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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Consumer rights within the European Union

Debbie-Haskell-150x150Have you ever bought goods over the internet from a retailer in the European Union and been worried about what you could do if they did not arrive or were faulty?

It is not a very well known fact but our government signed up to a European Directive in 2007 to make it easier for one party to a dispute to take the other to court even though they are located in another European member state.  Regulation (EC) No 861/2007 established a European Small Claims Procedure and has applied since 1 January 2009 to business and consumers alike. Its principle aim is to ensure access to justice by simplifying the whole cross boarder court process through the use of unified forms and by reducing matters to a paper procedure where possible. It applies to all European states with the exception of Denmark and strict time frames must be adhered to, to ensure that the dispute is efficiently managed.

European Small claims – what does this mean….?

Simply put, if for example you had a contractual dispute with a party based in the European Union, such as faulty goods being delivered and if you were not able to resolve the matter amicably perhaps via your bank, credit card or a service provider then under the European Small Claims Procedure (or ESCP) a consumer or business can start proceedings using a uniform court form.  The ESCP only applies to claims up to the current value of €2000 and to disputes of a consumer and commercial nature. Whilst this description covers quite a wide variety of claims there are restrictions which apply and it is actually easier to list those which don’t.
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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.
Continue reading ““Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” Martin Luther King, Jr.”

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.
Continue reading “Hands off its mine!!! An update on the legal status of prenuptial agreements”

The End is Nigh for Distress: the new CRAR Regime is rolling on in

Debbie-Haskell-150x150On the 6th of April 2014 a commercial landlord’s right to levy distraint or distress, where their tenant is in rent arrears will be abolished when Part 3 of the Tribunals Courts and Enforcement Act 2007 is expected to become law.

This will have an immediate impact on commercial landlords who currently are in a stronger position to recover rent compared to their residential landlord’s counterparts. Exercising the common law remedy of distress is – or was – a fast, cheap and effective method of ensuring that rent was received. The threat of sending the bailiffs round ensures an immediate impact on tenants who are incentivised to communicate and deal with the landlord.

The legislation is not purely aimed at commercial landlords and forms part of wider reforms aimed at unifying the various areas of law impacting on the seizure of goods and their sale. Measures have also been implemented in conjunction with this for ‘transforming bailiff action’. It is the governments aim to do away with what it describes as the current complex and occasionally confusing regime by replacing it with one which creates a clear framework of procedures.
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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…….””

How much is compliance costing you?

Debbie-Haskell-150x150Its official; the costs of compliance has risen sharply between 2011 and 2013. The impact of this was most noticeable for SME’s, with the Forum of Small Businesses (FSB) reporting that its member’s costs had risen by £18.2 billion. Larger businesses are also affected with the EEF echoing similar findings in its published report for 2013. Whilst this may not come as a surprise to some, it seems to stand in stark contrast to the Governments promise to cut red tape.

Health and Safety, Employment Law and Tax were the major compliance costs identified last year; the biggest bill for SME’s was tax compliance which had risen to £6 billion. This may be due to the introduction of Real Time PAYE which HMRC estimated would cost businesses approximately £110 million for 2013-2014 but which has been independently reported as costing more akin to £311 million during the same period – perhaps offering some small triumph to the schemes critics.
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“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…””