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Flexible working for all – Wards Solicitors outlines plans

JamesTaylor crop 294x300 Flexible working for all   Wards Solicitors outlines plans

James Taylor

James Taylor of Wards Solicitors discusses Nick Clegg’s plans for flexible working for all, and what the plans mean for businesses.

In response to the modern workplaces consultation Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, has announced plans for flexible parental leave and the right to flexible working for all.

The Government will legislate on these from 2014 with the intention that a new system of flexible parental leave will be in place from 2015.

This might all seem rather a long way away but what does this actually mean?

At the moment any parent with a child under 17 (or 18 if disabled) can request flexible working, as long as they have met certain qualifying criteria.

The Government proposes the following:

• The new legislation applies to all businesses.

• The right to request flexible working will be extended to all employees, not just parents.

• Employees must still have the existing 26 weeks qualifying period.

• Only one request may be made in any 12 month period.

• There will be a duty to deal with requests in a reasonable manner and within a reasonable time period (ACAS is due to produce a statutory code of practice on the meaning of ‘reasonable’ and to produce guidance on how to handle such requests).

Where this flexible working concerns parents, the Government proposes the following:

• Each parent will need to meet the qualifying criteria for pay and leave.

• The 52 weeks of maternity leave currently available will remain in place as the default position.

• Fathers will still be entitled to two weeks’ paternity leave and pay.

• If the mother returns to work before the end of the 52 weeks, up to 50 weeks of untaken maternity leave can be taken as flexible parental leave. This leave may be taken concurrently or consecutively.

• No more than 12 months leave in total can be taken and only nine months will be paid.

• The new system will allow leave to be taken in blocks of one week, if agreed to. If it cannot be agreed to, however, the leave must be taken in one single block.

• A new right will be created allowing fathers or partners of pregnant women to take unpaid leave to attend two ante-natal appointments.

• The age limit on unpaid parental leave will increase from five years to 18 years in 2015, giving each parent the right to take up to 18 weeks of unpaid parental leave for each child under 18.

• Unpaid parental leave will increase in March 2013 from 13 weeks to 18 weeks to bring the UK into line with the EU Parental Leave Directive

New look for Wards Solicitors

John Brentnall New look for Wards Solicitors

John Brentnall

Wards Solicitors has refurbished its offices in a bid to offer better client access and become more business friendly.

Following a summer of extensive restoration work, Wards Solicitors celebrated the refurbishment with an ‘open house’ event for local residents and businesses that was held last month.

The new client suite includes on-site client parking, same-level disabled access, meeting and waiting rooms as well as a dedicated reception area.

John Brentnall, who is Wards Solicitors’ Senior Partner, comments: “We’ve had offices on Boulevard, in Weston-super-Mare, for many years but have always struggled with the limitations that the Victorian building presented.

“We decided it was time to respond to client requests and make things a little easier for them. We were thrilled to be able to show people around our improved client facilities and are already noticing the difference it makes to our clients and their families.”

Wards Solicitors have issued an open invitation for people in the local, Weston-super-Mare area to ‘drop in’ to take a look at the new client area, and to arrange an appointment to see them.

Wards Solicitors retains elite status

susanellis Wards Solicitors retains elite status

Susan Ellis

Wards Solicitors, which has offices in North Somerset, has retained its position in an elite group of firms, after being awarded membership to The Law Society’s Conveyancing Quality Scheme.

The Conveyancing Quality Scheme (CQS) provides a recognised quality standard for residential Conveyancing practices.

Membership achievement establishes a level of credibility for member firms, thereby promoting a culture of trusted, expert advisers.

Law Society President, Linda Lee comments: In what is already a crowded Conveyancing market, CQS-accredited legal practices will be clearly visible to anyone looking to buy a home.

“For what is the most expensive purchase of anyone’s lifetime, it is vital that they can rely on the quality service provision of CQS.”

Head of Conveyancing at Wards Solicitors, Susan Ellis, comments: We’re delighted to have been reaccredited with membership of the CQS scheme.

“This recognises Wards Solicitors’ dedication to ensuring that our clients are treated fairly and protected from fraud.

“We pride ourselves on working to keep the Conveyancing process simple.  We do not take referral fees and focus on best practice and expert advice at every step.”

Summer shake-up at Wards Solicitors

Rachel Thomas1 Summer shake up at Wards Solicitors

New recruit Rachel Thomas

Local independent law firm, Wards Solicitors is shaking everything up ready for summer, with several solicitor moves and appointments.

Wards has welcomed new Solicitor Associate, Rachael Thomas to the firm and she will be working in the Yate Shopping Centre office.

Whilst internally, Tom Scoffham has moved from Bristol City Centre to Bradley Stoke and Katherine Roe has swapped with him to move to the Bristol City Centre office.

In the family team, Suzanne Henderson has moved from the firm’s Clevedon office to Bristol City Centre and Amy Jones and Jayne Penney have moved to the Clevedon office.

Managing Partner, David Sheridan comments on what has been a busy few weeks at the firm: “ All of our solicitors spend time in different branches, ensuring that clients can get the advice they want, where they need it – irrespective of the service that they need. In fact, we even do home visits when necessary. This summer’s moves are part of our dedication to getting this right. ”

To find out more about Wards Solicitors, who are operate across Weston-super-Mare and North Somerset visit: http://wards.uk.com/

Employment law change – what businesses need to know

alex lyttle1 Employment law change   what businesses need to know

Alex Lyttle of Wards Solicitors

Alex Lyttle of Wards Solicitors tackles the subject of employment law change, and what this means for businesses in North Somerset, in this latest column for the Weston Echo.

What have you missed already?

February 2012 – Statutory redundancy payments and guarantee payments increase

The maximum amount of a week’s pay used to calculate a statutory redundancy payment and the basic and additional awards for unfair dismissal increased from £400 to £430 on 1 February 2012. The maximum unfair dismissal compensatory award increased from £68,400 to £72,300. The limit on the amount of a guarantee payment payable to an employee in respect of any day also increased from £22.20 to £23.50.

What’s coming in April 2012?

Qualifying period for unfair dismissal protection is increased

The biggest change to employment rights for 2012 is the increase of the qualifying period for an employee to bring an unfair dismissal claim from one year to two years. This change comes into force on 6 April 2012.

The Government has said that it intends to increase the qualifying period for unfair dismissal in order to: “provide more time for employers and employees to resolve difficulties, give employers greater confidence in taking on people and ease the burden on the employment tribunal process”.

Changes to employment tribunal procedure

The Government has announced a “fundamental review” of the Employment Tribunal Rules of Procedure, with substantial changes to employment tribunal procedure expected to be introduced on 6 April 2012. Employment judges will hear unfair dismissal cases alone in the tribunal, unless they direct otherwise.

The maximum amount of a deposit order, which a tribunal can order a party to pay as a condition to continuing with tribunal proceedings, will increase from £500 to £1,000.

The maximum amount of a costs order, which a tribunal may award in favour of a legally represented party, will increase from £10,000 to £20,000. Witness statements are to be taken “as read” unless a tribunal directs otherwise.

Maternity, paternity, adoption and sick pay increase

The Government has confirmed that the standard rate of statutory maternity, paternity and adoption pay will increase from £128.73 to £135.45 per week from 1 April 2012. Statutory sick pay will increase from £81.60 to £85.85 per week from 6 April 2012.

Anything else?

October 2012 – Pensions auto-enrolment begins

In what may prove to be one of the biggest challenges of the year for larger employers, starting from 1 October 2012, employers with 50 or more employees have to enrol eligible employees automatically, and make mandatory employer contributions, into a qualifying workplace pension scheme or the National Employment Savings Trust (Nest).

If you are confused by the recent changes in employment law please contact Alex Lyttle for advice or go to Wards Law Donut or Personnel Today for further information. http://wards.uk.com/

Wards Solicitors’ monthly business column

Bridget Juckes Wards Solicitors monthly business column

Bridget Juckes

What can businesses do to make sure they get paid on time? Wards Solicitor’s Bridget Juckes explains.

Customers can give you a dozen excuses but the two main reasons preventing businesses from getting paid on time comes down to the small print… inadequate (or non-existent) trading terms or those that don’t apply because they didn’t get read in time. A common mistake is adding them to the invoice… which is far too late to prevent problems. So, what do you need to do?

Top five things to include in your business terms and conditions:

• Specify clearly when payment will be due and what interest will be due on late payments.
• Make sure you state that they will be liable for collection and litigation costs if they don’t pay you.
• Make sure you limit your liability if you are unable to deliver the goods. Explain what will happen if only part of an order is delivered, or if a delivery contains faulty products.
• State that you retain ownership of goods until payment has been received (and include rights to recover them).
• And above all… get them to agree to them in writing before you do any work or provide goods.

Intellectual property

That’s not all, though. You are likely to have other things to include, which are relevant to your particular business and circumstances. For example, ownership of intellectual property, use of third-party sub-contractors and liability/insurance. Most importantly, your terms need to actually hold water. That means making sure you can say “yes” to all of the following:

• You need to prove an offer was made to contract on your terms, and the offer was accepted.
• Make sure your terms are in writing. If there’s nothing in writing there will still be a contract, but it will be difficult to prove what its terms were.
• Make sure your procedures mean your customer agrees your terms before the contract comes into existence, and that you have evidence of this.
• Ask all new customers to complete an account opening form which includes a copy of your terms and conditions, or sign a statement confirming that they have read and agree to your terms and conditions.

The golden rule? Review your terms regularly

You need to make sure that you review your terms of business at least once a year, every time there is a change in trading law, and every time you introduce a new product or service, or a new means of promoting or delivering it. It’s not just our way of getting work for lawyers, it’s important. At the pace of market development, particularly in this increasingly online world, you can’t afford to be behind the times.

To find out more about Wards Solicitors please visit: http://wards.uk.com/office/weston-super-mare/

Personell changes at Wards Solicitors

Wards Solicitors Personell changes at Wards Solicitors

Jayne Penney

Local law firm, Wards Solicitors is pleased to announce a raft of personell changes to its Family Law practices in its Clevedon and Weston-super-Mare offices.

Firstly, childcare specialist in Weston-super-Mare, Natalie Amor, has been admitted to the Law Society’s Children Law Panel. Members are appointed when they have demonstrated that they have and maintain a high level of knowledge, skills, experience and practice in the area of children law.

Secondly, existing Children Law Panel member, Jayne Penney will be moving from Weston-super-Mare to the Clevedon office. Jayne has been a panel member for a number of years and joins existing Clevedon Children Law specialist, Suzanne Henderson.

Head of Family Law at the firm, Georgina Peacock said: “It’s important to us that Wards Solicitors is there for everyone in the local community. Going through a relationship or family breakdown is highly traumatic, without worrying that your legal advisor might not understand your complicated child-related matters.

“We believe that everyone has a right to high-level, expert legal support during this time. This new accreditation means that we can broaden our regional spread and provide the very best service, at all Wards offices.”

To find out more about Wards Solicitors visit: http://wards.uk.com/office/weston-super-mare/

Alex Lyttle of Wards Solicitors discusses the dangers of social media

alex lyttle1 Alex Lyttle of Wards Solicitors discusses the dangers of social media

Alext Lyttle of Wards Solicitors

Social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook can be greatly beneficial to your business. But there are also potential problems they can bring, such as an ill-thought out tweet or post going viral to more serious cases of social media causing harm to your company’s reputation, or ending the career of an employee.

Here is one such case. The Liverpool Employment Tribunal recently found the dismissal of a pub manager for inappropriate comments made on Facebook to be fair. Not only did the Tribunal consider her actions sufficiently proximate to her employment as to result in dismissal, but it also highlighted the importance of her employer’s company’s handbook relating to ‘e-mail, internet and intranet use’.

This is an example that highlights how acting innapropriately on social media sites can end in tears - both employees and employers can learn a lot from it.

The background

On May 24 2010, Miss Preece, a shift manager for JD Wetherspoons, and a colleague were subjected to what the Tribunal described as a “shocking torrent of verbal abuse and physical threats by a group of people, including customers known as Brian and Sandra”.

It was accepted that Miss Preece had dealt with the situation professionally at the time and that she had diffused the situation correctly by asking the customers to leave.

But shortly after the incident, and during work time, Miss Preece entered postings on her Facebook page disparaging the difficult customers. Several of her Facebook ‘friends’ respondent to her initial rant and a dialogue developed regarding the two customers- Brian and Sandra.

The Tribunal found that the comment could be viewed by at least 40 to 50 and possibly up to 646 people. On June 7 2010 Leslie Roache, the daughter of Brian and Sandra, complained to the company’ s customer service department about Miss Preece’s posts on Facebook.

Following an investigation, Miss Preece stated that she understood it was wrong to vent her anger on Facebook but that she thought her privacy settings meant only her work and school friends could see the entries.

At the disciplinary hearing, Miss Preece conceded that it was unacceptable to make inappropriate comments and that this might bring the company in to disrepute. Miss Preece was fired for gross misconduct. Miss Preece appealed against the decision but her appeal was not upheld on the grounds that the company had passed every stage of the test laid down, based around four key points.

  • Genuine belief
  • Reasonable grounds for belief
  • Reasonable and fair investigation
  • Range of reasonable responses

It seems that behaving in an inappropriate way in the sphere of social media can have as bad a consequence as doing so in the ‘real world’. Businesses and employees take note.

To find out more about Wards Solicitors visit: http://wards.uk.com/ or Tel: 0117 9292811