Way, Telford, is working with experts in Birmingham, to develop an arbitration scheme that could speed up difficult cases.

Gemma Himsworth, who leads the Martin-Kaye family division, said she and her colleague Jane Tinsley were in talks with some of the city’s top barristers.

“Arbitration is a little-known option for family disputes, but it’s something that we believe could be increasingly useful – particularly in the current climate when the court system is struggling and creating huge delays.

“There is of course no such thing as a quickie divorce, but the arbitration option is definitely something that could help ease the pressure on the legal system and help resolve family issues in a shorter time.”

Mrs Himsworth said divorce itself was a relatively straightforward process, as long as those involved had someone to assist with the correct paperwork.

“But the divorce doesn’t deal with the finances such as dividing up the house, business, income, and other assets – this is the part that often takes the longest time and costs the most money.

“We already regularly refer clients to mediation, but if the case can’t be resolved that way, traditionally the only other option has been for both parties to go to court.

“Now, thanks to our discussions with Birmingham-based barristers, we can suggest arbitration where both sides jointly appoint a fair and impartial family arbitrator to resolve the dispute.

“It’s a flexible and completely confidential process, but the huge advantage over something like mediation is that it results in a final decision – if both sides still can’t agree after arbitration, the arbitrator will make a decision for you.”

Mrs Himsworth said the arbitration process did come at a cost as the arbitrator had to be paid, but it often still led to cost savings because it led to a faster decision, potentially cutting down on the amount of time people had to maintain two households and two mortgages.

Thursday, 12 July 2018

Plan ahead for later years

A Telford solicitor has backed a campaign urging families to prepare for their later years to help avoid a possible dementia crisis.

Fiona Mainwaring, of Martin-Kaye Solicitors in Euston Way, said a report published by the Solicitors for the Elderly organisation warned that the UK was “sleep-walking” towards a dementia disaster.

“Around 12 million people in the UK who are at high risk of losing mental capacity have made no provision whatsoever for their future. This means millions of people have not planned ahead to ensure their wishes are followed and yet it’s very simple to do – you need to take professional advice and make a lasting power of attorney (LPA).

“The person you appoint will ensure that your wishes are followed if you cannot make decisions for yourself about your health, your financial affairs and about any ongoing care needs you may have.”

Mrs Mainwaring said a coalition of partners including AgeUK and the Alzheimer’s Society had been set up amid warnings of a looming “incapacity crisis”.

The Solicitors for the Elderly report, which was published in conjunction with the Centre for Future Studies, said research showed that 12.8 million people over the age of 65 run the risk of developing dementia.

“And yet, there are only 928,000 LPAs currently registered – by 2025, around 13.2 million people will be at risk but only 2.2 million LPAs are expected to be in place. It’s clear that the situation is untenable and it’s vital that more people plan ahead because otherwise, the UK care system will be overwhelmed and millions of people will lose their chance to shape their own future.

“Start a positive conversation with your family and friends about your future welfare, and seek out a family law solicitor to find out how to put a plan in place. This will make the decision-making process much easier for everyone.”

Charity director at AgeUK, Caroline Abrahams, agreed saying it was advisable to set up an LPA well in advance.

“You can specify what decisions you are happy for your attorney to make on your behalf, and you can also choose more than one attorney who could be a family member, a friend, spouse, partner or civil partner, or a professional adviser such as a solicitor.”

Thursday, 5 July 2018

Maria joins Martin-Kaye

A Telford law firm has appointed a new marketing specialist as part of its campaign to reach new clients across the UK.

Maria Smallcombe has joined Martin-Kaye Solicitors at their head office, in Euston Way, and she will be working closely with senior partner Graham Davies and his team to boost the firm’s profile.

She said: “I’m really looking forward to applying my marketing skills to a professional services environment as that’s a first for me, and it’s very interesting to see how the legal profession operates.

“I have worked in marketing for 20 years in a variety of areas including manufacturing, education, the arts, healthcare and IT, in both the public and private sectors. Now I’m enjoying the challenge of using my knowledge and experience to help Martin-Kaye to build on the strong reputation they already have, and being part of the team that develops strategies to attract new clients.”

Maria graduated from the University of Wolverhampton and initially worked in the travel sector before choosing to make marketing her career.

Graham Davies said: “At Martin-Kaye, we are always keen to continuously develop our strategies and to fine-tune our approach when it comes to finding new clients both close to home and further afield.

“It’s great to see Maria’s skills from her previous roles being used in a legal setting, and we’re keen to explore the fresh and innovative ideas she has to maximise our opportunities for new business.”

As well as offering general marketing support, Maria will also be involved in the organisation and administration of seminars, workshops and presentations – in particular, the popular Top 10 Tips and Blunders sessions presented by the firm’s employment law team to audiences all over the UK.

Pic: Maria Smallcombe joins the Martin-Kaye team in Telford