Category: Commercial Law

Misleading Travel Websites

Misleading travel websites could be in BIG trouble

The age old saying ‘if it’s to good to be true it usually is’ has struck true once again, this time involving travel websites and your holidays.

The time has come (or gone in some cases) for booking a summer holiday, a vacation from the daily grind to enjoy some well earned stress free relaxation time. As you may be aware the cost of holidays for many has seen an increase in the past few years. The price increase of holiday packages and other travel websites offers have led the public to shop around for the best deal. As you browse for the best deals you may come across an offer that seems to good to be true, only to find out that the final cost is much higher than what was advertised. This seems to be a common occurrence from travel websites and has led the European consumer protection authorities to investigate.

Some travel websites have been misleading customers over the actual price of their bookings compared to the prices which were actually advertised, effectively enticing you with one price to only see an increase once you are on the site and ready to pay.

Legal Findings

The review found that:
• In one third of cases the first price shown was not the same as the final price to pay.
• In one fifth of cases promotional offers were not really available.
• In nearly one third of cases the way the total price was calculated was not clear.
• In one quarter of cases prompts on scarcity (e.g. "only 2 left") only applied to availability on that particular website, which wasn't made clear.


The travel websites included some comparison sites as well as others offering accommodation, transport and car rental.

These outcomes were found by the review conducted by the European consumer protection authorities. The review was carried out on 235 travel websites which were identified to have problems with misleading claims.

Potential Implications

The travel companies could be at real risk of breaching advertising standard regulations set by Advertising Standards Authority. With many people tightening the purse strings it’s vital to make sure the deal you think you’re getting is actually true, don’t rush into booking a holiday and also shop around.

 

“Its important that travel companies, especially in light of the above, check not only their website to ensure that they are legally compliant but also any terms and conditions that they may have. It is important that the web presence or any web marketing matches the actual product offering”. Rajinder Singh

Rajinder Singh is part of our Business Team assisting in dealing with a wide range of commercial matters including company and business acquisitions and sales, all types of contractual work, academy conversions and charity work.

 

 

 

Rajinder Singh, Commercial Paralegal, Taylor Bracewell Solicitors

About Taylor Bracewell

Taylor Bracewell operates from offices in Thorne Road and Ten Pound Walk in Doncaster and Fountain Precinct in Sheffield. Specialist areas are: Family Law, Business Law, Personal Law (including Wills, Probate, Trusts and Conveyancing), Dispute Resolution, HR & Employment Law, Charity Law.

You can contact us at hello@taylorbracewell.co.uk or call us on 01302 341 414 in Doncaster or 0114 272 1884 in Sheffield.

Don't rely on implied terms in contracts

Mind that gap?! – don’t expect Implied Terms to fill them any more

It’s too easy to get a contract wrong or to miss out an essential piece of information. Although courts try to imply what was intended that can’t be relied upon – it’s better to get your contracts right.

Don't rely on implied terms in contractsIt is generally accepted in law that a legally binding contract is created when

  • An offer has been made and accepted;
  • There is an intention by all parties to enter into a legally binding agreement;
  • There is some form of bargain (i.e. a promise to pay, deposit etc); and
  • The parties reach agreement on all the contractual terms which they regard, or the law requires, as essential.

In the past the courts have used their discretionary powers to imply terms into contracts if they were missing, normally due to things like drafting errors. The reason for implying a term into a contract in this way is to reflect the parties’ true intentions when the contract was entered into. This only really works though if there is certainty already existing in the agreement.

In the recent case of Wells v Devani [2016] this has been put to the test. In this case an estate agent told the seller how his commission would be calculated but did not specify the event in which the payment due to the estate agent would be triggered. The Court of Appeal overturned the initial ruling in the High Court, which held that there had been a legally enforceable contract and subsequently ruled that there was no enforceable contract for the payment of the commission.

This shows that when drafting contracts it is important to consider which terms are ‘essential’ and then draft them accordingly. Failure to do so could have the effect that an agreement is legally unenforceable and result in potentially huge losses to the party looking to rely upon the terms of the contract. It also highlights the advantages of regular checks of your working contracts to make sure they still reflect your business practises.

 

How can we help?

If you need help drafting or revising your contracts then talk to our highly skilled Business Law team based at Railway Court, Doncaster. The same team also manages business law at our Sheffield office, and regularly visits so that Sheffield clients can meet locally.

 

About Taylor Bracewell

Taylor Bracewell operates from offices in Thorne Road and Ten Pound Walk in Doncaster, and Fountain Precinct in Sheffield. Specialist areas are: Family Law, Business Law, Personal Law (including Wills, Probate, Trusts and Conveyancing), Dispute Resolution, HR & Employment Law, Charity Law.

You can contact us at hello@taylorbracewell.co.uk or call us on 01302 341 414 in Doncaster or 0114 272 1884 in Sheffield.

Support Gay Marriage cake and the Christian bakery

Businesses having their cake and eating it too…Not anymore!

In case you are not aware, there has been an ongoing case involving a bakery, Christianity and a cake for ‘Support Gay Marriage’ in Northern Ireland. This case essentially centred on a ‘Christian Business’ bakery who refused to bake a cake with the caption of ‘Support Gay Marriage’.

Support Gay Marriage cake and the Christian bakery

There was an initial judgment stating that this was directly discriminatory to the customers who wanted this cake and in direct contravention with Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2006. This was further appealed and this decision has been recently upheld by the Northern Ireland Supreme Court. Now whilst it is likely that this will be appealed up to the UK Supreme Court it has highlighted valid risks for businesses.

Even though this is a case being decided in Northern Ireland it illustrates some of the problems that may be encountered by English, Welsh and Scottish businesses under the Equality Act 2010 (the Act). Businesses in the UK have a duty to ensure that they do not discriminate against anybody that holds a protected characteristic under the Act (which includes things like race, sex, sexual orientation etc). Whilst this is traditionally thought of in an employment context it also applies to businesses generally if they are selling goods or providing a service.

There are other duties also imposed on Businesses such as the duty to make reasonable adjustments for a person who holds a protected characteristic, if they would be discriminated against. It is vital for businesses to have sound policies and guidance in place and if there are any concerns then advice should be sought to save a compromising situation. As this judgement shows, you can’t have your cake and eat it too!

 

How can we help?

If you run a business and want to make sure that you are complying with all the relevant legislation that applies to you then give us a call, we would be delighted to help you.

 

About Taylor Bracewell

Taylor Bracewell operates from offices in Thorne Road and Ten Pound Walk in Doncaster and Fountain Precinct in Sheffield. Specialist areas are: Family Law, Business Law, Personal Law (including Wills, Probate, Trusts and Conveyancing), Dispute Resolution, HR & Employment Law, Charity Law.

You can contact us at hello@taylorbracewell.co.uk or call us on 01302 341 414 in Doncaster or 0114 272 1884 in Sheffield.

Do you have a formal tenancy agreement?

1 in 10 private landlords in the UK have no formal tenancy agreement in place

Research carried out by Direct Line exposed worrying statistics about the lack of formal tenancy agreements in place.

Out of the contracts that are in place, 58% of landlords who do not use an agent used amended tenancy agreements from old contracts, 38% used contracts from other landlords and 20% used an updated template they found online.

Why do I need a formal tenancy agreement?

Having a formal tenancy agreement in place is not a legal requirement; however it is something that we would strongly advice. Having a document in place protects the interests of both the landlord and the tenant, setting out clear expectations for each party. It is also likely to help to minimise potential disputes occurring.

It is possible to have a verbal tenancy agreement in place, which would be construed as an Assured Shorthold Tenancy Agreement. These agreements can, however, be unreliable and can make things more difficult, should a dispute arise.

Tenant Deposit Protection Scheme

Another concerning statistic is that despite the fact it’s a legal requirement to do so, 9% of landlords have failed to make their tenants aware that their deposit is held in a government-backed tenancy deposit protection scheme (TDP). Landlords should provide their tenant with the name and contact details of the TDP and its dispute resolution service within 30 days of taking the deposit. 4% of landlords have not taken any deposit from their tenants.

How can we help?

If you require advice about renting out your property, including drawing up tenancy agreements, contact Alison Turner in Doncaster on 01302 965 251 or alison.t@taylorbracewell.co.uk.

About Taylor Bracewell

Taylor Bracewell operates from offices in Thorne Road and Ten Pound Walk in Doncaster and Fountain Precinct in Sheffield. Specialist areas are: Family Law, Business Law, Personal Law (including Wills, Probate, Trusts and Conveyancing), Dispute Resolution, HR & Employment Law.

You can contact us at hello@taylorbracewell.co.uk or call us on 01302 341 414 in Doncaster or 0114 272 1884 in Sheffield.

Good news for Commercial Property investors

Commercial Property in the UK is still seen as a sound investment

RICS’s recent Commercial Property survey for the last quarter of 2015 revealed that, as the demand for Commercial Property in the UK remains strong in all sectors, rent is expected to increase over the next 12 months.

In December 2015 there were 9,700 commercial property transactions – the highest it’s been since December 2007. In 2015 as a whole, the number of commercial property transactions reached 117,050.

The commercial property market has plenty to celebrate. Andrew Lloyd Managing Director of Search Acumen comments on HMRC number of non-residential transactions It is seen as a relatively safe asset.

Vicky Woodhouse, Senior Commercial Property Solicitor in our Sheffield office says: Stamp Duty on second home purchases is going to increase substantially in April this year, as I explained in my column for the Sheffield Telegraph, published on 11th February, so if you are looking to invest in property, there’s no time like the present!

How can we help?

If you are thinking of investing in Commercial Property, contact Vicky Woodhouse in Sheffield on 0114 390 0092 or email Vicky@taylorbracewell.co.uk for simple, practical advice and support. Alternatively contact Alison Turner in Doncaster on 01302 965 251 or email Alison.t@taylorbracewell.co.uk.

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SPOTLIGHT ON…Alison Turner

Our series of weekly blog posts featuring paralegals, lawyers and solicitors who began their legal career without a law degree proved to be very popular; we have therefore extended this into a fortnightly blog series giving you an insight into all our lawyers/paralegals and solicitors as well as our partners and heads of department.

Today’s Spotlight shines on Alison Turner, Head of Commercial Property.

Do you have a law degree?

Yes I do, I studied at Leeds University to achieve this.

How long have you worked at Taylor Bracewell?

Just over 1 year

Current Job title?

Head of Commercial Property

What was your first job?

My first job was a cinema usherette at the Odeon cinema, which has now been demolished. I sold ice creams and took tickets – for a first job it was brilliant.

Did you always know you wanted to do legal work?

No. I did not do well at school and retook my A levels at night school at Doncaster College. One of the A levels I took was Law and I loved it!

Your journey to becoming a lawyer:

I took the traditional route and after getting my degree I went to York College of Law to do my Law Society Final. But because the course was oversubscribed in those days, I again had to study at night. When I agreed to do this I didn’t realise I had to attend every evening – including Friday nights!

What do you love about Taylor Bracewell?

The people and the support and encouragement they all give.

Which superpower would you have and why?

I think I would be Super Woman – I think all working mums have to adopt this role anyway.

Look out for the next in our series of ‘Spotlight on…’ blog posts in two weeks’ time!

About Taylor Bracewell

Taylor Bracewell operates from offices in Thorne Road and Ten Pound Walk in Doncaster and Fountain Precinct in Sheffield. Specialist areas are: Family Law, Business Law, Personal Law (including Wills, Probate, Trusts and Conveyancing), Dispute Resolution, HR & Employment Law.

You can contact us at hello@taylorbracewell.co.uk or call us on 01302 341414 in Doncaster or 0114 2721884 in Sheffield.

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5 Top Tips to Ensure your Restrictive Covenants are ‘Bulletproof’

Do your employment contracts contain restrictive covenants for your employees? Jessica Lidster, Employment Lawyer at Taylor Bracewell’s Sheffield office, shares her 5 Top Tips to ensure they are enforceable.

The latest employment law topic to have its moment in the spotlight thanks to the Jeremy Clarkson bust up is restrictive covenants.

Recent reports suggested that Jeremy and his ‘Top Gear’ co-presenters James May and Richard Hammond had been approached by ITV to produce another motoring show to rival the BBC’s ‘Top Gear’. However these talks came to an unfortunate end as Jeremy and co. apparently have restrictive covenants in their old BBC contracts stopping them from hosting a car show on a UK channel for the next two years.

Without actually seeing a copy of the contracts it is difficult to comment on whether the restrictive covenant would be enforceable, but I can give you my top tips for making sure the restrictive covenants protecting your business are as bulletproof as they can be.

1. Be aware that restrictive covenants are generally void as they affect the employee’s ability to get another job and earn a living. In order to be enforceable, the covenant must protect a legitimate business interest.

2. The clause must also be reasonable; it must go no further than is necessary to protect a legitimate business interest. When deciding what is reasonable, the courts will look at how long the restriction will last, the geographical area the restriction will cover and the type of work that will be restricted.

3. There are 4 types of restrictive covenants: Non-competition, non-solicitation, non-poaching and non-dealing. Being aware of which one is necessary and reasonable to use to protect your business will help make your covenants stick. Whereas a non-solicitation covenant stops an ex-employee from approaching your clients, a non-competition covenant will stop your ex-employee from setting up in competition or working with a competitor, and it is much harder to enforce.

4. You shouldn’t just apply the same covenants to your whole workforce unless completely necessary. Doing so will make it more difficult to prove that the restrictive covenant is reasonable and is protecting a legitimate business interest; it is therefore more likely to be unenforceable.

5. Having well-drafted and reliable restrictive covenants in place means nothing if you unlawfully dismiss an employee. If you do, you can’t rely on the restrictive covenants you have in place even if the are otherwise enforceable.

Jeremy Clarkson was apparently on a self-employed contract with the BBC (again, I haven’t seen his contract). If this is the case and Jeremy wasn’t an employee, a restrictive covenant would be even harder for the BBC to enforce against him. Companies should be aware that including restrictive covenants in their self-employed contracts increases the risk of a ‘self-employed worker’ arguing that they are, in fact, an employee.

Can we help?

Restrictive covenants, although important, can be hard to get right. If you would like advice on drafting or implementing restrictive covenants, or any other HR or Employment Law advice, call our specialist HR and Employment Law team on 0114 272 1884 (Sheffield) or 01302 341414 (Doncaster) or email employment@taylorbracewell.co.uk.

Missing Jeremy Clarkson?

For all you Jeremy Clarkson fans worried about not seeing him on British television for two years, don’t panic! Amazon Prime recently announced that Jeremy Clarkson, James May and Richard Hammond will be back in the driving seat in a new series available on the online on-demand platform from April 2016.

Picture Used “Jeremy Clarkson and James May Top Gear presenters with my Lancia Beta Coupe Stanford Hall 2008” by Tony Harrison on Flickr (http://bit.ly/1Jj1LMP) reproduced under Creative Commons Licence https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

How to Recruit the Best People

A recruitment agency in the North West recently published an article which questioned how effective HR was in choosing the ‘right’ person for a job. The article suggested that HR people looked for candidates who have the best ‘fit’ in a company or organisation and who are good team players. It was also suggested that managers may prefer candidates who work best on their own.

The article suggested that HR involvement in the initial stages of recruitment could result in candidates with the most potential being overlooked. Does this imply that recruitment agencies are more effective at spotting and employing the right staff’ than HR? Not necessarily. However to ensure that your HR Department is on top of the game, a few pointers may prove useful.

How to ensure that HR best supports your recruitment needs

  • Identify the skills, knowledge base and experience level the post holder must have effectively carry out the job requirements
  • Consider the specialist, technical and softer skills needed – what are the gaps?
  • Talk to HR before you start to recruit, be clear about what the post requires
  • Work with HR to develop a job description, person specification and the job advert
  • Work with HR to develop a tailor-made selection process or assessment centre that gives candidates the opportunity to demonstrate they are what you are looking for, ‘off the peg’ selection doesn’t fit all the time!
  • Short-list candidates with HR to ensure your opinions are heard
  • You need to make an informed choice when deciding who to offer the job to, consider all factors including best job match, capability, team ‘congruence’, retention factors
  • Remember that candidates with fewer technical skills have the potential to be great if they have the right softer skills, attitude, enthusiasm and commitment
  • A fantastic ‘lone-ranger’ can be fabulous but be aware of the potential fall-out performance wise, financially and personally if team dynamics start to falter
  • Remember, forcing a square peg into a round hole is neither time nor cost efficient. Recognise and assist people to maximise their potentials in the right positions.

For advice on any of the above, support on recruiting and selecting the right person for the appropriate role within your organisation, or any other employment or HR issue, please contact us on 0114 272 1884 or email hello@taylorbracewell.co.uk.

Our specialist HR & Employment law firm, Taylor Bracewell HR & Employment Law, is based in Sheffield and Doncaster. Our experts boast many years of experience and an enviable wealth of knowledge. Contact us today and we will skilfully guide you towards achieving the best result for you and your company.

What is a ghost signature?

Ghost Signatures are legally binding.

TV Chef Gordon Ramsay has lost a court case in which it was deemed that the automatically generated signature on a personal guarantee provided by him for one of his businesses to acquire a lease on a building was legally binding.

What is a ghost signature?

A ghost signature is a signature created by a machine, known as a ghostwriter, autopen or signing machine, which uses a real ink pen to reproduce the original signature. It is used by businesses and politicians where it would be too time-consuming to manually sign every single document.

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Image: By Benjamin Olding, International Autopen Company (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

What were the key issues in this case?

The key issues that arose in Gordon Ramsay’s case was whether Christopher Hutcheson, Gordon Ramsay’s employee and father-in-law, had authority to operate the ghost writing machine to apply Gordon Ramsay’s signature in this instance and whether a signature that hadn’t been made by the signatory physically holding the pen in his hand was legally binding.

The court found that Mr Hutcheson’s authority was valid and that the pen did not need to be physically in Mr Ramsay’s hand for the signature to be legally binding. The signature on the lease document was therefore deemed to be legally binding.

What this means for you?

Do you use a ghostwriter in your business? If so, who has the authority to use it and is that authority clearly defined?

In most cases, a ghostwriter-generated signature will be legally binding, so you need to be very clear in your business about who has authority to use the machine, under what circumstances and for what types of documents. You also need to be clear about whether you wish to be kept informed of every single signature that is generated this way and whether you need to give specific authorisation each time.

“When a document is sent to a third party, the third party must be entitled to rely on what appears to be a true signature” says Phil Crawley, Senior Commercial Solicitor at Taylor Bracewell. “Without that, anyone could argue their way out of an obligation by stating that the signature was ghost-written. Contracts would become worthless.
It is up to the business wishing to use such technology to protect themselves against its misuse rather than third parties who may, without any knowledge of the fact, enter into an agreement based on a ghost-written signature.”

Need further advice?

If you already use a ghostwriter or are thinking of using one in your business to generate signatures and would like some advice on using these safely for you and your business, contact our friendly business law team on 01302 341 414 / 0114 272 1884.

Access to Work Worries?

On 29 October 2014, PM evening news featured current deliberations of the Work & Pensions Select Committee on the Government scheme to support disabled people into and during work, Access to Work.

Access to Work is designed to support disabled people to gain and remain in employment, through a variety of measures tailored to individual need.

Mark Harper, Minister for Disabilities, was called to answer questions by the Work & Pensions Select Committee on the impact of changes to and reduction in funding for the Access to Work scheme (AtW).

This final evidence session with the Minister for Disabled People was intended to explore the Government’s position on a range of issues highlighted during the inquiry, including:

  • The potential for substantially increased funding of AtW in line with the recommendation of the Sayce Review
  • DWP’s general approach to the administration of the scheme, including its approach to self-employment and entrepreneurship
  • Specific administrative issues, including the paper-based application and invoicing processes and the recently introduced central call centre system
  • The clarity, transparency and consistency of the award decision-making and review processes
  • The level of disability awareness of DWP staff administering the scheme
  • The guidance on funding for full-time support workers
  • Referral routes into the Workplace Mental Health Support Service and

The AtW employer cost-sharing arrangement.

Evidence from disabled people wishing to work and currently in work is also being considered. Evidence from disabled people referred to problems with delays in processing AtW applications and agreeing support claims, a lack of understanding of disability and work issues by staff now working in centralised call centres, a significant change from the previous regional office structure.

Mark Harper acknowledged that there had been some teething problems with the implementation of changes but he assured the Select Committee that the new arrangements were now working well.

Please see the following links for further information:

www.gov.uk/access-to-work/overview

www.parliament.uk

For advice and information on Access to Work or any other employment or HR issue, please contact us on 0114 2721884 or email hello@taylorbracewell.co.uk.

To suspend or not to suspend? Is the suspension of an employee a neutral act?

This morning, there are calls for Sir Peter Fahy, the Chief Constable of Greater Manchester Police to be suspended over botched investigations. I heard on the radio this morning that the Greater Manchester Police and Crime Commissioner is not suspending the Chief Constable. The person on the radio said that suspension should be a neutral act, but it can ruin careers. There is no doubt that suspension is a big deal, but does it escalate the situation?

If we examine the point of the suspension, then I think that it illustrates its necessity on occasion.

The purpose of suspension is, as someone once succinctly told me one, to protect person or property. A person is not too difficult to imagine, but property can be any asset including intellectual. That is if an employee has bopped someone on the nose, then you want to ensure that the matter is dealt with and you have duty of care to other employees to prevent further boppings until the matter has been established and dealt with. Equally, if there has been theft of property, you need to protect other property further. If you believe that an employee who is suspected of misconduct might interfere with files or try and jeopardise the process, then you need to protect that. The list, as usual in employment matters, is not exhaustive.

Suspension should only be implemented if the matter is so serious. I find that some employers are unnecessarily hesitant to suspend. However, it should not be applied without careful consideration of the situation. Back to ‘person and property’ again.

Suspension is always on full pay. It is not a sanction in itself. However, it can certainly be seen like that by those that do not understand it. And the person on the radio this morning.

In order not to exacerbate a situation, it is important to keep knowledge of the matter confidential to those who only really need to know. It is acceptable to say to others that the suspended employee is away. Saying more breaches their confidence and can lead to further issues. I am no fan of using ill health as a reason either.

A suspended person should be clear about the terms of their suspension and likely duration. You should write to them telling them who they can and cannot contact. Usually that is no one other than a named contact at the business.

You should make sure that processes that lead on from suspension are dealt with in a timely manner.

If you would like to discuss suspension, disciplinary matters or any aspect of employment and employing people, please call 0114 272 1884 or email hello@taylorbracewell.co.uk to speak to a member of our expert team.

Administrators have to play the GAME when it comes to rent

The Court of Appeal has delivered a land mark ruling on the payment of rent by administrators dealing with collapsed businesses. The ruling is the result of an appeal made by a consortium of landlords who were owed millions of pounds when digital gaming retailer GAME Group went into administration in 2012.

Judge, Lord Justice Lewinson has ruled that GAME’s administrators must pay the full amount of rent owed for the period during which some properties were used for the purposes of insolvency (including the period whilst some shops continued to trade). Saying that rent must be seen as an expense of administration or winding up, he overruled previous High Court judgments on the issue, saying that they had left the law in a “very unsatisfactory state”.

GAME Group collapsed the day after millions of pounds in quarterly rent (payable in advance) became due in 2012. Administrators PWC allowed some of the group-s stores to continue to trade before they were sold to Baker Acquisitions.

In the past, if a business collapsed the day after its quarterly rent became due, it could legally continue to use the premises for that quarter without paying rent and the landlord became a secured creditor, getting only a percentage of assets realised, not the full amount of rent due. Effectively this meant that the business could continue to trade for 3 months, whilst looking for a buyer, rent free!

Lord Lewinson said that he was unsurprised that landlords were unhappy with the previous situation, which had led to it becoming common for businesses to enter into administration the day after rent became due, and that the landlord-s situation had become even worse when a business was sold quickly to a new company which could, in effect, trade rent free for the first 3 months.

Sharon Beck, managing partner at Taylor Bracewell, and head of its business services says “This seems an altogether fairer system for landlords, who, unless there is any further appeal, know that they will receive rent for the period of time that a business continues trading on its premises, or whilst the administrators are using this premises for the purposes of administration, and that the rent is now an expense that has to be paid before the collapsed business- creditors. Hopefully it will also put a stop to the tactic of folding a business the day after its rent is due and continuing to trade rent free.”

For further information on rent or any commercial property or commercial issue, please contact Taylor Bracewell-s highly experienced business team on 01302 341414 or email sharon@taylorbracewell.co.uk

Phil Crawley, Senior Commercial Solicitor, Taylor Bracewell Solicitors

Phil Crawley

Phil is the latest addition to our Business Team. He has exceptional and extensive expertise in commercial contracts, together with business and company acquisitions and mergers. He already has a number of international transactions under his belt, and deals with high value and high profile company transactions as a matter of course.

Phil has successfully developed an enviable reputation for himself in the commercial world and is described by clients as an absolute delight to work with. An unusual accolade in this field of work. His outstanding ability to accord attention to every detail of a transaction has been the saving grace of many clients.

Phil is experienced in all commercial areas, including Franchising and Corporate Finance.

The father of 3 boys is however less of a commanding force on the home front. He has been, according to him, coerced into joining the boys- Martial Arts School to protect myself from them as much as anything! With his high sense of family responsibility, Phil admits that his life outside work is intricately woven into what his family wants to do. An adept swimmer, Phil is also a dab hand on the guitar and plays along with one of his sons.

Following on from being a very active governor with 3 primary schools, and a commitment to the local community has led Phil to develop a specialism in Educational Law.

In particular Phil has developed a niche expertise in academy conversion for schools together with post conversion support to Academies.

Call Phil on 01302 640397

or 07429 892586

‘Red Tape Challenge’

Businesses urged to have their say on company and commercial regulations by joining the government’s ‘Red Tape Challenge’.

Sharon Beck, commercial partner at leading Doncaster legal practice, Taylor Bracewell, is urging businesses not to miss out on the opportunity to have their say on how excessive regulation in company and commercial law can be cut, by taking part in the government’s ‘Red Tape Challenge’.

The campaign, which launched in April 2011, focusses on regulations affecting specific sectors and industries on a rolling thematic basis, but is also looking at general regulations that cut across all sectors. So far issues such as equalities, health and safety, environment and employment law have been open for comment, and the current topic is company and commercial law.

In the current debate, businesses have the opportunity to have their say on issues such as the internal workings of companies and partnerships, accounts and returns, business names and disclosure of company information by logging onto http://www.redtapechallenge.cabinetoffice.gov.uk/home/index/

Sharon says ‘The government has said that it is “looking to come up with a flexible regulatory framework within company law to allow firms to compete and grow successfully”. This is an ideal opportunity for you to comment on important issues that affect you and your business – but you will have to be quick as this particular debate finishes on 16th February. After that ministers will have 3 months to work out which regulations they want to keep and why.’

If you need advice on company and commercial law, please contact Sharon Beck at Taylor Bracewell on 01302 341414 or email hello@taylorbracewell.co.ukwww.taylorbracewell.co.uk

Employee sickness absence

Should we hold return to work meetings?

Return to work meetings are really simple. If an employee is off work, even for a day, make sure that someone (usually their line manager) has a meeting with them the day they return.

‘A meeting? Really?’, is the response that is often provoked in my sickness absence management training sessions, by those who are not aware of the benefits of return to work meetings.

What is the point of this exercise?

  • To find out why the employee has been off work
  • To check in with the employee that they are fit to be at work and act accordingly, if not
  • To establish if the employee needs any support
  • To identify any problems that the employee might be having
  • To gather information that might indicate that the employee has a disability

The aim is to ensure that you provide a consistent approach to sickness absence management and that discussing absence is normal. The result is that if there are problems with absence, a discussion does not feel so monumental to all parties.

Research from the CIPD shows that a well handled return to work meeting is the best tool in tackling problem absence. In most cases the meeting will be a brief check-in, but managers should be prepared to give the time to the meeting when it is required. A set format should be applied and the meetings should be used in conjunction with a sickness absence management procedure, when it is needed. Equally a human and humane approach should be adopted with a serious does of pragmatism.

If you need some expert advice on your specific absence problems in your organisation or with any other HR or employment matter, please email hello@taylorbracwell.co.uk or call 0114 2721884 to speak to our team of HR Consultants and Lawyers

Love Thy Neighbour

In both private and commercial life, it is always better to maintain a peaceful relationship and to follow the “Love Thy Neighbour” recommendation. In fairness, life would be a lot easier. In reality however, there is always bound to be one dispute, conflict, argument or the other between neighbours, business partners, service providers, manufacturers and their consumers, and amongst various other classes of individuals. Disputes can arise in diverse situations and between a wide range of people. Where the parties involved are unable to come to any mutual agreement on how best to resolve their differences, it is left to us as dispute resolution lawyers to assist in resolving these disputes.

Depending on the nature of the conflict between the parties and how receptive they are to the available options, resolution could be through mediation, litigation, arbitration, and other alternative dispute resolution methods. As much as possible and where it can be seen to be in the clients- best interest, mediation and arbitration may sometimes be the preferable dispute resolution method rather than going through litigation. In some other cases however, litigation may be unavoidable in order to secure the best possible result for a client.

Contrary to the misconception that dispute is almost always about an argument or about irreconcilable differences between the parties involved, personal injury cases, road traffic accidents, accidents at work, and breach of contract are just some of the other issues which also fall under dispute resolution. In any dispute resolution case, regardless of how straightforward or complex it seems, it is essential that a balance is struck between the best achievable result and the costs clients are likely to incur in the process. More often than not, this balance dictates the preferred method of resolution; the expensive litigation process through the courts or a less formal approach such as mediation or the application of collaborative law. The starting point of any case is the vital step of first and foremost determining if indeed there is a case worth pursuing.

If you are currently involved in any dispute or have reason to believe that you may have a case worth pursuing against another party; an individual, a company, manufacturer, or any other party, please speak to Mark Beresford, our Senior Partner and Head of Dispute Resolution.

Mark is a dispute resolution veteran and is renowned for his exceptional negotiation skills both in litigation and the less adversarial methods of resolution. He will expertly guide you through your options and provide you with tailor made counsel and legal assistance. Mark can be reached on 01302 341414 or via email mark@taylorbracewell.co.uk

SMEs to benefit from Twitter

Social media and relentless technological development have taken customer relationship management, brand building and general interaction between businesses and their target markets to a whole new dimension.

Twitter is an increasingly popular social media website and most businesses are now active in varying degrees on twitter and LinkedIn in particular. One of the benefits twitter offers SMEs is the chance to engage a much wider audience. It is an excellent tool for interacting with existing customers and reaching potential ones. Now for the first time, Twitter is directly targeting businesses outside of the US.

Twitter has confirmed that its self-serve advertising platform is now open to SMEs in the UK. This will enable small and medium sized enterprises to broaden their presence among the avid followers and users of Twitter. The social networking site has is utilising two accounts; @TwitterSmallBiz and @TwitterUKI_SME to provide advice and guidance to those who need it. This really is excellent news for SMEs and it means that at long last, we will be looking at a level playing field in terms of the ability of SMEs to reach out to a much wider market.

Accounting for more than 99% of UK businesses and 49% of private sector turnover, small businesses play a pivotal role in the UK economy and labour market. As such, this support from Twitter will probably be appreciated by many businesses. Starting up, creating and maintaining a brand image, recognizing the target market, understanding their needs and consumer behavior are some of the most important steps for small and medium enterprises. It is crucial that businesses get things right from the very start and that these steps, which form the foundation of any enterprise, are put in all the right places. Marketing tools and campaign opportunities such as the one now being offered by twitter can thereafter be utilized for the achievement of corporate objectives.

For expert legal advise and a step by step guide on how to start, run and maintain your business, however small, medium or big, speak to our Managing Partner and Head of the Commercial Law department, Sharon Beck on 01302 341414 or email sharon@taylorbracewell.co.uk

TUPE Reforms

The Government has now published their response to the consultation on their proposals for reforming the Transfer of Undertakings Protection of Employment Regulations 2006 (TUPE).

This will be the second time that the TUPE Regulations have been reformed since they were implemented in 1981.

The response sets out the changes that the Government intends to make, the most significant of which being:

  • Allowing for the renegotiation of the terms agreed under a collective agreement one year after the transfer provided that the changes are no less favourable to the employees
  • Providing that changes to the workforce’s location following a transfer can amount to an Economic, Technical or Organisational (ETO) reason entailing changes in the workforce – currently only changes in the numbers or functions of the employees can amount to an ETO reason
  • Providing that for there to be a Service Provision Change (SPC), the activities before and after the transfer must be “fundamentally or essentially the same”
  • Allowing micro businesses to inform and consult directly with employees where there is no recognised trade union or existing employee representatives
  • Expressly provide for a static approach to the transfer of terms which derive from collective agreements in light of the case of Alemo-Herron v Parkwood Leisure Limited. This means that a transferee will not be bound by any terms negotiated as part of a collective bargaining process AFTER the transfer where the transferee is neither a party to those subsequent collective agreements nor to the bargaining process for them
  • Amending the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992 to clarify that consultation on collective redundancies can start before the transfer provided the transferor and transferee agree and the transferee carries our meaningful consultation

Whilst there is no doubt that these changes are fundamental changes to the TUPE Regulations, the changes which the Government decided not to make are equally important, so it is worth considering those too:

  • The concept of a SPC will not, as previously thought, be abolished – though changes will be made to its definition
  • The transferor will still be required to provide Employee Liability Information (ELI), but the time for providing the information is increased to 28 days (it’s currently 14 days) – it had been thought that the requirement to provide the information would be abolished
  • A transferor will not be allowed to rely on the transferee’s ETO reason in respect of pre-transfer dismissals

The consultation response didn’t include any date for implementation of the amendments, but the Government has previously indicated that this would take place in January 2014.

Taylor Bracewell are employment law solicitors based in Sheffield and Doncaster. For advice and assistance on any issues in this article or any other employment law or HR matter please contact a member of our team on 0114 272 1884 or email hello@taylorbracewell.co.uk

At Last: Good News for The Commercial Property Market!

It has now been a number of years since the global economic recession which all but brought the business and financial world to its knees! Yet the reverberating effects remain unrelenting. The number of companies that have fallen victim of the recession is disturbingly high. The property market experienced one of its worst periods ever with the resounding burst of the bubble that preceded the recession in the Summer of 07. Now 5 agonising and excruciatingly slow years later, experts have delivered some long awaited positive insight into the commercial property market.

It has been confirmed that things are finally starting to take a turn for better in 2013, as commercial transactions witness significant increase across the country. For the first time since the recession, there is a record high of newly established businesses with substantial investments. This is particularly evident in the Yorkshire and Humberside area where world famous companies like Rolls Royce are investing. The Advanced Manufacturing Park in Sheffield (AMP) is now home to 2 Rolls Royce manufacturing buildings for the production of turbine blades for aircraft engines.

Another reason for the positive turn in the commercial property sector is attributable to the removal of previously far too stringent restrictions on planning permissions for the conversion of commercial properties to residential dwellings. Since the rule was changed by the Coalition government in May 2013, there has been significant development on the commercial to residential property front. This has enabled struggling businesses to free up equity in offices they no longer require and to invest the money in other worthwhile ventures. Commercial properties have never been as popular as residential properties and this ability to convert will see many businesses seizing the life line presented by the Coalition government. The benefits are felt by all parties concerned; the economy receives a boost, home seekers have more choice and commercial property owners are able to release much needed capital to be injected into their businesses.

For commercial property advise and any other issue relating to commercial/business law, please contact Sharon Beck, our Commercial Law Partner today on 01302 341414 or email Sharon at hello@taylorbracewell.co.uk Sharon-s zest for any aspect of commercial law including business set up, mergers and acquisitions, commercial contracts and shareholder agreements is second to none.

As her clients have come to realise, with Sharon solidly behind you, you cannot possibly go wrong! Contact Sharon today with any business/commercial law related query you may have.

Check it before you let it – more bad news for landlords across the UK

It seems that landlords across the UK cannot catch a break as the government, through the art of delegation, have now put them firmly in the cross hairs of immigration law enforcers.

It has been recently announced that private landlords together with letting agents will assist, the government to crack down on immigrants in the UK illegally.

Though it can hardly be called ‘assisting’ when failure to comply will leave the landlord and letting agents looking down the barrel of hefty fine which is yet to be determined!

Landlords will not only be required to take positive action, but are legally required to inspect the residential status of the tenant before letting the property or face a fine, which will run into the thousands.

Just how Landlords are to establish the residential status of a tenant is still up for debate. However, online tenant verification website www.tenantverify.co.uk and other tenant referencing services seems to be the cornerstone, as they provides a tenant checking service for landlords and letting agents alike.

But rest assured Landlords, you are not in this alone, as UK employers will be facing more substantial fines if they are caught taking on illegal immigrants. Similar referencing services will be available to employers, as they will be required to verify their employees residential status.

So what does this mean for you?

Well depending on what light you see it in, it could be a case of all hands on deck in the fight against illegal immigrants in the UK, or alternatively and more likely a case of the UK Border Agency passing the buck to ordinary people to police immigration to the UK. Making time pressed landlords responsible for policing the UK at ground level.

Whichever way you decide, you will not have much time to ponder, as this will be included in an immigration bill which is expected to be in force in the near future.

For those landlords who want to get a head start, please contact Sharon Beck on 01302 640408 or email sharon@taylorbracewell.co.uk for further information.

Alternatively for all employment matters please contact Taylor Bracewell on 0114 2721884.

Cheap borrowing for SMEs to be extended

The Bank of England has extended its Funding for Lending Scheme (FLS) by one year to allow banks and building societies to take advantage of cheap funds until January 2015, and has introduced incentives to boost lending that is intended to provide funding to small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs).

The price and length of the loan is based on the bank’s/building society’s own lending performance. Newly introduced incentives to increase lending to SMEs allow banks, during the extension period, to draw 5 of borrowing for every 1 of net lending to SMEs in 2014. Also, to encourage banks to lend to businesses as soon as possible, every 1 of net lending to SMEs during the remainder of 2013 will give a 10 initial borrowing allowance to the bank in 2014.

The scheme has also been extended to allow access by non-banking financial institutions such as factoring and financial leasing corporations. These organisations are seen as vital credit providers within the UK and are understood to provide around 20 million of capital to SMEs every year.

Despite the fact that banks and building societies have drawn down around 16.5 million from the scheme since its launch last year, lending fell by around 300 million in the first quarter of 2013. Please click here for the Bank of England’s report on usage of the scheme However, Bank of England has said that it will take time for improved credit conditions seen since the scheme’s introduction to effect lending volumes: bearing in mind the time lag between application, approval and draw down, but it is confident that net lending will pick up over the rest of the year.

For any further information please contact Sharon Beck on 01302 640408 or email sharon@taylorbracewell.co.uk

Insolvencies at lowest level since 2007

As we listen to news reports of still difficult times, a three year low on Sterling and some forecasters even predicting a triple dip recession, it’s good to be able to report some positive news on the business front.

Credit check and business services group, Experian, has reported that the number of failing companies is now at its lowest since 2007, down to 1,271 in January 2013. Of course this still seems a significant number, but at 0.06 percent of the business population the rate seems to be on the downward trend as 0.07 percent failed a year earlier and 0.08 percent in December 2012.

Medium sized businesses – those employing between 26 and 50 people – seem to have fared the best with a drop from 0.2 percent failures in January 2012 to 0.14 percent in January this year. During the same period, businesses employing 51 – 100 staff saw a drop from 0.14 percent to 0.07 percent and for those employing more than 501 staff the drop was from 0.2 percent to 0.15 percent.

Small businesses with less than 10 staff didn’t fare quite as well, with the number of insolvencies staying level, but at least there was no increase, whilst micro business with 1 or 2 staff saw a very small drop. Unfortunately those employing between 101 and 500 saw a slight increase from 0.10 percent in January 2012 to 0.11 percent this year.

From a regional point of view, Scotland saw the biggest drop in insolvencies from 0.07 percent in January 2012 to 0.03 percent this year. Yorkshire saw a drop from 0.09 percent to 0.08 percent.

When looking at the various business sectors the picture is pretty similar across the board with the biggest reduction in insolvencies in the plastics and rubber industries, health and household, motor traders, chemical industries, building materials and extractive industries.

Sharon Beck, managing partner and head of Taylor Bracewell’s business department says “This is really encouraging news. Of course the high profile losses this year such as HMV, Blockbuster and Jessops have been really sad to see, but let’s hope that the downward trend in the number of insolvencies continues and we see even better figures this time next year.”

Sharon can be contacted on 01302 341414 or by email at hello@taylorbracewell.co.uk

The future looks bright for commercial property investors in 2013

Overall, there has been a 12% decrease within the commercial property market in the last 5 years. The Property Index has confirmed that commercial values fell by 3.1% for the year 2012.

However this all looks set to change soon, with the commercial property market set to improve this year. Legal and General Property give this forecast:commercial_2.

  • there will be improved returns in the commercial property market in 2013
  • Student accommodation will fare particularly well this year
  • Equity investors will move to the property sector, tempted by the good value of commercial real estate

Very specific to this region was the sale of a 50 per cent stake in Meadowhall, which we all know and love! This has been a major boost for the region-s property deals. New figures reveal that it has helped double the total value of commercial property transactions in Yorkshire last year. This is the first time the retail and leisure sector has recorded such high investment volume across Yorkshire.

There is particular optimism in alternative commercial properties. “Student accommodation and social care facilities such as care homes for example, provide long, index-linked contracts which are particularly good match for many investors- liabilities,”

The country’s improving economy and easing in the credit markets will relieve pressure on the cost of commercial properties as well, which will tempt investors to move their money from equity assets to property, such as student accommodation.

Only time will tell if predictions made for 2013 will come true, but lets keep our fingers crossed.

For further information on this or any issue relating to commercial or commercial property law, please contact Sharon Beck on 01302 640408 or email sharon@taylorbracewell.co.uk

Government to promote benefits of employee owned business schemes

The government has responded to an independent review of employee owned businesses that was undertaken by specialist in the field, Graeme Nuttall, last year in which he suggested that the government should review the conditions that apply to companies that want to authorise buy back shares, finance share buy-backs and hold shares in treasury.

Mr Nuttall was commissioned by Norman Lamb, the then Minister for Employment Relations, Consumer and Postal Affairs to undertake the review. A strong supporter of employee owned businesses he said that the economy is “too narrowly focused on certain sectors and regions, with the majority of our companies structured around one type of business model” and that more diverse ways of running a business would encourage growth – employee owned businesses being a prime example of such a model. Giving all workers a greater stake in a business, he said, ensures that they have a more personal responsibility for its success.

In its response, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) suggests a raft of measures aimed at supporting businesses that wish to become employee owned. Employment Minister, Jo Swinson says that one of the biggest barriers to the take up of employee ownership schemes is actual knowledge of them, and in an “ambitious” response to Nuttall’s “challenging” agenda, she says that the government will tackle this initial barrier by providing better access to information and clarification of how the schemes work and how to implement them. Nuttall himself had identified the same lack of awareness as well as poor resources – such as financial, and complex legal, tax and regulatory issues.

Measures intended by the government to boost employee ownership include establishing an implementation group chaired by the minister for employee relations, considering the establishment of an independent institute aimed at raising awareness of employee ownership, developing “off the shelf” templates for setting up such companies, providing a programme of regional activity to raise awareness and working with the John Lewis Partnership (one of the most successful employee owned businesses) to examine funding barriers.

Sharon Beck, managing partner and head of the firm’s business team says “There is much evidence that employee owned businesses are highly successful, but it is true that many people are simply unaware of the existence of such scheme, never mind the benefits. I am really looking forward to seeing a timetable from the government, indicating when it will be implementing its proposals – as well as the results of its consultation on amending company law to reduce the regulatory burden on companies wanting to set up employee ownership schemes, which closed on 16 November 2012. I will certainly be keeping clients up to date when I know more.”

Sharon has advised many companies effective business ownership and can be contacted on 01302 640408 or by email at sharon@taylorbracewell.co.uk

Adoption Of Private Sewers – Are You Going With The Flow?

At last it seems that property owners across the UK might have something to be pleased about, as the Water Industry (Schemes for Adoption of Private Sewers) Regulations 2011 is coming into force in October this year. Of course, this might not mean a lot to you but read on as it will affect you and your pocket!

Currently if you own property, you are responsible for the repair and maintenance of all un-adopted drains, pipes and sewers that connect your property to a public sewer (even those that extend beyond the boundaries of your property).

However, from October this year you will only be responsible for the drains and sewers that directly serve your own property. Un-adopted drains and sewers that extend beyond your boundaries will automatically be adopted by water companies who will be responsible for the costs of repair and maintenance.

A great money saving scheme for us all? Well, look closer, there are some cracks in its foundations.

Water companies will most likely charge a premiumfor the additional responsibility, and whilst it might not break the bank, it is sure to mean that your average water bill will be higher than usual.

If that isn-t annoying enough, water companies are set to have an automatic right to access your property to maintain any sewers and drains on it, and even if it inconveniences you, it isn-t clear if they will have to pay compensation.

You might also have an axe to grind if you want to develop or make alterations to your property as it seems that will need the relevant water company-s permission if you want to build over an adopted drain or sewer. Not a big issue maybe, but you are sure to have another form to fill and another queue to join!
There is another option if you just want to keep things the way they are – you can apply to your local water company to oppose the adoption – the choice is yours. From what I can see however, the odds are on the water companies- side – you get a slightly higher water bill if you go with the flow, or even higher repair costs if you try to stem the tide! Don-t sit on the fence too long though as the decision will be made for you in October anyway.

Sharon Beck, commercial partner, can be contacted at sharon@taylorbracewell.co.uk or on 01302 341414 or have a look at www.taylorbracewell.co.uk for information and useful downloads.