Buying & Selling Property Solihull, The Wilkes Partnership Solicitors, Amanda Holden, Residential Conveyancing

Spring is in the air!

And did you know this is the best time of year to sell your home? Amanda Holden Senior Associate at The Wilkes Partnership Solihull explains why.

Firstly, your house looks so much better with the sun shining and the garden coming into bloom. The interior is light and you can have windows open to freshen the air.

Secondly, buyers often time their move to coincide with the end of the school year and so are looking in earnest in the spring. This in turn leads to more buyers looking at the same time which increases competition for the houses available pushing up the prices.

And this year looks like being better than ever for those selling as the Midlands sees the biggest rise in house prices over the previous year ended November 2017. Property values grew by 7.2% in the West Midlands compared with London which saw a growth of only 2.3% according to the Office for National Statistics.

At The Wilkes Partnership one of the biggest changes we are seeing in conveyancing is the growth of online firms acting for buyers or sellers. Online firms are process driven which is fine if the transaction is completely straightforward but can make the sale or purchase more problematic, particularly in more complex transactions such as leasehold purchases which are often the case with first time buyers.

We pride ourselves on providing a reliable and friendly service with a strong knowledge of the local market. This means we are able to push sales and purchases through far more efficiently and can answer the myriad of questions that first time buyers inevitably have. Included in our service is one face to face meeting which is invaluable in cutting straight to the heart of the issues and saving lots of to-ing and fro-ing that an email conversation would inevitably have.

We build a relationship with our clients and often act for people in relation to their wills, power of attorney and divorce and we often act for the children of our clients when purchasing their first property.

If you would like any advice on property conveyancing you can contact Amanda Holden at The Wilkes Partnership to discuss in person – aholden@wilkes.co.uk

Planning Law Update, The Wilkes Partnership Solicitors,Birmingham, Solihull

January was an interesting month for Planning, with some key movements and legislative changes.  Our aim for these short bulletins is to provide you with up-to-date information on the key goings on in and around the world of Planning.

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The Agent of Change principle

Joanne Seeney, The Wilkes Partnership Solicitors Solihull, Buying & Selling Houses Solihull

There have been items in the press recently about how the “Bank of Mum & Dad” is now the 10th biggest UK mortgage lender as buyers are increasingly relying on financial assistance from parents, or other relatives, to help them buy a home of their own.

Joanne Seeney, Associate Solicitor at The Wilkes Partnership in Solihull, who has over 20 years’ experience of dealing with all aspects of residential property transactions, looks at issues to consider whether you are a parent thinking of providing funds to your children, or a buyer hoping to use money loaned or given by a relative to help you purchase a property.

With property prices on the increase again and the effects of the credit crunch and austerity measures still being felt by many, it has become even harder for a lot of buyers to take that first step onto the property ladder or to move on as their family grows.  They struggle to find the 20% deposit or more that lenders typically require for their best mortgage deals.  As a result, some parents are offering a financial helping hand to their children to assist them with the purchase of their home.

From the parents’ perspective this can be an investment for their own future as well.  With interest rates extremely low at present, investing in property may be an attractive proposition for their future retirement.  They need to balance their desire to provide financial support to their children with their own future financial needs and consider the alternatives available to merely handing over a cash sum to their children.  If financial assistance is being provided to a child and their partner, thought also needs to be given to protecting the monies so that, in the event of the parties splitting up, the monies can be returned to the parents and not merely divided between the child and their ex-partner.

From the buyers’ point of view, funding from parents or any other third party has to be notified to any mortgage provider and should be disclosed when submitting the mortgage application.  If the money is a loan, it could affect the buyer’s affordability and impact on the amount they can borrow.  If it is an outright gift, or no regular repayments are required, and the parents are willing to confirm that to the lender, then generally it shouldn’t affect the amount they can borrow from one of the High Street lending institutions.

Both parties should bear in mind that they should each take their own legal advice and the same solicitor cannot act both for the persons providing the money and the persons receiving it because of possible conflicting interests.

At The Wilkes Partnership Solicitors we can offer advice and assistance and explain the different options available to anyone thinking about buying a property with financial help from parents or other relatives, and to any parents or other persons fortunate enough to be able to offer such financial assistance.

If you would like to discuss any of the above points raised please contact Joanne Seeney on 0121 733 8000 or via email at jseeney@wilkes.co.uk

 

Rick Smyth, Corporate Law,Birmingham City Centre, Solihull, Commercial Solicitor

The Corporate team at The Wilkes Partnership Solicitors, led by Partner Rick Smyth, has advised PPS Equipment Holdings Limited on the acquisition of GW Containers,  the UK’s specialist in plastic fish boxes and insulated containers.

The acquisition will enable PPS to expand and enhance its current services to ensure customers have access to an even larger range of packaging solutions. Currently PPS offers the delivery, collection, asset tracking, washing, rental and repair of returnable equipment.  The group also offers the sale of a wide range of returnable packaging via Alison Handling, the UK’s largest independent stockist, who joined the group 18 months ago, another acquisition advised on by the corporate team at Wilkes.

David Peggie, CEO of PPS, said: “We’ve admired the services and reputation of GW Containers for many years and we are proud to be able to take on the exceptional services and impressive customer base. We are also delighted that both Graham and Gregg Witherington will remain with the company in their current roles to continue the further development of the business under the PPS banner”.

Speaking about his dealings with the team from Wilkes Mr Peggie also said:

“The team at Wilkes consistently provide a quality service which is both pro-active and pragmatic. Their expertise in these types of transactions was most valuable in getting the deal done to the satisfaction of all parties involved. We look forward to continuing our relationship with Wilkes as our business continues to grow”.

Rick Smyth, Corporate Partner, said:

“We were delighted to work with David and his team on this second acquisition. Our aim is to build long-term, trusted advisor relationships with our clients and our continued involvement with PPS is another example of exactly this.

PPS has enjoyed continued growth in its 15 year history, and now employs more than 150 people across its sites in the Midlands, Grimsby and Kirkham.  The company provides cost effective and environmentally friendly returnable plastic packaging solutions across the UK, Europe and Iceland.  PPS moves 25 million boxes a year for customers including retailers, food processors and the automotive industry.

For more information on how the team at The Wilkes Partnership can help your business, please contact Rick Smyth on 0121 233 4333 or via email on rsmyth@wilkes.co.uk

Stuart Tym, Head of Planning, The WIlkes Partnership Solicitors, Birmingham

The Wilkes Partnership are delighted to welcome planning expert Stuart Tym to head up its planning team.

With over a decade’s experience in planning law and disputes, Stuart will act for landowners and developers across the public and private sectors, and for businesses, organisations and private individuals looking to take on premises and needing planning advice.

 Commenting on his appointment, Stuart Tym says:

“As an independent law firm, The Wilkes Partnership already offers the kind of personal hands-on service I like to give to my clients, which is what really attracted me to a role at the firm. I look forward to working with the firm to help businesses achieve the planning approvals they need to facilitate growth and success.”

Mark Abrol, managing partner at The Wilkes Partnership, adds:

“Stuart has extensive experience working across both public and private sectors, with particular expertise at the forefront of local authority and town & country planning. He’s a great addition to the firm and will be leading a team of specialists with decades of experience.”

The planning team at The Wilkes Partnership acts for landowners and developers, architects, planning consultants, and other professionals involved in development, and for businesses and organisations looking to take on premises and needing planning advice. Offering specialist advice on Town and Country Planning and other legislation and guidance relating to development, it can submit applications or appeals or objections to proposed development in robust planning terms.

Stuart can be reached on 0121 710 5891 or via email at stym@wilkes.co.uk

Business Growth Seminar, The Wilkes Partnership Solicitors, Birmingham, Solihull, Corporate Lawyer

Thank you to everyone that came along to our Business Growth Seminar on Tuesday 28th March. It was great to see so many familiar faces as well as some new ones.

Our next Business Growth event will be held on the 26th September 2017, please contact rreid@wilkes.co.uk for further details.

A special thank you to Finance Birmingham, BSN Chartered Accountants and Jolyon Barker of Chrysalis Solomotive for giving up their time to speak to us.

During his talk Jolyon provided an insightful account of his first-hand experience as to what it is like to secure growth funding from a business owners perspective.

The seminar covered:

• An overview of sources of growth capital including “alternative finance” from non-traditional lenders such as Challenger Banks, Asset Based Lenders, Peer to Peer Lenders, Mezz Funders and Equity Funders.

• Business requirements of different types of funders

• Accounting and capital considerations

• Legal Considerations

• Debt vs Equity

Nick Romluc, MD of fast growing specialist music production equipment retailer (for both professional and private studios) Giraffe Audio, said:

“There are so many growth funding options on offer today it is really quite difficult to get a handle on it. This event gave us a good overview of the market, what is likely to work for us and what we need to do to secure that finance. Most helpful and well presented. ”

If you are would like to know more about any of the topics shown above or have any questions about growing your business please contact Rick Smyth at rsmyth@wilkes.co.uk or 0121 710 5932

The Wilkes Partnership, Employment Law Birmingham Solihull Lisa Moore

As a result of Brexit, legislative updates and various high-profile Judgments, a number of interesting developments are expected in the field of employment law during the months ahead.

Lisa Moore, Associate in the Employment team at The Wilkes Partnership, considers some of the key changes for employers to be mindful of in 2017.

Gender Pay Gap Reporting Requirements

All private and voluntary sector employers with more than 250 employees as of 5 April 2017 should be preparing to comply with the Government’s new gender pay gap reporting requirements. Employers will need to collect data on the pay differences between male and female employees. This information will then need to be published by employers by 4 April 2018 in a prominent place on their website and on a Government website to be unveiled later this year. It is anticipated that non statutory guidance will be published on these requirements in due course by both the Government and Acas.

 Self-Employed Workers and the “Gig Economy”

The use of apparently self-employed contractors by companies like Uber and Deliveroo as part of the so called “gig economy” has been on the rise in recent years. Much publicity was generated last year when an employment tribunal found Uber drivers to be workers in the case of, Aslam and others v Uber BV and others. Uber has, however, lodged a notice of appeal in response to this decision which has been accepted and is likely to be heard in the summer so there will be further updates to follow in this case.

In February 2017, the Court of Appeal handed down a decision in the case of, Pimlico Plumbers Ltd v Smith which gave further consideration as to the distinction between self-employed contractors and employees. It was held that whilst Mr Smith was not an employee, he was a worker despite appearing from documentation to be in business on his own account, and other relevant factors such as having supplied his own materials, tools and insurance. This finding would entitle Mr Smith to pursue a number of claims against the company, including claims for holiday pay and unlawful deduction of wages. Although it is not yet clear whether they have been granted permission to do so, Pimlico Plumbers had previously indicated that it intended appealing to the Supreme Court.

Separately, the results of three inquiries are expected to be published during 2017 on this topic. Firstly, the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee will seek to address the status and rights of agency workers, the self-employed as well as individuals working in the gig economy. Secondly, the Work and Pensions Committee will consider whether the UK welfare system supports those working in the gig economy sufficiently. Finally, the Royal Society of Arts is conducting an independent review of employment practices in the modern economy.

Brexit

The Government has now triggered Article 50 and the process of the United Kingdom leaving the EU has now begun.

As much of the UK’s employment law is influenced by the EU, Brexit will have significant long term implications for the employment law landscape. For instance, changes could be made to holiday entitlement, the Agency Workers Regulations as well as the TUPE regulations. Further clarity is likely to be provided in this respect during the course of the year.

Employment Tribunal Fees

By some estimates, the 2013 increase in employment tribunal fees led to a 70% reduction in the number of employment tribunal claims. Following the increase in tribunal fees, Unison launched a bid to overturn the fee hike arguing that it restricted the access to justice of potential claimants. Unison’s challenge has made its way to the Supreme Court and is due to be heard in the next couple of weeks. In any event, the general consensus amongst employment law practitioners is that tribunal fees are here to stay.

Holiday Pay

It is anticipated that a hearing of the case of, The Sash Window Workshop Ltd and another v King will take place at the European Courts of Justice (“ECJ”) later this year. In this case, the ECJ will consider whether workers should be entitled to carry their holiday over from one year to the next in circumstances where they are unable to use their all of their allowance due to factors outside of their control.

A decision from the Employment Appeal Tribunal is also awaited in the case of, Fulton and another v Bear Scotland to establish whether statutory holiday pay should be included in overtime pay.

Conclusion

Lisa Moore comments: “The above serves as a brief summary of some of the main developments which are expected in 2017. It looks set to be a busy year with a number of other changes being introduced including an apprenticeship levy as of 6 April 2017 – this will require employers that have an annual payroll of more than £3 million to pay a 0.5% levy on their total pay bill. Furthermore, notable decision are also being awaited in cases relating to issues such as whistleblowing, disability discrimination and subject access requests so please do look out for further updates.”

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

 

The Wilkes Partnership, Solicitors, law, Lawyers, Birmingham, Solihull, Employment Law, Unfair dissmisal

Recent case law has clarified the scope of the ACAS Code of Practice on Disciplinary and Grievance Procedures (“ACAS Code”) and confirmed that it does not apply to ill health dismissals.

Sarah Begley, Employment Solicitor at The Wilkes Partnership comments: “The recent EAT case of Holmes v QinetiQ Limited has confirmed that it does not apply to ill health dismissals. This is helpful clarity for employers but there are instances where employers will still need to be cautious”.

The ACAS Code explicitly states that it applies to dismissals for conduct and performance and that it does not apply to dismissals for redundancy or where a fixed term contract expires without renewal. However, the ACAS Code does not mention other issues affecting capability, such as ill health.

Significantly, Section 207A(2) of the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992 deals with the penalty for failing to follow the ACAS Code. It says that where a tribunal makes a finding of unfair dismissal, it must consider whether to make an uplift or reduction to any award made in cases to which the ACAS Code applies but there has been an unreasonable failure to follow it. This uplift or reduction can be up to a maximum of 25%.

In the recent Holmes case, Mr Holmes was dismissed from his job as a security guard which he had held for many years on the grounds of ill health as he was considered no longer capable of performing his role. The dismissal was found to be substantively unfair as QinetiQ Limited had failed to obtain an up to date Occupational Health report to establish Mr Holme’s ability to achieve reliable attendance following an operation in April 2014 which had largely resolved aspects of his ill health.

One key issue on appeal was whether a failure to comply with requirements of the ACAS Code should result in an uplift in compensation for the employee.

The EAT concluded that the ACAS Code does not apply to internal procedures operated by an employer concerning an employee’s capability (or otherwise) to do a job arising from genuine sickness absence, as it cannot be said that there is any culpable conduct on the part of the employee.

However, the EAT went on to say that the situation would be different if there was an issue with regard to adherence to the sickness absence procedures themselves or, if there was a suspicion that the ill health causing the absence is not genuine.

Sarah Begley cautions: “The line can sometimes be blurred between whether the ill health and impact upon the business is the issue or, whether the issue is really that the employee in question is taking repeated and perhaps questionable instances of short term absences. In the first instance, the reasoning in QinetiQ suggests that the ACAS Code would not be applicable but in the latter, the ACAS Code is likely to apply. It may well be that there is a need to alter the process/procedure at some stage if there is suspicion of personal culpability.”

For advice in relation to the issues arising from this article, please contact Sarah Begley or any member of the Employment Team on 0121 733 8000.

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The Modern Slavery Act (‘the Act’) was originally passed in March 2015 in an attempt to alleviate child and slave labour, including excessive working hours and unsafe working conditions, from supply chains.

Lisa Outram, Solicitor in the Employment team at The Wilkes Partnership, considers the implications of this legislation.

Background

A supplemental provision has since been added to Part 6 of the Act which came into force during October 2015. This clause requires all UK companies with a turnover of at least £36million to provide the government with annual statements detailing the measures that have been taken to reduce slave labour.

What are the implications for SMEs?

This legislation is, however, also intended to have a knock-on effect on smaller businesses which are part of supply chains to ensure that they too remain free from any form of slavery.

In the event that slavery was identified within the supply chain of a large company, that organisation could be deemed to have committed a business crime and be liable to pay a fine.

The risk for SMEs is reputational damage, loss of business and/or potential disputes with larger companies in some circumstances.

What steps can SMEs take to protect themselves?

Notwithstanding the above, a recent survey undertaken by the Chartered Institute of Procurement and Supply (‘the CIPS’) has indicated that the majority of SMEs are unaware of the Act and have taken no steps to consider or deal with this issue both within their own organisations and within their supply chains.

Lisa Outram explains that, “Following the findings of its survey, the CIPS issued some helpful recommendations which smaller businesses may wish to consider to protect themselves as far as possible. These include ensuring that members of staff are paid in accordance with the national minimum wage, training employees as to signs and risks of modern slavery and undertaking regular inspections of the company’s premises.

Lisa Outram adds that, “It is also essential that all small businesses carry out thorough immigration checks prior to employment for all members of staff. Furthermore, SMEs may wish to review their supply chains and supplier contracts moving forwards to ensure that any risks of slavery are minimised.”

To discuss what implications the Modern Slavery Act has for you or your business, please contact Lisa Outram or any other member of the Employment Team, on 0121 233 4333.

Brexit, Law, Solicitors, The Wilkes Partnership, Solihull, Birminmgham, Employment Solicitor

On 23 June 2016, 52% of UK citizens voted to leave the European Union (EU), otherwise known as “Brexit”. What effect will this have on current employment protections in the UK?

Pam Sidhu, Head of Employment at The Wilkes Partnership, considers the impact of leaving the EU on UK employment laws.

No immediate impact in the short term

Firstly, there is no need to panic. A two year notice period is required prior to the UK being able to officially leave the EU, so any potential changes will not be implemented before late 2018 at the earliest.

The Government is yet to invoke Article 50 of the EU Treaty, in order for the notice period to start running. It appears that the Government is in no great hurry to start this process until it has a clearer idea as to what agreements it will be able to negotiate with EU countries.

What will happen when the UK finally exits the EU?

The UK’s main trade union body, the Trade Union Congress (TUC), previously expressed some concerns that many workers’ rights protected by EU law may come under attack if the British people voted to leave the EU.

Pam Sidhu comments: “Any major change to UK employment law following Brexit is unlikely. Some employment rights granted to workers in the UK are actually more favourable than the equivalent rights conferred by EU law, for example maternity and certain other family friendly rights. These seem likely to stay, regardless of Brexit. Certain other rights like the right to claim unfair dismissal and statutory redundancy pay are in fact pure “English” rights and are therefore also likely to remain”.

“It seems unlikely that the Government will remove significant employment protections currently in place – although Brexit means that there is now the power for the Government to make changes in order to limit the scope of some employment protections, if it wishes to do so”.

Here are the possible implications of a Brexit in relation to different areas of employment law:

  • Discrimination: The UK already had sex, race, equal pay and disability discrimination laws, but the EU extended their scope. There has been some discussion by commentators that the Government may consider placing a cap on the compensation available in discrimination claims, similar to the cap in place for unfair dismissal claims. (Currently compensation for discrimination is uncapped, but compensation for unfair dismissal claims are limited to a year’s pay or £78,962 whichever is lower.)
  • Transfer of Undertaking Regulations: The Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations 2006 (TUPE) give workers quite far reaching protections where businesses/services are sold or outsourced. Although many businesses may prefer to remove TUPE altogether, it seems more likely following Brexit that the Government may amend TUPE in certain limited respects, for example, make it easier for businesses to harmonise employment terms following a TUPE transfer.
  • Family Leave: The current provisions relating to maternity and paternity leave are a mixture between UK and EU law. Although some employers consider these provisions to be a burden on businesses, they are now so entrenched within the UK system that it seems unlikely that the Government will repeal or reduce the rights currently in place.
  • Working Time Regulations: These rights derive from the Working Time Directive was implemented in the UK in 1998. Undoubtedly, certain aspects of the regulations remain unpopular amongst employers, for instance, the 48 hour cap on the number of weekly working hours which the Government may consider repealing. Also, after Brexit is finally implemented, the UK Courts will be free to interpret UK legislation without having to follow decisions of the European Court of Justice, which sometimes interprets employment rights set out in the legislation more widely than UK judges (for example, discrimination rights and more recently with regard to calculation of holiday pay under the Working Time Regulations).
  • Agency Workers: The Agency Workers Regulations 2011 resulted in a pay rise and improved holiday entitlements for some agency workers. It appears that this would be the most obvious area for complete revocation as the changes made under EU law were not popular with many UK businesses and have not become entrenched in the same way as other EU legislation.
  • Freedom of Movement: It is possible that UK nationals living and working in other EU countries (and vice versa) would no longer benefit from having the automatic right to do this. The UK Government has made clear that such people do not have to immediately return to their country of origin, however in the longer term that may be the case.

The Government is yet to negotiate a trade agreement with EU countries and currently, the view taken by a number of EU leaders is that the UK must accept freedom of movement and acceptance of certain employment protections, if it is to operate within the European Economic Area (EEA). Alternatively, the UK may negotiate trade agreements outside of this option, which may be more complicated and involve little or no acceptance of EU employment protections and/or freedom of movement. Therefore, the abolition of freedom of movement or repeal of any employment law whatsoever, is far from clear at this stage. For now, it is business as usual.

To discuss anything arising from this update, please contact Pam Sidhu or any member of the Employment Team on 0121 233 4333.