Having a policy isn’t always enough

In the day job we advise many employers on the need to have their paperwork in order, to have a set of properly drafted employment documents such as contracts and a staff handbook. Having a policy in place for a given situation helps the smooth running of the business and ensures that all employees know what is expected of them. In case of problems arising then if a policy has been drafted and adhered to, it can assist to resolve disciplinary issues or, if required, to justify dismissal of a misbehaving employee. However, this is not necessarily always the panacea to all problems in the workplace. A recent case (Stimpson v CitiBank) shows that employers need to be reasonable in the way they apply those policies and they should not slavishly adhere to their terms, particularly if the policy is not followed in practice.

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#GreatLegalBake 2016

I have been rediscovering an interest I long since forgot about: cookery or, more specifically, cake baking.  When I was a kid and also BWK (Before Wife and Kids) I did a lot more cooking and used to enjoy whisking up a quick cake or flapjack. Then  I got busy with other stuff; kids and family things in the main.  Also, blogging and social media until my circumstances changed and I left my City job and started working close to home.

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Why do employers use settlement agreements?

The easy answer to that question would be that a settlement agreement gives employers peace of mind that a departing employee isn’t going to sue them, will return their phone and swipe card and not post nasty things on Facebook. A settlement agreement  is a legally binding contract between employer and employee that (usually) sees the employer give the departing employee a sum of money in turn for that person agreeing to give their legal rights in respect of fair dismissal, discrimination and breach of contract.

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Court Fee Hike: Good for ADR?

You’ll have read or heard by now that court fees went up on Monday or, to be more accurate, sat on a rocket and went into the stratosphere quicker than Jeremy Clarkson punching a producer (allegedly).

For disputes between £10,000 and £200,000 the applicable court fee will be 5% of the value of the claim.  The maximum fee is capped at £10,000.  Disputes of a value lower than £10,000 stay as they are.  A Claimant using the Money Claims Online system will get a 10% discount and a voucher for a free coffee in Starbucks (*).  The senior judiciary is worried about the effect these increase will have on access to justice for SMEs. http://www.theguardian.com/law/2015/jan/19/dramatic-increases-court-fees-deep-concern-senior-judges and well they might.  If litigants can’t afford to litigate then there won’t need to be so many Judges.

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Out and About

IMG_0277At Crane & Staples we don’t believe in sitting at our desks waiting for the world to come to us: we like to get out and about, shake a few hands, meet some new faces and hopefully meet some old ones too.  We don’t tend to advertise in newspapers and magazines very much, which is too impersonal. Most of our promotional work is built on networking, word of mouth referrals and the occasional business expo.  

Last week a team of us from the firm attended the Hertfordshire Business Expo, in Stevenage.  It is one of the largest events of its kind in the area and we set up stall to meet the many attendees. You can usually rely on two things to engage an expo audience – a competition and something to eat, so we took along a set of quoits and some fantastic cupcakes baked by our in house legal administrator Tom, who might have had a career in cookery if law hadn’t seemed more attractive to him. The winner of the quoits received a bottle of champagne and £50 of John Lewis vouchers.IMG_0274
As well as being big, the Expo also featured an engaging, high energy breakfast presentation about the many faces of Google, as well as a speed networking session or musical chairs for business people as i prefer to call it.  There were also seminars on subjects like the value of video for your business and top tips on how to grow a business.
How to grow your business, as well as how to protect it is a theme we have been running with for quite a while.  Often businesses find their greatest challenges when they try to grow – moving to bigger premises or taking on employees all involve additional legal responsibilities.  Our Commercial Property and Employment teams can help businesses in both these areas.  For more information on how we can help you please contact us on  01707 329333.
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Conciliate not Litigate

Early Conciliation  (EC) via ACAS has now been with us for over a month, and it has been mandatory since 6th May for all new disputes to be referred to ACAS before an Employment Tribunal claim can be commenced.  ACAS will, for free, try and resolve the dispute.  If it can’t then the Claimant can issue his/her claim.  If it does settle then job done.

The ACAS website has a useful flowchart which gives an overview of how the process works

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Last Wednesday  my firm hosted the second in our series of events aimed at employers and how they can protect their businesses by following the correct processes and procedures in employment law.  We were delighted to welcome Barristers Smair Soor and Ben Isaacs from 7 Bedford Row Chambers in London to present an interactive role play session on how to handle disciplinary situations in the workplace.

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Not Waving but Drowning

Blogging about emplaw is a bit like being a hamster on a wheel. Always some new case, stature, initiative, consultation, debate or controversy to write about and in trying to keep up you go quicker and quicker. Then you fall off when real life gets in the way or the sheer volume of new “stuff” crushes you.

Getting back on is harder. So much to write about, where to start? What to say? It reminds me a bit of the Stevie Smith poem “not waving but drowning”. ,http://www.poemhunter.com/poem/not-waving-but-drowning

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ET Fees and Early Conciliation

According to statistics from the Ministry of Justice published last week, the number of ET claims issued since the introduction of issue fees has fallen off a cliff.  In the quarter October to December 2013 there were 9,801 claims issued, which was 79% fewer than the corresponding period in 2012 and 75% less than the previous quarter.  ET fees were introduced on 29th July 2013 and the level of fee depends on the type of case – for unlawful deduction of wages claims (for example) the issue fee is £160 whereas for unfair dismissal and discrimination the fee is £250. There is a fees remission system which is complex and under review.  Furthermore, there are also additional fees for taking a claim to a final hearing (£230/ £950) meaning that in an unfair dismissal claim total Tribunal fees might be as much as £1200 to enable an employee (who may well be out of work) to get the claim before an Employment Judge for a decision.

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Social Media, Employees and the Public Interest



Most discussion about the use of social media in the workplace focuses on employees making abusive or inappropriate comments on Facebook or Twitter, or the need for employers to have a social media policy to educate or guide employees on what is acceptable.  Many employees who do fall foul of such policies and subsequently get dismissed claim that their right to freedom of speech or right to privacy has been infringed.  The Courts and Tribunals tend to give these arguments short shrift.

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