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We don’t need a shareholders’ agreement, do we?

15-02-2019

Posted by Michal Freeman-Shor

Why do I need a shareholders’ agreement? Time and time again, company owners proudly proclaim “we don’t need a shareholders’ agreement because we are friends or family”. They will rely on their personal relationship with their business partners to overcome future obstacles which are inevitable in the running of any business. Many business owners also find it daunting to discuss contentious ‘what if’ or worst case scenarios seeing them as too remote or too painful to contemplate, regardless of how likely they really are. While some businesses operate harmoniously for years by successfully relying on their inherent natural governance that is atypical for non-related owners’ businesses, there are many such businesses that do not. Unfortunately when businesses fall on hard times or where other external or internal challenges are threatening the existing status quo, they need to adapt their governance structure to deal with the challenges. At such times, an unwritten harmonious agreement might lack the details required to resolve the relevant challenge and the parties involved can find themselves poles apart. Agreeing a course of action in the face of adversity often takes its toll even on the strongest relations with the net result being that the survival of […]

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[Part 2] Charity Transparency and Effective Altruism

13-02-2019

Posted by Sarah Sharpin

Effective altruism is a scientific approach to making ethical decision. It looks at the evidence available and uses logical reasoning to decide which approach to take. Effective altruism uses this methodology on a broad scale in order to reduce suffering, which is expanded upon in Stephanie Minte’s recent article. It looks at a source of suffering, takes the whole world and makes a valuation based on the scale, the solvability of the suffering and how many people, or charities, are currently working on a solution. Logically if you were to put all our resources into one area of suffering (for example extreme poverty) that could be solved before moving onto the next one. Of course, this oversimplifies suffering and the many interlocking features that contribute towards it, but this is the general idea in a nutshell. One of the easiest ways to contribute and make a difference is by donating to charity. But which charity? If there is no emotional connection it can be a mind field. In order to maximise the impact or good your money does, you can implement some effective altruism principles by using evidence to find a charity that puts most, if not all, their resources […]

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Proposed new Housing Court: Grand design or a home under the hammer?

08-02-2019

Posted by Sam Pinder

The Government has been consulting on whether there is a need for a new specialised Housing Court to resolve disputes, reduce delays and to secure justice in housing cases[1]. Broadly speaking, housing disputes are presently heard in two forums. The First-Tier Tribunal (Property Chamber) hear wide-ranging matters such as tenant’s breach of covenant, rent repayment orders and adverse possession. However, the county court hears matters relating to possession and disrepair. The Government paper remarks that the “processes and procedures involved can often be confusing for tenants, landlords and property owners in leasehold cases”. David Smith a policy director for the Residential Landlords Association wrote in the Law Gazette last year that a “key disincentive for landlords is that when something goes seriously wrong, such as a tenant falling into serious rent arrears, neglecting the property, or engaging in anti-social behaviour, they have to resort to the courts to take action”[2]. Smith goes on to state that with a possession case taking an average of 42 weeks to complete, as well as an increase in court fees up to £355, the cost and delay is unsustainable. The Government Paper states that this 42 week figure relates to both social and private […]

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Employers, are you ready for the new payslip requirements?

05-02-2019

Posted by Julie Taylor

New rules are set to come into force in April requiring itemised calculations for variable rates of pay and hours worked and the right to a payslip will be extended to include all workers, not just employees.   These two updates to the Employment Rights Act 1996 will come into force on 6 April 2019.  From that date, employees and workers, including those under casual or zero hours contracts, must receive correctly itemised written, printed or electronic payslips. The purpose of imposing this increased transparency is to help employees understand their pay and easily check that they are being paid correctly.  It is also hoped that it will make it easier to identify whether employers are complying with the obligations under the National Minimum Wage and National Living Wage and that holiday entitlements are correctly managed. However, while the intention and changes are straightforward, new payroll procedures and alternative software may be required to satisfy the new requirements. These new rules also sit alongside what can be a much more complex question for many companies:  determining whether their different categories of staff are employees, workers or self-employed contractors in the first place. Many organisations are not good at recognising that even […]

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New trade mark rules simplify counterfeit challenges

05-02-2019

Posted by Andrew Shipp

A branding challenge toppled the golden arches when a small Irish fast food company managed to block international powerhouse McDonald’s from trademarking the terms ‘Big Mac’ and ‘Mc’ throughout Europe. The European Union Intellectual Property Office recently ruled that McDonald’s had not been able to prove genuine use of the name Big Mac as either a burger or restaurant name, and that the trademark they registered back in 1996 should be cancelled. The decision opens the door to expansion for Galway-based Supermac, as it will be able to register its brand as a trademark in the UK and Europe.  McDonald’s had used the brand name’s similarity to Big Mac as a reason to block previous expansion outside Ireland, even though the Supermac company name had been based on the founder’s nickname when the food chain was established in 1978 and in spite of the fact it had no ‘Big Mac’ product itself. The ruling in the case coincided with changes to UK trade mark law which came into force on 14 January 2019 which saw amendments introduced to the Trade Mark Act 1994 as a result of the new EU Trade Marks Directive 2015/2436/EU. The Directive is focused on harmonising […]

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Twitter account owner ordered to pay £40,000 for libellous Tweet he didn’t write

10-01-2019

Posted by Michael Axe

In this age of social media, most people are now aware that there can be serious legal consequences to something as seemingly innocuous as an ill-advised Tweet.  But you would be forgiven for thinking that you couldn’t be held liable for a Tweet that you hadn’t even written, yet that is precisely what happened in the case of Zahir Monir v Steve Wood. Heated politics In the run up to the 2015 general election, a Tweet was sent from the Twitter account of the UKIP Bristol branch which was intended to discredit a Labour party candidate, but which also included an entirely false allegation of serious criminal conduct against Zahir Monir, a Labour supporter. The Tweet was written by John Langley, the then Vice-Chairman of the UKIP Bristol branch, without the knowledge or approval of the then Chairman, Steve Wood. Control of the Twitter account The prospects of recovering anything from Mr Langley (a self-described “maverick” who had already attracted negative publicity for other racist Tweets as well as his sideline as an adult film producer and actor) were low, so Mr Monir decided to pursue his libel claim against Mr Wood only, arguing that Mr Wood was ultimately responsible […]

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The cost of getting too close for comfort

08-01-2019

Posted by Michelle Morgan

Profits have taken a tumble at fashion retailer Ted Baker after staff made allegations of inappropriate behaviour against founder Ray Kelvin, who has now taken a voluntary leave of absence while investigations take place. The news follows hard on the heels of allegations of harassment against Topshop boss Sir Philip Green, with employees claiming he groped, threatened and humiliated them. Alongside this, dozens of partners have been forced out of the Big Four accountancy firms for behaviour that has included bullying and sexual harassment, according to figures recently released by the firms, after the chief executive of Deloitte spoke out.  David Sproul revealed that 20 partners had been fired from Deloitte over a four-year period, saying that rather than hide away from the negative aspect of such figures, he wanted to be transparent and demonstrate commitment to a fair and inclusive working environment. Said Michelle Morgan of Gardner Leader solicitors: “This sort of open attitude is increasingly important for all organisations.  Share prices rely on companies creating the right culture and abuse of privilege or power will no longer stay out of sight, as staff, quite rightly, are finding ways to get their voices heard.  But it’s not just about […]

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Divorce Day

07-01-2019

Posted by Simon Fisher

The first working Monday in January is often referred to by the media as ‘Divorce Day.’ It is said that the stress of the festive period can often show the cracks in relationships and many couples put the divorce off until after Christmas for the sake of the children, financial pressure or giving the relationship one more chance. Why do people file for divorce after the festive period? The New Year often goes hand in hand with fresh starts and it is often true that there is an increase in couples seeking a divorce in January. Whilst a ‘Divorce Day’ can be a myth it is often true that many couples wait until after Christmas and New Year’s Eve before starting divorce proceedings. This can mean that solicitors see a flurry of enquiries on the first working Monday of January, this year being Monday 7 January 2019. We are still waiting on the official 2018 figures, but according to the Office of National Statistics, there were over 100,000 divorces in 2017 and the divorce rate for opposite-sex couples was highest among men aged 45 to 49 and women aged 40 to 44 years. Unreasonable behaviour was cited as the most […]

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Is it ethical or even lawful to microchip your staff?

04-01-2019

Posted by Michelle Morgan

This is a question we never thought we’d ask, but after US software firm Three Square Market announced that they had plans to use what is termed as ‘near-field communications’ or NFC technology not to track packages but to track their staff, we examine below the legal implications and the moral question of this use of technology in the workplace. NFC is commonly used in microchips for contactless credit cards. To be fair to Three Square Market, their plan is to implant microchips about the same size as a grain of rice into the hands of willing employees (it’s important to point out that all the employees are volunteers and nobody has been coerced into complying). They say it will help them pay for food in the company canteen, open doors, log into their computers and even use office equipment such as photocopiers with the wave of a hand. This workplace Jedi mind trick may seem completely harmless at first glance, but unsurprisingly it’s caused an absolute furore in the States and around the world. Getting consent We’ve come to terms with microchipping our pets, and in fact many animal welfare campaigners are pushing for it to be mandatory so […]

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Power of Attorney – a guide for dementia sufferers and their family

02-01-2019

Posted by Hannah Wallbridge

As we enter 2019, there are an estimated 800,000 people in the UK now living with dementia and the indicators are that the number of patients with this life-shortening condition will grow. A diagnosis of dementia doesn’t just affect the individual but the entire family too. In it’s latter stages, the person living with dementia will rely on family members to look after their affairs, from everyday things through to those long-term considerations such as financial affairs. It is at this point that a family member being able to make decisions on behalf of a person living with dementia becomes absolutely essential. What is a Lasting Power of Attorney? A Lasting Power of Attorney (commonly referred to as an LPA) allows someone to appoint a trusted individual or loved one (your attorney) to make decisions on your behalf, in case you are not able to do so in the future. There are two types of LPA – one to handle property and financial affairs, and another for health and welfare. The same person can act on your behalf for both types, or you can have two different people to take care of each area individually. The LPA for your property […]

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Setting the Christmas scene for a positive separation

19-12-2018

Posted by Suzy Hamshaw

While attention is focused on the country’s divorce from the European Union, and what the New Year will bring from the Brexit bargaining table, many families will be facing up to break-up issues closer to home. Too often, the stress of trying to hold it together takes its toll on couples trying to manage one more family Christmas, especially if they know they are likely to be heading for the divorce courts once New Year arrives. Commonly known as D-day or Divorce Day, the first day back after New Year is when family lawyers receive more enquiries than at any other time, but they suggest that talking it through and getting advice in a collaborative approach, can help to keep Christmas together-time more in the festive spirit. “It may seem counterintuitive,” explained family law expert Suzy Hamshaw, “but it’s really important to talk it over.  Getting some advice before you make any final decision over breaking up, whether separately or as a couple, could help ease the path ahead, whatever you decide to do as a result. “The focus these days is on reaching an agreement, often using mediation, so having a chat to understand your position, and the process […]

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