A recent ruling by the European Court of Justice (ECJ) has established that holiday pay must take into account ‘usual’ overtime and other supplements. This ruling has major implications for small businesses in Britain who must now change their holiday-pay policy.

In the past, British rules had been interpreted to mean that holiday pay could be calculated solely on the basis of a worker’s basic pay and need not take into account other aspects of their pay. These rules must now be “re-interpreted” as a result of the recent Lock v British Gas ruling by the ECJ.

The type of payments that need to form part of holiday pay calculations now include average overtime payments, shift supplements (for example, unsocial hours payments) and standard travel supplements (as opposed to reimbursement of out-of-pocket expenses).  Where these payments vary, then they will need to be calculated taking into account a twelve week reference period. What is less clear is the position in relation to bonuses and commissions and it is likely that these issues will be the addressed in later cases.  However, it would appear that regular bonuses and commissions would need to be taken into account but annual bonuses would not.

The changes to holiday pay calculation can add significantly to costs for a small firm; although the setting up of clear policies and procedures can go a long way to mitigate this.

If you would like assistance in relation to employment issues, call Andrew Geddes on 01638661116 for further information.

Posted 27/01/2015

New laws have come into force which give greater protection to children:  these provide better support for children whose parents are separating;  a new system to help children with special educational needs and disabilities;  and help for parents to balance work and family life. Current workplace arrangements have not kept up with the times,  the Children and Families Act will bring the way parents balance their working and home lives into the 21st century.

The act includes a number of new measures to protect the welfare of children, including:

  • changes to the law to give children in care the choice to stay with their foster families until they turn 21;
  • a new legal duty on schools to support children at school with medical conditions;
  • making clearer young carers’ and parent carers’ rights to support from councils;
  • reforms to children’s residential care to make sure homes are safe and secure and to improve the quality of care vulnerable children receive;
  • a requirement on all state-funded schools – including academies – to provide free school lunches on request for all pupils in reception, year 1 and year 2;
  • amendments to the law to protect children in cars from the dangers of second-hand smoke;
  • prospective fathers or a mother’s partner can take time off to attend up to 2 antenatal appointments;
  • extending the right to request flexible working to all employees;
  • replacing the current statutory procedure, through which employers consider flexible working requests, with a duty on employers to consider with requests in a ‘reasonable’ manner. 

This new act is designed to make sure the welfare of children is at the heart of the family justice system and provides a very welcome string to our bow.

If you would like assistance in family matters please call Anthony Scott on 01638721143 for further information.

Posted 27/01/2015

Changes to the law designed to support Good Samaritans and community heroes moved a step forward recently. The government’s Social Action Responsibility and Heroism (SARAH) Bill is currently being considered by Parliament and has now completed the House of Commons stages. It can now move to the House of Lords for consideration.

The Bill is part of the government’s ongoing commitment to supporting volunteers and has been designed to make sure people are not put off doing good deeds by worries about risk and liability if something goes wrong.

The law changes are being made to counteract the growing perception that it’s too risky for people to participate in activities which benefit the common good – like leading a school trip, organising a village fete, clearing snow from a path in front of their home or helping in an emergency situation.

The reforms will mean that, if a person has been acting for the benefit of society, intervening to help somebody in an emergency or demonstrating a generally responsible approach towards safety during an activity, the court will take a full and sympathetic account of their actions in the event something goes wrong and they are sued.

Measures to be brought in will also put the law more clearly on the side of employers who do the right thing to protect employees if something does go wrong through no fault of their own.

 These changes will allay the fears about liability that can drive volunteers to take out insurance when they don’t need to, force responsible employers to settle damages claims out of court rather run the risk of being found negligent, and stop passers-by from stepping in to help people who are in difficulty.

If you would like assistance in relation to a liability claim, call Anthony Scott on 01638 712243 for further information.

Posted 21/01/2015

More separating couples are to benefit from free mediation under arrangements announced last year by the Department of Justice. The objective of the new rules is to see more people resolving issues and reaching agreements on their own terms through mediation, which is often more successful, less expensive and less stressful than going to court. In 2013 for example, it was found that nearly two thirds of couples who attended mediation for a child dispute reached general agreement after a single mediation session;  almost seven out of every ten couples who opted for mediation reached a final agreement.

From 3 November 2014 the first mediation session was funded for both parties, provided at least one of them was already legally aided.  That followed the introduction, on 22 April 2014, of compulsory Mediation Information and Assessment Meetings (MIAM) which were required when separating couples applied to court over children and financial matters.

From 1 January 2015 there was a third stage in the government’s work to improve mediation and encourage separating couples to use it to resolve disputes:  from that date, the Family Mediation Council (FMC) introduced a compulsory accreditation scheme and new professional standards which all mediators must work toward (all mediators and those working towards becoming a family mediator are required to be registered with the FMC). The Ministry of Justice is funding the preparation work and costs of implementing the new standards;  the new professional standards will mean that separating couples and parents can have confidence in the mediator they choose.

These are the latest stages of reforms to improve the family justice system and follow recommendations made by the independent Family Mediation Task Force.

If you would like assistance in relation to a family matter, call Anthony Scott on 01638 712243 for further information.

Posted 16/01/2015

The latest stages of the current programme of dampening down the compensation culture in Britain came into force on the 1st October 2014.  The new rules still facilitate the making of genuine claims, they just make it harder for spurious claims to be made.

The fees medical professionals can charge for preparing whiplash injury reports have now been fixed at £180, to reflect the time taken to carry out assessments and write them up. Previously prices of up to £700 were being charged, leading to concerns that they could be used to generate profit. The new fee is part of measures to drive down the amount being paid unnecessarily by insurance companies on fraudulent claims, which will enable them to pass on savings to honest customers. Government reforms have been credited for leading to quoted motor insurance premiums falling. Latest figures from the AA show a record fall of £120 in the past year.

Tough new rules set by the Claims Management Regulation unit at the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) have also come into effect which prevent regulated claims companies from submitting poor quality claims for compensation for mis-sold Payment Protection Insurance (PPI) and other products. High volumes of badly compiled claims have caused delays to genuine applications being resolved.

Under the changes, claims firms have a duty to make sure the claims they are submitting have a realistic chance of success, as well as ensuring full evidence is provided to back up any allegations. Firms will also have to carry out thorough audits of how data they use has been gathered, so they can no longer turn a blind eye to whether leads have been found by illegal marketing texts and calls.

The new rules are good for solicitors and good for their clients claiming compensation – and have the added knock-on benefit of reducing premiums for the rest of us.

If you would like assistance with a claim for compensation, call Anthony Scott on 01638712243 for further information.

Posted 16/01/2015

New laws simplifying what happens when someone dies without leaving a will came into force on 1st October 2014. The changes to the law are designed to speed up and modernise the process of dividing the money, property and other assets of a person who dies without a will (intestate).

The reforms bring the law into line with the expectations of modern society and will make the process easier to manage for relatives and friends.

The changes, made in the new Inheritance and Trustees’ Powers Act, include:

  • When someone who has no children dies intestate, their whole estate will pass to their spouse. Before these changes a complex set of rules had been used which also, in some circumstances, allocated parts of the estate to other family members.
  • When someone dies intestate and they do have children, the way their estate is split between their spouse and children will be simplified. This has also previously been subject to a complex set of rules.
  • Closing a loophole to make sure children who are adopted don’t lose their inheritance after their parent’s death.

If you would like assistance in relation to your will, or the death of someone who died intestate, call Andrew Geddes on 01638661116 or Lorna Manning on 01638712243 for further information.

Posted 16/01/2015

The Justice Department has announced new laws to enable the prosecution of people who maliciously share sexually explicit pictures of former partners. Current laws had not anticipated this type of antisocial behaviour and they are being brought up to date to reflect the digital age.

Revenge porn – the distribution of a private sexual image of someone without their consent and with the intention of causing them distress – will be made a specific offence in the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill, which is currently going through Parliament.

The change will cover the sharing of images both online and offline. It will mean that images posted to social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter will be caught by the offence, as well as those that are shared via text message. Images shared via email, on a website or the distribution of physical copies will also be caught. Those convicted will face a maximum sentence of 2 years in prison.

The offence will cover photographs or films which show people engaged in sexual activity or depicted in a sexual way or with their genitals exposed, where what is shown would not usually be seen in public. Victims and others will be able to report offences to the police to investigate. Officers will work with the Crown Prosecution Service to take forward cases for prosecution.

Those found to have committed a sexual offence can continue to be prosecuted under existing legislation, which can lead to sentences of up to 14 years in prison.

Circulating intimate photos of an individual without their consent is never acceptable. People are entitled to expect a reasonable level of respect and privacy.  

If you would like assistance in relation to online bullying or the posting of inappropriate comments or pictures online, call Anthony Scott on 01638712243 for further information.

Posted 16/01/2016

The Supreme Court ruled recently that damages could not be awarded to a disabled passenger for distress and injury to feelings caused during air travel.

The claimant in this case was severely disabled and a permanent wheel-chair user. On booking flights for himself and his wife to Greece he arranged with the airline that he would be seated next to his wife so that she could attend to his personal needs during the flight. On the return flight no such seating arrangements were available and his wife encountered extreme difficulty in attending to him.

The claim was supported by the Equality and Human Rights Commission and also by the Secretary of State for Transport, who intervened on behalf of the claimant. The Supreme Court ruled however that what mattered in the case was not the quality of the cause of action but the time and place of the mishap. The damages claim was focussed on events occurring on board the aircraft in the course of flight. Damages in this type of case are currently excluded by the terms of the Montreal Convention unifying rules for international carriage by air adopted by the European Union. In light of this, the court rejected the compensation claim.

The Court acknowledged that the judgement was unfair but reported that their hands were tied by the international rules on air travel. 

If you would like assistance in relation to a claim please call Anthony Scott on 01638712243 for further information.

Posted 3 September 2014

 

 

Families of missing people will be given help to cope with the complex legal and financial issues they face as a result of new rules that come into force on 1st October 2014. From this date, Presumption of Death certificates will be able to be issued in England and Wales which will be equivalent to death certificates and can be applied for by relatives of people who have gone missing and are presumed dead – bringing it in line with Scotland and Northern Ireland.

No one can prepare for the heartache and confusion arising from the disappearance of a loved one, gone without trace, but the new rules will at least ease the process of dealing with the bureaucracy. If you would like assistance in relation to any family matters please contact Anthony Scott on 01638 712243 for further information.

Posted 3 September 2014

 

 

Children will be given a greater voice in the family justice system so that they can tell judges how they feel and what they think about the family disputes in which they are involved. Children and young people must by law have their views heard before decisions are made about their future and where decisions are made that will impact them. At the moment, it is still too often the case that their views are not fully heard.

The government has made the commitment that from the age of 10, children and young people involved in all family court hearings in England will have access to judges to make their views and feelings known. 

The announcement was made by the Ministry of Justice following calls from young peoples’ representative group, the Family Justice Young People’s Board, that for too long children have been pushed and pulled through the family justice system with little or no say on what happens to them. The government will also work with mediator sector so that children have appropriate access to mediators in cases which affect them. 

These changes to procedure will be put into place as soon as practically possible. 

If you would like assistance in relation to mediation, divorce or children’s matters, call Anthony Scott on 01638712243 for further information.

Posted 3 September 2014