The Importance of being Earnest … how safe is your identity?

Sarah-Varani-150x150CIFAS – the UK’s Fraud Prevention service recently published the annual Fraudscape report which found that if you’re a 46-year-old male living in a major city then you are more likely to become a victim of identity theft than anyone else in the country. Cities including London, Leeds, Glasgow and Manchester were found to be the country’s fraud hot spots. Recorded fraud was up 25pc last year, with 276,993 cases reported in 2014, compared to 221,075 in 2013. One in five people has lost money as a result of cyber crime, the average loss per online attack being £247 per person.

Simon Dukes, chief executive, at CIFAS, said: “The frauds we are recording point to increasingly sophisticated, predatory and organised criminals. This is crime on an industrial scale.”
Celebrities such as Beyonce, Jay-Z and Britney Spears have had their private details stolen and posted online. If it can happen to them, could it happen to you?

It’s not unheard of for criminals to pick through peoples rubbish to get their hands on any sensitive information they can. A full picture of your identity can be obtained from documents such as bank or credit card statements or the contents of your handbag or wallet. Don’t forget that this can also be pieced together from information you provide online. Criminals are hacking through weak passwords and taking advantage of consumers over the internet by creating fake links, sending phishing emails (pretending to be a genuine company you may have dealings with) and even managing to install spyware on your devices in some cases. You may also receive unsolicited calls asking for personal information by criminals posing as your bank, Microsoft etc.

If criminals do manage to get hold of details such as your full name, address, date of birth, phone number as well as credit card details or bank account numbers, they may be able to steal your identity. They could use your name to open accounts, get credit cards and loans or apply for state benefits and documents such as passports and driving licences.
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Will Employers be left holding the baby?

Sarah-Varani-150x150Shared Parental Leave and pay will be available for employees with babies due on or after 5 April 2015, and for employees who are adopting where the child is placed for adoption on or after that date. This follows the new right for fathers and partners to take time off to attend antenatal appointments which came in on 1 October.

Shared Parental Leave is intended to give working families more flexibility and choices over when and who takes leave during the first year of their child’s life or adoption, allowing parents to be off together if they wish.

BIS estimates that around 285,000 working couples will be eligible for Shared Parental Leave from April but believes that only between 2% and 6% of fathers will take up the new leave rights.

However, Shared Parental Leave will not replace current maternity, adoption and statutory paternity leave. The two week compulsory maternity leave period immediately following the birth of a child or adoption placement will also remain in place along with the current two weeks statutory paternity leave, meaning that parents can still choose to take leave following a birth or adoption placement in line with the current system. This effectively allows fathers or partners can take both the two weeks statutory paternity leave and Shared Parental Leave if they wish.

The Additional Paternity Leave scheme introduced in 2011, which allows the child’s father or the mother’s partner to take up to 26 weeks’ leave, will be abolished from 5 April 2015. If expectant fathers or partners wish to take a longer period of family leave, they would need to do so via the new Shared Parental Leave regime.
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Where there’s a will, there’s a way …

Sarah-Varani-150x150… of disinheriting your estranged spouse.

Although once the decree absolute is issued, any will you may have in place is read as if any reference to a previous spouse is removed entirely, during separation and the often lengthy process of divorce you are at risk of them inheriting under your will if you do not change it in the interim. (Or indeed if you do not have a will at all – under the intestacy rules).

In all honesty whilst in these circumstances a Codicil revoking a gift to a named beneficiary could be used to “cut out” the estranged husband/wife from the estate (provided you already have a will in place already) the best advice really would be to draw up a whole new will which does not make any provision for the estranged spouse. This should then sit alongside a letter of wishes setting out the reasoning behind the lack of any bequests to try and limit any potential claims against the estate.

Under inheritance legislation, it is possible for certain individuals to make a claim for provision out of a deceased’s estate where reasonable financial provision has not been made for them in the will. This includes the spouse or civil partner of the deceased. A claim for provision cannot succeed though unless the court is satisfied that the will does not make reasonable financial provision for the person making the claim. What financial provision is reasonable depends upon who is making the claim. A spouse or civil partner may seek financial provision that is reasonable in all the circumstances, whether or not it is needed for his or her maintenance. The court does not have to decide whether the deceased acted reasonably or unreasonably.
Continue reading “Where there’s a will, there’s a way …”

Please release me, let me go………..

Sarah-Varani-150x150Airlines will be keen to give you your marching orders as soon as possible after a recent decision by the European Court of Justice (CJEU) on the time at which a flight is deemed to have arrived. The Court concluded “…… that the ‘arrival time’, which is used to determine the length of the delay to which passengers on a flight have been subject, corresponds to the time at which at least one of the doors of the aircraft is opened, the assumption being that, at that moment, the passengers are permitted to leave the aircraft,”

“Passengers continue to be subject, in the enclosed space in which they are sitting, to various constraints. It is only when the passengers are permitted to leave the aircraft and the order is given to that effect to open the doors of the aircraft that the passengers cease to be subject to those constraints and may in principle resume their normal activities.”

The ruling is significant for all EU regulated flights where passengers are entitled to between €250 (£200) and €600 (£480) in compensation (in addition to expenses) if a flight is delayed by at least three hours.
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“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” Martin Luther King, Jr.

Sarah-Varani-150x150According to government statistics the number of Employment Tribunal claims fell 79% to 9,801 in the final quarter of last year compared with the same period in 2012, and dropped 75% on the third quarter of 2013. Although it is difficult to categorically link the drop  in Employment Tribunal claims to the introduction of Employment Tribunal fees in July last year, it seems reasonable to draw the conclusion that such fees are acting as a deterrent to both Claimants and employment solicitors alike.

The fees range between £160-£250 simply to submit a claim with a further fee of £230-£950 payable for the claim to be set for a hearing. In unfair dismissal claims it’s not unusual for the maximum potential compensation to be between £5,000 and £10,000 therefore if the Claimant doesn’t qualify for a partial or full remission of fees, they will have to pay between 12% and 24% of the amount they’re claiming before the hearing takes place. For people on low incomes and those new to the Employment Tribunal, this is a daunting prospect, especially when coupled with what many would perceive as a David vs Goliath situation.
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Employment law changes in 2014 that every employer needs to be aware of

Sarah-Varani-150x150Employment law changes regularly. To avoid employment tribunals and fines, make sure your company is up-to-date and compliant with the regulations; read our guide to what’s coming-up in 2014.

January
•    Pensions auto-enrolment – by the start of 2014 if you have 350-499 employees you will be expected to offer a qualifying pension scheme.
•    Bulgarian and Romanian nationals – from 1 January had their restrictions on working in any EU member state lifted.
•    Transfer of undertakings – from 31 January there were changes to the TUPE Regulations.

March
•    National Minimum Wage – from 7 March the penalties for non-payment of this rose substantially. BIS has published information on the new penalties.
•    Spent convictions – from 10 March the period during which potential employees need to disclose certain convictions to you was reduced. The Ministry of Justice has published guidance on these changes.
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Hands off its mine!!! An update on the legal status of prenuptial agreements

Sarah-Varani-150x150Currently couples can make nuptial agreements before or during their marriage or civil partnership to set out how their property and finances will be dealt with if they were to separate or divorce.

Although the courts in the UK have begun to recognise the validity and importance of prenuptial agreements in “the right circumstances” following the landmark case of Katrin Radmacher and Nichols Granatino in 2010 (where the Supreme Court said that their prenuptial agreement should be given “decisive weight”), there is no guarantee that such agreements will be upheld creating uncertainty for both parties.

However, the Law Commission published a report, Matrimonial Property, Needs and Agreements on 27 February 2014 and recommended amongst other things that prenuptial agreements should be legally enforceable after the needs of the parties and any children have been met.

The report includes the draft” Nuptial Agreements Bill” which if passed will make “qualifying prenuptial agreements” legally binding.
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“That was my first instinct — to protect him. It never occurred to me that there was a greater need to protect myself…….”

Sarah-Varani-150x150You’ve written your will and are happy that you have protected your nearest and dearest after you have passed away but what about looking after yourself during your lifetime?

A lasting power of attorney is specifically designed to protect you during your lifetime should you ever lose capacity due to accident, illness, infirmity or old age (or if you just can’t be bothered with the hassle of managing your own affairs at some stage in the future). Whilst we all hope the worst will never happen unfortunately one of those events is likely to happen to most people.

By 2025, more than 1 million people in the UK will have dementia, according to the Alzheimer’s Society. One in five people over 85 already suffers from it, with rates significantly higher among women than men.

A lasting power of attorney (LPA) should be seen simply as a piece of insurance providing protection that you may need at some stage in the future and something that protects your wishes it is very important if you are a couple but is absolutely vital if you are single.

There are two different types of lasting power of attorney:

•    health and welfare
•    property and financial affairs

It is up to you whether you decide to make one type or both but you must be 18 or over and have mental capacity – the ability to make your own decisions – when you make your LPA(s). You may need a court-appointed deputy instead if you’re not able to make your own decisions.
Continue reading ““That was my first instinct — to protect him. It never occurred to me that there was a greater need to protect myself…….””

“Rain rain go away, come again another day.”

Sarah-Varani-150x150Many businesses going through a bad patch due to the recent floods may have to consider laying off staff or putting them on short time and ultimately making them redundant if things don’t improve.

An employer is generally entitled to tell their staff not to come into work as there is no legally enforceable right to work. However, there is an obligation to pay employees the agreed salary. So usually the employer must pay full pay, unless it has been agreed otherwise or is set out in the contract of employment.
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“The best-laid plans of mice and men oft(en) go astray…”

Sarah-Varani-150x150You’ve worked hard all year, done all that preparation and packing  and been looking forward to sunning yourself on a beach, a spot of sightseeing or even a more active holiday , so it’s extremely aggravating when that holiday does not live up to your expectations for one reason or another. Where a holiday has not lived up to the standards you anticipated because of a fault on the part of for example the travel company, airline or accommodation provider, it may be possible to claim not only for the cost of the holiday, but compensation for the loss of enjoyment. Continue reading ““The best-laid plans of mice and men oft(en) go astray…””