Benefits of seeing a specialist for employment law issues ?

If you love your job, coming to work every day is an enjoyable event. It can bring satisfaction and sense of achieving your career goals. In fact, for some unemployment or retirement seem like unbearable prospects. However, regardless of how rewarding your job is, there are certain issues which can ruin even the most promising career and rules are in place to prevent any intolerable occurrences. Continue reading

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Solicitors quality schemes & comparison sites

A poll published last month indicated that over 50% of those instructing solicitors do not check the solicitors record or accreditation in the area of law in which they are looking for advice.

On the face of it, comparison sites would therefore be helpful to assist the public in finding the right solicitor, especially as there are now a number of accreditation schemes run by the Law Society. One recent welcome addition to this accreditation or Quality Assurance is the Conveyancing Quality Scheme. For some 20 years now, conveyancing charges have been falling to a point where, bearing in mind the work involved, it is virtually impossible to do the work properly and make any money with charges at £300.00 plus vat or even less, so something had to give and we would always recommend checking whether a conveyancer is a member of the CQS scheme.

Consequently, corners get cut and this creates long term problems. Cheap costs dear as with most things in life. This new standard is significant in that the public unfortunately will often go for the cheapest option notwithstanding warnings about the dangers. The CQS scheme almost certainly means that solicitors and licensed conveyancers who don’t attain this standard, which is regularly reviewed, will not be allowed to act for lenders.

There are many solicitor comparison sites now springing up, as with such sites for almost everything. It can be very dangerous, as suggested above, to view buying legal services in the same way as buying insurance, price is not everything. Unfortunately, the first wave of these sites still seem to be intent on comparing largely on price, and those (we won’t name them here) that claim they vet solicitors objectively, are also paid by those solicitors for membership of their panel, so perhaps results should be treated with circumspect.

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Conveyancing

How to find good conveyancing solicitors

There are thousands of conveyancers in England & wales, whether solicitors or licensed conveyancers. Prices differ quite considerably with some lawyers incredibly offering, ion the face of it, to act for as little as £250.00 plus vat. Not only is this often a ruse because costs are added in other areas where they shouldn’t be, by merging legal fees with disbursements (the amounts the solicitors pay out on the client’s behalf for searches and such like) but there have to be question marks about the level of legal attention given to the matter and service levels.

Quite simply, as we all know on one level or another, you get what you pay for, and going with a cut price solution when it comes to any kind of legal matter is rarely a good idea. The frustration for solicitors is that clients do not understand that to undertake a conveyancing matter properly, whether sale or purchase and not a combination of both, will take up to 10 hours of work for property lawyers. If you work out the hourly rate and then factor in business overheads such as staff, professional insurance and such like, even at say £750.00 plus vat, conveyancing really pays very little for solicitors.

Setting aside costs for a moment, how can you tell if a conveyancer is any good ? This question has been helped to a degree by a far more stringent approach by lenders, as solicitors for buyers commonly also act for the buyer’s lenders. Many lenders are not removing firms from their panel of solicitors who they have checked and do not meet their standards or who have a poor disciplinary record.

One simple and effective new method available to check the quality of conveyancing solicitors is now that there is a Law Society accreditation, the Conveyancing quality standard, which means that any firm which has that accreditation has been carefully checked for competence and efficiency by the Law Society and, perhaps even more importantly, this monitoring is undertaken on an ongoing basis.

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Guide to constructive dismissal

What is constructive dismissal ?

 Constructive Dismissal arises when an employee is left with no choice but to resign from their job due to the conduct and behaviour of their employers. When this happens it is treated as if the employee was dismissed by the employer themselves, allowing for a claim to be made for Unfair Dismissal or Wrongful Dismissal, should the appropriate criteria be met.

To be able to claim constructive dismissal is it necessary to show that the conduct and behaviour of the employer was so bad that it can be considered to be a fundamental breach of contract. Examples of such conduct include:

  • They stop paying your wages.
  • They force you to accept unreasonable changes to your conditions of employment relating to matters such as location, working hours or responsibilities.
  • They fail to stop bullying or harassment against you within the workplace.
  • They make you work in dangerous conditions.
  • They set you impossible targets, or other similar actions which make it impossible to perform your duties.

Think carefully before resigning (and take advice)

Conduct leading to constructive dismissal may either be through one serious incident or it could be the last in a series of minor incidents that overall can be considered to be serious.

It must be stressed that if a situation arises where you feel you must leave your job, that final decision should be the last resort. Unless the conditions are absolutely intolerable, any tribunal will have expected you to have spoken with your manager or human resources department to try and resolve the problem. By being constructive and attempting to resolve the problem, any Tribunal will be more favourable should you then bring a claim for constructive dismissal. Continue reading

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IP law

What is IP law ?

Intellectual property (which is commonly abbreviated to IP) is a dynamic complicated area of the law.  However, it is important for any business, of any size – from the smallest sole tradership wanting to protect its trademark, to the biggest business wanting to apply for a patent on an invention they have come up with.

Intellectual property can be thought of in the same way as “physical property”; it is capable of being bought and sold, licensed and leased.  It is also something that can be stolen.

What services can intellectual property solicitors help with ?

Intellectual property solicitors provide a comprehensive range of intellectual property services, including:

  • Intellectual property audits, to make sure you are aware of your IP rights, exploit hitherto unexploited opportunities (such as leasing unused IP rights) and not infringing other’s IP rights.
  • Drafting of and advice intellectual property leases and licenses
  • Drafting of and advice on franchising, agency and distribution agreements
  • Advice on research and collaboration agreements
  • Patent applications and enforcement both home and abroad
  • Domestic and international searches for patent applications
  • Trademark applications Continue reading
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Partnership Act

Partnership Act 1890

A partnership is the relation which subsists between persons carrying on a business in common with a view of profit”.Section 1 of Partnership Act 1890.

A partnership arises when a number of individuals are in business together, rather than in an employer-employee relationship. The legislation governing partnerships is the Partnership Act 1890.

A partnership relationship can only arise by mutual consent. The agreement which gives rise to the partnership relationship may be express or inferred from the parties’ conduct.

Under the Partnership Act 1890, there is no formal registration process for partnerships and no obligation to make the accounts of the business public. Unlike a company, there is requirement of a memorandum of association or articles of association. Continue reading

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New powers for the ICO

Watch out for sanctions for unsolicited calls or emails

Tough new powers have been given to the Information Commissioner’s office this week to fine up to £500,000.00 in the case of unsolicited and unwanted marketing phone calls or emails to consumers. Recent cases suggest that the Commissioner is ready to get tough in an overall increased regulatory and enforcement environment.

The new powers are created by an amendment to the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations (PECR) which governs direct forms of electronic marketing and the changes will come into effect on 25th May 2011, so organisations need to get ready and ensure policies and procedures are checked and tightened up..

There are differences between telephone and email marketing. With telephone marketing the individual receiving the call needs to be asked whether they want to opt out, whereas with email campaigns the individual contacted needs to specifically opt in.

Historically many companies seem to have taken the view that non-compliance with ICO rules is so widespread that they need not worry due to safety in numbers. Whilst it may be correct that it is unlikely fines will be at the higher end for smaller companies and minor breaches, it would be unwise to treat this as just another bout of sabre rattling and so specific legal advice should be sought if in any doubt.

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Dismissals – a right way and a wrong way ?

When a person enters into a contract of employment with an employer, there are certain considerations that are committed to on both sides. An employee is entitled to receive regular remuneration under the terms of payment agreed, is entitled to a reasonable standard of working conditions and is entitled to paid holidays within agreed terms. The employer is entitled to expect their employees to work to a certain standard of work, operate with a duty of care, be timely and be informed of any changes to the employee’s circumstances that may affect their ability to work at the expected standard.

Grounds for dismissing an employee fall into several broad categories. These include redundancy, frustration of contract, employee conduct, gross negligence and any other substantial reason. New employees face the added potential problem of probationary period dismissal. Basically, during a probationary period, an employee may be dismissed for any reasonable, justifiable reason. In simple terms, if there is no obvious case of discrimination, the company can quite legally dismiss an employee with little fear of grievance procedures or other reprisals.

A company has to earn more income than it pays out in costs if it is to survive. Where a business has to cut costs or re-organize its workforce, a redundancy situation may occur. A general economic downtown, such as the current recession, often forces a business into the position of cutting back on costs, including staff, in order to weather the economic storm. As such, a redundancy is a valid and legal reason for dismissal. The only real consideration here is whether the person or the job is redundant. If it is the former then the dismissal will probably not be legal and valid, in which case the employee must be offered reinstatement and / or compensation. A valid redundancy occurs due to the position no longer being viable and as such, the position cannot be reinstated for a minimum of three months, should the business later discover the role to be essential or trade picks up. Other procedures, such as consultation periods, must be adhered to and wherever possible, alternative roles be offered to any employees ‘at risk’ from redundancy.

Frustration of contract covers the ability of the employee to complete their work to an acceptable standard. If they are unable, for one of many reasons, this may lead to a fair and legal dismissal. If, for example, an employee is unfortunate enough to have an accident or long term illness that impedes their capability and working capacity, this may lead to frustration of contract. Many employers today consider the employee’s history of illnesses during the course of their employment at that establishment as a means of deciding fairly what is and is not frustration of contract. For example, less sympathy would be required for an employee who regularly takes Mondays off due to weekend drinking. An employee who regularly phones in sick with minor illnesses over a short period of time could equally be deemed to be in frustration of contract as he / she is not deemed capable of honouring their contract.

Dismissal can be due to employee conduct. This can be fair and legal both on and off the business premises. Activities such as fighting, spitting, swearing or lewd behaviour at work can lead to dismissal. Fighting at work is usually grounds for dismissal through gross misconduct; the employee concerned will be put on suspension with pay pending investigation. Other, less serious, infractions may lead to a verbal warning, further infractions within a certain time scale then lead to written and then final written warnings. After this, an employee may be fairly dismissed. The employee conduct is also considered off site whenever their actions may affect the good reputation of the business they are representing. An off duty employee who is still wearing their work uniform and involves themselves in a drunken brawl or indecent exposure is effectively committing an act of gross misconduct and may face dismissal as a result.

An employee may be guilty of gross negligence and as such subject to dismissal. Basically, the employer owes a duty of care to all its staff, customers and visitors and is legally responsible for the actions of its employees where the employee carries out his / her work duties. An act of gross negligence may occur where an employee fails to wear a hard hat when entering a building site or operates machinery without the necessary training or physical safety guards. Due to the potential accident liability arising from the employee’s actions, this would be classed as gross negligence and is fair and reasonable grounds for dismissal.

Dismissal on the grounds of some other substantial reason is a broad category designed for circumstances that are not specifically covered in one oft he other categories. An example of reasonable dismissal on these grounds would include an employee being sentenced to a prison sentence.

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Qualitymark

Let’s face it, tradesmen in general and builders in particular, have a rather tainted reputation with the UK general public.

As with many industries, the majority of trustworthy and skilled contractors face the problem that the few that are unscrupulous give the rest a bad reputation.

This was why the Government considered setting up a Qualitymark standard so that the general public would be able to discern with more confidence those in the construction or building industry and other trades from those perhaps where caution should be exercised.

The same reputational issues affect may industries and the legal industry is no exception.

There tends to be a perception that solicitors will seek to maximise their charges and that all lawyers are “fat cats”. In fact, in reality there is a major divide between lawyers working for the biggest corporate law firms, and the smaller high street or general practices.

The difference between the pay and job which these lawyers do could not be more pronounced and in fact many high street lawyers earn less than £40,000.00 for a job which is extremely stressful and technical.

Our aim is to encourage an informal debate over quality standards not under the auspices of government and we will be developing this site as resource for pooled information about varying standards of service and ability for a range of different suppliers. We encourage people to come forward and say positive things where they have had positive experience, as we are perhaps all becoming accustomed too much simply to complaining about bad workmanship or service and not providing good feedback where merited.

In the meantime, some examples of useful legal services we have found can be visited by clicking here.

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