Monday, 29 April 2019

Harassment claims must be taken seriously

Workplace harassment allegations against senior staff must be taken seriously no matter how tenuous they may appear, a Shropshire solicitor has warned.

John Mehtam, who leads the employment law team at Martin-Kaye Solicitors in Telford, said harassment allegations were always difficult, but even more so now in the wake of the worldwide #MeToo campaign.

“Making an allegation against a senior colleague or a director is a brave step for any employee, and it’s vital that the company and its other directors take the accusations seriously and that the board remains impartial.

“This means you’ll need to carry out a reasonable and thorough investigation, but you shouldn’t appoint another director or senior manager or anyone else in-house to do this – it’s much more appropriate to appoint an experienced external source.”

Mr Mehtam said there were several options when it came to possible candidates for the role. “You could choose a firm of solicitors, or alternatively an employment law consultant or experienced human resources advisor could carry out the process.

“But you’ll need to make sure they are well-versed in the relevant law, and that they have carried out similar investigations before.”

He said once the investigation was completed, the investigator’s findings should be passed to the company board.

“It will be the board’s decision on whether any further action should be taken, not the investigator’s. Their role is purely to prepare the evidence for the board to consider.”

Mr Mehtam said ultimately if the accusations of harassment against a director were proven, the director could be sued personally.

“This means there’s a lot riding on the outcome of the investigation for the director concerned and for the company as a whole. So the appointment of an external investigator will ensure that everyone involved is treated in a neutral manner, and that the investigation itself is transparent, fair and impartial at all times.”

Monday, 15 April 2019

Blame game divorce will be over

A Shropshire lawyer has hailed a ground-breaking change in divorce laws in England and Wales as long overdue.

Gemma Himsworth leads the family law team at Martin-Kaye Solicitors in Telford, and she said the Government’s decision to introduce legislation to end the unnecessary “blame game” over divorce was great news.

“At Martin-Kaye, we always try to keep conflict to a minimum in a divorce case anyway, no matter what the circumstances are. And now the Government has listened to calls for reform to move towards divorces where neither party has to blame the other, or bring up unpleasant history in order to prove their point.

“This is welcome news for families caught up in a divorce, particularly those with children, as turning a divorce into a battleground only inflames an already difficult situation, which is of no benefit to anyone,” said Mrs Himsworth.

Under current law, spouses need to prove at least one of five “facts” – adultery, behaviour, desertion, two years’ separation (if the other spouse consents to the divorce), or five years’ separation (if the other spouse disagrees).

The new legislation proposes that the ability of one spouse to “contest” a divorce should be removed, and that irretrievable breakdown of a marriage will be listed as the sole ground for divorce. Instead of proving one of the five “facts”, divorcing couples will need to provide a statement of irretrievable breakdown.

The two-stage legal process of decree nisi and decree absolute will be retained, with a minimum timeframe of six months for the process to take place.

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. The current divorce laws in England and Wales date back almost 50 years and they are clearly not working in today’s modern world. The new legislation will create a fairer, more child-centred and cost-effective system that causes less pain for everyone involved.”

The Government has said the legislation will be introduced as soon as parliamentary time allows.