The Wilkes Partnership, in collaboration with Mazars Deal Advisory, has acted on the multi-million pound acquisition of RSM Partners by leading global enterprise software company BMC Software.

The deal was led by Gareth O’Hara, Managing Partner at The Wilkes Partnership and was supported by Mike Linford, Senior Associate in the corporate department. The team at Wilkes worked closely alongside Rob Burton, Partner and Paul Pownell, Associate Director both at Mazars Deal Advisory. The cross-border acquisition follows the intention of RSM Partners to find a global partner to expand the business on a global stage.

Both The Wilkes Partnership and Mazars Deal Advisory have worked to ensure that following this major acquisition by BMC Software, a $2.2bn global enterprise software company based in the US, RSM Partners will be significantly better positioned to offer enhanced levels of service to its clients.

Nick Davies, Financial Director at RSM Partners says: “This deal is huge for us. We’ve been growing since our formation almost 15 years ago and decided that now was the right time to look to expand the business. Having worked with Gareth and the teams at Wilkes and Mazars Deal Advisory previously, I knew that we would be able to hit the ground running and that we could expect an excellent standard of professional advice and client care.”

“We are really pleased that we have been able to team up with one of the most respected and exciting mainframe software companies in the world in BMC.”

“This deal allows our business to grow and fulfil the ambitions that we set ourselves. We wanted to expand into new markets and give our customers access to even better, more advanced services – and this deal enables us to do that. This feels like the next step in our strategy that can allow us to provide leading services for our customers and be at the forefront of technology in our field. The work of Wilkes and Mazars was integral to that.”

The acquisition follows the growth of Bromsgrove-based RSM Partners from formation in 2006 to becoming one of the most globally recognised providers of mainframe infrastructure services, mainframe security software and expertise. As well as being an IBM Mainframe Business Partner, RSM is also an accredited UK Crown Commercial Service supplier and member of MSPAlliance: a global consortium of cloud, managed service providers and technology enabling vendors.

Gareth O’Hara, Managing Partner at The Wilkes Partnership, says: “This deal marks the progress of RSM Partners, but also recognises the talent we have in the Birmingham area for technology. Throughout this process we worked with colleagues at BMC to get a good deal for all parties and succeeded with a partnership that is going to see the RSM base in Bromsgrove grow and nurture the talent that is already there.”

“Our partnership with Mazars was key to getting making sure that the deal was smooth, especially when working cross-border. However, with the skillsets at Mazars and within the Wilkes team we completed the deal successfully and just before the Budget.”

Due to the ongoing situation surrounding COVID-19 there have been some changes in relation to the way in which the Family Court will operate. Aaron Keene, Partner & Head of Family Law at Wilkes outlines some of the changes below and how they might affect you.

Hearings in the Family Court

Since 19th March, the Family Courts have been making changes to their operations, always with the aim of ‘keeping business going safely’, and the President of the Family Division, Sir Andrew McFarlane, stated that all Family Court hearings should be undertaken remotely – either via email, telephone, video, Skype or otherwise.

On Monday 23rd March, ahead of the Prime Minister announcing the nationwide lockdown, Mr Justice Macdonald, provided further guidance on ‘The Remote Access Family Court’ including a ‘Protocol for Remote Hearings in the Family Court and Family Division of the High Court’.

Whilst there is now a detailed procedure for remote hearings which we are studying and following here at Wilkes, there is no ‘one size fits all’ way of approaching remote hearings and no single software platform to be used. Parties are therefore able to choose from a range of different options in order to make remote hearings work best in the circumstances and fit with the needs of our clients.

Included in the types of cases suitable for remote hearings are: all directions and case management hearings; emergency protection orders; interim care orders; injunction applications; and financial cases. Even where a case is urgent, it should be possible for arrangements to be made for it to be conducted remotely. In all cases, provision is being made for E-bundles to be sent into the court.

A range of issues have been considered including access to technology and software to conduct hearings remotely, particularly operating licences, as well as some parties struggling with the rapid technological change that is having to take place. However, the first fully Skype based trial took place in the Court of Protection in front of Mr Justice Mostyn only last week and proved to be a successful test of the technology proving what is possible for the Family Courts.

Unfortunately, given the nature and risk presented by the COVID-19 outbreak, it must also be appreciated that there may be some cases that will need to be adjourned for longer periods of time because a remote hearing is not possible. From 19th March court staff are able to waive the application fee for an adjournment because of coronavirus in certain circumstances.

There is still an urgent need to consider, in respect of each court centre, how proceedings will be issued remotely if all courts in a given area are shut down and how orders will be drawn and sealed and we are expecting guidance to be provided by the Family Courts in due course.

Currently in the Birmingham Family Court, all hearings are to take place by telephone unless the Court informs you otherwise or you have made alternative arrangements with the Court. This is with a view to video or Skype hearings being introduced as soon as everything is in place. Overall, the objective is that the remote hearing should be as close as possible to the usual practice in court.

How does the lockdown affect you?

The government has issued guidance for separated families now that the country is under lockdown conditions being that where parents do not live in the same household, children under 18 can be moved between their parents’ homes.

The President of the Family Division and CAFCASS have also provided some further information and guidance to help get through these difficult circumstances where Child Arrangement Orders are in place.

Firstly, it is important to remember that the guidance does not mean that children must be moved between homes. The decision whether a child is to move between parental homes is for the child’s parents to make after a sensible assessment of the circumstances, including the child’s present health, the risk of infection and the presence of any recognised vulnerable individuals in one household or the other.

Where parents, acting in agreement, exercise their parental responsibility to conclude that the arrangements set out in a CAO should be temporarily varied they are free to do so. It would be sensible for each parent to record such an agreement in a note, email or text message sent to each other.

Where parents do not agree to vary the arrangements set out in a CAO, but one parent is sufficiently concerned that complying with the CAO arrangements would be against current Public Health England/Wales advice, then that parent may exercise their parental responsibility and vary the arrangement to one that they consider to be safe. If, after the event, the actions of a parent acting on their own in this way are questioned by the other parent in the Family Court, the court is likely to look to see whether each parent acted reasonably and sensibly in the light of the official advice and the Stay at Home Rules in place at that time, together with any specific evidence relating to the child or family.

Where, either as a result of parental agreement or as a result of one parent on their own varying the arrangements, a child does not get to spend time with the other parent as set down in the CAO, the courts will expect alternative arrangements to be made to establish and maintain regular contact between the child and the other parent within the Stay at Home Rules, for example remotely – by Face-Time, WhatsApp, Skype, Zoom or other video connection or, if that is not possible, by telephone.

The key message should be that, where Coronavirus restrictions cause the letter of a court order to be varied, the spirit of the order should nevertheless be delivered by making safe alternative arrangements for the child.

Conclusion

What remains to be said is that the situation is constantly evolving on a daily basis, if not hourly. At Wilkes our Family Law team are doing all they can over the coming days and weeks to keep you informed regarding the fast-moving landscape of Family Law during these unprecedented times and are on hand and ready to offer you the support that you need at this difficult time.

The Wilkes Partnership have a large team of Family Law experts on hand to assist you with any matter. To discuss any Family Law related matter please contact Aaron Keene on 0121 710 5947 or abkeene@wilkes.co.uk.

In this article James Leo, Partner and Head of Employment at Wilkes looks at the recent developments around COVID-19 and what it means for the world of Employment Law.

As the UK moved to the ‘delay’ phase of their coronavirus action plan, employers must take action to protect their workforces whether UK-based or working cross-border.

The outbreak of coronavirus, known officially as COVID-19, raises key points for us to consider within employment law, immigration, Health & Safety and data protection law for UK employers.

Social distancing and vulnerable people

Current government advice is for everyone to stop unnecessary contact with other people – ‘social distancing’. This includes:

  • working from home where possible
  • avoiding busy commuting times on public transport
  • avoiding gatherings of people, whether in public, at work or at home
Employers should support their workforce to take these steps. This might include:
  • agreeing more flexible ways of working, for example changing start and finish times to avoid busier commuting periods
  • allowing staff to work from home wherever possible
  • cancelling face-to-face events and meetings and rearranging to remote calling where possible, for example using video or conference calling technology
Vulnerable people

There has also been guidance issued by the government that strongly recommends people with a higher risk of catching coronavirus practice strong social distancing measures.

Employers must especially be aware and take extra steps for anyone in their workforce who falls within a vulnerable group. They include, but are not limited to, those who:

  • have a long-term health condition, for example asthma, diabetes or heart disease, or a weakened immune system resulting from medicines such as steroid tablets or chemotherapy
  • are pregnant
  • are aged 70 or over
  • care for someone with a health condition that might put them at a greater risk
    employers can access the latest government information and advice online.
Key workers

On Monday 23 March 2020, all schools within the UK closed until further notice. This has caused a further strain on employers and employees due to a number of staff subsequently facing childcare arrangement issues. School will only be available to people who are ‘key workers’. A list of ‘key workers’ for whose children schools will remain open, is also now available here.

Employers may reasonably expect their employees to make use of these facilities – where the employee’s partner is a key worker for example – without going into invasive investigation that might breach anyone’s data protection rights.

Self-Isolation and Sick Pay

Employees in self-isolation should follow their workplace’s usual sickness reporting process.

Employees can ‘self-certify’ for the first 7 days off work. This means following their workplace process but not having to get a note from a doctor or NHS 111.

On 20 March 2020, the government introduced a new ‘online isolation note’ service which allow employees to get an online self- isolation note to provide to employers with certification of coronavirus absences. Those self-isolating due to coronavirus for more than 7 days can get an online self-isolation note from the:

Individuals will be prompted to answer a few questions, after which an isolation note will be emailed to them. The service can be also used to produce an isolation note on behalf of someone else, while those without an email address can have the note sent to a trusted family member or friend, or directly to the employer.

It is a good idea to check your workplace’s policy on absence from work. Employers might need to be flexible if asking for self-isolation notes due to the severity of the virus causing hospitalisation in some cases.

Must “vulnerable” employees who are required to self-isolate be paid? Can they be placed on sick leave, or required to use their holiday entitlement?

Employers are most likely unable to specify that employees take holiday for any long period of self-isolation in the absence of a contractual right to do so. These employees may not be “sick”, and may not be covered by sick leave provisions and employers are advised to read into their contracts and policies and consider their position.

Employees who according to government guidance should self-isolate to remain away from their workplace, are more likely to be considered as either working from home or on a period of leave. If the employee should work from home, the employer would be expected to pay the employee as normal.

Furloughed workers

Employers struggling to cover staff costs due to COVID-19, may be able to access support to continue paying part of employee wages, to avoid redundancies. This has been named as the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.

Employers who intend to access the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, should discuss with employees becoming classified as a furloughed worker. This would mean that they are kept on their employer’s payroll rather than being laid off.

To qualify for this scheme, employees should not undertake work for the employer while they are furloughed. This will allow the employer to claim a grant of up to 80% of the employees’ wages for all employment costs, up to a cap of £2,500 per month.

At the employer’s discretion, it is possible to fund the differences between this payment and the employee’s salary.

James Leo explains, “Specific legal advice should be sought where necessary, as the situation is changing daily. This is an entirely new situation to everyone and employers are having to think about what steps they can take to facilitate home working including encouraging employees to ensure that they have the correct set-up at home to be able to work there if required to do so along with what options are available to staff and ensuring that their businesses are protected.”

For any further guidance on this issue or any other employment related matter, please contact James Leo on 0121 710 5970 or any other member of the Employment Team at Wilkes. You can also email us on employmentteam@wilkes.co.uk and a member of the team will be in touch.

 

The Employment Law team at Wilkes will be doing all they can over the coming days and weeks to keep you informed regarding the fast-moving landscape of Employment Law during these unprecedented times.

We are on hand and ready to offer you the support that you need at this difficult time.

Recent Developments

The last 24 hours saw an amendment to the Presidential Practice Direction on Coronavirus issued last week.

Due to the uncertainty surrounding how long special measures are required for the conduct of Employment Tribunal hearings, a review mechanism has been implemented.

The key message is that ALL in-person Employment Tribunal hearings will be converted to telephone case management hearings if the hearings were due to start on or before Friday, 26 June 2020.

Any in-person hearings due to start on or after Monday, 29 June 2020 will remain listed normally for the time being.

The review dates are 29th April and 29th May 2020, we will be sure to keep you informed as to what this means in practical terms to both employers and employees.

In addition, The Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) has announced that they will not be conducting any hearings (including telephone or Skype hearings) from Wednesday, 25 March 2020 until Wednesday 15 April 2020. Any appeals lodged with the EAT during this period can only be lodged by email.

It has also this afternoon (25th March) been announced that all London (Central) Tribunal hearings have been postponed until further notice. It is worth noting that this applies to both in-person and telephone hearings. A review of the situation regarding telephone hearings is currently scheduled for the 30th March.

If you have any questions or queries regarding this update please contact Sarah Begley on 0121 733 4312 or via email on sbegley@wilkes.co.uk.

Commercial Tenants - Factors To Consider During The COVID-19 Outbreak

With the outbreak of COVID-19 causing mass disruption to businesses across all industries commercial tenants could soon find themselves experiencing cash flow problems.

The March quarter day (25th) is looming and many commercial tenants will be concerned to have to find 3 months’ rent to pay to their Landlord.

In most instances it would be hoped that an amicable agreement could be made between landlord and tenant to ensure business continuity, such as a rent holiday or making smaller more frequent payments. However, what are the implications of not paying?

In this article Mark Hodgson, Partner in the Real Estate team at Wilkes identifies some of the possible ramifications that could arise as a result of non-payment of rent of which commercial tenants should take note.

There are a number of remedies available to commercial Landlord when a Tenant does not pay the rent on its due date, these include the following:

Forfeiture

Forfeiture is the Landlord’s right to terminate the lease where a tenant either fails to pay rent or is in breach of covenant or condition of the lease. The landlord’s right and date for forfeiture is based upon the clauses specified within the Lease, but the right usually arises where rent is overdue for between 14 and 21 days.

There are two options with regards to forfeiture for non-payment of rent. A landlord can either:

  1. Change the locks, commonly using a certificated bailiff to do so; or
  2. Forfeit through court possession proceedings, which can be coupled with a claim for arrears.

However, if after the right to forfeit arises the landlord does something which treats the lease as continuing, the right to forfeit the lease on the basis of those particular arrears will be irrevocably lost. Even if the Landlord formally demands rent, they will waive the right to forfeit.

The tenant does have the option of applying to the Court for relief from forfeiture. In very basic terms if the tenant purges the breach and pays the arrears and any landlord’s reasonable costs the Court may exercise its discretion to reinstate the lease. Tenants have six months to make the application or lose the right to do so.

Sue for arrears

The Landlord may issue a demand for payment, coupled with a threat that County Court Proceedings will be issued on expiry of the deadline set in the demand in default of payment.

Although an effective tool, unless court proceedings are absolutely necessary they are often rejected in favour of other methods of recovery because they can be expensive, and it can take months to receive a hearing date, if there are any grounds to dispute the demand.

Winding Up

The Landlord could proceed straight to winding up (liquidation) of the tenant on the basis that they are insolvent, as evidenced by the fact that they cannot pay debts as they fall due. Normally, a statutory demand will be served, but not necessarily. A statutory demand is a formal demand for payment of the debt, which an insolvency court would rely on in order to make a winding up order if the debt is not paid.

This is an expensive route to go down for the Landlord, especially if the tenant is insolvent. However, if the tenant is not insolvent (and has other assets to protect), winding up is a serious threat.

Commercial Rent Arrears Recovery (“CRAR”)

This procedure allows landlords of a commercial premises to instruct an enforcement agent (for example a certificated bailiff), after giving 7 days’ notice, to take control of a tenant’s goods and sell them in order to recover the value of the rent arrears.

If a Landlord proceeds down this route, it would waive their right to forfeit for the current arrears, although a new right would accrue if rent due on the next rent payment date is unpaid. It really depends on whether the landlord’s primary aim is to get the arrears paid, and continue with the tenancy, or to seek possession.

Pursuing a guarantor

If a person or company has agreed to act as a guarantor for the tenant’s covenants under the lease, it is open to the landlord to consider pursuing them if the tenant is in arrears of rent.

Depending on the provisions in the lease and the guarantee given by the guarantor, the usual way to enforce the guarantor’s obligations would be to issue court proceedings.  A landlord may also, in certain circumstances, be able to claim against a former tenant of the premises.

To conclude, how the landlord proceeds is dependent on the solvency of the tenant and whether the landlord wants to prioritise retaining possession. In the current climate they may appreciate the risk of an empty property if a tenant is evicted.

Mark recommends that the first course of action is to start a dialogue with the landlord to achieve a sensible and reasonable compromise.

The Real Estate team and the Property Dispute team at The Wilkes Partnership are on hand to help if you have questions relating to anything in this article. Please call 0121 233 4333 if you need any advice or assistance.

To our valued clients and partners,

 As the impact of COVID-19 continues to evolve we wanted to take the time to reassure you of the actions we are taking to protect our clients, colleagues and the wider communities, whilst working to maintain our services to you at this time.

Our commitment to you

We are open for business and will continue to provide you with the best service we can in the safest way possible.

With this in mind, and in-line with government advice, we have instructed our staff to minimise face-to-face contact until further notice, and where possible our staff will be working from home across all of our offices.

You can contact us as usual in a number of ways by either phone, email or by a pre- arranged video call. Our staff are set up and ready to respond to you as usual. We are working hard to mitigate any disruptions, and will continue to provide you with the legal service and advice you need, delivered with the high-level of service you have come to expect from Wilkes.

If you have an appointment scheduled your legal advisor will be in touch shortly to discuss the options, if they haven’t done so already.

Thank you for your patience during these unprecedented times .We look forward to returning to normal, with a handshake, as soon as possible.

The Wilkes Partnership Solicitors

Birmingham –  0121 233 4333

Solihull –  0121 733 8000

Coronavirus and the Key Employment Law issues

The outbreak of the coronavirus COVID-19 has rarely been out of the media over recent weeks. With the world on high alert and efforts by governments to contain the spread of the virus, this has undoubtedly presented real challenges for businesses.

Sarah Begley, Solicitor in the Employment Team at The Wilkes Partnership considers the key problem areas and practical guidance for employers. She says “In terms of people management, this is a balancing exercise between both employment law and health and safety obligations”.

How can we reduce the risk to our employees?

The risk level is currently identified as moderate. It is sensible for employers to send round an email/guidance encouraging employees to be extra-vigilant with washing their hands, using and disposing of tissues etc. If you have the capacity to do so, it may be worth designating an ‘isolation room’ where an employee who feels ill can go and sit away from the rest of the company and privately call ‘111’ before taking any further necessary action.

If an employee is not sick but is in quarantine or self-isolation, do we have to pay them sick pay?

There is no legal right to sick pay in these circumstances, but it would be good practice. Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, told MPs on Wednesday, 27 February “Self-isolation on medical advice is considered sickness for employment purposes”. Considerations could be given, where appropriate, to working remotely for 14 days following an employee’s return from a specified infected zone. If that is not possible, the general principle is that employees who are ready and willing to come to work should continue to be paid. Otherwise you run the risk of them coming into work and potentially spreading the virus to the rest of the workforce. There is also a (fairly low) risk of an argument that – by choosing not to pay someone who has self-isolated – you have breached the implied term of trust and confidence and hence constructively dismissed them. If they do present symptoms, then you should pay them sick pay in accordance with the normal company sick pay policy.

What if employees do not want to come to work?

Some people may be worried about catching coronavirus and therefore unwilling to come into work. If this is the case you should listen carefully to the concerns of your employees and if possible, offer flexible working arrangements such as homeworking. Employees can also request time off as holiday or unpaid leave but there is no obligation on employers to agree to this. If an employee refuses to attend work, you are entitled to take disciplinary action. This is likely to fall within a misconduct offence of failing to obey a reasonable management instruction to come to work. However, it is likely that dismissal would be considered to be outside the range of reasonable responses, at least for now.  If someone refuses to come into work and the COVID-19 issues continue into the medium term that may change.

Discriminatory behaviour

It is prudent to remind employees of their obligations under any company anti-discriminatory policy and carefully monitor any complaints or grievances which suggest discriminatory behaviour directed towards employees of Asian origin.

Sarah adds “this is a rapidly changing situation and the guidance provided is frequently updated. I would advise businesses to pay attention to the Government updates currently published daily at 2pm as well as very useful workplace specific guidance provided by ACAS”.

If your industry has been affected by coronavirus and you have a downturn in work, you may also find this guidance on short time working and lay-offs useful.

To discuss anything arising from this update, please contact Sarah Begley on 0121 733 4312 or via email at sbegley@wilkes.co.uk.

Following a recent preliminary hearing in the case of Mr J Casamitjana Costa v The League Against Cruel Sports, employment Judge Postle held that ethical veganism is capable of being a philosophical belief and therefore is a protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010.

According to an article recently published by the BBC, there are currently 600,000 vegans in the UK, and the number is growing. The Vegan Society defines veganism as follows:

‘A philosophy and way of life which seeks to exclude, as far as possible and practical, all forms of exploitation and cruelty to animals for food, clothing or any other purpose and by extension promotes the development and use of animal free alternatives for the benefit of humans / animals and the environment, in dietary terms it denotes the practice of dispensing with all products derived wholly or partly from animals.’

Judge Postle considered the principles found in the Equality and Human Rights Commission Code of Practice on Employment 2011, particularly paragraph 2.59 which sets out the conditions for a philosophical belief to be protected under the Equality Act 2010 as follows:-

  • ‘It must be genuinely held;
  • It must be a belief and not an opinion or view point based on the present state of information available;
  • It must be a belief as to a weighty and substantial aspect of human life and behaviour;
  • It must attain a certain level of cogency, seriousness, cohesion and importance; and
  • It must be worthy of respect in a democratic society, not incompatible with human dignity and not conflict with the fundamental rights of others.’

In passing the decision, the Judge referred to the Claimant’s day-to-day lifestyle to conclude that ethical veganism was a protected belief. References were made to the fact that the Claimant ate no animal products, would rather go hungry than eat animal products, did not wear any clothes from animal products and would walk an hour to his destinations in order to avoid using transport posing risks to insects and birds.

Judge Postle concluded his decision by stating that he was satisfied, and in fact found it easy to conclude that, there was overwhelming evidence before him that ethical veganism was capable of being a philosophical belief and thus amounted to a protected characteristic. It is unlawful to discriminate against someone on the grounds of nine protected characteristics in total including religion or belief.

The full merits hearing of Mr Casamitjana’s substantive claims relating to the reasons for his dismissal is to take place imminently.

Lisa Moore, Associate in our Employment Team, comments: “This topical case highlights the potential difficulties employers can face in determining what may amount to a protected philosophical belief. However, it does not necessarily mean that all individuals practising veganism will now be entitled to enhanced protection. This decision was very much based on the specific facts of the case including the Claimant’s particular belief system and his way of life. It will certainly be interesting to see what the wider effect of this ruling is moving forwards.”

To discuss anything arising from this update, please contact Lisa Moore on 0121 710 5847 or via email at lmoore@wilkes.co.uk. You can also contact any other member of the Employment Team on 0121 233 4333 or email us at employment@wilkes.co.uk.

Lisa Moore, Defamation Solicitor. The Wilkes Partnership Solicitors, Birmingham


What is defamation?

Defamation can occur when someone says or publishes something which is untrue and causes serious harm to your reputation or the reputation of your business.

Defamatory statements can be published in a variety of ways including in a spoken statement, in newspapers, magazines, employee references, on social media or on websites.

There are several defences available which are specific to defamation including that the statement made was true, was of honest opinion and/or that the statement was made in the public interest.

This area of law is relevant to both individuals and businesses in a variety of contexts including in the workplace.

How might reputational risk arise in the workplace?

In an employment setting, the most common issues in this respect include the following:-

  • Employees/former employees making defamatory remarks about your business in various forms such as verbally or on social media platforms;
  • Customers publishing defamatory reviews online in which they could potentially name specific members of staff;
  • Employees/former employees making defamatory remarks about competitors or suppliers;
  • The provision or receipt of misleading or untrue employment references for prospective/ex-employees;
  • Statements made about employees/former employees during disciplinary or grievance procedures and/or during employment disputes; and
  • The misuse of employees’ private information or breach of confidence.

What are the implications for employers?

Defamatory acts by individuals, including customers as well as employees, can cause reputational damage resulting in significant financial loss.

Depending on the circumstances, employers can be held to be vicariously liable for unlawful statements made by an employee if they are deemed to be made in the course of the individual’s employment.

On the other hand, if an employer receives the threat of a defamation action, they could face legal proceedings such as a claim for damages or even an application for an injunction to restrain further publication of the statement in question.

What can businesses do to protect their position?

As a starting point, employers should have a robust policy in place in order to ensure that employees are fully aware as to what behaviour is expected of them. The policy should set out what is considered to be acceptable with regard to social media and it should be wide enough to cover personal use outside of work. It should also prohibit the making of derogatory remarks about the business and its employees more generally.

Where a member of staff is found to be in breach of this policy, consideration should be given as to whether it would be appropriate to commence disciplinary action.

Where a customer raises a complaint, all steps should be taken to resolve the position as far as reasonably practicable.

Lisa Moore, Associate at The Wilkes Partnership comments: “Particularly where libellous comments have been posted online, it is essential to act quickly and try to ensure the removal of the offending statements as soon as possible. Comments made online can be circulated incredibly quickly thereby causing significant financial harm to a business.

A formal demand should be sent to the individual involved initially requesting the immediate removal of the material and putting them on notice of potential claims which may be pursued. If the individual fails to take action to delete the comments or prevent further publication, where the comments appear online, the host site should be urgently contacted to seek to have the statement removed.

There is increasing pressure for host sites to take action where offending comments have been published online. Notably, an Australian court recently ordered Google to identify the person responsible for a negative review of a dentist in order that he could pursue a claim for defamation.

After following the above steps, employers should give thought as to whether any further action is necessary. For instance, if damage has been caused by the offending statements and it is not possible to reach an agreement regarding losses incurred, a claim could be issued for damages. Employers should be aware that, again, they would need to act relatively quickly in this respect. The limitation period for defamation claims is quite short, being 1 year from the date upon which the defamatory statement was published.”

We would be happy to assist with any queries you may have relating to either defamation or reputational risk management.

To discuss anything arising from this update, please contact Lisa Moore or Nigel Wood on 0121 233 4333 or email lmoore@wilkes.co.uk.

The Wilkes Partnership Solicitors, Law Firm of the Year

The Wilkes Partnership, has been announced in the shortlist as one of the region’s leading legal experts for Law Firm of the Year (Regional) at the Birmingham Law Society’s Legal Awards 2020.

In its 19th year, the Legal Awards are Birmingham Law Society’s recognition of the best talent in the region and The Wilkes Partnership is one of only four firms to be shortlisted for Law Firm of the Year (Regional).  The judges were very impressed with the calibre of nominees and the quality of work being done in Birmingham.

Wilkes will now have to wait, alongside all nominees across 12 categories, until 27 March 2020 to find out whether it has been crowned Law Firm of the Year.

Ellie Holland, managing partner at The Wilkes Partnership, said: “We are proud to have been shortlisted for this award.“

“Last year was certainly one of progress for Wilkes, bolstering both experience and expertise across teams with many clients expressing just how much they value our consultation and legal expertise as we grow with them. We feel that being shortlisted for this award is public recognition of that value we bring to clients and we want to build on the fantastic reputation we have built.”

You can find out more about the Birmingham Law Society here.