Abusive email puts employer on the spot

An abusive rejection letter sent by email to a jobseeker has landed a company director in hot water.

The email was sent to 48 year old James Allen, a former serviceman from Devon, who was described in the letter as ‘an old, aesthetically challenged guy with no teeth’.

Written by the company director of a window and conservatory manufacturer, the message to the would-be labourer read: “You are not only the most inappropriate person for this job, but probably for any job you will spend the next few years applying for, only to get rejected as soon as they meet you.”

Sarah Hassler, the company director who wrote the abusive email has said that it was a mistake that she sent her so-called ‘rant’, saying that she had read an article suggesting that anger and upset could be released by writing down how one felt, but not sharing what was written. She said that she had written an appropriate email turning down James Allen for the job, but the two had become muddled and she had sent the wrong one.

Said Brendan O’Brien of Breeze & Wyles Solicitors Limited: “This is a pretty extreme example of what not to say to either a potential or existing employee.  And whilst problems with performance, for example, may involve some plain-speaking, it’s important that you keep to the facts and don’t resort to any personal attacks.

“There’s a raft of legislation that could be breached by such a conversation, including the Equality Act, and getting it wrong could turn a performance review into an expensive conversation for the company.”

He added: “In any discussion with a member of staff, whether a performance review or simply a general discussion about their role and responsibilities, it’s very important to document what is said.  It’s also worth looking at how anyone in the business with responsibility for staff management and interaction is properly trained in the right procedures.

“Most importantly, everyone should know they can’t draft ill-considered emails, or share frustrations with other colleagues, even to release pent-up anger.”


Web site content note: 

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



Battle of forms highlights a hard truth for company contracts

Two companies who went to court in an argument over whose terms and conditions applied to a contract between them, have both lost out.

The ruling from the High Court has said that neither company made enough efforts to deliver up their terms and conditions to the other side, leaving both without a leg to stand on in a dispute over a supply of rubber gaskets.

The dispute arose between Transformers & Rectifiers Ltd and Needs Ltd.  Needs argued that its terms and conditions applied to the sale of the gaskets, so that its liability for breach was limited to the contract sum, but Transformers & Rectifiers said that its terms and conditions applied because they were printed on the back of the purchase orders.

The commercial relationship had been going on for more than 20 years and orders were placed for the gaskets and other components every week by fax, e-mail and sometimes by post. What was important was that the terms were printed in a pale typeface on the reverse of the purchase order with no reference to them on the face of the purchase order.  When the orders were faxed or emailed, the reverse side was not included in the transmission.

Similarly, Needs referred to their standard terms and conditions in their order acknowledgement, but did not provide a copy of them or print them on the reverse.

As a result, both companies failed to have their terms and conditions upheld in deciding the contract, with the High Court saying that neither party's terms and conditions were sufficiently incorporated into the purchase process.

Said commercial law specialist Brendan O’Brien of Breeze & Wyles Solicitors Limited : “This ruling highlights the importance of making sure that if you want to be able to rely on your terms, then you must state clearly that you are purchasing or providing the goods or services on your terms.  Also, the terms need to be supplied each time or readily available –  these days it could be a link to the document on your website.

“So, for example, the order acknowledgement could say “Our standard terms of business shall apply, click here to read our standard terms” - the important thing is to be clear and be consistent.”

Transformers & Rectifiers Ltd v Needs Ltd [2015]


Web site content note: 

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




Osborne puts inheritance tax under the spotlight

The matter of inheritance is top of the agenda for Chancellor George Osborne in the countdown to the general election and the subject was also a hot topic in his Spring budget statement.

The Chancellor announced that the UK economy grew 2.6% in 2014, faster than any other advanced economy but lower than the 3% that he predicted in December. He also reported record levels of employment and trade deficit figures that are "the best for 15 years"

There was good news for personal tax payers with the announcement that ISAs will become more flexible, and that basic rate tax payers will not be taxed on the first £1,000 savings interest they earn. A move towards digital tax reporting to replace the paper tax return is also promised.

But the hoped-for announcement of an increase in the inheritance tax threshold nil rate band from its long standing level of £325,000 was not forthcoming. Instead, the Chancellor announced a review into the avoidance of inheritance tax through the use of “deeds of variation”.

Beneficiaries of a dead person’s estate can choose to direct part or all of their inheritance to another person through a deed of variation. They are often used within families to ‘miss a generation’ and so avoid inheritance tax.

An example would be where an elderly parent dies, leaving everything to a comfortably off son or daughter.  Knowing they will not need the money, the son or daughter decides to re-route all or part of the legacy directly to the next generation, through a deed of variation, so reducing the value of their estate and the amount of inheritance tax that will be due when they die.

Said Brendan O’Brien Managing Director of Breeze & Wyles Solicitors Limited : “A review of inheritance law around deeds of variation is something of an old chestnut, but the announcement of this review does mean that anyone involved in administering an estate, where there is any intention to do a deed of variation, should probably move on that decision sooner rather than later. Under current legislation such a deed can be made at any time up to two years after death, but if the door were to be closed, it could result in fairly substantial reworking of sums for the next generation.”

News leaked in advance of the Budget suggested that the Chancellor was likely to announce plans to raise the threshold at which people pay inheritance tax on the family home up to £1 million, but this was not included in the Budget announcement, leaving an expectation that this will, instead, be used as a vote catcher and be included in the Conservative election manifesto.

He added: “Yet again, the prospect of an increase in the inheritance tax nil rate band threshold has been deferred, despite being widely tipped.  For now, it looks likely to be a carrot to encourage voters to return the Government for a further term.”

“Best advice for the time being, whilst the threshold remains at £325,000, is to review circumstances with advisors to see if there is anything that can be done through lifetime gifts or other means.”


Web site content note: 

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






More parents can ask for time off from next month

New rules for parents wanting time off to look after their children will come into force in April, including the much debated option for parents of new babies to share 50 weeks of leave.

And as the deadline looms, businesses are being warned to make sure they’re prepared, or risk claims for discrimination by fathers seeking to share the time with their newborn.

Paid Shared Parental Leave is a new right available to parents of babies who are expected to be born, or placed for adoption, from 5th April 2015 onwards. This scheme comes into force on 5th April, operating alongside the existing maternity leave regime, and will allow fathers and mothers to share up to 50 weeks of SPL, which can be taken by parents together or consecutively.

Said Brendan O’Brien Chief Executive of Breeze & Wyles Solicitors Limited : “This is a major change and recognises the shifting patterns in families.  When the new rules come into force, once the mother has taken two weeks maternity leave immediately following the birth of her child, she can choose to share the remaining 50 weeks with her partner, having time off together or consecutively, and in whatever pattern they wish, subject to the employers of both parents agreeing to that pattern.”

He added: “Some businesses are still not ready to deal with requests and they leave themselves open to claims of discrimination.  It’s important to get the process in place and start talking to employees now, to deal with any up-coming requests”.

Eligible employees will be entitled to up to 37 weeks’ Shared Parental Pay at the weekly rate of £139.58, which may be shared between parents. This is in addition to the compulsory two weeks' maternity pay and subject to offsetting any additional maternity or adoption pay already paid in respect of that child.

The other change in rights for parents is for unpaid parental leave, which has been extended to parents of all children under 18. This was previously restricted to parents of children under 5 years of age, or up to 18 where a child was disabled.  The same rules also allow adoptive parents to take leave for up to 5 years after the child is placed with them.

From 5 April, all parents of children under 18 will be entitled to request unpaid parental leave of up to 18 weeks, taken in blocks of between one and four weeks per year. To make the application an employee must have a year of service with an employer, have responsibility for a child and, usually, give 21 days notice of any request for leave.





Web site content note: 

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


For Richer, For Poorer But Not Free Till Its Final.

The Supreme Court has allowed a former wife's appeal against the dismissal of her claim for financial remedy made 18 years after the couple divorced. In Wyatt v Vince [2015] UKSC 15, Mr Vince and Ms Wyatt had met as students in their early 20s and married in 1981. They had a son and lived a New Age traveller lifestyle before their eventual divorce. Ms Wyatt lived on benefits while Mr Vince lived in an old ambulance. Their decree absolute was granted in 1992. No agreement or Order was made regarding their financial claims and in 1995 Mr Vince launched his green energy firm Ecotricity in Stroud, Gloucestershire. He started the business, using a wind turbine he had made from recycled materials to power his caravan, now worth in the region of £58 million.

Ms Wyatt lodged her first claim for "financial remedy" in 2011. However in May 2013, the Court of Appeal allowed Mr Vince's appeal against the dismissal of his application to strike out his former wife's, Ms Wyatt's, claim for a financial remedy, given the length of time which had passed since the divorce. It was claimed by Mr Vince that his ex wife’s application had been an abuse of process and it would be unreasonable to expect him to defend it.

The appeal on behalf of Ms Wyatt has been unanimously allowed by the five Supreme Court judges with Lord Wilson confirming that Mrs Wyatt’s claim is "legally recognisable" and not an "abuse of process". Her claim will now be heard by the Family Division of the High Court. We will be eagerly awaiting the outcome of this matter here at Breeze and Wyles Solicitors Ltd.

This is an important decision regarding financial claims, highlighting the need for divorcing couples to take steps to ensure that they take steps to terminate all the claims they have against each other as a result of the divorce proceedings. The only way to be sure that you have no nasty surprise claims is to have an order drawn up confirming that neither of you have any further claims against each other and for the court to approve that. Whether it’s the lottery you win or the revolutionary new company you start 6 months or even 18 years from now, don’t regret not doing what you could have done today!

Karen Johnson is an Associate Solicitor and Family Mediator of Breeze and Wyles Solicitors Ltd. A Graduate of the University of East Anglia who then completed her Legal Practice Course at the College of Law in London, qualified as a Solicitor in 2002 working in a local High Street Firm before joining Breeze & Wyles Solicitors in 2009 and becoming an Associate with the firm in 2011. Karen is a highly skilled and experienced Family Solicitor with in excess of 10 years experience of working in Family Law. She is a Resolution Accredited Specialist in the fields of Domestic Violence and Financial Matters. Karen is additionally a Family Mediator trained by and a member of the Family Mediators Association (The FMA) an association with over 20 years experience of Family Mediation.