Solicitors High Wycombe, Author at Reynolds Parry Jones LLP

Almost a quarter of new dads miss out on paid paternity leave

Nearly one in four new fathers did not qualify for statutory paid paternity leave in 2018.

The Trade Unions Congress (TUC) says that 23 per cent of new dads didn’t qualify because they were self-employed, had not been in their job long enough or were in insecure work.

In total, 580,000 fathers in work had a child under the age of one last year, with 133,000 not qualifying for the two weeks’ statutory paid paternity leave, according to latest figures.

In order to qualify, men must have been with their employer for six months 15 weeks prior to when the baby is due, but 42,000 men missed out because they had not met the threshold in 2018.

The TUC has urged the Government to overhaul the paternity leave system, calling for a paternity allowance similar to the maternity allowance that self-employed mothers are able to claim.

If employers don’t offer enhanced paternity pay, then some fathers may find it difficult to take time off, with the current statutory rate at £148.68.

They have also called for a simplified shared parental leave (SPL) system as only one per cent of eligible parents have taken it since its introduction in 2015. The TUC said that more incentives for parents to share leave, greater flexibility and higher rates of shared parental pay could help develop the system.

Frances O’Grady, General Secretary at the TUC, said: “Paternity leave needs an overhaul. The current system is too complicated, excludes too many new dads and is not an option for a lot of working families.

“Ministers should give dads longer, better-paid paternity leave. And all dads should be entitled to paid paternity leave from their first day in their job – regardless of what kind of contract they have.”

If you require advice or assistance with regards to any issues surrounding employment, contact our expert team today.

Persistent late payers to be fined under new Government proposals

The Government will fine businesses who persistently fail to pay suppliers on time, it has been announced.

The new rule forms part of a packet of measures designed to level the playing field between the smallest and largest businesses.

It comes after research revealed that some 50,000 small businesses are forced to shut their doors every year, with many of those attributed to poor cash flow and persistent late payments.

According to the latest statistics, published by the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), more than eight in 10 (84 per cent) small firms report being paid late, while over one in three (33 per cent) said at least a quarter of all payments they are owed arrived later than agreed.

Likewise, Xero, the cloud accounting platform, found that the average small business is owed almost £25,000 in unpaid invoices, equivalent to 11 months’ average staff wages.

However, under the new legislation announced today by the Small Business Commissioner (SBC) and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), company boards will now be “held accountable for payment practices to small businesses within their companies in a drive to increase transparency and accountability on late payments”.

The measures will also force Audit Committees to report payment practices in company annual reports, or whenever they are requested to by a regulating body, such as HMRC.

Commenting on the report, Small Business Minister Kelly Tolhurst said: “The vast majority of businesses pay their bills on time, with the amount owed in late payments halved over the last five years. But as a former small business owner, I know the huge impact a late payment can have on the ability of a small business to plan, invest and grow.

“These measures will ensure that small businesses are given the support they need and ensure that they get paid quickly – ending the unacceptable culture of late payment.”

Mike Cherry, National Chairman of the FSB, added: “Small businesses will be delighted with today’s announcement. FSB has worked very hard with government to create a whole-board approach to late payment within the UK’s large companies, and empower Audit Committees to look after the supply chain.”

For specialist advice regarding unpaid debts, contact Robert Hill today

New motorway law announced that could see motorists penalised

A new piece of legislation has been introduced on Britain’s motorways which will see drivers receive automatic fines and points on their licence for ignoring closed lanes.

The new rules which came into force on 10 June are cracking down on motorists who ignore the overhead red ‘X’ signs which signal when a lane is closed, usually because of an incident or a broken-down vehicle.

A survey by the RAC of 2,093 motorists showed that 99 per cent of respondents understood a red X meant a lane closure and 84 per cent of those who used a smart motorway in the last year noticed the red ‘X’ on overhead gantries.

However, 23 per cent ignored these signs and used closed lanes at least occasionally both purposefully or by accident.

Authorities believe that drivers receive adequate notice as the signs are clearly marking on gantries along with information telling the drivers to switch lanes well ahead of the signs, so have no excuse to ignore warnings.

Under the new legislation, smart cameras alongside many of the UK’s main stretches of motorway will be able to automatically issue a £100 fine and three penalty points on the driver’s licence for anyone ignoring the closed lanes.

AA president Edmund King said the use of cameras to catch offenders is a welcome measure to improve safety.

He said:  “Our research shows that one in 20 drivers continue to drive in red X lanes even when they’ve seen it, and so far Highways England have written warning letters to over 180,000 drivers about their actions.

“Red Xs are put up to warn of an obstruction, so drivers must get out of the lane when they see them.”

What does the ‘Good Work Plan’ mean for businesses?

Earlier this year, The Government implemented the ‘Good Work Plan’ with the aim to improve the employment rights and workers.

As a result, businesses are being expected to familiarise themselves with the planned changes and take measures to prepare for the rules to come into force from on 6 April 2020.

So what are the key proposals to the plan?

A written statement regarding your job

Employees will be entitled to receive a written statement, which provides details of the employees’ contractual terms and working conditions from the first day of employment, rather than the current requirement of two months.

The Legislation also requires the document to contain information of paid leave, the duration of any applicable probationary period and information on any benefit entitlements.

Contracts of Employment

A new right for workers is to be added, which will mean employees who have 26 weeks continuous services are able to request more secure and stable contracts. Employers will be given three months to respond to these requests.

Casual or zero hour workers are most likely to benefit from this ruling, as they can request a guaranteed number of hours or certainty as to the days on which they will be asked to work.

Formal guidance on these contract requests is expected to be provided closer to the implementation.

Breaks in Continuous Service

The current rules allow employees who have up to a week-long break in their employment to qualify for certain employment rights. The reforms will change this to a four-week gap, to allow for employees who work casual hours or those that work at irregular intervals.

They will now be able to benefit from the rights awarded by the length of continuous service.

Better rights for agency workers

The new reforms will close a loophole known as the ‘Swedish derogation’ in a bid to offer more protection to agency workers.

The removal of this loophole will mean that the option to opt out of entitlement to the same level of pay as a permanent worker and instead be paid a separate rate based on assignments will be removed.

Changes to holiday pay calculations

The reference period to calculate an employee’s holiday pay is to be changed from 12 weeks to 52 weeks, to provide fairness in calculations for those workers whose hours vary.

Incorrect holiday payments can be backdated for up to two years.

How can we help?

We understand the importance of businesses taking the necessary measures to implement the changes to relevant policies and procedures ahead of the new legislation in April 2020.

That is why our expert employment law team is ready to help ensure a smooth transition for your business. Contact us today to find out how we can help you.

Home extensions to be allowed in England without full planning permission after permanent rule change

Homeowners in England will be allowed to complete extensions to their property without planning permission after the temporary rules, which have been in place since 2013, were made permanent.

Permitted development rights mean that homeowners can complete building on their property without planning permission from the council or approval from neighbours.

In excess of 110,000 extensions have been undertaken in England in the last five years, as the Government decides to make the change permanent.

Kit Malthouse MP, Housing Minister, said: “These measures will help families extend their properties without battling through time-consuming red tape.

“By making this permitted development right permanent, it will mean families can grow without being forced to move.”

There are specifications for the extensions, with owners of semi-detached and terraced houses being allowed to build a single-storey extension to the rear of their property of up to six metres, while it is eight metres for those in detached homes.

Homeowners will still have to inform their local council of the intended changes to the property, who will then inform the neighbours and give them a chance to object. Decisions about objections are down to the discretion of the council, who will decide if the planned extension affects the character of the area or people’s enjoyment of it.

The rules only apply in England, with extensions over 3-4 metres in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland still requiring planning permission.

Those who live in flats, maisonettes and other property will not benefit from the rule changes either.

The need for planning permission for commercial properties is also being removed by the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government.

These measures will help families extend their properties without battling through time-consuming red tape.

If you require legal assistance with regarding land and property disputes, please get in touch with Robert Hill today.

What happens if I need to re-negotiate my commercial lease?

Commercial lease agreements can be complicated because the terms are negotiable and vary greatly from one lease to another.

If a property lease is due to expire, the capital value of the investment weakens due to the risk and uncertainty of the projected income stream. However, once the lease has been renewed, the capital value then naturally increases.

Often, this lease process cycle highlights potential opportunities for tenants to renegotiate more favourable terms when their lease expiry is approaching.

It is recommended that a business review the renewal process at least 18 months prior to its lease expiry or break option [clause] in order to leave sufficient time to decide the best possible outcome and re-negotiate.

If you are considering re-negotiating your commercial lease, be sure to read the below advice for commercial tenants:

Security of tenure

Subject to negotiations, a security of tenure will mean you have the right to renew the lease upon expiry on the same terms as the existing lease.

This is important because, if the lease is ‘contracted out’, the tenant must vacate the premises on its expiry.

Break clause

A break clause allows a tenant to terminate the lease prior to its expiry. As a result, this can offer invaluable flexibility, for example, there may be the option to end the tenancy on a specific date, as long as the correct notice is given before that date.

Repairing obligations

Under the terms of the majority of commercial leases, the tenant is obliged to keep the property in good condition and therefore this potentially gives rise to a substantial liability at lease expiry.

Addressing this point at the time of negotiation can provide the tenant with an opportunity to reduce their liability and subsequently, offer an additional level of cost certainty.

Rent reduction

During the negotiation period, it is worthwhile discussing an appropriate period whereby the rent payable is either temporarily reduced or waived altogether. Utilising this strategy could potentially translate into substantial savings.

Landlord’s legal costs

It is important to note that it is not standard practice and you do not have to pay the landlords legal fees, each party should pay their own.

If you require any advice on negotiating a commercial lease, or indeed on any other property matter, Reynolds Parry Jones LLP can help you. We will guide you through every stage of the process, providing information on your rights and assist in negotiations with your landlord.

Report highlights record number of workers still paid below minimum wage

Report highlights record number of workers still paid below minimum wage

According to a report conducted by the Low Pay Commission (LPC), a record number of UK workers are still being paid below the minimum wage.

The report has revealed that around 440,000 people were illegally paid under the hourly minimum wage in April last year, with 369,000 of those meant to receive the national living wage (NLW) because they are aged 25 or over.

The living wage figure saw an increase of 30,000 on the previous year, a record high since the NLW was introduced in 2016.

Currently, the NLW is at £8.21 per hour, whilst the minimum wage for younger workers stands at £7.70 for 21-24-year-olds, £6.15 for 18-20-year-olds, £4.35 for under 18’s and £3.90 for apprentices.

The LPC report also found that a greater number of women were underpaid compared to men and those at both the youngest and oldest ends of the spectrum were more likely to be underpaid than others.

Whilst the industries most affected include hospitality, retail, cleaning and childcare.

These findings have prompted calls by LPC to revert to previous methods of naming and shaming employers who underpay their staff and improve the ways in which the laws surrounding minimum wage are enforced.

In the past, companies including the likes of Wagamama, Marriott Hotels, TGI Friday’s, Stoke City Football Club and Shoe Zone had been named by the Government for paying less than the legal minimum wage.

LPC Chair, Bryan Sanderson, said: “It is vital for businesses to be able to operate on a level playing field and not be illegally undercut on wages.

“The government has made real progress with its enforcement of the minimum wage, but more needs to be done to ensure employers comply in the first place and workers know how to enforce their rights.”

A spokesperson for the Government said it was cracking down on employers who failed to pay the minimum wage.

If you require advice or assistance with regards to any issues surrounding employment, contact our expert team today.

Government set to reform Companies House

Government set to reform Companies House

The government is set to change the way Companies House works, with the largest reform of the company registration system in more than 100 years.

The reform was outlined in an 80-page consultation report and is intended to improve the exchange of intelligence between UK law enforcement, HMRC and Companies House.

The proposals also look to limit the risk of fraud and misuse of information by increasing the information that companies must disclose, as well as increased scrutiny of the information.

A period of consultation is underway to seek views on the reforms with four sections;

  • Increased information about who is setting up, managing and controlling companies
  • Improving the accuracy and usability of data on the companies register
  • Protecting personal information on the companies register
  • Ensuring compliance, sharing intelligence and other measures to deter abuse of corporate entities

The consultation period is due to close on 5 August 2019.

News of the reform comes after more than 10,000 complaints were registered in the last three years about the current system, with concerns over their personal data a key issue.

Louise Smyth, Chief Executive of Companies House, said:  “The register already plays a vital role in contributing to the UK’s economy through the investment decisions which rely on our data.

“This package of reforms represents a significant milestone for Companies House as they will enable us to play a greater part in tackling economic crime, protect Directors from identity theft and fraud and improve the accuracy of the register.”

The government notes in the consultation that the current system is ‘not fit for purpose’. The consultation also acknowledges that because of the scale of improvements, new systems and staffing transformation needed at Companies House, it will take ‘some years’ to deliver, as well as primary legislation to enact it.

For specialist advice regarding any aspect of running a business, contact Robert Hill today.

Government announces new “life-saving” services for survivors of domestic abuse

Government announces new “life-saving” services for survivors of domestic abuse

The Government has announced a raft of new measures designed to support victims of domestic abuse.

The consultation document proposing the changes has gone live this week, and will close after 12 weeks.

The key changes include placing a legal duty on local authorities to deliver support to survivors of domestic abuse and their children via accommodation-based services.

The first-of-its-kind move, which will be fully funded by the Government, will provide secure residence to those fleeing abusive and violent relationships and may help save lives.

The new legislation also intends to put an end to variation across the country in support for those suffering from domestic abuse.

The changes come after the most recent figures reveal that more than two million partners and their families are affected by abuse every year.

However, despite the huge impact domestic abuse can have on the lives of those it touches, support is sporadic and inconsistent across local authorities.

Likewise, local authorities will be required to “work together” to ensure domestic abuse services reflect the needs of local people, including those in the BAME and LGBT communities.

Announcing the changes, Prime Minister Theresa May said: “I’ve always vowed to leave no stone unturned in tackling domestic abuse – this abhorrent crime has no place in our country.

“And today we are ending the postcode lottery by placing on local authorities a legal duty to deliver support, including secure housing, to survivors of domestic abuse and their children.

“Whoever you are, wherever you live and whatever the abuse you face, you will have access to the services you need to be safe.”

Communities Secretary James Brokenshire added: “For the first time ever, local authorities will have to legally assess the level of support needed in their local area and match that need with vital, life-saving services – helping untold numbers of families to safely rebuild their lives, free from the threat of pernicious abuse.”

To access the consultation document in full, please click here.

For specialist family law advice today, please get in touch with RPJ Solicitors.

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