The Wilkes Corporate team, led by Gareth O’Hara have advised long-standing Automotive client Johnsons Cars on its recent acquisition of four Volkswagen dealerships.

This recent acquisition will see Johnsons take over showrooms in Warrington, Liverpool, Stafford and Stoke which will increase Johnsons VW portfolio to nine dealerships across the UK taking them up to 46 dealerships in total.

Johnsons already has Volkswagen outlets at Birmingham and was selected by the brand in 2017 to run its first pilot ‘store’ at the Bullring shopping centre, a deal which was also advised on by the Wilkes Corporate Team.

Gareth O’Hara, Managing Partner and Head of the Corporate Team at Wilkes said: “As ever it’s great to be working with the team at Johnsons Cars on their most recent acquisition. It’s exciting to be involved with the business and we are delighted to be a part of their continued growth. At Wilkes we are all about long-standing client relationships and we look forward to working with Johnsons again on future acquisitions”.

Mike Berwick, Operations Director at Johnsons Cars commented: “We greatly appreciate the relationship we have with Gareth and the rest of the team at Wilkes. Their understanding of our business, and the retail car business generally, makes what can often be a time consuming and challenging process more straight forward. Wilkes are very used to our approach and method of doing deals.”

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 Automotive, IT Software, FMCG, Events and Health & Social Care.

Gareth was supported on the transaction by Mark Hodgson (Real Estate), Mike Linford (Corporate) & Lisa Moore (Employment).

For help and advice relating to your business get in touch with Gareth O’Hara on 0121 710 5904 or via email at gohara@wilkes.co.uk.

employmentteam

Sarah Begley is an Employment Solicitor based at our Solihull office. In this article she looks into Special Leave Policies and how such policies can be mutually beneficial for employers and employees.

As the number of employment claims made in tribunals continues to rise since the abolition of employment tribunal fees in July 2017, companies need to be more wary of creating an environment which is not only great to work in, but anticipates and understands the way that the world is changing. This is not simply a case of updating the employee handbook, but one of developing policies and reviewing contracts that commit to ink the intentions a company has towards equality and acceptance.

Every year, it seems that there are cases and laws being made to bring the UK closer to accommodating different branches of culture and sub-cultures.

With this ever changing social climate, forward thinking employers have an opportunity to anticipate legal change and create policies to place themselves ahead of other employers. By creating a ‘special leave policy’ they can accommodate the needs of those cultures which have not yet been considered by legislation, and anticipate those that soon will.

This will not only protect the employer by ensuring there is a formal method in place to fight against discrimination claims (s16(2) Equality Act (EQA) if an employer treats an employee less favourably in relation to absence for gender reassignment than it would for any other sickness absence) but make a major statement about how inclusive a workforce they want to create, giving protections to those who may have felt vulnerable before.

A ‘special leave policy’ that does cater for this could be flexible and up for regular debate in the HR department and then taken to the boardroom. Suggested inclusions could be death of a relative, serious ill health of a relative, domestic emergency, public duties, volunteering, mentoring, infertility treatment, gender reassignment, elective surgery (caution underlying mental health issues) or death of a family pet.

Many of these are allowed by employers, but it is very uncommon that anything is written into a formal policy. For instance, there is no right in law to take paid time off for jury service or medical appointments. Even when taking time off for these regular occurrences, employers and employees can be left in a vulnerable position, and one which is undesirable in today’s climate of rising employment litigation in tribunals.

We are living in an exciting time for social change, and employment law is moving to catch up, but as with any legislation it can be a slow process. If employers wait for this to happen then they could be leaving themselves behind. Yes, they may have the letter of law on their side, but the reputational damage that could be done is irreparable. This is why employers need to be forward thinking and accommodate for change before it happens.

If employers do this it is not just a legal or reputational defence, it is an opportunity to grow and retain good talent. And for employees, developing this sort of policy encourages inclusivity and an open forum to be able to make requests for time off that previously they would have shied away from or felt they couldn’t ask for. In this current climate, that is important for everyone concerned.

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

The Wilkes Corporate team, led by Jeremy Parkin, have advised long-standing client Blue Sky Corporate Finance on its recent merger with Solihull based accountancy firm Jerroms.

The merger enables Jerroms to offer a full suite of corporate finance services to their thousands of clients across the UK.

This latest move marks significant growth plans for the firm as it looks to expand its offering and build on its excellent reputation as a leading accountancy and businesses advisory firm in the region.

Jerroms’ corporate finance division is to be rebranded and will operate from its headquarters in Blythe Valley Park, with the Blue Sky accountancy services relocating to the Jerroms’ office in Bromsgrove.

Alongside Jerroms’ directors Lucas Markou and Mark Eden, Jerroms Corporate Finance will be headed up by Paul Heaven, the former managing director of Blue Sky.

Commenting on his experience with Wilkes, Paul Heaven, Director at Blue Sky said: “Wilkes have a close relationship with both firms and helped to facilitate the transaction by introducing Blue Sky to Jerroms. Jeremy Parkin led the Wilkes team, assisted by Helen Smart and Mike Linford. They provided their usual efficient and highly commercial advice and I look forward to continuing to do deals with them under the Jerroms Corporate Finance banner.”

Jeremy Parkin, Partner in the Corporate team at Wilkes said: “I am delighted that these two highly respected firms have joined forces. The addition of Blue Sky’s Bromsgrove-based accountancy practice gives critical mass to Jerroms’ presence there and the corporate finance arm will offer all their clients a wealth of deal-making experience and funding options.” 

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.

Specialist tax and estate planning lawyer Philip Harrison has joined The Wilkes Partnership as a Consultant in our Private Client Team

Specialist tax and estate planning lawyer Philip Harrison has joined The Wilkes Partnership in a consultancy deal designed to bolster our offering to private clients and the owners of private businesses.

Philip, whose previous experience includes roles such as National Head of Tax for global law firm Eversheds will play a key role in the growth of our private client and tax team and help take our firm to the next level of UK and international tax expertise.

In his new role at Wilkes, Philip will bring more than three decades of experience advising business owners and high net worth individuals on personal tax planning , especially in the fields of capital gains tax and inheritance tax, and more general estate planning, an area of specialisation which includes the protection of family wealth as well as tax planning.  Philip has particular expertise in advising internationally mobile clients.

This latest addition to Wilkes enhances the private client team and is part of a long-term growth strategy which aims to increase expertise across all areas of the firm. Philip’s arrival follows the firm’s recent merger with fellow Birmingham firm Coley & Tilley.

Nigel Wood, Senior Partner at The Wilkes Partnership, says: “Philip’s consultancy with Wilkes shows the scale of ambition that we have to service our clients, new and existing, to an increasingly higher standard. Philip’s expertise continues to enhance the talent in our Private Client Team and, following the addition of other talent across the firm, take the next step on our road to growth in 2019 and beyond.”

Philip Harrison, Consultant for The Wilkes Partnership, says: “I was seeking an opportunity to build a relationship with a successful law firm and from the outset the cultural match with Wilkes seemed ideal for me. The association will enable me to offer a high level UK and international tax and estate planning service to complement the services already offered by the firm.”

“I am looking forward to working closely with Andrew Hasnip and Ellie Holland to continue to build the team at Wilkes and help fulfil the overall objective of consolidating and developing Wilkes’ position as a leader in the region, offering private client services across the spectrum and focusing in particular on UK and international tax advice.”

Philip can be contacted on 0121 233 4333 or pharrison@wilkes.co.uk.

On 17 December 2018 the Government published, its proposals to take forward some of the recommendations in the Taylor Review of Modern Working Practices (the ‘Good Work Plan’).

The Good Work Plan proposed what the Government described as “the biggest package of workplace reforms for over 20 years”. It sets out the Government’s vision for the future of the UK labour market and draws on the four consultations held earlier in 2018.

The Employment Rights (Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations 2019 (SI 2019/731) (the ‘Regulations’) was introduced on 28 March 2019 and will bring into force various commitments set out in the Good Work Plan.

Jas Dubb, Associate Solicitor in our Employment Law Department considers the key proposals under the plan and what effect they may have.

Employment Status

The Government has declared that it will introduce new legislation to clarify the test for obtaining employment status that mirrors modern working practices. That clarification is important. Having ‘employee’ status attracts a considerable amount of legal protection and rights. However, creating a test is likely to be a difficult task. The Government has stated that it will also seek to adjust how the law deals with employee status for tax purposes, with a view of harmonising the law in both areas. No set timetable has been given for these potentially significant proposals for new legislation.

Written Statement of Particulars of Employment

The Employment Rights Act 1996 will be amended to give workers, rather than just employees, the right to:

  • a written Statement of Particulars of employment (i.e. a basic Contract of Employment); and
  • bring a tribunal claim against their employer for failure to provide such particulars.

The changes will apply to workers who start work for an employer on or after 6 April 2020.

Financial penalties

The Regulations will amend the Employment Tribunals Act 1996 to increase the maximum level of penalty an Employment Tribunal may order in respect of an employer’s aggravated breach of employment law from £5,000 to £20,000. The increase will apply in respect of breaches of workers’ rights that take place on or after 6 April 2019.

 Information and consultation of employees

The Regulations will amend the Information and Consultation of Employees Regulations 2004 (SI 2004/3426) to lower the percentage required for a valid employee request for the employer to negotiate an agreement on informing and consulting its employees. The threshold will be lowered from 10% to 2% of the total number of employees employed by the employer, subject to there being a minimum of 15 employees.  The change will come into force on 6 April 2020.

Jas Dubb comments, “These proposed changes serve as a useful reminder to employers of the importance of having employment documentation and policies in place which set out clear expectations, and in line with legal obligations. It is evident that more needs to be done in order to protect employees and prevent employee / employer disputes”.

We are currently offering all businesses a Free Employment Law Health which consists of a no obligation review of your existing employment contracts and staff handbooks.

Please contact us if you would like us to review your employment documentation and structure them in line with legislative requirements, to avoid employment issues from arising.

To discuss anything arising from this update, please contact Jas Dubb on 0121 733 5929 or via email at jdubb@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

Three Former Trainees Qualify Into NQ Positions At Wilkes

Wilkes are delighted to announce that Rupinder Sahota, Owen Shave and Tim Burrows have taken up new roles as Assistant Solicitors having successfully completed their training contracts.

Rupinder joins our Property Litigation team with Owen joining our Corporate team and Tim joining the Private Client department.

Kate Hackett Partner and Training Principal at Wilkes said;

“2019 has been another strong year for Wilkes and we are delighted to be able to offer Rupinder, Owen and Tim positions within the firm. We feel that we offer our trainees great hands-on experience which allows them to hit the ground running with their legal careers.”

Alongside welcoming our new newly qualified solicitors, Ayesha Sirpal, Jack Milnthorpe, Joel Blake and Sophie Raybould have joined the firm as first year trainees.

To find out more about out becoming a trainee as Wilkes click here.

Wilkes Corporate Team Advise Serial Entrepreneur On Latest Events Company Acquisition

 

The Wilkes Corporate Team, led by Rick Smyth, have advised serial entrepreneur, David Walley on his latest acquisition of leading UK events business Star Events from multi-billion pound turnover services giants, Altrad.

This latest deal resulted in the merger of four businesses to create Star Events Group. With the merger with its existing businesses, Mobile Promotions, BluePeg and Beautiful Minds.

Star Events has been supplying equipment and services to the events industry for 40 years. They have designed and delivered stages, structures, seating and rigging for some of the world’s most high-profile events including British Summer Time Hyde Park, Download Festival, Adele, The Spice Girls, Royal Windsor Horse Show and the visit of Pope Benedict XVI.

Commenting on the acquisition, David Walley said: “Star is one of the great names of the UK events industry. They have an inspiring legacy and are both trusted and innovative. We are looking forward to integrating them into the business and adding value to all of our clients.

When asked about his experience of working with Wilkes David said: “This is the fourth acquisition that Rick and the team have worked on with us. As always, they offered clear, pragmatic advice which really takes the burden off what can at times be a complex situation and we were delighted to be working with them again. Myself and the team were also particularly impressed with how Rick and the team dealt with an organisation as large as Altrad. We look forward to working with them on our future acquisitions!”

Rick Smyth, Partner in the Wilkes Corporate Team said: “We were delighted to work with David and his team again and to be part of building the Star Events Group. We were able to draw on our international network, with our colleagues in Shanghai advising on the acquisition of the Star Event’s Chinese subsidiary as part of the deal. The new group is an exciting new offering for the UK entertainments industry. We are looking forward to working with the team again as they continue their drive to develop the group into a market leader.”

Rick Smyth, Jeremy Parkin and Lucy Freeman in the Corporate team lead the deal with support from, Leighann Richard (Real Estate), Owen Shave (Corporate) and Elisabeth Conner (International). Wilkes were supported in China by BURKARDT & PARTNER Shanghai.

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 Rick Smyth on 0121 710 5932 or via email at rsmyth@wilkes.co.uk.

Wilkes has set itself an ambitious target of raising £10,000 in the next 12 months for Acorns Children’s Hospice, our chosen charity for the year.

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 families.

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. In the past year, the charity has cared for more than 780 children and supported over 1,220 families, including those who are bereaved. Funds raised by Wilkes will go towards helping the hospice staff with this vital care.

Vicki Rowles, Head of Partnership Fundraising at Acorns Children’s Hospice, said: “We are delighted that The Wilkes Partnership has 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.”

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

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

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.