Employment Law Update April 2012

BREEZE & WYLES SOLICITORS
Employment Law Update

April 2012
Dear Employer

While the headlines might have been rather gloomy recently with the news that we are apparently back in recession, many businesses will have been cheered by the outcome of the age discrimination case brought by Mr Seldon against the solicitors firm in which he was a partner (see below). The judgment by the Supreme Court suggests a way for employers to manage older employees out of the business: something that many have been worrying about since the default retirement age was abolished. Certainly it makes things clearer but, as always, the facts of each individual situation will be what counts. As always, if in doubt take advice.

If you have any particular employment issues, please do not hesitate to contact us: details are at the end of this letter. If you have any comments or suggestions on this newsletter, please email newsletter@breezeandwyles.co.uk

Kind regards

The Employment Law Team

Some Recent Cases in Employment Law

Justifying age discrimination
Judgment has now been given on further appeal on the long-running case concerning the question of whether the retirement of a partner in a solicitor’s firm was discriminatory and, if so, whether it could be justified under the (now defunct) Employment Equality (Age) Regulations 2006. The case is still relevant because it concerns direct age discrimination and when it can be justified, and applies equally to the justification of direct age discrimination under the Equality Act 2010 (Section 13(2)).
A clause in the partnership deed of the law firm provided for the compulsory retirement of partners at 65. The partner had argued that this was unjustified direct age discrimination under the Employment Equality (Age) Regulations which prohibited such discrimination in partnerships.
The solicitor’s claim was dismissed because the Supreme Court held that although the partner was the victim of direct age discrimination, the firm was able to justify it. The Supreme Court referred to the findings of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) which has shown that direct age discrimination can be justified only by reference to legitimate objectives of a public interest nature rather than purely individual reasons particular to the employer’s situation. The two categories of social policy objective which were identified by the ECJ were “inter-generational fairness” and “dignity”. The Supreme Court held that in this case the firm’s policies of staff retention (e.g. ensuring that senior solicitors were given the opportunity of partnership) and workforce planning fell within the category of “inter-generational fairness”. Also the firm’s aim of limiting the need to expel partners by way of performance management fell within the policy objective of “dignity”. As a result, the firm’s aims had the requisite social policy/public interest dimension and were therefore legitimate. (Seldon v. Clarkson Wright & Jakes)
This is a summary only and, as always, cases turn on their own facts. Take advice before acting!

Indirect Age Discrimination: Policeman disadvantaged by not having Law Degree
The Supreme Court has overturned an earlier decision whereby it was held not to be discriminatory when a police officer was unable to qualify for promotion to a higher grade because the rules of promotion required him to have a law degree and, as he was 61, he could not complete it before retirement at 65. The Court of Appeal had ruled in the employer’s favour, saying that any particular disadvantage Mr Homer suffered resulted not from age discrimination but from the fact that he was retiring. He appealed to the Supreme Court. The Court found for him and rejected the argument that the disadvantage which Mr Homer suffered was no different to the disadvantage that would be suffered by anyone due to leave the workplace for whatever reason. The disadvantage here was one that was suffered by a particular age group for a reason related to their age, and it could not be right to equate that disadvantage with a similar disadvantage suffered by others for a non-age related reason. The Court should not have to ignore the fact that certain protected characteristics (in this case, age) are more likely to be associated with particular disadvantages. Further, there is a material difference between leaving the workplace because of retirement and leaving for other reasons, e.g. family reasons. A person leaving work for family reasons usually has some choice in the matter but someone due to be retired under the (old) default retirement age provisions generally does not.

Given that there was age discrimination, could this be justified? The Court accepted that facilitating recruitment and retention of a sufficiently high calibre staff was a legitimate aim. However, it was necessary to distinguish between the justification of the criteria for the recruitment and that for entry to higher paid grades (as here) and to ask whether applying the law degree criterion to existing employees seeking promotion was appropriate. To some extent, this would depend on whether non-discriminatory alternatives were available. The case would be remitted to the Tribunal to tackle these questions. (Homer v. Chief Constable of West Yorkshire Police)

New Qualifying Period and other charges
• As advised in a previous e-zine, for those who started employment on or after 6th April 2012 the new qualifying period of two years will apply for bringing a claim for unfair dismissal or requesting a written statement of reason for dismissal. Employees who started before that date will remain subject to the one year qualifying period.
• The maximum costs obtainable from a Tribunal (for those lucky enough to be awarded them) increased from £10,000 to £20,000 and the deposit order for weak claims increased from £500 to £1,000.
• SSP: This increased this month from £81.60 to £85.85.
Changes to Immigration Rules
These came in during April, which include limiting the stay of temporary Tier 2 migrants to a maximum of six years. There are other changes: please let us know if you require further details.
Witness Expenses
From 6th April the Employment Tribunal can make a costs order requiring payment to a witness in respect of some or all of the expenses that the witness incurs in attending the Tribunal. There is no limit on the amount of expenses to be paid.
Non-solicitation of clients
A recent case has shown the Court’s attitude towards restrictive covenants: those clauses that the prudent employer will have in its contracts of employment to prevent an ex-employee from poaching its clients. There is often a “non-solicitation” clause in the contract. How far the actions of an employee amount to solicitation is often uncertain. However, the High Court has recently emphasised that “solicitation” is not decided solely by whether the employee made the first contact but whether there was an element of persuasion in the employee’s communications with the client. A contractual non-solicitation clause therefore means that former employees must not directly or indirectly request, persuade or encourage the clients of their former employer to transfer their business to the new employer. (Towry v. Barry Bennett (2012))

What’s in the pipeline

Pre-claim conciliation
The government has announced various reforms to resolving work place disputes, which will be implemented “when parliamentary time allows”. These include requiring all employment disputes to be offered ACAS pre-claim conciliation before going to a Tribunal.

The Employer Traps and Other Tips

Update
You should always ensure that your contracts are updated by reviewing them every now and then. This includes reviewing your needs as a business and whether you need to change/tighten up in some way the restrictive covenants in your contracts.
Stressed Employees
If an employee is absent through stress, make sure you do not ignore this. Remember that you are expected to behave as a reasonable employer which means discussing the situation with the employee and, if appropriate, making a referral to occupational health at an early stage.

Other news from Breeze and Wyles

Debt Recovery Service

We offer a low cost, fixed fee debt recovery service aimed at assisting businesses to chase unpaid invoices. An initial letter to a debtor costs just £2.00 plus VAT. This means that businesses can cost effectively chase their aged debtors. Many businesses now use this service to chase debts that otherwise would have been written off, because it offers such a cost effective and efficient solution. For further information please contact Rita Wright at:

rita.wright@breezeandwyles.co.uk or telephone 01992 558411.

Breeze and Wyles Solicitors LLP are a leading law firm with offices throughout Hertfordshire and Middlesex, providing quality legal service in all of the mainstream areas of the Law for over 90 years.

We are one of very few law firms that offer services online. Check out our services Solution for volume legal instruction at www.breezeplus.co.uk

We have been awarded Lexcel Accreditation and are regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority. For further information on any of the issues referred to in this newsletter, or any other employment matter, please contact Jane Dismore at:

2nd Floor, Stag House, Old London Road, Hertford, SG13 7LA
Tel: 01992 558411 Fax: 01992 503889
Email: jane.dismore@breezeandwyles.co.uk

Please note that this e-zine is for information only and is not intended to be relied upon in any individual case. You should always seek advice on any individual issues.

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Independent Financial Advisers: What does RDR mean for you?

To the independent financial adviser none of what follows will come as any surprise. In fact this has been on the cards since the FSA review started in 2006. However it is worth repeating here for the value that advisers will get from the articles should they be concerned about what the future holds for them.
On the 1st of January 2013 the FSA's Retail Distribution Review (RDR), a major reform of the regulation of retail investment advice is due to come into force. Among the reforms it would in particular require
1. advisers to have qualifications equivalent to a Certificate in Higher Education in order to practise, and
2. remove the system of commission paid to advisers and replace it with Consumer Agreed Remuneration.
There is no doubt that these changes are needed. It is accepted by the FSA that its proposals would cause large numbers of Independent Financial Advisers to leave the market. This would have an adverse impact on the consumer as the alternatives such as savings rates are so low as to make stuffing the cash into a mattress a credible solution. The Treasury Select Committee last year recommended a delay of 12 months in the implementation of the RDR in order to allow advisers to satisfy the reform’s requirements. However, the FSA has been quite bullish in its rejection of the TSC’s recommendations and during the course of last year a significant amount of posturing was undertaken by both sides. Unfortunately without some input from HM Treasury it is likely that the FSA’s reforms will be introduced in January coming.
Whilst a higher level of qualification for advisers can help build a stronger professional ethos among advisers and reflect the considerable responsibility advisers have for the financial welfare of their clients, by asking for a delay of a year to the introduction of the RDR, the TSC hoped that advisers would take the opportunity to meet the new qualification requirements. The TSC also recommended that the FSA use other means, such as providing for flexibility for advisers on a case by case basis, and allowing supervision of non-qualified advisers.
Customers of financial advisers have tended to see financial advice as 'free' under a commission-based system. The RDR will mean that customers will clearly see what they are being charged for advice. This is a healthy development but will involve a significant change in culture for the industry.
What this will mean for those advisers who leave the market early and are paid in relation to passive or active accrued income is difficult to see. We have structured anumber of these deals for our clients in recent times.
If you are thinking of leaving the market and need legal advice on the best way to do this please contact Brendan.obrien@breezeandwyles.co.uk. We now have significant experience in structuring asset sale and corporate sales of Client Banks or IFA companies. If you wish to telephone me for a no-commitment conversation regarding a sale or purchase or any other matter please feel free to call me on 07985468101

Employers face muddy swamp despite new employment legislation

Changes designed to stimulate employment look unlikely to make things easier for business in the short term, with a continuing muddy swamp of employment legislation.

As business watches for the hoped-for rise in economic activity, employers are being warned to check the small print on recently introduced employment legislation.

The qualifying period of continuous employment before an unfair dismissal claim can be made by an employee has been increased to two years with effect from this month.

But the new rules will only apply to those who start in a new job on or after 6th April 2012, and many employers are missing the fine detail.

“The change has been put forward by the Government as a route to boost employment, hoping that it will give more flexibility on staffing in the longer timescale,” said employment law expert Jane Dismore. “But the important thing is that it does not apply to staff who were employed before the 6th of April, as they will remain eligible to claim unfair dismissal after one year of service.”

To keep in line with the new rules, employers are being urged to keep a careful record of exactly when each employee began work and the length of their continuous service, as this will be needed if disciplinary action ever needs to be taken against the employee.

She added: “As the start of the employment year, April is a good time to check that all the internal practices are keeping up with new legislation.”

Whilst the new rules are intended to support business and help stimulate economic growth, many employers continue to cut staffing costs, and two other recent employment tribunal rulings look set to provide further procedural challenges to employers in future.

Most recently, two cases have hit the headlines where an ex-employee brought an unfair dismissal case against their former employer after being the only employee in the “redundancy pool”, as the group of individuals chosen for redundancy is known.
In the case of Capita Hartshead Limited v Byard, a single actuary was chosen for redundancy and later took their case to an industrial tribunal claiming unfair dismissal. Other actuaries were employed in similar roles and the Tribunal, and later the Employment Appeals Tribunal (EAT), both ruled in favour of the employee, saying that the redundancy pool should have included others in similar positions. The Tribunal’s message was that employers should expect to find themselves open to greater scrutiny if they include only one person in a redundancy pool.

The outcome was different in Halpin v Sandpiper Books Limited, which also reached the EAT. In this case, the employee in the pool of one was the only one based in China, where such work was no longer required. Here, the EAT said that as there were no other similarly qualified possible targets for redundancy, the decision on the redundancy pool was reasonable and his dismissal was fair.

“The upshot is that sensible employers who are looking at redundancy pools should take care, reviewing the position carefully and keeping a record of the decision-making process. And when they go through formal consultation, it makes sense to explain how they made the selection and giving the employee a chance to question the basis, which allows for review and mediation at an early stage,” explained Jane.

If you wish to telephone me for a no-commitment conversation regarding this or any other matter please feel free to call me on 07985468101

ENDS

Web site content note:

This is not legal advice; it is intended to provide information of general interest about current legal issues.

Twelve Tips towards making Inheritance Tax Savings:

Twelve Tips towards making Inheritance Tax Savings:

1. Ensure you make a Will

By making a Will you ensure that your assets are distributed in the way you want. If you leave everything to your spouse by way of a Will, the transfer will be tax exempt. However, if you die without making a Will (intestate) then it is possible that not all your assets will transfer to your spouse, meaning that Inheritance Tax might be payable. We provide a cost effective and time fficient service to enable you to achieve this and the service can be found here https://www.clientspace.org/index.asp?firm=891A41B9

2. Emigrate

Changing the country which you are deemed to be resident for tax purposes is far more difficult than just changing the country you regard as home. If you are domiciled overseas, then only assets based in Britain will be subject to IHT, whereas IHT would cover your worldwide assets if you were domiciled here. You should always ensure that you have a Will in each country that you own assets BUT be sure that one Will does not revoke the other. Always seek professional advice with regard to your assets if you are considering moving abroad.

3. Give it away!

Gifts made prior to your death are potentially tax exempt. If you die within seven years of making the gift then, if your estate is taxable, tax will be payable on the gift, however this is on a reducing scale. You must ensure that you give the whole of the gift and do not “reserve benefit” in anyway, e.g. transferring ownership of your house but continuing to live there – under circumstances such as these the property may still be a taxable asset.

4. Charitable Gifts

Gifts to registered charities are tax exempt and therefore, if you have a favourite charity, be it an animal charity, children’s charity etc, why not consider leaving them a legacy, whether an asset or monetary gift? This can therefore reduce the value of your taxable estate.

5. Monetary gifts

Each person has a £3,000 annual allowance for gifts to anybody, this can also be carried forward for one year, so if a married couple have not used their personal allowance in one tax year they could potentially give away £12,000 tax free in the following tax year – even if one or both of them were to die within seven years of the gift. There is also the ability to for parents to give up to £5,000 as a wedding gift to their children – that could be £5,000 from each parent to each adult child.

6. Make it a family affair

Discretionary trusts can be set up and this enables assets up to the nil rate band of IHT (currently £325,000 per person or £650,000 married couple or civil partnership) to be free from IHT, so long as the donor survives seven years. The donor will retain control of all of the assets, unlike giving outright gifts.

7. Farm the land!

Numerous rules govern business, property and agricultural tax reliefs, and it is imperative to obtain professional advice before taking such a step. There are many pitfalls, not least the risk of losing your capital while trying to avoid tax! However, generally speaking agricultural land which is let out can become IHT-free after seven years and if you like the idea of becoming a farmer yourself then by personally farming the land it is possible that the land would become IHT free after just two years.

8. Gifts from Income

People with a high level income could make substantial tax savings: to show that the payments are made from income, three tests need to be satisfied:

• they must be made out of income, not e.g. from sale of an asset;
• there must be a realistic intention to make regular payments;
• the payments must not reduce the donor’s standard of living.

9. War wounds

Where it can be proved after their death that the donor died as a result, even indirectly, of their injuries suffered during military service then that person’s estate may become tax exempt. This point enabled a Duke of Westminster to avoid IHT when he died many years after injuries sustained during the Second World War. This may now be relevant to more people, following the situations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

10. Equity Release

Now that it is impossible to shelter the family home from IHT and remain living in it, another solution is to spend some of the wealth in that asset before it can be taken into account for tax. Equity release schemes are widely available. Independent professional advice should always be sort before entering into such an agreement.

11. Individual Savings Accounts

Individual Savings Accounts (Isas), assist in the avoidance of income and gains tax – but they do not offer protection against IHT.

12. Spend it

Well, this one does not really need any explanation does it? However, if you are stuck for ideas why not take a long cruise or exotic holiday. Be careful not to buy assets which will increase in value, such as an antique, thereby defeating the object of diminishing the value of your estate.

Last but not least.....

OK we said twelve but here’s one more – we did not want to scare off those who are suspicious of the number 13 - and perhaps this is the most important tip of all: PLAN AHEAD.

For further information regarding estate planning please contact Hardeep Nijher on 01992 642333 or email Hardeep.nijher@breezeandwyles.co.uk.


Should I bother with how I hold my share of a jointly owned property?

It is not often that Family Law has to cross paths with conveyancing solicitors but in wake of the somewhat famous case of Kernott v Jones, attention has once again been directed at conveyancing solicitors acting for purchasers buying property together. It has long been the duty of the solicitor who is acting for clients buying land jointly to explain to them that they can chose to hold it as beneficial joint tenants or as tenants in common. The solicitor should explain what those two options mean, and should make clear to the clients the advantages of setting out their choice in a Declaration of Trust so that there can be no dispute about their decision. They will then be saved costly litigation should a dispute arise in the future. This is vital advice, and it goes beyond the simple point that beneficial joint tenancy means that there is a right of survivorship (the survivor of the two when one dies, will take the whole property); joint purchasers also need to know that when a beneficial joint tenancy is severed, it is at that point unavoidably held in equal shares even if the purchase was funded unequally. Because of the lack of any jurisdiction to redistribute property on the breakdown of cohabitation, this advice and the taking of an informed decision may be even more crucial for unmarried clients than for married clients.

Despite this clear duty upon conveyancers, there have been many incidents in the UK when this advice has not been given, no Declaration of Trust has been executed and much of the value of the property has later been wasted in litigation under the law of implied trusts. Over the years, Judges have had to point out on many occasions the disastrous consequences that can occur when a solicitor has not advised their clients to deal explicitly with the beneficial interest in the property.

In an earlier case Stack v Dowden (2007), it was observed by the Court that although the Land Registry form TR1 required registration of a purchase and makes provision for the parties to declare whether they are to hold the property for themselves as beneficial joint tenants or as tenants in common or on some other trust, the parties are free to make that declaration. They may not have been advised to do so despite the solicitor’s duty or they may choose to ignore that advice. The problem with the Form TR1 is that the tick box exercise is not compulsory and failure to tick one of the boxes means that the Land Registry will simply enter a restriction in Form A upon the title by default. That restriction has often been misinterpreted and taken as an indication of tenants in common.

It is imperative to avoid future claims for negligence against you as conveyancing solicitors to make sure that you properly record the advice that you have given to parties, particularly unmarried parties, purchasing property together.

Many family solicitors will be directing their separated cohabitant clients to make claims for negligence against the conveyancers who dealt with the purchase where parties’ intentions as to ownership have not been properly recorded.

Olive McCarthy

17 April 2012

Director and Head of Private Client

Stamp Duty Relief on Share Transfers

Introduction
It is often convenient to reorganise private companies in common ownership. One method often utilised is for a company ("the acquiring company") to acquire all of the issued share capital of another company ("the target") and to pay for the shares in the target by the issue of shares in the acquiring company to the share-holders in the target. This is commonly called a share for share exchange.
One attraction of a share for share exchange is that, provided the required conditions are met, exemption from stamp duty on the transfer of the shares in the target may be available.
As with any proposed reorganisation of a group, the first step must be to obtain tax advice and any neces-sary clearances. Once the tax issues have been cleared, the following must be considered:
• The issue of shares by the acquiring company to the shareholders in the target for a non-cash consideration.
• The transfer of the target's shares by the shareholders to the acquiring company.
• Stamp duty issues and possible relief under section 77 of the Finance Act 1986 ("FA 1986").
Issue of shares by acquiring company
The considerations here are the same as for any issue of shares, with a couple of additions.
• Do the directors have authority to allot shares? -- Section 550 of the Companies Act 2006 ("CA 2006") provides that where a private company only has one class of shares, the di-rectors may exercise any power of the company to allot shares of that class. However, companies incorporated prior to 1 October 2009 will need to consider applicable transitional provisions, particularly those contained in the Companies Act 2006 (Commencement No. 8, Transitional Provisions and Savings) Order 2008 (SI 2008/2860). For companies subject to these transitional provisions, note that the directors only have the power granted by CA 2006, s 550 if the company has passed an ordinary resolution (which is required to be forwarded to Companies House) that the directors should have the powers given by that section or the shareholders have altered the company's articles to give that power. Companies with more than one class of shares must consider CA 2006, s 551. Also check whether the articles contain a restriction on the amount of shares that may be issued (again transitional provisions for pre-October 2009 companies may be relevant). The other applicable provisions of the company's articles and any shareholders' agreement must also be considered.
• Do pre-emption rights apply? -- CA 2006, s 565 provides that the statutory pre-emption rights do not apply to an allotment of shares for a non-cash consideration. However, the com-pany's articles and any shareholders' agreement should also be checked.
• Board resolution -- A resolution of the board of directors will be required to decide to purchase the shares in the target and to allot shares to the shareholders in the target in con-sideration for the transfer of their shares. The names of the allottees, the shares in the target being transferred by them, and the shares in the acquiring company to be allotted in consideration should be listed (normally in the form of a table).
• Register of members, return of allotments and share certificates -- Entries in the register of members, the delivery of a return of allotments (incorporating a statement of capital) to Companies House and the issue of share certificates must be completed in the normal way.
Transfer of target shares
The other half of the transaction is the transfer of shares in the target. The shareholders will need to execute share transfer forms in favour of the acquiring company and hand over the share certificates (or an indemnity for lost certificates). The provisions of the target's articles regarding the transfer of shares should be considered at an early stage and must be complied with. Note that the transfers cannot be registered in the register of members until stamp duty issues have been dealt with.
Stamp duty
Stamp duty is normally payable on the transfer of shares. Where the consideration for the transfer is not cash, stamp duty will be payable on the value of the consideration unless an exemption is available.
FA 1986, s 77 provides that if the following conditions are met, stamp duty is not payable on a transfer form transferring shares in the target to the acquiring company:
• The transfer forms part of an arrangement by which the acquiring company acquires the whole of the issued share capital of the target.
• The acquisition is effected for bona fide commercial reasons and must not be part of a scheme or arrangement a main purpose of which is the avoidance of certain taxes -- this is taken to be satisfied if advance clearance for the scheme has been obtained under section 138 or 139 of the Taxation of Chargeable Gains Act 1992 or section 707 of the Income and Corporation Taxes Act 1988.
• The consideration for the acquisition consists only of the issue of shares in the acquiring company.
• The shareholders of the acquiring company after the acquisition must be the same as those of the target immediately before the acquisition.
• The classes of share and the proportions of shares of any class of the acquiring company after the acquisition must be the same as those of the target immediately before the acquisition.
• The proportion of shares of any particular class held by any particular shareholder of the acquiring company after the acquisition must be the same as the proportion of shares of that class held by him in the target immediately before the acquisition.
Note that it is compulsory to apply for this relief and obtain an adjudication stamp on the transfers.

Health and Safety in the Work Place

Introduction
Health and safety risk assessments have recently attracted bad press. Earlier this year, Prime Minister David Cameron said that excessive health and safety culture has become an albatross around the neck of British business as "every day they battle against a tide of risk assessment forms".
But Health and Safety Executive ("HSE") guidance points out:
"A risk assessment is simply a careful examination of what, in your work, could cause harm to people, so that you can weigh up whether you have taken enough precautions or should do more to prevent harm."
Two recent government reviews of health and safety legislation have highlighted problems with employers' perceptions of the legal requirement to carry out risk assessments. Lord Young's 2010 "Common Sense, Common Safety" review reported that some health and safety consultants were aiming to eliminate all risk from the workplace instead of adopting a rational, proportionate approach, and that some insurance compa-nies were insisting on costly and unnecessary health and safety risk assessments from external consultants.
In November 2011 Professor Ragnar Löfstedt's report, "Reclaiming health and safety for all", found that the requirement to carry out a risk assessment has turned into a bureaucratic nightmare for some businesses:
"The legal requirement to carry out a risk assessment is an important part of a risk management process but instead businesses are producing or paying for lengthy documents covering every conceivable risk, some-times at the expense of controlling the significant risks in their workplace."
The legal requirement
So what does the law actually require employers to do? The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 (SI 1999/3242) require employers to carry out a "suitable and sufficient" risk assessment. The HSE guide "Five Steps to Risk Assessment" (INDG163) (which is available along with interactive tools and other information, advice and guidance from the HSE website at www.hse.gov.uk/risk/index.htm) makes clear:
"The law does not expect you to eliminate all risk, but you are required to protect people as far as 'reasona-bly practicable'."
The guide provides practical, step-bystep guidance for employers on how to carry out a risk assessment, emphasises the need to involve workers or their representatives throughout, and advises employers not to overcomplicate the process. It advises the following.
Step 1 -- Identify the hazards
Identify how people could be harmed by their work activities, by walking around the workplace and looking at what could reasonably be expected to cause harm. Ask employees or their representatives what they think.
Good sources of practical guidance on where hazards occur and how to control them include the HSE web-site (and those of trade associations) and manufacturers' instructions and safety data sheets for chemicals and equipment. Accident and ill-health records can help to identify the less obvious hazards and the HSE advises employers to consider long-term hazards to health, such as high levels of noise or exposure to harmful substances, as well as more immediate safety hazards.
Step 2 -- Decide who might be harmed and how
Identify groups of workers and other people who may be harmed by the hazards identified and the type of injury or ill health that could occur. Take account of people who might be at particular risk, such as new and young workers, new or expectant mothers and people with disabilities. Consider people who may not be at the workplace all the time, such as cleaners, visitors, contractors, maintenance workers and members of the public.
If the workplace is shared, consider how your work affects others present, and how their work affects your staff, and discuss this with them. Ask staff if they can think of anyone who may have been missed.
Step 3 -- Evaluate the risks and decide on precautions
Decide what to do about the hazards identified. In deciding what it is "reasonably practicable" to protect people from harm, compare action taken with good practice, examples of which can be found on the HSE website.
Consider whether the hazard can be disposed of altogether, if not work through a hierarchy of risk control:
• try a less risky option (by using a less hazardous chemical, for example);
• prevent access to the hazard (using guarding, for example);
• organise work to reduce exposure to the hazard (putting barriers between pedestrians and traffic, for example);
• provide personal protective equipment; and
• provide welfare facilities (such as first aid and washing facilities to remove any contami-nation).
It is important to involve staff, to ensure that what is proposed will work in practice and will not introduce any new hazards.
Step 4 -- Record the findings and implement them
Employers with fewer than five employees do not have to write anything down, but it is useful to do so. A written risk assessment should be kept simple. A "suitable and sufficient" risk assessment will show that:
• a proper check was made;
• the employer asked who might be affected;
• the employer dealt with all the significant hazards, taking into account the number of peo-ple who could be involved;
• the precautions are reasonable, and the remaining risk is low; and
• staff or their representatives were involved in the process.
If the risk assessment shows that a lot of improvements are needed, use a plan of action to deal with the most important things first.
Step 5 -- Review the assessment and update if necessary
Review on an ongoing basis and carry out a formal review every year or so. Make sure the risk assessment stays up to date by reviewing it if there are significant changes.

Pali Law revamp revealed!

Pali Law is pleased to announce the exciting new revamp of their site is now complete.

After much anticipation and money invested, Pali Law now has a slick new look. See it HERE.

The site allows members of the public to ask one free legal question from which they get a response from a reputable, local solicitor who specialises in the area of law in question.

When a question has been asked, the most suitable solicitor gets alerted via email and can then respond to the question in their own time. It works as a lead generator for solicitors as due to the member of the public being local, a visit can be suggested which will hopefully lead to the solicitor gaining a new client, however it also introduces members of the public to local, legal experts in a speedy fashion when they might not have time to research and find one themselves. Not to mention the fact it’s free to ask the legal question! And we all love a free lunch!

The polished new look echoes the services provided by parent company Pali Ltd, a national IT based firm who offer property reports such as conveyancing searches, indemnity policies and anti-money laundering searches to solicitors via a sophisticated electronic system.

Jo Milne from Pali Ltd Head Office says ‘Pali Law is an exciting new venture we have embarked on and I am pleased we have now put the finishing touches to the site. We have provided a conveyancing search service to solicitors since 1999 but simply being a search provider isn’t enough for us. We always strive to be on the cutting edge of our market and offer dynamic and original extras to our clients. Our IT Programmers work around the clock, evolving and improving our systems. If a client suggests a valid change to our system that will make their lives easier, we implement it. We already offer our clients free conveyancing leads as a way of giving something back however Pali Law was born out of the ABS or ‘Tesco Law’ that has recently come in to play. We recognised that the regular, high street solicitor may come under attack and have to change their marketing strategies in order to compete with the big players that endeavour to enter the legal market. So we thought what better way to utilise our database of nationwide, top quality solicitors than to pool all our resources together and create one site that not only puts each individual practice on the map (also known as Google) but with their individual company brand remaining in tact. They aren’t competing with each other as the lead goes on both locality and the specific field of law; the closest solicitor gets the gig so there are no price wars. Like the conveyancing leads we offer, Pali Law is a completely free service to clients.’ Jo continues ‘We strongly believe in reciprocal business and looking after our clients. But to be frank, it’s naturally in our best interest for our clients to remain busy as more business for them equals more business for us. Pali Law is in it’s infancy but I am very excited to be part of the journey it’s about to take us on.’

Unlike other similar sites, Pali Law is not a profit centre. As explained it is a way to assist clients and in that way gain more clients. However not all solicitors can use Pali’s products or services, such as conveyancing searches but they will not be excluded from the site as, for it to work effectively, it needs to cover all aspects of law, not just conveyancing. Another way Pali Law differs from these types of sites is that it is location and topic specific. From the questioner’s postcode and question it selects the closest solicitor specialising in the topic picked. Future-wise, Pali Law is aiming to create a network of progressive solicitors to facilitate a national legal frame work to offer to interested parties as well as the general public.

If you would like more information on being set up on Pali Law you can email Jo Milne direct at jo@paliltd.com.

Amanda McGovern, Pali Ltd
www.paliltd.com


HR Together Employment Service Launches Today!

As an employer you will have many issues to worry about. If this applies to you then there is now a cost effective service that can help you without the cost of employing an HR Manager to review and handle these tasks.

Employment Tribunal Applications in the UK are increasing year on year with over 50% being settled out of court or withdrawn (still a painful financial lesson for the employer!)

As an employer, have you ever asked yourself the following questions?

• How do I keep my legal and best practice documentation up to date with the law?

• When they were last reviewed and how often should they be checked?

• Are my employee contracts, employee handbook and health & safety policy tailored to best help achieve my business objectives?

• How do I obtain the most cost effective legal advice and support on day to day issues that arise with employee management and safety issues?

• Where do I get my information regarding future changes to legislation?

• Who do I delegate these risks to in my business and are they capable of managing and protecting my business effectively?

• If faced with formal litigation, ET1 form or criminal prosecution what is my financial liability?

All good Employment Services should include the following:

• HR Telephone Support Line: call at any time during normal business hours and get tailored and practical advice on employment issues, policies and procedures, contractual terms and conditions, employment law compliance and how to proceed in specific situations. With HR advice available you will be able to consider best practice for productivity and performance, as well as minimising the risk of employment tribunal claims.

• Employment Legal Expenses Insurance: even when you act as a reasonable employer and manage employment issues positively, there is still the risk that an employee or ex-employee may bring a claim against you at an employment tribunal. With insurance in place and following correct procedures your legal costs and any awards or settlements will be covered. This gives you peace of mind and can prove to be a substantial saving in the event of a claim.

• HR Consultancy: HR advice should be backed up with a consultancy service providing required documentation, specific HR letters, policies and procedures, employment contracts and staff handbook as required. You should also benefit from greatly reduced consultancy rates for any HR projects or bespoke procedures and policies needed.

• HR and Employment Law email updates: To ensure you are updated with recent and upcoming changes in employment legislation and discussions on HR best practice and topical issues.

As a new subscriber we will take you through an HR Review to identify any existing risks or compliance needs and will receive a report outlining the findings of the review and providing guidance and recommendations.

If you have any queries contact stephen.blake@hrtogether.co.uk or find more contact details at www.hrtogether.co.uk and view the online documents at https://www.clientspace.org/index.asp?firm=891A41B9&id=2


SVRs going up..Why?..What are the Implications?

During Quarter 1 of 2012 a number of high-street lenders have announced increases in the standard variable rates (SVRs) – the revert-to-rate that mortgage borrowers pay their mortgage interest at after their fixed/tracker rates expire.

Prior to 2007 the normal course of action for mortgage borrowers coming off fixed or tracker rates was to look for an immediate remortgage onto a deal that worked out better for them than their lenders SVR.

Following the “Credit Crunch” and the Bank of England’s move to reduce the Bank of England Base Rate to nearly zero, borrowers have tended to stay on their lenders SVRs. This is for two primary reasons (1) The SVR was cheaper than any fixed rates available elsewhere and (2) the tightening of lending requirements meant that many borrowers are simply unable to remortgage.

The reason cited by lenders for increasing their SVRs is that the wholesale cost of funding for them has increased and they need to increase their rates to pass some of these costs onto the borrowers.

If funding pressures is the real reason for general SVR increases by the lenders one has to question why this is occurring in Q1 2012 rather then Q3 or 4 of 2011. Funding costs on the wholesale market were at their most acute in the second half of last year when the Eurozone debt crisis was at it’s height. Since the the ECB has pumped billions of Euros of liquidity into the banking system resulting in funding costs reducing in 2012. It is simply not logical that the SVR rises are coming now if they are based on funding costs alone.

An alternative reason for increase in SVRs may be an attempt by lenders to reduce the size of their loan books by driving mortgage customers to their competitors. Whilst increasing SVRs may be a way of reducing loan books it will also have the bi-product of reducing the quality of loan books at the same time since only the “good” customers who qualify to remortgage will be able to move away leaving “bad” customers who are trapped with their current lenders on their SVR because for financial or other reasons they simply cannot get another mortgage elsewhere.

Could the real reason for the rises be an attempt to stress test their loan books to identify the number of loans at risk to general rate rises when they inevitably come?

Whatever is the true reason for the increases what impact will this have on the mortgage market?

In normal circumstances I would suggest that lenders increasing SVRs would increase remortgage volumes as borrowers try to shop around for better deals. But since 2007 normal circumstances do not apply!

There may be a small increase in remortgage activity but I believe the vast majority of mortgage customers remain trapped with their current lenders unable to remortgage. The number of borrowers sitting on SVRs is increasing by the month and increasing the SVRs will simply put the normal mortgage borrower who is already under financial pressure due to inflation under greater financial stress.

As a result, my view is that the real outcome of these rate rises will simply be an increase of mortgage borrowers in arrears and in due course an increase in mortgage repossessions.

Murray Fraser
Director and Head of Volume Service