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.

As a business owner, you will be faced with a varying degree of issues throughout your time. This can range from common issues businesses face such as complications with money, stock or the services provided. However, businesses can also face internal issues, especially when it comes to employment.

When you employ a worker, you cannot guarantee that there will be no problems along the road. Oftentimes, a business can be faced with issues regarding employment law and may need a qualified representative to safeguard their business.

The Wilkes Partnership are a leading employment lawyer based in Birmingham and Solihull. We are able to provide businesses with honest advice and reputable services to ensure the protection and safeguarding of their business when faced with an employment problem.

Why Seek Help from an Employment Lawyer?

Before we can explain in detail how we can help to safeguard businesses, it is important to understand why an employment lawyer is needed in certain circumstances. Employment issues can be particularly and can hit the heart of an organisation, regardless of the size of the business.

With employment law seeing constant movement, it is a full-time job to keep up to date on all the latest laws and legislation. With a business to run and employees to take care of, it is no wonder that many businesses aren’t able to keep up with all the latest developments. 

When smaller workplace issues turn into intense disputes, businesses must rely on the help of specialised employment lawyers to ensure the best possible outcome for the business. Without this specialist help, the business’s reputation may be damaged by the dispute.

How Can We Help?

As a business, you can be faced with a variety of problems and challenges regarding your employees and employment law. Luckily, The Wilkes Partnership have spent years becoming experts in all areas of employment law, offering both start-up businesses and established enterprises with the services they need to handle all problems that come their way.

As qualified employment lawyers, we can represent you and your business in court. It is crucial that you are accurately represented by an employment lawyer who not only has experience in employment law but also understands your business and unique case. 

The areas that we can cover as part of our services include:

  • Draft/review employment contracts and policies
  • Draft settlement agreements
  • Defend Employment Tribunal claims
  • Defend Court claims
  • Deal with TUPE questions
  • Handle disciplinary action
  • Deal with redundancy/restructure programmes
  • Deal with equality and diversity issues
  • Deal with maternity/family friendly rights
  • Draft/enforce confidentiality/restrictive covenant provisions
  • Obtain injunctions against current or former employees
  • Defend injunction actions
  • Provide bespoke employment law training to staff/managers
  • Deal with any other employment matter
  • Arrange work visas and employment contracts for employees from overseas

We can advise on singular, isolated issues as well as work with you on a long term basis to ensure you’re assisted with all aspects of employment. With so many common issues arising in employment, it is important that you have the necessary help to ensure the best possible outcome for you as a manager and your business overall.

Not only can you rely on our services to resolve individual workplace disputes, but you can also employ us for continuous HR support within your business. When a business experiences unprecedented growth, it may cause internal issues with employees.

We can offer you continued support and advice in regards to employment law. This will not only ensure that your staff are getting the correct treatment, but also ensure your business is safeguarded against any incidents in the future. 

What Kind of Businesses Can Use Our Services?

Here at The Wilkes Partnership, we are keen to help businesses in all industries and sectors to resolve their employment issues. For example, we can work with businesses in the following industries:

  • Accountancy firms
  • Automotive
  • Banks
  • Education
  • Finance and credit companies
  • Health services
  • Manufacturing
  • Real estate

This is not an exhaustive list. Our employment law services are available for all kinds of businesses. Simply get in touch with us to discuss your unique and individual circumstances.

Why Choose The Wilkes Partnership?

With so many employment lawyers available today, why should you trust in The Wilkes Partnership to resolve your employment issues? Not only do we have a highly experienced team of employment lawyers, but we also offer extremely competitive rates.

Furthermore, we make a conscious effort to understand your business objectives and pride ourselves as working as an internal part of your team. Whether you choose our services for a one-off case or for continued HR support, we will ensure we provide you with the support you need.

With there being a wide range of experience within the internal team, we can easily advise on all aspects of employment law ranging from common HR issues to more complex cases such as transfers of undertakings, discrimination, restrictive covenants and multi-jurisdictional employee disputes.

By appointing the Wilkes employment team, you will be looked after by an established team of professionals with a reputation for delivering bespoke solutions that meet your objectives. Contact us today for more information. 

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

Whether you’re just starting a new position or you’ve been working in an established company for many years, it is important that you familiarise yourself with your work and employment rights. You may find yourself in a position where you are in discussion with your employer regarding your employment, so you’ll need to be up to scratch on what you are entitled to as an employee.

For example, if you have noticed that your employer is going against basic rights, or you have been denied rights that you are entitled to, it is important to not only raise these with management but also have a clear idea of what you’re talking about, so you can get the best possible outcome.

The Wilkes Partnership are leading suppliers of employment advice services in and around the Birmingham area and are here to offer honest and up to date advice for employees. Keep reading to learn more about the basic rights you are entitled to, as well as any other rights you should be aware of.

Basic Employment Rights

When you start to work for a company, there are some basic working rights that everyone within the company will be entitled to. For example, as an employee, you must have:

  • A contract of employment – this contact should clearly outline certain rights and obligations.
  • Realistic working hours – the maximum amount of working hours is 48 hours per week.
  • Rest breaks at work – you’ll probably be entitled to rest breaks at work, depending on your working hours.
  • Time off work – the law permits you to take time off work for varying circumstances.

These are the first things you should be checking for when you start any new position, regardless of where you choose to work. If a business fails to provide these basic rights, you can either choose to challenge them or simply look for work elsewhere.

Pay

With any job, the pay is an incredibly important factor in your work. Employees will be offered a salary either based on previous experience or to the discretion of the manager.

You have a legal right to a payslip. If you notice any major issues, speak formally with your manager to resolve any issues. You should always check your payslip for any issues that may arise. Look for things such as:

  • Whether you’ve been paid for the number of hours you’ve actually worked
  • If you’ve been paid at the correct rate
  • If you’ve been paid for overtime, commission or bonus
  • Whether you’ve been paid any sick pay, holiday pay or maternity pay that you were expecting
  • If your employer has deducted any money that you weren’t expecting

When you leave a job, you may be owed money for things such as:

  • Holiday pay
  • Redundancy pay
  • Sick pay – if you were off sick in your notice period
  • Maternity, paternity, adoption or shared parental leave pay

Many employees forget to check these basic rights when departing from a position. Ensure you plan an exit review with your employer to discuss if you are entitled to pay for any of the above reasons. 

Most employees are entitled to get paid at least the National Minimum Wage. If you are aged 25 or over, you are entitled to the National Living Wage. If you suspect that your employer is not paying you the correct wage, it is important to get employment advice as soon as possible. 

The current National Minimum Wage and National Living Wage Rates are as follows:

April 2019

  • 25 and over: £8.21
  • 21 to 24: £7.70
  • 18 to 20: £6.16
  • Under 18: £4.35
  • Apprentice: £3.90

Breaks and Holiday Entitlement

If you are an employee who works five days a week, you are entitled to 5.6 weeks (28 days) of paid leave per year. You employer may choose to include public holidays in this total. It is important to use your holiday entitlement, as many companies will not carry this over to the next working year. It is also imperative for your health and wellbeing to take proper breaks from work.

Within the working day, you are also entitled to lunch breaks. By law, you are entitled to a 20-minute rest break if you work more than 6 hours in one shift and additional breaks may be given by your employer. You are not legally entitled to cigarette breaks. 

Sickness

This topic may often cause complications within a workplace, due to companies having their own procedures. However, there are a clear set of legal rules which all employees and employers must follow.

For example, as an employee, you may need time off work due to sickness. You can self-certify your illness until you’ve had 7 days off where you will then need to supply a doctor’s note. You have the right to use your holiday entitlement during your period of sickness.

Your employer may not always offer sick pay, however, the weekly rate of Statutory Sick Pay is £92.05 for up to 28 weeks. All employees are entitled to this by law. It is up to your employer if they have their own sick pay scheme and wish to pay you in full for time off due to sickness.

Parental Rights

If you’re pregnant, you have a range of workplace rights that you are entitled to. This includes:

  • Paid time off for antenatal care
  • Maternity leave
  • Maternity pay or allowance
  • Protection against unfair treatment, discrimination or dismissal

Your employer must provide these as basic rights and cannot discriminate against you, nor refuse to provide these statutory rights. If you are facing issues with your employer regarding maternity leave and pay, seek employment advice urgently from The Wilkes Partnership. 

If your partner is having a child, you are also entitled to basic rights such as 1-2 weeks of paid paternity leave or shared parental leave and/or pay. Ensure you discuss these with your employer before your child is born.

Do You Have Any Questions Regarding your Workplace Rights?

If you’re having any concerns about your employer’s treatment of you and other members of staff, contact The Wilkes Partnership for employment advice today. With years of experience in the employment sector, we can offer genuine employment advice to ensure the best outcome for our clients.

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.

Jack Ackrill - British Wills and Probate Awards The Wilkes Partnership Solicitors, Birmingham & Solihull

Jack Ackrill, Solicitor in the Contentious Probate Department at The Wilkes Partnership has been short listed for the title of Young Practitioner of the Year at the prestigious and nationally contested British Wills and Probate Awards 2019.

This is the next stage of Jack’s journey since joining The Wilkes Partnership as a trainee and becoming a newly qualified solicitor with the firm at the end of last year. He will now wait until 17 October 2019 for the winner to be announced at the Belfry Hotel and Resort, Sutton Coldfield.

Jack Ackrill, Solicitor in the Contentious Probate Department at Wilkes, says: “Getting to the last three at the National Wills and Probate Awards to be named the best in the UK is fantastic.

“I’ve been working hard with the team at Wilkes and it has taken a lot of hard work, drive and support from the people around me to get me here.

“Getting to the final three is a great achievement, especially given the level of quality that would have undoubtedly been put forward by other firms. It has been a steep learning curve, but with the support I’ve had since joining as a trainee I really feel that I’ve excelled here.”

The Young Practitioner of the Year Award recognises an under 30 who has shown themselves to be an exceptional individual with a high level of involvement and development within the sector or area of practice. 

Kevin Lynch, Partner at Wilkes, says: “This award was created to search for exceptional individuals and I have no doubt that Jack fits into that category. I have had the pleasure of seeing him grow as a person and legal practitioner within our Will Disputes & Contentious Probate team.”

“This nomination is a reflection of his hard work, professionalism and dedication to achieving the highest standards in the legal practice. He has been a vital part of the team during a time of great growth for the Contentious Probate team at Wilkes working on high profile cases that require talent and technical expertise. We’ll all be there to cheer Jack on while he waits to hear whether he has won this prestigious award.”

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.

Wilkes are delighted to welcome back Adrian Schuck to the firm as an Associate Solicitor after almost three years practising at a firm in Derbyshire.

Adrian has extensive expertise in undertaking tax and estate planning on behalf of clients. He has acted for business owners, shareholders, entrepreneurs and philanthropists during his time in practice.

Adrian also has significant experience of providing succession planning and tax advice to farmers and others working in the agricultural community.

Commenting on his appointment, Adrian said:

“Having spent the early part of my career at Wilkes when I was made aware of the opportunity to return it was an offer I couldn’t turn down. The firm is in a really good place at the moment and in a period of sustained growth. I am delighted to be a part of that.”

Andrew Hasnip, Partner & Head of Private Client at Wilkes added:

“Adrian has extensive experience of working as a private client solicitor and it is with great pleasure that I welcome him back to Wilkes. In Adrian we have a highly skilled individual who mirrors the firm’s ambition to provide excellent support and advice to our clients.”

Adrian is based at our Birmingham City Centre office and can be reached on aschuck@wilkes.co.uk or 0121 710 5900.