HR Policy, Birmingham Law Uk - The Wilkes Partnership

A former senior advisor for David Cameron has spoken out saying all employers should be made to pay a ‘Living wage’, which has sparked debate before the budget. Pam Sidhu, Head of the Wilkes’ Employment Team talks about the implications for Employers.

The “Living Wage” is not law. It is an hourly rate that is set independently and is purely voluntary for employers. It is calculated based on the cost of living in the UK; currently it is set at £9.15 per hour in London and £7.85 per hour elsewhere. Contrast this to the standard adult hourly rate set in law, known as the “National Minimum Wage” at £6.50 – which all employers must pay to adult workers as a minimum. There appears to be some pressure within the Government to make companies pay more to employees, in order to deal with poverty and boost the economy. Unfortunately there is no firm plan by the Government to increase the National Minimum Wage to the Living Wage, or to give any legal footing to the Living Wage at all.

In any case, adopting the Living Wage is not likely to be viable for most smaller businesses, as these businesses are already saddled with red tape and other costs, to a disproportionately higher level than larger businesses. There would need to be some significant incentives offered by Government for smaller businesses to adopt the Living Wage rate for their staff, particularly for those of their staff currently on the National Minimum Wage.

There are clearly benefits in offering better pay that is more in line with current living costs in the UK. Staff will feel more motivated at work and will be more willing to go the extra mile for their employers. However, given the lack of any incentives for smaller businesses, the Living Wage is likely to be the preserve of larger businesses which can better afford it.

If you have any query or would like assistance in developing your human resources policy, please call Pam Sidhu or your usual contact in the Employment Team on 0121 233 4333 for further information.

Steve Dymond was found dead on 9th May a week after filming the show, during which he took a lie detector test.

A lie detector, or a ‘polygraph monitor’ is a machine that senses the person’s breathing rate, their pulse, blood pressure and perspiration.

Jackie Lee, Solicitor in the Family Team at Wilkes said “ A lie detector cannot be admitted as evidence in the family court as the results of the detector are not reliable and cannot be used as evidence as different people react differently to lying”.

“When evidence is given in the Family Courts, the witness is usually given the opportunity to set out their position in a witness statement and attach documents in support. They will be required to sign a Statement of Truth. On the day of the Final Hearing, the witness has an opportunity to confirm the contents of their witness statement in person. The opponent or his/her legal representative has the opportunity to ask the witness questions and cross examine them, the Judge will decide,  “on the balance of probabilities” based on the evidence he/she has heard, whether the evidence given by the witness was convincing.

Mrs. Lee further added ‘ evidence is usually given in private in the Family Courts to protect the family’s interests, although there may be some cases when they are allowed to be reported if the Judge permitted.

For further advice in relation to a family related matter, please contact Jackie Lee on 0121 785 4443 or email jwlee@wilkes.co.uk

There has recently been an interesting development and expansion to employee rights and protection in the workplace.

In July 2017 Parliament introduced The Parental Bereavement (Pay and Leave) Bill (‘the Bill’).

The new law, expected to come into force in 2020, will give all employed parents the entitlement to have two weeks’ paid leave following the death of a child under the age of 18, or should they suffer a stillbirth from 24 weeks of pregnancy. 

Jas Dubb Associate Solicitor in our Employment Team considers the key points of the new law and the impact this could have on employees.

Attempts to introduce paid parental bereavement leave over the past few years have been unsuccessful but the Bill which introduced into the House of Commons on 19 July 2017, has led to the Parental Bereavement (Leave and Pay) Act 2018. It will seek to ensure grieving parents in employment, with 6 month’s service or more will receive 2 weeks paid leave to grieve away from the workplace.

Employees will be entitled to a statutory rate of pay (currently £148.68 a week) or 90% of their average weekly earnings per week (whichever is lower). This is in comparison to the capped statutory rates in place for employees on maternity leave/ paternity leave or shared parental pay.

Most employers are likely to be sympathetic to an employees’ need for time off and support during such a difficult time. But currently the only recourse available is under the Employment Rights Act, under which employees only have a right to take a “reasonable” amount of unpaid time off work but only to the extent of putting in place arrangements in case of an emergency which may affect a dependant they have responsibility for. What is deemed “reasonable” depends on the circumstances and can vary from employer to employer.

Jas Dubb comments: “It has been estimated that 1 in 10 employees are likely to be affected by bereavement at any one time. The loss of a child is a traumatic experience for any parent. The Bill will provide parents with the certainty of having time off as a matter of  right so they can grieve and start to come to terms with their loss.

In these situations, employers should be mindful that advance planning and training will ensure that managers are better prepared to deal with what can be a difficult time for staff affected by bereavement. Employers should also consider having a separate written bereavement policy in preparation for the future or at least consider reviewing their Employee Handbooks and updating their Family Friendly Policy accordingly.”

For further guidance on this issue or any other employment related matter please contact Jas Dubb on 0121 710 4312 jdubb@wilkes.co.uk.

The Wilkes Partnership are delighted to announce the promotion of 4 members of staff across our Birmingham and Solihull Offices.

Congratulations to Mike Linford (Senior Associate, Corporate) Lucy Freeman (Associate, Corporate), Katie Briggs (Associate, Property Litigation) and Verity Shepherd (Senior Legal Executive, Private Client).

Ellie Holland, Managing Partner at Wilkes, commented:

“It’s been a fantastic 18/19 for Wilkes which has seen the firm expand and take on 35 new members of staff, through organic growth and our merger with Coley & Tilley. We are delighted to be able to recognise the great work and contribution to the firm that Mike, Lucy, Katie and Verity have made.”

It’s an exciting time to be at Wilkes and we are currently hiring for a number of roles within the firm which can be found here.

It has been over one year on from the Supreme Court unanimously ruling that tribunal fees were unlawful and needed to be quashed, so where are we now?

The Ministry of Justice has confirmed it will be considering the reintroduction of fees for Employment Tribunal claims.

Jas Dubb of The Wilkes Partnership considers the possible decision and the impact this could have on future Employment Tribunal cases.

Tribunal fees were introduced in July 2013 with the aim of reducing malicious and weak claims. This led to a 70% reduction in cases over three years.

The decision made in 2017 arguably was the most significant judgement in employment law over the last 50 years.  The Supreme Court decided that the Employment Tribunal and Employment Appeal Tribunal Fees Order 2013 prevents access to justice and was unlawful.

Since the ruling in 2017, unsurprisingly, the number of Tribunal claims has increased.

Jas comments: “The Supreme Court judgment didn’t completely rule out Tribunal fees and in the longer term, it is probable that fees will be reintroduced but the fee levels will have to be structured to ensure access to justice is achievable.”

The Wilkes Partnership Solicitors have offices in Birmingham & Solihull.

For any further guidance on this issue or any other employment related matter please contact Jas Dubb on 0121 710 5929 or jdubb@wilkes.co.uk.

Commenting on the latest changes to divorce law Jane Barclay, Senior Associate at The Wilkes Partnership, says:

“With these changes it may be a concern that divorce will be made easier but as there is a proposed minimum time frame of six months from petition until final divorce there will be a “meaningful period of reflection” to access relationship counselling if appropriate,  or to attend mediation in order to reach agreement with regard to financial or children arrangements. This should stop the concerns of ‘knee jerk’ divorces.

“The hope is that taking out the need for blame will have a less damaging effect on children and with this one major area of conflict removed there will be a more positive impact on all parties. In these situations of high stress, it is often the safety of vulnerable individuals that are of most concern. This can be children, but it can also be those in an abusive relationship where one party has been able to contest a divorce in order to continue to exercise their coercive and controlling behaviour over the other. 

“However, there could still be a wait for legislation to be passed as this will be only be introduced when Parliamentary time becomes available. Given the current situation it is impossible to predict when this will happen.”

For help on advice on a family law related matter please contact Jane Barclay on 0121 710 5963 or jbarclay@wilkes.co.uk.

Birmingham Trainee Solicitors Society (BTSS), the 174 year old offshoot of the Birmingham Law Society, has named its new chair as first year trainee from The Wilkes Partnership, Matthew Hartas.

The organisation, which is made up of more the 300 trainee solicitors, paralegals, newly qualified solicitors and post-graduate law students across Birmingham and the West Midlands, ran elections in March, with many members voting.   Matthew was named as the new chair after voting finished on 15th March.

In his manifesto, Matthew promised to continue the charity fundraising work – currently Free@Last – which aims to improve the lives of children and young people in Nechells. Matthew also set plans to continue to deliver important social and networking events that have established the BTSS as one of the leading young legal organisations in the UK.

Matthew Hartas, new chair of the BTSS and trainee solicitor at Wilkes, says, “I’m really looking forward to getting started as chair. Since starting at Wilkes I have always been encouraged to get involved in BTSS activities and I could immediately see why. It is such an active organisation and it not only helps build relationships within the next generation of lawyers in Birmingham, it also raises money for good causes.”

In his first year at The Wilkes Partnership, having joined in September 2018 ,Matthew is currently working in our Corporate Team after spending the previous six months with the our Real Estate Team.

Matthew continues, “The senior teams at Wilkes have always been supportive about the work with BTSS and have helped me through my career development so far. Having learned a lot in my time at Wilkes so far I’m looking forward to continuing to progress.

“I feel that this new role will help me continue to grow both professionally and personally. After being involved in organisations while at university, namely as vice chair of the law society, I wanted to get involved again. It also helps that this has given me the experience of organising big events, so I have a good idea of what to expect – but it’s going to be a challenge living up to the great events that were arranged by the last leadership.”

Kate Hackett, Partner at Wilkes, said: “We’re really pleased for Matt. We think it’s so important to get involved in the social side of the legal community right from the start, and being part of the BTSS is a brilliant way to do that. Seeing Matt going one step further and dedicating time to making the organisation a success is brilliant.

“Aside from the BTSS, Matt has also been working hard since he joined our trainee programme, and we’re looking forward to helping him progress his legal career. We’re sure he has a bright future ahead of him in the legal profession.”

If you would like to apply for training contracts commencing in 2021 please click here. The closing date for applications is 31st July 2019.

The Government has published a consultation paper on extending legal protection for pregnant women and new parents. This will include protection from redundancy for women during pregnancy, women who have returned to work after maternity leave, and new parents.

Alongside this, the consultation will also seek views on whether this protection should be extended to others taking similar leave, such as adoption leave and shared parental leave.

This follows the Taylor Review of Modern Working Practices and a 2016 report by the Women and Equalities Select Committee (WESC) which stated that pregnant women and new mothers continue to feel forced out of work.

Sarah Begley of The Wilkes Partnership considers the possible outcome and the impact this could have on future Pregnancy and Maternity rights.

Under current regulations, in a redundancy situation, employers have an obligation to offer women on maternity a “suitable alternative vacancy” where one is available, giving women on maternity priority over others who are also at risk of redundancy. Failing to comply with this obligation will be an automatically unfair dismissal. However, this provision ends when an individual returns to work.

The consultation paper seeks views on whether protection should be extended throughout pregnancy giving an enhanced period of protection to six months following a return to work. The rationale behind this is that it would allow sufficient time for an employee to re-establish themselves in the workplace following their maternity leave. The government is also consulting over whether this same protection should be offered to those returning to work from other similar forms of leave (for example, adoption leave and shared parental leave) and whether more guidance is required on the rights of pregnant women and new mothers.

The deadline for responses is 5 April 2019.

Sarah Begley explains that “The proposals made are simply to extend rights so that they begin when a woman informs her employer that she is pregnant and continues to apply for six months after her return. If and when brought into force, this would not stop an employer from making an employee redundant when she was pregnant, on maternity leave, or recently returned. It would simply mean that if the employer did so, and had suitable alternative work available, then they would be obliged to offer her that alternative work. 

With consultation due to close in April 2019 and no date for the implementation of any change, employers are not faced with an immediate change to the current system. However, polices should be reviewed in due course and at the very least employers need to be mindful that they are complying with the current rules.

For any further guidance on this issue or any other employment related matter, please contact a member of the Employment Team at The Wilkes Partnership LLP. Alternatively email us at employmentlaw@wilkes.co.uk.

A YouGov Poll for Age UK confirms that two fifths of the nation’s grandparents over the age of 50, some five million people, provide regular childcare for their grandchildren.

Sian Kenkre, Associate Solicitor in our Solihull Family team  considers how grandparents can be over looked in cases of family separation and divorce.

There is a lovely African proverb: ‘It takes a village to raise a child’.  African culture recognises that parenting is a shared responsibility, not just the concern of parents but of the extended family. Grandparents, uncles, aunts and cousins can all be involved and have a part to play.

Figures show that rising numbers of grandparents are going to court to seek the right to see their grandchildren. Statistics from the Ministry of Justice show that 2000 applications for child arrangements orders, which give family members the right to see a child, were made by grandparents in 2016. A rise of 24% since 2014.

The law presently states that grandparents must seek the court’s permission before they can make an application to the court. If permission is granted by the court then an application can proceed for the court to consider whether grandparents can spend time with their grandchildren.

Last year, some MPs called upon the government to enshrine in law the right for grandparents to see their grandchildren after a divorce. They want an amendment to the Children Act  which would include a child’s right to have a close relationship with members of their extended family. The proposed change would also cover aunts and uncles seeing nieces and nephews.

When the issue was debated in Parliament MPs shared some heart rending experiences of their constituents with some grandparents calling it a kind of living bereavement to be excluded from the lives of their grandchildren following difficult divorces between parents.

The present situation is, for a huge number of families, unsatisfactory. Litigation can be stressful and inflame a difficult situation. Relations between the separating parents can already be tense and keeping the lines of communication open with grandparents is usually a low priority meaning that issues all too frequently become lost in translation.

Seeking early advice from a family law specialist is essential. Going to court is not necessarily the answer and should be very carefully considered. Family mediation is a pre-requisite to a court application and if a family are willing to engage can be a really useful way to help families think about what is best for the children in the long run and to make wider family relationships work.

If you have any questions in relation to the above, or any other family related matter The Wilkes Partnership has a team of specialist family law solicitors who can help.

You can contact Sian on 0121 733 8000 or skenkre@wilkes.co.uk.

Sophie Fenn, Associate Solicitor in our Private Client Team is backing a call from The Solicitors for the Elderly Group to urge people to check their eligibility for a lasting power of attorney (LPA) fee refund, after almost two million people were overcharged by the Office of the Public Guardian (OPG) between 2013 and 2017.

Claimants can expect to receive a refund of up to £54, with any accrued interested since the registration was made.

So far, only 200,000 of the 1.8million people owed have claimed their refund, meaning that there’s £77million still owed to customers.

To apply for a refund visit: http://gov.uk/power-of-attorney-refund. The exact amount will depend on when the registration was made, and claims must be made by 1st February 2021.

An LPA is an important document that gives a loved one the power to make decisions on your behalf when you can no longer do so. There are two types of LPA: a health and welfare LPA, and a property and financial affairs LPA.

Recent research from SFE found that there are only 7% of LPAs in place across the UK, meaning that millions of people are currently unprepared for later life. SFE urges anyone planning for their future to consider setting up an LPA and seek advice from a specialist lawyer.

Sophie Fenn said:

“It takes about ten minutes to claim online. You’ll need the donor’s bank details and a copy of the LPA, if you have it. If you need help or more information about making a claim, there’s a Refunds Helpline you can contact, either via telephone on 0300 456 0300 or email poarefunds@justice.gsi.gov.uk.”

If you do not have a LPA but are interested in preparing one please contact Sophie Fenn, Associate Solicitor at The Wilkes Partnership, Solihull on 0121 733 8000 or sfenn@wilkes.co.uk

Gareth O’Hara, Managing Partner at The Wilkes Partnership and motor industry specialist, provides a guide on what to look for when buying a new dealership for Motor Finance Magazine

When expanding a business through acquisition, it is vital to understand the full facts surrounding the business being purchased. The car acquisitions market for car dealerships is no different.  Having conducted more than 40 deals in this sector, we have a keen insight into the way that businesses are bought and sold.

Before even starting a buying process, having a thorough understanding of the market and assessing the factors impacting it, is vital to deciding whether it is the right time to do a deal. In this rapidly fluctuating industry – which can be susceptible to factors including labour costs, property costs and the revolution of electric and hybrid vehicles – it takes research and a keen business mind to succeed.

In fact, some fantastic deals have been conducted in a down market and many of today’s largest dealerships formed, established and thrived through the recession. So, regardless of whether we’re worried about recession or Brexit uncertainty, there are always opportunities. What really matters comes down to grasping opportunity and making the best deal for the right price and reacting to the market, rather than fearing it. To make the best choice, regardless of economic climate, here is a useful checklist to follow dealing with major issues that need to be covered in the legal documentation.

Business

  1. Ensure the customer database is transferred and live on completion. Sometimes data can be transferred or held by the data supplier on behalf of the buyer before the deal is complete and held ready to release
  2. Are employee terms and benefits consistent with what you expect, have employees been properly consulted and notified in accordance with relevant legislation?
  3. Do any family members that are no longer active or want to be active in the business post sale need to resign?
  4. Are you happy with the quality and age of the vehicle stock and particularly the parts stock that you are paying for? Have you checked it thoroughly?

Property

  1. Does the title plan match the property itself? Are there any unexpected rights of way or shared occupation issues?
  2. Do you actually want everything on the site? Many dealerships have shared facilities with other neighbouring sites. A survey and valuation may be required particularly if finance is involved from a third party.
  3. Do you need to keep the business separate from the property using a property holding company?

Legal

  1. Have you agreed the terms of any new franchise agreement?
  2. Are you buying the telephone numbers and domain names of the business? This will be crucial if it is a shared site, or the number is for another dealership on the same site
  3. Are there any assets included that shouldn’t be part of the business? Can these be bought out by the sellers pre deal?
  4. Has all litigation or disputes with customers been settled? If not, make sure appropriate indemnities are included in the contract. How will you deal with these going forward?
  5. Are all the cars you are buying with the franchise as described? Have you checked them all? Do you understand the finance position on any vehicles? Does any finance need repaying on completion?
  6. Has a principle been agreed for any remedial works to vehicles that have been sold and subsequently come back with complaints? An hourly rate and a cost for parts will need to be agreed, this is usually at a discounted rate for carrying out the work
  7. Ensure that a procedure is in place for sharing any profit on vehicles ordered but not yet delivered

The Sale

  1. On completion, will someone from your team be on site to collect property keys, alarm codes, laptops and mobile phones and be able to check that everything agreed in the sale is on the premises?
  2. Is new insurance in place on the business and its assets?
  3. If it is an asset purchase, are all charges released? If it’s a share purchase, are relevant charges in place and are they in line with existing facilities?
  4. What promises have been made to customers? For example, servicing and free MOTs or any warranties provided that could be called on in the future. How are you dealing with this?
  5. Ensure someone from your existing business is on hand for the first few weeks to deal with any issues that may arise.

To get the best deal for both the buyer and the seller all aspects need to run smoothly to ensure every eventuality is prepared for. Understanding and dealing with the issues makes for a smoother acquisition for all parties, and more importantly a seamless service for existing customers.

The right legal expertise assists in the process and more importantly ensures that all of the issues are dealt with properly in advance of completion. This means that the buyer can concentrate on the business going forward and the seller knows that he has disclosed any issues that could result in a claim against him.

For more information about how The Wilkes Partnership can help you with your business please contact Gareth O’Hara on 0121 710 5904 or email gohara@wilkes.co.uk. To find out more about our Corporate Team click here.