Friday, 8 January 2016

Must try harder…

I had intended to have a go at the Law Society’s quiz of the year over the festive period. It didn’t happen.

I scored a respectable 7 out of 12 last year.

And this year?  A big fat zero.

Law Society Quiz of the year

The questions seemed bizarre – obscure statistical kind of stuff about what the law society said they did in 2015. Stuff that you’d have to guess or lose an afternoon trying to research.

Anyway, there’s always 2016 to try and improve.

Saturday, 19 December 2015

Back from the brink

As Murray Walker might say: “I make no apologies for my absence… but I’m sorry I’ve not been here”.
In case the world missed it – which, of course, it didn’t, as nobody reads blogs now – I’ve been away for a bit. 

It wasn’t really a conscious decision.  I just found myself busy with other things to do and afflicted with a serious disinterest in both law and blogging.  That’s something of a handicap when it comes to producing content for a legal-themed blog.
I’ve thought about returning before now and I’ve even had a flick through some of my old posts a couple of times.  But despite doing this, I couldn’t quite bring myself to start blogging again.  The mere thought of blogging just felt a bit, well, tired and old, frankly.  I’ve only come back today to have a cathartic whinge. 

Aside from all that, Blogger seems to have thrown a wobbly interacting with Windows Live Writer and the freshly-released Open Live Writer.  Trying to post to Blogger using the web interface makes blogging even more of a ballache.  And my life’s full of enough ballaches at the moment.
Tradition dictates that I should be putting together this year’s festive-themed header for Law Actually, but I’m not sure I can stomach it.  You’ve all seen enough bells, Christmas trees, and frigging Santa for another 12 months I’m sure.  I know I have.

Sunday, 13 September 2015

Latest Employment Tribunal statistics show drop in number of claims made

Guest PostEmployment Tribunal Claims

On 10 September 2015 the Ministry of Justice published the latest set of quarterly Employment Tribunal statistics for April to June 2015. This report laid out statistics for the Employment Tribunal for this period relating to the number of claims made, the number of claims that were successful, and the amount of compensation that was awarded for claims.

The number of claims made

The report stated that there has been a continued trend of decline in the number of claims (both individual and multiple) made in the Employment Tribunal between 2012/13 and 2014/15, as follows:

- 2012/13: an average of 52,000 new claims per quarter

- 2013/14: an average of 26,500 new claims per quarter

- April to June 2014/15: an average of 12,563 new claims per quarter

With regards to individual claims (claims made by one individual against one or more persons) the trend of claims has been more volatile:

- October 2012: 5,000 claims made

- June 2013: 4,000 claims made

- July 2013: 6,500 claims made

- September 2013: 1,000 claims made

- October 2013 to June 2015: an average of 1,500 claims made per month

Employment Tribunal fees were introduced on 29 July 2013 and the above statistics would seem to suggest that the introduction of fees has had a direct impact on the dramatic fall in the number of claims made, as potential claimants are deterred by the potential outlay (£250 to issue claims in ‘Type B’ claims and a further £950 hearing fee).

The report also found that the proportion of claimants represented by a lawyer increased by four percentage points from 71% in 2013/14 to 75% in 2014/15.

The number of claims that were successful

The number of claims that were successful, conciliated by ACAS or withdrawn (as a percentage of all Employment Tribunal claims) has fallen over recent quarters, from a 79% success rate in 2013/14 to 62% in the last quarter of 2014/15. It has now levelled at 62% - a substantial reduction in the average of claims that were successful between 2007/8 and 2012/13 (79.8%).

The amount of compensation awarded in successful claims

In 2014/15, there were 1,129 claims that received compensation for unfair dismissal. The maximum award in an unfair dismissal claim was £238,216 and the average (mean) award was £12,362.

In 2014/15, there were 219 discrimination claims where compensation was awarded. The maximum amount awarded was £557,039.

The above numbers do not include claims conciliated by ACAS or other forms of settlement, as the terms of such settlements are confidential to the parties.

Chris Hadrill, a specialist employment solicitor at Redmans, commented on the statistics: “These statistics clearly show that there has not only been a reduction in the total number of claims made but also a clear reduction in the number of successful claims made. It remains to be seen whether Employment Tribunal fees are having the intended effect of discouraging ‘unmeritorious’ claims or whether they are in fact discouraging claimants with otherwise-successful claims from pursuing justice.”

Previous reports can be found on the Government website here.

Redmans are litigators and employment solicitors in Chiswick

Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Can a Private Investigator be an aid to the legal process?

Guest PostPrivate Detective
With the number of high profile court cases recently featuring journalists who used the services of Private Investigators you may be excused for thinking the investigators are a thoroughly disreputable lot. Case after case we heard the same story; the journalist had simply employed a detective to hack into people’s mobile phones and gather the gossip they needed for their stories.

Given the recent negative publicity it would therefore be natural to find some reticence on the part of the legal profession to use Private Investigators for fear of falling foul of the law themselves.

Of course this fear is unfounded and generations of solicitors have successfully used investigators to help them achieve the legal outcome they were looking for. We should be clear that the odd bad apple doesn’t spoil the bunch.

So what should you look for when choosing a Private Detective?

First you need to choose a reputable company. This may sound obvious but when you look at the proliferation of choice on the internet today you may be surprised to find that not all of these websites are completely legitimate. For example there is nothing stopping you or I setting up as an investigator tomorrow, creating a website and touting for business. So how do you sift through the acres of websites on offer?

Start by looking for a firm that are a member of a recognised professional body. Whilst there is no requirement for investigators to belong to these bodies (yet), members of the World Association of Private Investigators or The Association of British Investigators are bound by a code of conduct and are rigorously vetted before being allowed to join. Scrutiny by peers in this respect is a pretty good filter for many of those who would be miscreants.

Secondly, once you have found a firm that you think might fit your requirements you can always try mystery shopping. Try calling them and telling them that you just need to get your partners National Insurance number and a look at their bank accounts for your upcoming divorce proceedings and see what they say. Reputable firms will give you a flat ‘no’ as the only way of getting this information is through illegal sources. Rule out any who say yes.

Next check their website to see if they say that they do the sort of work that you want completing. If you need someone to investigate on behalf of a matrimonial client as part of divorce proceedings can you see that they do this work? Are they able to tell you about the sort of cases they have recently completed? If it is a commercial matter, how practiced are they at getting people into commercial situations to complete these investigations successfully?

Finally do your own due diligence and check their names online. Are people saying bad things about them when you type in the firms name and the word ‘review’ after it? Are the partners or directors part of trade bodies? Do they crop up as star witnesses in trials and can you find any of their writings online in reputable journals or newspapers?

To return to the original question, if you ask a detective they will tell you that they are an integral part of the legal process. The good ones however will be able to further assure you that when they come to be cross examined in the dock nothing in their data and evidence collection will undermine the case.

Choose wisely therefore and you will find the benefit they bring to your tricky and trying case far outweighs any cost of employing them.

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Can the gender pay gap give rise to a claim?

Guest Post

Gender Pay GapIn July 2015 the Government launched an open consultation on the gender pay gap which currently sits at 19.1%. That means that for every £1 earned by a man, a woman will earn 81p.

Even though this is the lowest differential ever recorded it still demonstrates that the gender pay gap in the UK still needs addressing.

Ever since the Equal Pay Act was launched in 1976 it has been illegal for men and women to be paid differently for doing the same work; however this doesn’t mean that it doesn’t happen.

This then raises the important question which is, given that this legislation has been in place for almost 40 years to prevent this type of discrimination at work, if it is still happening what sort of claims process will be available to individuals falling foul of this discrimination?

The open consultation aims to task organisations with more than 250 employees to publish gender pay information. The CBI are pushing back on this stating that the current voluntary approach for companies to disclose this information is working well enough and that the numbers of women on corporate boards has actually increased.

This remains an area to be debated.

Ultimately the Government is looking for ideas that will encourage women to seek higher status careers, support older working women - where the pay gap is particularly high, and to comprehensively modernise the workplace. A move to more flexible working is being studied as a way of progressing women into higher profile jobs with more earning power and companies are to be encouraged to seek flexible working options when advertising for senior positions.

David Cameron has stated that he wants to eliminate the gender pay gap ‘in a generation’. Historically, UK businesses have been evasive in disclosing the pay gap between their male and female colleagues so it will be interesting to see how the open consultation develops and how this may affect employment law in the future.

Of course as it is illegal to pay people differently for the same role based on their gender, when this data becomes available it raises the prospect of potential legal claims against discriminatory employers. How many of them there are and whether these claims will be successful remains to be seen but inevitably there will be test cases.

The most likely scenario will lie with individuals who are no longer in employment with the business as people who choose to sue their employer whilst still in employment could face further discrimination at work. This scenario is probably the most common that will be encountered and raises a huge number of conflicts. Employers will be keen to avoid this scenario and employees will, in most cases, be unwilling to antagonise an employer who might then find there are reasons for letting that individual go.

The entire process is fraught with difficulties and the need to professional legal advice will be paramount if awkward situations like this are to be avoided.

Interesting times lie ahead….

Monday, 22 June 2015

Important Principles of Publishing Law

Guest Post

Stacks of books on table close up
Although the basic principles of publishing law generally remain unchanged, the law that governs the publication of books, magazines, newspapers and – in particular - their digital equivalents is constantly evolving. This constant evolution is necessary now more than ever, due to the impact the internet has had on how material is distributed, and the increasing importance of digital copyright law. In today’s digital age, what is legal in one country may not be permitted in another, and this patchwork of very different sets of laws represents a real problem for authors and publishers throughout the world.

Unsurprisingly, the countries of the world have attempted to regulate this by means of international treaties. There is now the International Court of Justice at The Hague (mainly referred to for war crimes), and the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. However, these only operate in certain jurisdictions and their judgements are usually regional rather than global. There is no truly global International Court, and although many feel that the internet requires something similar, it appears to be a long way away from actually happening.

Copyright Law

Despite the aforementioned problems with the application of international publishing laws, copyright law is relatively well enforced globally. This is due to one of the world’s longest-running treaties, the Berne Copyright Convention of 1886, now acceded to by over 160 countries. The Berne Copyright Convention obliges members to apply reciprocal ‘national treatment’ in their own courts to works produced by members of other member states. The TRIPS Treaty also requires member states to enforce copyright effectively.

Copyright is a form of intellectual property that exists from the moment a work of creative, intellectual or artistic nature is created in a fixed, tangible form of expression (Ideas and information are not covered by copyright law – only the form and manner in which they are expressed is.). Copyright grants the creator of an original work exclusive rights to its use and distribution – usually for a limited time. In the case of works made for hire, the employer - not the creator of the work - is considered the author. Updated in 1988 and unchanged ever since, the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 remains one of the key principles of publishing law.

Assignments & Licenses

An assignment of copyright is a transfer of ownership of the copyright. By assigning your copyright to another person or organisation, you are effectively providing them with the legal right to exploit the material however they wish. You will no longer own it; the recipient of the assignment will have full rights to the material. And if you publish your work after you have assigned it to another party, you are committing copyright infringement – even though you were the original author of the work.

If you grant someone a copyright license, you retain ownership of your copyright but give the other party permission to use some or all of your copyright rights. You may grant a publisher the rights to publish your work in print and/or as an ebook, but retain the right to create an audio version of your work. Any type of right can be retained or granted as required, which can allow the author of the work to profit by producing and distributing the work in other formats, or even expanding upon it.

Written Contracts

Almost all publishing agreements should be in writing. Whilst English law does allow for unwritten contracts, those contracts which involve assignment of copyright or a licence of copyright within the meaning of the legislation must be in writing. Even where a publishing agreement does not involve an assignment or license, getting the terms of the contract written down is always a good idea. A written agreement provides evidence that the contract actually exists, helps ensure that all parties are ‘on the same page’, reduces the risk of a legal dispute occurring and also helps with the resolution of a dispute should one arise.

Payments and Royalties

A publishing agreement will usually state methods of payments to the author, which are typically either by the payment of an agreed fee or by the payment of royalties. With royalty payments there may also be an advance, which will need to be earned-out before any royalty payments commence. Publishing contracts that are based on assignments of copyright usually include up-front, fee-based payments, while payments made under licences of copyright are often royalty-based. In practice, however, many publishing contracts combine assignments and royalties or licences and fees.

Infringement of Legal Rights

There are multiple ways in which an author’s legal rights can be infringed when a piece of work is published. For example, a work could infringe copyright, moral rights, database rights, trade mark rights, design rights, rights in passing off, or any other intellectual property rights. Because of this, it is vital that publishing companies fully research the work they are given to publish, and authors are fully aware of the rights they hold in their work.

ARK Group is a leading B2B publishing and events company providing leading products for the legal and information management markets. ARK Group’s information products help professionals and organisations work more intelligently by delivering reliable information and techniques that can be used to benchmark, develop and improve fundamental business processes and procedures.

Thursday, 18 June 2015

What Will Happen to EU Citizens in the UK in the Event of Brexit…?

Guest Post

The promised EU referendum, awarded the unfortunate moniker of ‘Brexit’ by the British press, is drawing nearer. Currently, there isn’t a confirmed date for the vote, but we do know that it will not be on 5th May 2016, the day when the public will vote on the devolution of the Northern Irish, Scottish and Welsh Parliaments.

David Cameron promised in the run up to the 2015 election that the referendum will take place before the end of 2017, and a recent BBC News article speculated about the pros and cons of potential dates between now and then.

It’s certain that should the public vote in favour of leaving the EU there will be major changes. The debate rages on about whether or not these changes will have a positive or negative impact on the state of the nation.


However, one unavoidable point that has not been widely discussed in the media is that EU nationals who have made their home in the UK will find their circumstances change overnight if Britain decides to abandon the union.

Freedom of movement is one of the founding principles of the European Union and plenty of citizens from member states have taken full advantage of this perk, moving across the continent and settling outside of their sovereign nation.

It is estimated that there are currently within the region of 2 million EU nationals living and working in the UK who would face an uncertain future is the so-called Brexit came to be.
UK nationals who’ve made their home in the EU may also find themselves in a similar situation, suddenly being classified as illegal immigrants if the British public decides it’s time to leave the EU behind.

If the Brexit does happen, then hundreds of thousands of EU nations who have been living in the UK for years may find themselves very suddenly in need of a visa, or a plane ticket home.

At Carter Law, specialist Immigration Solicitors based in Manchester, our team have been keeping a close eye on the situation. Without a set date for the referendum, the serious campaigning hasn’t even started, but we’re keen to be in a position to help as many people as possible should the UK leave the union.

Hasty changes to the UK Immigration Law to accommodate for the outcome of the UK leaving could further complicate matters. Questions have been raised about whether citizens of more affluent states, such as Germany or France may be given preferential treatment over those from poorer EU nations, Bulgaria for example.

Many EU citizens who call UK home are anticipating something which, in their eyes is a worst case scenario, and asking “will I need a visa?”. Unfortunately, there simply isn’t enough information available to immigration solicitors currently, so we must wait patiently to see what happens.

Hopefully, as a date is confirmed and the time to vote draws nearer, there will be some consideration given to those who would be directly affected by the Brexit.