New Major Reforms to Employment Law and Employment Tribunals.

The Government has said today that it will make the ‘most radical reform to the employment law system, which will be a major shift form what is generally regarded as one sided towards the employees. These change will be wide-ranging to include:

1. Reform of the tribunal system
2. The introduction of tribunal fees which could include two options. The first option would require an initial fee to lodge a claim then a second fee to proceed to a hearing. The second option would require those seeking an award above GBP 30,000 to pay more to bring a claim.
3. The introduction of compensated ‘no fault’ dismissals for micro-companies with fewer than 10 employees, and
4. Reducing the consultation period for collective redundancies,

The Business Secretary Vince Cable said however that the reforms were ‘emphatically not an attempt to give businesses an easy ride at the expense of their staff’.

The proposals were outlined in a speech to the manufacturers’ organisation, the EEF. Some of the most unexpected ones that were not widely trailed before the speech. These include a proposal to remove protection for whistleblowing that relates to a worker’s own contract where an employer’s breach or likely breach of an employment contract has been a matter about which disclosures are potentially protected.

He also announced a call for evidence on whether the 90-day minimum consultation period for collective redundancies should be reduced.

Among other proposals, the Government will also:

• examine ways to ‘slim down’ and simplify dismissal processes, potentially working with Acas to change their Code, or publishing supplementary guidance for small businesses
• call for evidence on proposals to simplify the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations 2006
• consolidate 17 national minimum wage regulations.
• consult in the spring on streamlining the regulatory regime for the recruitment sector, and
• create a universally portable CRB check that can be viewed online from early 2013.
 
The Government has also committed to:

•  requiring all employment disputes to be offered Acas pre-claim conciliation before going to a tribunal.
• increasing the qualifying period for unfair dismissal to two years from April 2012.
• consulting in 2012 on ‘protected conversations’  to allow employers to have discussions with staff about retirement or poor performance, which could not be relied on in a tribunal claim
• an independent review of  the employment tribunal rules of procedure, led by Mr Justice Underhill, to address concerns that tribunals have become complex, inefficient, and are no longer fit for purpose
• consulting on simplifying compromise agreements – renamed ‘settlement agreements’
• considering how, and whether, to develop a ‘rapid resolution’ scheme to offer a quicker and cheaper alternative to employment tribunals
• modifying the formulae for up-rating tribunal awards and redundancy payments to the nearest pound

For more information on this subject and for assistance with employment issues in your business please contact Cyril Denemont on 020 8422 5678.

How do you own your home?

The Court’s recent decision in the case of Quigley V Masterson has highlighted that it is possible to change the way homes are owned by actions not specifically intended for that purpose. 

When two or more people buy a property together it is possible for them to own the property in one of two ways, either as ‘joint tenants’ or ‘tenants in common’.  If the property is owned as ‘joint tenants’ they are all taken to own the whole property and do not have a specific share in the property which is theirs.  Thus if one of them dies the remaining owner or owners continue to own the whole property and no part of the property passes into the deceased owner’s estate. 

Where a property is owned as ‘tenants in common’ each owner has a specific share which on their death will pass in accordance with the Law of Intestacy (that is the law which decides who receives your property if you do not make a Will) or in accordance with the deceased person’s Will. 

If you wish to change from one way to the other the change from tenants in common to joint tenants can be achieved by all the owners making an appropriate Deed containing a declaration to the effect that henceforth they wish to own the property as joint tenants.  

To change from joint tenants to tenants in common is also straight forward.  Normally a notice is served by one of the joint tenants on the other(s).  However although there is fairly standard documentation which can be used to affect this change, change through a course of action or dealing is also possible.  This is known as Severance of the Tenancy.  

In this recent case a property was jointly owned one party issued proceedings in the Court of Protection requesting the sale of the property.  In those proceedings statements were made by that party which clearly indicated that in their view each party had a 50% share in the property.  The severance was completed when a daughter of the other owner became a party to the proceedings to act on his behalf.  

This is of concern as the change in the manner of ownership would not have been apparent from looking at the title to the property and had in this case to be established by the Court.  

The manner in which property is owned can be of importance not only with regard to inheritance, but also inheritance tax and liabilities for care homes.  It is important that everyone is aware of how they own their home and why they own it in that way so that they do not change the way in which the property is owned inadvertently. 

If you are uncertain of how you own your home or want advice as to how you should own your home please do not hesitate to contact Jonathan Dorman on 020 8422 5678.

Are your charities fund raising contracts and arrangements up to the mark?

The Fund Raising Standards Board has  recently rejected a complaint against the charity Childreach International  for not refunding a deposit.  The Board unanimously decided that the charity had acted fairly and reasonably in its dealings with the complainant.  
 
 The decisions emphasises  the need for charities whether a member of the Fund Raising  Standards Board self regulatory scheme  or not  to make sure that their fund raising contracts and arrangements are clear and comply with the Institute of Fund Raising’s best practice codes.  
 
 It also emphasises  that any disputes, however unjustified the claim brought against the charity may be, can result in much wasted time and expense in dealing with complaint and also have a potentially adverse affect on the charity’s reputation.
 
We would be happy to assist in reviewing any of your contracts and documentation.
 
If you interested in further information please contact either Jonathan Dorman or Andrew Tzialli on 020 8422 5678.

Change in the Law for Married Couples

The Law Society has called for changes to the laws relating to unmarried couples who live together on the breakdown of the relationship.  This follows the Government’s announcement that it would not be taking forward in the current Parliament the Law Commission’s proposals for reform.  This means the problems faced by unmarried couples on the breakup of the relationship and as a result for their children will continue.

For more information on this subject please contact Jonathan Dorman on 020 8422 5678.

Lasting Powers of Attorney

The Office of Public Guardian have issued revised forms and guidance for those applying to register a Lasting Power of Attorney or Enduring Power of Attorney.  The revisions highlight the changes in the offices fees.

There is also amended guidance to clarify who may and may not act as a certificate provider for a Lasting Power of Attorney.

This makes it clear that the certificate provider can be someone who has known the person making the Lasting Power of Attorney for 2 years or has relevant skill or knowledge to be able to be able to form a professional judgement about that persons understanding.

Somebody with relevant professional skills must be a registered healthcare profession, a solicitor, barrister or advocate, a registered social worker, an independent mental capacity advocate or someone who considers they have the relevant professional skills and can specify what they are on the form itself.

The guidance also makes clear that family members cannot be certificate providers.  This includes spouses or civil partners or people living together, children and grandchildren, parents, grandparents, brothers and sisters including half-brothers and half-sisters, aunts and uncles, nieces and nephews, somebody related by marriage such as a son-in-law or daughter-in-law, step-parents or step-children.

There may be other relationships that the public guardianship office considered to be ineligible but are not listed above and therefore it is inadvisable to use anybody who has any family connection whatsoever.

For information on Lasting Powers of Attorney please contact Jonathan Dorman on 020 8422 5678.

Lasting Powers of Attorney

The Office of Public Guardian have issued revised forms and guidance for those applying to register a Lasting Power of Attorney or Enduring Power of Attorney.  The revisions highlight the changes in the offices fees. 

 There is also amended guidance to clarify who may and may not act as a certificate provider for a Lasting Power of Attorney. 

 This makes it clear that the certificate provider can be someone who has known the person making the Lasting Power of Attorney for 2 years or has relevant skill or knowledge to be able to be able to form a professional judgement about that persons understanding. 

 Somebody with relevant professional skills must be a registered healthcare profession, a solicitor, barrister or advocate, a registered social worker, an independent mental capacity advocate or someone who considers they have the relevant professional skills and can specify what they are on the form itself. 

 The guidance also makes clear that family members cannot be certificate providers.  This includes spouses or civil partners or people living together, children and grandchildren, parents, grandparents, brothers and sisters including half-brothers and half-sisters, aunts and uncles, nieces and nephews, somebody related by marriage such as a son-in-law or daughter-in-law, step-parents or step-children. 

 There may be other relationships that the public guardianship office considered to be ineligible but are not listed above and therefore it is inadvisable to use anybody who has any family connection whatsoever.

For more information on Lasting Powers of Attorney please contact Jonathan Dorman on 020 8422 5678.

 

Wills & Probate Update

A recent report has indicated that one in ten people making Wills in Britain have included their passwords in their Wills so their families, friends and executors can access their personal data after they have died.  This is worth considering when drafting your will or updating it.

For advice on Wills and Trusts please contact Jonathan Dorman, Head of Private Client  on 020 8422 5678.

 

Inheritance Tax exemptions

HM Revenue & Customs have on the 14th September reissued parts of their manual for Inheritance Tax including the section which relates to exemptions for regular payments out of income.  They have confirmed that in order to qualify for this exemption the gift must form part of the donors normal expenditure, it must be paid out of income and leave them with enough income for them to maintain their normal standard of living.  Part of a single gift may qualify for the exemption and other parts of the gift might be chargeable to tax or might be exempt under another provision. 

 The exemption does not apply to gifts on death, on the ending of a life interest in Trust property or transfers which are treated as potentially exempt transfers i.e. a transfer of any amount which is made out of capital to an individual.  It also does not apply to payments of premiums of a life policy which are linked to an annuity or transfers of capital assets save in limited circumstances.

 If you would like to speak to us about our Will, Trusts and Estate Planning services, please contact either Jonathan Dorman or Gail Abrahams on 020 8422 5678.

Paternity leave & paternity pay

From the Harrow Times Newspaper – Ask Harold Benjamin Series:

“I have heard that fathers are now entitled to paternity leave and paternity pay. Is this right?”

Since April 3, 2011, fathers have been entitled to Additional Paternity Leave (APL) and Additional Paternity Pay (APP). This is in addition to the existing right fathers have to two weeks Ordinary Paternity Leave and Pay. This gives fathers the financial opportunity to take time off work to be with their child during the first weeks after birth. However, it only applies if the mother returns to work.

To qualify for APL, a father must be an employee, employed for 26 weeks before the end of the 15th week before the baby is due. His partner must be entitled to one of the following; Maternity Leave, Statutory Maternity Pay or Maternity Allowance. She must have returned to work and the father must take the time off to care for his child.

APL can be for a maximum of 26 weeks, and can be taken between 20 weeks and one year after the birth of a child.

To qualify for APP, all the above must apply and a father must be earning at least the Lower Earnings Limit for National Insurance contributions. APP is only payable during the mother’s 39 weeks Maternity Allowance or Statutory Maternity Pay periods, and while there are at least two weeks of unexpired entitlement. The current rate for APP is £128.73 per week or 90 per cent of your average weekly earnings, whichever is less.

Similar rights apply to adopting fathers.

For advice on family law please call Marina Vincent on 020 8422 5678.

Pre-Nuptial Agreement

From the Harrow Times Newspaper – Ask Harold Benjamin Series:

“I am getting married in three months’ time. I am quite wealthy from an inheritance, while my future husband has very little money. I am thinking about a pre-nuptial agreement, but isn’t it a bit unromantic?”

Once marriage is contemplated entering into, a pre-nuptial agreement should always be considered, particularly where one of you has your own wealth.

A pre-nuptial agreement allows you to ringfence part or all of your existing wealth at the outset of the marriage.

Until very recently, if your marriage broke down under English law, the agreement was not binding on a family court and its terms would not have automatically been upheld or enforced.

This was just one of the facts that a divorce court may have taken into account when looking at the circumstances of your case in dividing the matrimonial assets.

While the court would look at the terms of the pre-nuptial agreement, the weight the court would attach to it would depend on all the other factors of the marriage, particularly if you had children by the time of the divorce.

Other factors included the length of your marriage, your ages, your incomes and earning capacities, both now and in the future, and your financial needs.

This week however, the enforceability of pre-nuptial agreements hit the headlines when German heiress Katrin Radmacher’s financial settlement was considered by the Supreme Court.

Katrin Radmacher’s husband went to the Supreme Court after judges in the Court of Appeal slashed his divorce settlement in line with a pre-nuptial agreement signed by the parties prior to the marriage.

The Supreme Court has said that in the right case such agreements can have decisive and compelling weight and that “it will be natural to infer that parties entering into agreements will intend that effect be given to them”.

Despite this the Court still has discretion to waive the terms of a pre-nup Agreement, especially if it is unfair to any children of the family.

Although not yet binding at law, this landmark ruling means that if you both enter into a pre-nuptial agreement freely, are fully informed of all the relevant financial and other information and the implications of the Agreement the Court is likely to uphold it’s terms!

It may seem unromantic, but if you want to protect your assets a pre-nuptial agreement will provide invaluable evidence of what you intend to happen on divorce.

To stand the best chance of being upheld you should be very careful about the circumstances in which it is signed and following the marriage it should be reviewed very regularly, particularly if you have children.

As with anything, you should always seek legal advice.

For advice on family law please call Karen Weiner on 020 8422 5678.