The Wilkes Corporate Team led by Jeremy Parkin have advised long-standing client Keysoft Solutions on the sale of their business to Canadian counterpart Transoft Solutions Inc.

Keysoft Solutions, a developer of Building Information Modeling (BIM) software for traffic management and landscape planning and design, has been a close partner and reseller of Transoft Solutions’ products in the UK since 2005.

The business, which was established in 1998, will continue to operate, manage and support key operations and customers from its head office in Warwickshire.

Keysoft Solutions managing director Dr Jeremy Ellis said: “Having been so closely associated with Transoft Solutions for over a decade, this announcement represents a strategic fit for both parties, strengthening our shared vision of being a global leader in our field.

“With a similar culture within our organizations this is a natural fit that allows Keysoft Solutions to be better placed to serve and support our expanding customer base in the future, both in the UK and worldwide.”

Speaking about the deal Jeremy Parkin, Partner in the Wilkes Corporate Team said: “It has always been a pleasure to work with Jeremy and the team at Keysoft Solutions and we were delighted to have been involved in the next stage of their development and growth.”

When asked about the support provided by Wilkes Jeremy Ellis said: “Jeremy Parkin and the team at Wilkes played a vital part in the successful outcome of this deal. Their expert guidance was crucial in overcoming the complications presented by the international nature of this transaction and they gave me the confidence to move ahead at every step to completion.”

Jeremy was supported by Helen Smart (Corporate), Leighann Richards (Real Estate) and Lisa Moore (Employment).

This is the latest in a growing line of M&A work for The Wilkes Partnership, following the completion of deals across a range of sectors including IT software, FMCG, events and health and social care.

For help and advice relating to your business get in touch with Jeremy Parkin on 0121 710 5931 or via email at jparkin@wilkes.co.uk.

The use of Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDAs) to cover up claims of sexual harassment and discrimination may become a thing of the past, says Jas Dubb, Employment Law specialist at The Wilkes Partnership.

When a member of staff leaves an employer, the company may seek to enter into a legally binding settlement agreement, in which the employer will often insist upon a confidentiality clause (which is a form of non-disclosure). A settlement agreement is an agreement whereby the employee agrees not to issue any claims against the employer usually in exchange for an agreed sum of money. Entering into a settlement agreement, containing stringent confidentiality terms, effectively buys an ex-employee’s silence.

The use of settlement agreements to settle allegations of sexual harassment and discrimination in the employment field has come in for considerable public debate of late. Many ex-employees have said they had little option but to consider the settlement route. The lack of affordable legal advice, the legal costs and relatively low compensation awards and the fear of being ‘blacklisted’ from future employment have deterred them from bringing an Employment Tribunal claim.

Earlier this year the Telegraph reported on several alleged cases involving Sir Philip Green, owner of high street brands including Top Shop, Dorothy Perkins and Burtons. Sir Philip tried to prevent The Telegraph from publishing the allegations but ended up with a £3 million legal bill and the details were published anyway.

Billionaire Sir Philip is facing ongoing allegations of sexual misconduct and racist behavior from a number of former members of staff. He is reported to have paid them vast sums – up to £1 million to keep them quiet through the use of NDAs.

Such high profile cases have intensified the call for reforms in the use of the law concerning NDAs. The House of Commons Women and Equality Committee has recently produced a further report entitled ‘The Use of Non-Disclosure Agreements in Discrimination Cases’.

Whilst acknowledging the many protective aspects of Non-Disclosure Agreements for employees as well as employers the report highlights a number of potential downsides with the continued blanket use of NDA, including:

  • their use to cover up unlawful discrimination and harassment allowing management behaviour and organisational culture to go unchallenged and unchanged
  • they can enable perpetrators to go on to harass and discriminate against others and prevent victims of such behavior from knowing about or supporting other complaints
  • they make employers complacent allowing them to avoid investigating unlawful discrimination or harassment complaints and holding perpetrators to account
  • they are being traded for things that employers should be providing as a matter of course such as references and remedial action to tackle discrimination.

This report makes a number of recommendations on preventing and dealing with sexual harassment and discrimination in the workplace including:

  • stopping the use of confidentiality clauses to cover up allegations of sexual harassment and discrimination
  • a requirement for the use of plain English in confidentiality clauses
  • one-way cost shifting so the employer is more likely to be ordered to pay the employee’s costs in the event of a successful Tribunal claim
  • an increase in damages for pain and suffering
  • requiring employers to pay the cost of employees seeking legal advice on settlement agreements
  • strengthening of corporate governance requirements, forcing employers to face up to their responsibility to protect employees from harassment and discrimination

For advice on any employment related matter and to discuss our Free Employment Health Check for your business please contact Jas Dubb at The Wilkes Partnership on 0121 233 4333.

Wilkes are delighted to welcome back Adrian Schuck to the firm as an Associate Solicitor after almost three years practising at a firm in Derbyshire.

Adrian has extensive expertise in undertaking tax and estate planning on behalf of clients. He has acted for business owners, shareholders, entrepreneurs and philanthropists during his time in practice.

Adrian also has significant experience of providing succession planning and tax advice to farmers and others working in the agricultural community.

Commenting on his appointment, Adrian said:

“Having spent the early part of my career at Wilkes when I was made aware of the opportunity to return it was an offer I couldn’t turn down. The firm is in a really good place at the moment and in a period of sustained growth. I am delighted to be a part of that.”

Andrew Hasnip, Partner & Head of Private Client at Wilkes added:

“Adrian has extensive experience of working as a private client solicitor and it is with great pleasure that I welcome him back to Wilkes. In Adrian we have a highly skilled individual who mirrors the firm’s ambition to provide excellent support and advice to our clients.”

Adrian is based at our Birmingham City Centre office and can be reached on aschuck@wilkes.co.uk or 0121 710 5900.

Everybody knows making a Will is important, however the importance of planning and dealing with your digital assets has been recently highlighted when widow Rachel Thompson went through a long and costly three year legal battle in the County Court to obtain access to her husband’s iPhone after his death.

Rachel’s husband did not leave a Will and under Apple’s terms and conditions accounts are not transferable after death. Apple told Rachel she required a court order to gain access to the thousands of photos her late husband took. The Court granted the order in May 2019 finally giving Rachel access to sentimental family photos stored in the iCloud account. 

This case highlights the importance of planning for your digital assets including digital photos/videos, digital music tracks, online bank accounts, social media, emails, online auction accounts, domain names, online gambling accounts, online gaming avatars/lands, online family ancestry databases, blogs, e-books, bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies.

This side of estate planning needs to be considered carefully when making a Will given the vast range and use of digital assets. To avoid such a prolonged and unpleasant way to gain access to digital assets after death, procedures and clear instructions when drafting your Will as to what should happen to your digital assets is key.

If you would like to know more about drafting your Will to deal with your digital assets, please contact Ellie Holland at The Wilkes Partnership on 01217338000 or email eholland@wilkes.co.uk.

The Wilkes Partnership has been nominated for Legal Firm of the Year 2019 at the City of Birmingham Business Awards

Wilkes will be judged for the award by some of the biggest names in the Birmingham business community. We would be delighted if we could count on your vote!

Currently in its third year, the City of Birmingham Business Awards will be hosted by Ed James with hundreds of top business leaders across the region in attendance at Edgbaston Cricket Ground. Previous winners include major names such as Gleeson Recruitment Group, Lightbox Digital, Mode Transport Planning, Grant Thornton, Hollywood Monster, Argent and Aston Villa.

Nigel Wood, Senior Partner at The Wilkes Partnership, said: “Being nominated for this award is another step in what has been a momentous year for Wilkes which has included the merger deal with Coley & Tilley as well as various new appointments and promotions. This is a recognition of the high quality of work which we have continued to produce for our clients and we will always strive to set higher standards for ourselves to become one of the best, if not the best regional firm in the city.”

You can find out more about Downtown in Business and the awards by clicking here.

To vote for The Wilkes Partnership please click here.

Wilkes are pleased to announce that following a recent staff vote for our charity of the year the winner is Acorns Children’s Hospice with just under 50% of the vote!

Vicki Rowles, Head of Partnership Fundraising at Acorns Children’s Hospice, said: “We are delighted that The Wilkes Partnership have chosen Acorns as its charity of the year. We simply wouldn’t be here as a charity without the support of local businesses like The Wilkes Partnership and the community.

“Their support will help us continue our work to caring for children and families. We look forward to supporting Wilkes with their fundraising efforts over the next year and developing what I’m sure will be a great partnership.”

Ann-Marie Aston, Partner and Head of CSR at Wilkes, said: “It is fantastic to have the opportunity to work with Acorns Children’s Hospice as our charity of the year. Myself and the rest of the CSR team are busy putting the finishing touches to a busy schedule of fund raising activities over the next 12 months!”

Acorns Children’s Hospice provides specialist palliative care to babies, children and young people with life limiting and life threatening conditions across Birmingham and the Midlands, as well as support for their family.

In the past year, the charity has cared for more than 780 children and supported over 1,220 families, including those who are bereaved.

It costs £27,000 per day to provide Acorns care and services and the charity relies heavily on local businesses and the community to fund the majority of this amount.

To find out more about how you can support Acorns, visit: www.acorns.org.uk/support

 

Despite intense pressure from the insurance industry, the Lord Chancellor has announced a much more favourable Personal Injury discount rate than many practitioners expected.

Predictions for the new rate had varied between 0 % and 1% and indeed many insurers had applied pressure, relying on this uncertainty, when negotiating settlements irrespective of the current rate being -0.75%.

With effect from 5 August 2019, the new discount rate to be implemented changes the current rate from -0.75% (which had been set in February 2017) to -0.25%.

The Insurance industry is unsurprisingly very happy at the new rate to be applied and are now likely to see the benefits from any previous uncertainty surrounding the discount rate significantly curtailed.

Personal Injury practitioners will find the Justice Secretary’s comments a refreshing change to the usual PI bashing with David Gauke confirming that:

‘It is vital victims of life-changing injuries receive the correct compensation – I am certain this is the most balanced and fair approach following an extensive consultation. ….It is also right that the rate is informed by experts and reviewed on a regular basis to make sure this important calculation is accurate every time.’

It also offers comfort to cynical Claimant practitioners that the new methodology for setting the rate does indeed listen to those “in the know” as opposed to any partisan lobbying group that shouts loudest!

The government, in accordance with the new legislative methodology, will review the personal injury discount rate within a five year period following this review, to ensure that it remains fit for purpose in the future.

Future reviews will be conducted using an expert panel specifically established for the review. 

The change is very good news for a group of vulnerable individuals in society, who have through no fault of their own, suffered catastrophic injuries.

Good news for claimants!

For help and advice or to arrange your no obligation consultation with The Wilkes Personal Injury Team please contact pi@wilkes.co.uk or call us on 0121 233 4333.

Organisers’ of potentially dangerous activities often require participants to sign a waiver, but if you become injured you may still have a claim according to Catherine Owen, Associate solicitor in our Personal Injury Team.

If you’ve ever been to a trampoline park, horse riding, go karting, water sports or climbing, the chances are you were asked to sign a waiver before participating in the activity. And if you had the misfortune to sustain an injury during the activity you may think that you have no right to a claim against the organisers, because you signed the waiver.

However, as Catherine Owen says: “According to the Unfair Contract Terms Act you can shield an organisation from liability, but you can’t exclude or restrict liability to injury or death if it can be proved the organisation was negligent.

“There are many instances whereby you may  be eligible to make a personal injury claim. For example, if you took part in a triathlon and became sick due to bacteria in the open water swimming activity then the waiver may  not be valid as the participant could not foresee this would happen and the organisers should have ensured the facility was safe for the event.  

Or, if you have not had a proper induction in a gym and you hurt yourself on the equipment then you might have a valid claim.

“If you’ve had an injury falling off a horse there are any number of reasons for you to have a legitimate claim despite signing a waiver. You might be an inexperienced rider given a horse that’s not suitable for new riders. Your instructor may not be qualified enough or you may have been asked to do something beyond your ability. There could also be an issue with the equipment provided, such as a faulty riding hat or saddle.”

There are a number of things you can claim for, including pain and suffering, loss of amenity, loss of ability to live a normal life, loss of earnings, cost of medical treatment or ongoing care and assistance.

If you have a potential claim, Catherine Owen will be able to assess your situation for sufficient grounds. There is no charge for this initial consultation. If you do have grounds you will be offered a conditional fee agreement. This means that only if and when your case is won is there a fee payable.

You have three years from the date of the incident in which to claim. For children it’s three years from their 18th birthday. However, it is advisable to start the process as soon as possible.

For more information about personal injury claims please contact Catherine Owen at our Solihull office on 0121 733 8000 or cowen@wilkes.co.uk.

Does an individual’s right to the freedom of expression take precedence over confidentiality obligations owing to their employer?

No, was the decision of the High Court in the case of, Linklaters LLP v Mellish.

Lisa Moore, Employment Solicitor in our Birmingham Officeconsiders the outcome of this recent case which balances the Articles of the European Convention on Human Rights (‘Convention rights’) against the duty of confidentiality.

In this case, Mr Mellish was employed by Linklaters as Director of Business Development and Marketing. He was subject to an express confidentiality provision as detailed in his contract of employment. Following the termination of his employment, Mr Mellish notified his ex-employer that he planned to, ‘share his impressions of the current culture at Linklaters’ along with what was described as, ‘the ongoing struggle Linklaters has with women in the workplace’ and provided various examples of his concerns.

Consequently, Linklaters issued an application for an injunction to restrain disclosure of confidential information; namely, to protect the names of the individuals involved along with some details relating to the relevant matters. The confidential nature of these issues were such that they were not set out in the body of the Court’s transcript and instead were attached as a confidential Annex to the Judgment.

The High Court considered whether, in all the circumstances, it was in the public interest that the duty of confidence should be breached. It was also noted that other Convention rights could be relevant in the circumstances such as the right to privacy of the third parties who could be named by Mr Mellish.

The Court ultimately decided to grant a temporary injunction despite this conflicting with the right to freedom of expression to which Mr Mellish was entitled. Several factors formed the basis of this decision.

Firstly, the Court felt that the matter would have good prospects of success should it proceed to trial. Secondly, there was a clear risk that highly sensitive information could be published. The rights of the third parties involved were also highly relevant to the Court’s decision. It was considered that reputational harm was not the primary motivating factor for Linklaters having applied for the injunction. If it had been, it was far less likely that the injunction would have been granted.

Lisa Moore comments: “Although applications for injunctions are considered on a case by case basis, employers should seek some comfort from this decision. The High Court is clearly willing to override Convention rights to prevent the disclosure of confidential information where necessary. This decision also serves as a reminder of the importance for employers to adopt appropriately drafted confidentiality provisions to protect their position as far as possible. An employer is in a much stronger position whenever attempting to enforce an express term of a contract rather than just relying on an implied term.”

For more information about how we can help assist your business in respect of the above issues, from drafting appropriate confidentiality provisions and restrictive covenants, to obtaining an injunction, please follow the link to our Business Protection Package.

Otherwise, to discuss anything arising from this update, please contact Lisa Moore or any member of the Employment Team on 0121 233 4333. 

We are delighted to announce that we have agreed a sponsorship deal with Solihull Swimming & Water Polo Club.

Ann-Marie Aston, Partner at Wilkes said “The SSC, which is currently in its 56th year as a competitive entity offers a fantastic community environment to over 600 members from in and around Solihull. We are delighted to have been given the opportunity to support them in their efforts.”

As part of the sponsorship Wilkes have provided new swimming kit such as branded t-shirts for all volunteers and coaching staff.

Pictured is Chair Nick Pemberton and Head Coach Ben Stanford, along with Anne Marie Aston from Wilkes Partnership Solicitors .

You can find out more about Solihull Swimming Club on their website here.