Headed by Gareth O’Hara, Senior Partner, the Wilkes Partnership’s Corporate Team has advised Redditch based Quattro Pensions in a deal which sees it become part of the Broadstone Group, one of the UK’s leading employee benefits and pensions consultancies.

Quattro Pensions specialises in actuarial and scheme administration services which will complement and enhance both the service offering and geographical reach of the Broadstone Group.

As yet another deal completed successfully by his team Gareth said “We’re very pleased to have been able to help the shareholders of Quattro take this very significant step. They’ve worked incredibly hard over the last twenty years to build a reputation that is respected throughout the industry. Becoming part of the Broadstone Group will be beneficial to their clients and staff”.

Quattro has grown its presence in the market mainly through referral which speaks volumes about the personal and pragmatic service it offers to clients. Liz Loosmore, founder director at Quattro commented “Finding a partner who shared our values was very important to the Quattro leadership team. We have worked closely with the Broadstone Group for many years and we’re confident that now is the right time to join forces with them.”

Helen Smart, Solicitor at the Wilkes Partnership said “It’s been pleasure working with the Quattro team to complete this deal. The team worked hard to bring the transaction to a close in the time scale required.”

Nicola Davies and Claire Lea of Prime Accountants provided tax advice on the deal. Nicola said “We have worked with Quattro and the directors and shareholders since 2007 and have assisted in their growth. I look forward to watching further progress now that they have joined the larger Broadstone network.”

If you need advice on a corporate transaction or commercial matter, contact Gareth O’Hara on 0121 710 5904 or at gohara@wilkes.co.uk or Helen Smart on 0121 710 5804 or at hsmart@wilkes.co.uk.

 

 

 

 

The work environment has received a seismic blow as the UK and the rest of the world have grappled with the COVID-19 pandemic. The political measures put in place to deal with the pandemic have had a dramatic effect on the economy and the employment landscape. Jas Dubb, an Associate solicitor in the Employment Team at The Wilkes Partnership, looks at one aspect of fallout from Covid-19: employment tribunal claims are on the rise.

Jas says: “Data recently published for the Employment Tribunal Service (ETS) gives us an insight into how the economy has reacted over the past year. The figures show that claims to the ETS rose to above pre COVID-19 levels, suggesting this is due to an increase in unemployment and changes to working conditions and practices during the pandemic”.

Quarterly figures

The HM Courts and Tribunal Services has released its quarter three figures (Q3) for the period October to December 2020, which includes figures for the ETS.

The statistics are grouped and measured using the following:

  • Single Claims: track claims which have been registered and cite only one judicial complaint
  • Multiple Claims: track claims that have multiple judicial claims and/or multiple claims against the same employer.
Type of claim Claims registered in Q3 2020 % increase from Q3 2019
Single Claims 13,200 claims received 25% increase
Multiple Claims 29,000 claims received 82% increase

Jas continues “This snapshot of where we are today in respect of the Q3 statistics compared to the same time in 2019 shows a significant increase in claims in both Single and Multiple Claims. Although the figures in respect of Multiple Claims may seem alarming at first glance, they should be kept in perspective. Multiple Claims often deal with multiple claims being registered against one single employer, which means that the figures tend to be skewed”.

What the figures reveal

Unsurprisingly, the figures show that there has been a significant increase in the number of claims being registered with the ETS which has had a knock-on effect on the number of claims in the system waiting to be disposed of. The current outstanding caseload for Single Claims is at its highest level, surpassing the peak seen in 2009/10. It currently stands at 44,000 outstanding cases, which means the outstanding caseload for Single Cases rose by approximately 36%.

Even with an increased caseload it is encouraging to see that the ETS has processed 14,000 claims in Q3, which is up by 24% in the same period in 2019. This influx of claims has, however, resulted in an increase in the average time for disposing of claims. For Single Claims, disposal time has increased by 12 weeks to an average of 48 weeks, while disposal for Multiple Claims has seen an increase of 80 weeks to an average of 229 weeks.

Predictions

Jas concludes “With the extension of the furlough scheme to September 2021, it is expected that claims will level off in the immediate to short term. However, the predictions are that the economy will have to undergo some level of correction with the likelihood of increased unemployment, resulting in another increase in claims to the ETS.”

If you are in receipt of an employment tribunal claim, or you are thinking of making a claim against your ex-employer, the Employment Team at Wilkes have the depth of knowledge and experience you need to tackle the situation.

Contact Jas Dubb in the Employment team at The Wilkes Partnership on 0121 710 5929 or at jdubb@wilkes.co.uk for expert legal advice and practical guidance on defending or making an employment claim.

Making a will may seem like a daunting task, but it is essential. Your will directs how your estate will be distributed after your death which gives you an element of control over who benefits, who doesn’t and, to some degree, how your life is remembered. The absence of a valid Will resulted in a dispute which was heard recently by the High Court which clearly demonstrated: making a will is essential, maintaining it is crucial.

Like many married couples, Alan and Margaret made mirror wills appointing each other as sole executor and beneficiary of their respective estates. Sadly, the couple died within months of each other in 2019, leaving no children. Their wills made no provision for what should happen to their estate if their spouse had already died, so the High Court had to step in to make a decision on how those estates should be distributed.

It is easy to understand how the situation arose. Margaret died of cancer in February 2019 and Alan, unfortunately, followed unexpectedly in May that year. Intending to make a new will after his wife’s death, Alan had visited his solicitor but had not executed the document.

Under these circumstances, the law of intestacy came into play meaning that only the family of the person who died last would benefit. Alan’s entire estate, including inheritance from his late wife’s estate, was distributed to his next of kin: his brother, sister, and nephews. As Margaret died first, her family received nothing.

This case clearly illustrates two things:

  • a will should be a comprehensive document that addresses various eventualities
  • a will is a fluid document. It should reflect your circumstances so maintaining it is crucial.

Ellie Holland leads the Wilkes Partnership’s Private Client team from the Solihull office and has extensive experience across a range of inheritance issues including mitigating inheritance tax and financial planning. Ellie’s advice is simple “It is important to consider reviewing your will on a regular basis. Our lives change often, in terms of finances, family, friends, or tax position, so a will should reflect those changes”.

A professionally drafted will often makes provision for a main or sole beneficiary but, should that beneficiary pre-decease you, it is worth considering whether the inheritance that they would have received is ‘diverted’ to another beneficiary of your choosing. As Alan and Margaret’s case shows, leaving your estate to be administered according to the rules of intestacy may not be in line with your wishes.

Dying intestate (without making a will) can lead to a variety of issues including unnecessary inheritance tax liabilities or disputes between family and friends. Tax or fees resulting from a dispute could be costly to the estate meaning that not making a will could actually be a false economy. It could also mean that minors (18 years of age) inherit, whereas leaving a will would allow you to set a more suitable age for that inheritance.

In conclusion, Ellie said “Having a will drafted by a professional may be less expensive than you think. A properly drafted will can mitigate the level of inheritance tax applied to your estate, and it gives you the peace of mind that comes of knowing that your affairs will be properly taken care of after your death. Making a will is essential, maintaining it is crucial”.

If you are considering making a will or need advice on any inheritance or financial planning matters, contact Ellie Holland at the Wilkes Partnership on 0121 733 8000 or at eholland@wilkes.co.uk.

Now that schools have reopened, parents everywhere will be breathing a sigh of relief as we, hopefully, move towards some sort of normality. Naturally, there is some uncertainty around the impact that reopening schools could have on the rate of infection, so we may not be out of the woods yet. The vaccine rollout is progressing at an impressive pace but evidence may yet direct a return to self-isolating and, in turn, home schooling as a result of school closures. Hopefully, such moves would be temporary if they were to happen but, for the time being at least, this additional burden, may not be over yet – particularly for women. Sarah Begley asks if extending the furlough scheme will help working mums as schools reopen?

A recent survey by the TUC suggests that mums have been shouldering the majority of childcare duties during lockdown. Of the 50,000 women who took part, more than 70% of working mothers who had asked to be furloughed for childcare reasons since schools closed said they had been refused.

Of those surveyed, a staggering 90% of working mothers indicated that they had seen their anxiety and stress levels increase during the latest lockdown, and almost half (48%) were worried about being treated negatively by their employers because of childcare responsibilities.

Sarah Begley, Solicitor in the Employment team at The Wilkes Partnership comments, “During the Budget announced on 3rd March 2021, the Chancellor confirmed that the furlough scheme will be extended to the end of September. Employers will contribute 10% of the employee’s salary from July, rising to 20% for August and September. However, there will be no changes to the scheme from the worker’s side, and the eligibility criteria remains unchanged.”

Under the scheme rules, employees can be furloughed with 80% of their wages covered by the government (to a maximum of £2,500 a month) if they are:

  • clinically extremely vulnerable
  • caring for someone vulnerable
  • caring for children who are at home as a result of school and childcare facilities closing.

Sarah continues “There appears to be a widespread lack of awareness among workers that they can ask to be furloughed for childcare reasons. Two in five mothers said they were unaware that the scheme was available to parents affected by school or nursery closures”.

“Flexible furlough”, as the name suggests, allows furlough on a part-time basis. If an employer supports such a request, this option means families could choose to share caring responsibilities. Ultimately, the decision to furlough rests with the employer, and there are instances where a role is just not suitable for this to happen.

Sarah concludes “We are still navigating uncertain times so the extension of the furlough scheme should be welcomed, and encouraged, in appropriate circumstances”.

If you have any questions about the furlough scheme or flexible working, contact Sarah Begley, Solicitor in the Employment team at The Wilkes Partnership on 0121 73 4312 or at sbegley@wilkes.co.uk.

 

 

Dual qualified Solicitor and German Rechtsanwältin with The Wilkes Partnership’s Corporate Team, Elisabeth Conner, has advised the uvex sports group on an international deal to secure 75% of the share capital of bicycle and outdoor security supplier HIPLOK.

The uvex sports group, which specialises in helmets and eyewear for skiing, cycling and riding enthusiasts, was keen to strengthen its position in those markets by acquiring an established supplier of complementary products to extend its offering.

Elisabeth said of working with the uvex sports group “The transaction presented the challenges you would expect of an international deal but the uvex sports group and Hiplok teams were fully prepared and helped us to deliver an outcome that satisfied both parties”.

Both uvex sports group, based in Germany, and Hiplok, based in the UK, have a global trading presence. The acquisition will allow Hiplok to accelerate its growth plans by making use of the uvex sports group’s distribution network and existing organisational structure its new strategic partner already has in place.

Commenting on another successful deal completion by his team, Gareth O’Hara, Senior Partner in the Corporate Team at The Wilkes Partnership, said “International and cross-border matters are Elisabeth’s speciality. Her unique skillset and experience in European, especially German, matters meant that the uvex sports group had an expert in their corner who could guide the transaction to a timely and satisfactory conclusion.”

Gareth went on to say “I was also very pleased to see that Leighann Richards of our Real Estate Team provided support regarding property matters that arose on the deal. Again, this has demonstrated the naturally collaborative approach to advising clients that is part of Wilkes’ DNA.”

Speaking on behalf of the uvex group, Georg Höfler said “This transaction will expand the uvex group’s portfolio of brands. Hiplok’s products and their reputation for quality aligns closely with our own; we are looking forward to the new opportunities this deal will afford for both parties.”

If you are involved in, or planning, a transaction that will cross international borders, contact Elisabeth Conner in The Wilkes Partnership’s Corporate Team on 0121 710 5897 or at econner@wilkes.co.uk. Elisabeth was supported in this transaction by Owen Shave, a Solicitor in the same team, and Leighann Richards, Associate Solicitor in their Real Estate Team.

 

 

 Jeremy Parkin, Partner in the Corporate Team at The Wilkes Partnership, has advised the owners of long-term client Nationwide Property Assistance Ltd (NPA24:7) on its sale to Davies, a leading professional services and technology business with a global footprint.

The deal will see NPA24:7 become part of Davies’ existing Claims Solutions business in the UK. Managing Director Nick Haycock will continue to lead NPA24:7 as part of the Davies structure, and all 190 NPA24:7 employees will also continue in their roles.

Nick’s journey with NPA24:7 began as a buyout from Homeserve some seven years ago when Jeremy Parkin provided legal advice and Paul Heaven, Director at Jerroms Corporate Finance, provided the financial expertise. Since then, Jeremy and Paul have continued as NPA24:7’s advisers, helping to bring about a successful exit. On this occasion Jeremy was assisted by Owen Shave, also of the Corporate Team at The Wilkes Partnership, and Leighann Richards of the Real Estate Team.

Nick said “I would like to thank Jeremy Parkin and his team at Wilkes for helping us to facilitate the deal and getting us over the line. They helped us to acquire from a plc in 2014 and have been there for us whenever we have needed advice and guidance over the last few years, culminating in the successful completion of the deal on 2nd March 2021. Thanks to Jeremy and his team for all their efforts!”

Over the years Jeremy and Paul have worked closely on matters for a number of clients. The working relationship and complementary services they have developed provide a framework for clients to successfully develop and ultimately exit their businesses.

Seeing NPA24:7 through its lifecycle is a proud achievement for Jeremy “The Wilkes Corporate Team and I are delighted to have been able to support and advise Nick through this journey. He has been able to secure a strong future for the business the NPA24:7 team has worked hard to grow since taking it over from Homeserve. The Davies team has welcomed team NPA24:7 into the family and are keen to develop the new service for their clients.”

On behalf of Jerroms Corporate Finance, Paul Heaven said “It’s always a thrill to get a deal over the line. Our history with Nick and NPA24:7 makes this one even more special. Here’s to continued success for NPA24:7 as it begins a new chapter as part of Davies”.

If you are considering exiting or acquiring a business, Jeremy and his team are keen to speak to you. A transaction like this can take time and patience so you need trusted advisers by your side who will guide you safely through the deal. Contact Jeremy on 0121 710 5931 or at jparkin@wilkes.couk

 

 

Statistics from Q4 2020 indicate that retailers have faced significant hardships as a result of the nationwide lockdowns which were introduced to help supress the spread of Covid-19. As footfall plummeted and shopping habits shifted significantly towards safer online options, retailers have struggled to survive.

News reports have shown that it hasn’t just been smaller, independent retailers who have suffered; well-established names have also succumbed as the implications of lockdown became apparent. As our high streets begin to emerge from lockdown over the coming months, some key names will be missing: department store Debenhams will be a significant loss to many shopping districts, as will outlets under the Arcadia Group brands such as Top Shop, Top Man and Miss Selfridge.

Like the Arcadia Group, Debenhams entered into administration when faced with no other alternative. There was a glimmer of hope when Boohoo Group, the online retailer, bought elements of the Debenhams business from its administrators but, for the high street, that hope was short lived. The deal with Boohoo included only the Debenhams brand assets and website operations, meaning its high street presence would be committed to the history books as it makes the move to an online only operation. The ups and downs of the business over recent years had been well reported but few would have predicted such an outcome, certainly at such a pace, before the Covid-19 crisis erupted.

To see them through the uncharted territory of a pandemic, many smaller retailer businesses are likely to have made use of government backed schemes. The Bounce Back Loan Scheme (“BBLS”) and the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (“CBILS”) were introduced to provide financial support to businesses which were adversely affected by the impact of the virus. In the form of term loans, overdrafts and the like, businesses could borrow up to £50,000 under the BBLS, while larger figures of up to £5 million were available under the CBILS.

Both schemes have proved incredibly popular, but it is widely expected that they will play a key role in many insolvency cases over the coming months. Recent press reports mention that HMRC sent a first batch of 24,000 letters last year, followed by a second batch of 11,000 letters, to businesses seeking confirmation that they were eligible for such assistance. Recipient businesses had 21 days to respond; failing to do so would see them barred from applying for future support.

By restricting the presentation of winding up petitions and suspending statutory demands to ease creditor pressure, the Corporate Insolvency and Governance Act 2020 is one reason that an increase in the number of insolvency cases has not materialised. However, the protection afforded many businesses by this act comes to an end on 31 March 2021. This deadline has been extended and may be extended again, but once the suspension is lifted it is expected that a large backlog of petitions will develop driving more businesses along a similar path to that taken by Debenhams and the Arcadia Group.

At the end of March 2021, businesses will have to account for VAT receipts between 20 March 2020 and 30 June 2020. However, following the introduction of the new VAT deferral payment scheme, businesses are no longer required to pay the deferred VAT in full on or before 31 March 2021, but can pay their deferred VAT in equal instalments, interest free.

Finally any businesses considering formal restructuring options such as administration in the hope that stakeholders will be able to repurchase the business free of existing debts will soon have their options significantly reduced. The draft Administration (Restrictions on Disposal etc. to Connected Persons) Regulations 2021 are due to come into force on 30th April 2021 and will prevent the sale of all, or a substantial part of, a company’s business and assets to connected parties without the consent of the creditors or an independent written opinion. This hot topic will form the basis of a separate publication but, for now, directors need to understand that their options are increasingly more limited.

The Business Recovery Team at The Wilkes Partnership represents decades of experience in the rescue or restructure of businesses. If your business used either the BBLS or CBILS schemes and you now have questions about what happens next, or if the pandemic has raised significant financial challenges for your business, contact David Cleary or John Cooper on 0121 233 4333 or email them at dcleary@wilkes.co.uk or jcooper@wilkes.co.uk.

 

Jeremy Parkin, Partner in the Corporate Team at The Wilkes Partnership, has advised Angus McKirdy, owner/manager of Crop Production Magazine (CPM), on its sale to Kelsey Media.

CPM was first published in February 1999. Since then it has established itself as the UK’s leading arable technical title. Across both print and digital formats, CPM profiles innovative crop production techniques, new machinery developments and industry leading technologies.

Angus commented “Jeremy Parkin and his team have done a fabulous job in preparing the various contracts and paperwork for the sale of my business – always professional, attentive and knowledgeable; yet friendly, insightful and down-to-earth. This has been my first, and probably last, foray into the world of corporate law and these guys made it relatively painless! Thanks very much for a job well done.”

Assisted by solicitor Matt Hartas, corporate partner Jeremy Parkin led the Wilkes team, while corporate finance advice was provided by David Ellis of Azets.

Jeremy said “It was a pleasure to work with Angus to help him release the value he has built up in the business, whilst giving him an opportunity to develop it further as part of the Kelsey portfolio.”

CPM represents a key addition to the Kelsey portfolio of agriculture titles. The deal will afford Angus, who will continue in the role of Commercial Director at CPM, the opportunity to contribute to the development and growth of the wider business, while CPM’s readers continue to benefit from its reputation for quality, independent journalism.

If you are considering exiting or acquiring a business, Jeremy and his team are keen to speak to you. If, like Angus, it’s your first deal on the corporate scene, or you’ve got more experience under your belt, you’ll need trusted advisers by your side who will guide you safely through the transaction. Contact Jeremy on 0121 710 5931 or at jparkin@wilkes.co.uk.

The Supreme Court has today conclusively determined that Uber drivers are workers and not independent contractors engaged on a self-employed basis. This Judgment entitles the drivers to be paid minimum wage and holiday pay, as well as giving other statutory rights.

The Supreme Court’s decision means that all Uber drivers employed on similar terms to the drivers in this case are workers within the meaning of Section 230 of the Employment Rights Act 1996. The Supreme Court considered five issues of major importance:

  • The drivers had no say in the remuneration they are paid for their work, which is determined entirely under the contract drafted by Uber.
  • All contractual terms are dictated by Uber.
  • Uber exercised considerable control over the way the drivers delivered services such as control over the type of car used, directing them to the location of the passengers and preferred routes to the passenger’s destination. Uber also encouraged driver ratings on performance to determine whether a driver was permitted to continue to access the Uber App.
  • Once a driver is at work and logged into the Uber App, the driver’s ability to accept or refuse particular rides is constrained by Uber. Failure to attend sufficient number of rides resulted in Uber logging the driver off the App and preventing them to return for a period of time.
  • Uber restricted all communications between the driver and passenger through its App. Uber took proactive steps to prevent drivers from establishing any relationship with the passenger beyond the extent of that single trip.

There is no doubt this is a significant victory for the Uber drivers in the UK and has serious implications for all gig economy workers. Businesses operating this model need to review their terms and conditions in light of this Judgment to ensure their practices and contracts are legally compliant.

James Leo is a Partner in The Wilkes Partnership’s Employment Law team. If this decision raises any questions for you or your business, contact him on 0121 710 5970 or at jleo@wilkes.co.uk.

Helen Smart of the Wilkes Corporate Team has advised BOOM Radio UK on its initial investment round as it raised funds to launch a new service targeting the UK’s 14m-strong baby boomer generation.

BOOM Radio is the latest venture of local radio veteran Phil Riley. Phil has an impressive track record in the industry where he has launched a number of successful stations and guided others through significant improvement during a career spanning four decades.

As a new start-up venture Helen worked closely with Phil and the BOOM Radio team drafting documentation to support and implement the initial investment round. She has also provided advice to BOOM Radio on a number of commercial contracts in the run up to the station’s launch on 14 February 2021.

Helen said: “It’s been a fantastic experience working with the team at BOOM Radio. Phil had a very clear plan and The Wilkes Partnership has been able to offer advice in a number of areas to help put that plan into action. Their target audience, the “Silver surfers”, are in for a real treat when BOOM goes live!”

James Leo, Partner and Head of Employment in the Wilkes Employment Team, was also on hand to provide expert knowledge as staffing matters came into the spotlight.

James said: “Advising a new start-up business is always exciting. Working alongside Helen meant that we could share information efficiently to ensure BOOM Radio hits the market in great shape. It’s good to see that Phil’s wealth of knowledge and experience continues to help drive the radio industry forward to service the needs of a growing audience”.

Phil Riley said of his experience working with The Wilkes Partnership “The advice and guidance we’ve received from Helen and James has helped to deliver something that all ‘baby boomers’ have been crying out for: a radio station where familiar hosts play the music that’s the soundtrack to their generation.”

The Wilkes Partnership is proud of the innovative and dynamic teams who support all of our clients, from new start-up ventures to established and growing businesses. If you would like to speak to one of our experts about putting your business plans into action contact Helen Smart on 0121 710 5804 or at hsmart@wilkes.co.uk, or James Leo on 0121 710 5970 or at jleo@wilkes.co.uk.