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Bell Lamb & Joynson Solicitors news

Liverpool Solicitors: Digital Systems Set to Lead to More Efficiency in Family Courts

Sir James Munby, the President of the Family Division recently welcomed the increasing use of computer systems for use in the courts. The arrival of new technology will promise to ensure the family courts are ran more efficiently.

Sir James also suggested that by introducing electronic documents, the legal process will see even bigger changes than it has seen in the last year through sweeping law updates. He backed his comments up by asking “at what stages in the process is human activity required?” then answering his question with “There are only two: first, in deciding whether the pleaded facts, if true, amount for example, to unreasonable behaviour; second, in pronouncing the decree in open court.”  He deemed that everything else can be done electronically in order to save both time and cost.

Two of the potential improvements to the system, made possible by digitalisation are digital diaries and the option to send documents via email.

Sir Munby also made reference to his expectation that other areas of the courts will follow suit. A recent report by the Civil Justice Council suggested that in the future it may be appropriate to conduct certain cases entirely online.

As to be expected, some are concerned by this change of pace as well as the occasional failure or shortcomings of technology. Sir James recounted that over 40 years ago, when he entered the legal profession; technology was an electric  type writer and the telex. Who knows where the family courts will be in 2050?

BLJ are family law specialists Liverpool. We offer advice on a range of topics from divorce to mediation. Please don’t hesitate to contact us for legal advice contact@bljsolicitors.co.uk

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Liverpool Solicitors Employment Law Updates: European Court Rules ‘Obesity IS SOMETIMES a Disability’

The European Court of Justice recently determined in a case that under certain circumstances, obesity can be regarded as a disability in terms of employment. Employment Law is a difficult area and as solicitors in Liverpool we have faced tough cases from both employees and their employers.

The recent case dealt with by the European Court of Justice was regarding a Danish childcare worker who was overweight and instigated a discrimination claim after being dismissed by his employers. The employers said that he was dismissed due to a reduced demand in child care whereas he contended it was because of his weight. The decision of the court was that discrimination on the grounds of obesity itself was not actually unlawful. However, where obesity leads to a different condition such as a mental health issue, the employee’s obesity can fall into the concept of disability.

If the obesity of an individual affects a person’s participation in working life in ways such as reduced mobility, preventing that individual from carrying out their work properly or causing pain or discomfort to work then the individual could be seen as disabled in the case of this EU directive.

So what do UK employers need to know? 

The first consideration is the way that obesity affects a person, rather than the fact that the person happens to be obese.

To satisfy the requirements of disability discrimination legislation, it needs to be proved that the person has a material adverse impact on his or her ability to perform their everyday duties and it is sufficiently long term (lasting over a year or likely to last a year.) This is according to the Equality Act 2010.

If a person’s obesity results in a specific adverse condition, common examples (but not limited to) include mobility problems or depression; then the Equality Act 2010 could be triggered. So employers should be very careful to note that although obesity in itself currently is not a disability, the effects can result in their condition being recognised as a disability, at least where the law is concerned when it comes to disability discrimination.

What can UK employers do? 

Employers should be aware that a person’s obesity could lead to them being deemed disabled due to the effects of the obesity.

The Equality Act states that employers would then need to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ for the employee, concerning workplace seating, access to the workplace and other logistical arrangements that relate to the employee being able to come to work or not.

No one case is the same. Whether the legislation applies in a particular situation is subject to scrutiny. For more advice for employers or employees, don’t hesitate to contact your local Liverpool Solicitors, on 0844 412 4348

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Liverpool Solicitors Video Campaign

BLJ was established in 1821 and we are one of England’s leading and oldest law firms based here in Liverpool. We offer a range of services catering to the legal needs of Merseyside, Cheshire and beyond. With five offices across the North West of England, this video explains more about the specific areas of expertise of our Liverpool solicitors.

BLJ Solicitors from Sean Brogan on Vimeo.

 

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Liverpool Solicitors Update: National Minimum Wage

The Government has announced their biggest real-terms increase of the National Minimum Wage (NMW) since 2007. Following the recommendations of the Low Pay Commission (LPC) in its 2015 report, the adult rate of the NMW is to be increased to £6.70 per hour for workers aged 21 and over.

From 1 October 2015 these confirmed increases will be in place:

  • A 3% increase to the adult rate, from £6.50 to £6.70 per hour
  • A 3.3% increase to the youth development rate (18-20 year olds) from £5.13 to £5.30
  • A 2.2% increase to the 16-17 year old rate from £3.79 to £3.87
  • A 20.9% increase to the apprentice rate from £2.73 to £3.30.
  • The accommodation offset will increase from £5.08 to £5.35

New regulations have now been brought into force in order to consolidate the existing NMW Regulations 1999 and all the subsequent amending regulations into one single piece of regulation. This took place on April 6th 2015.  These regulations don’t really make any changes but simply clarify the existing laws.

The Government brought in a policy in 2013 of ‘naming and shaming’ any companies that fail to comply with the NMW regulations. They have also recently announced an increase in the budget of HMRC to provide more enforcement officers.

The Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Act implemented this year includes an amending provision making the maximum penalty of £20,000 now payable by the employer in respect of each worker who hasn’t been paid in accordance to the NMW.

The Government has also updated its guidance for employers on calculating and paying the National Minimum Wage. The guidance clarifies what counts and what does not count as pay and working hours for NMW purposes and the formula for the calculation of hourly rates of pay addresses unlawful practices such as ‘rolled up holiday pay.’

For more questions on the NMW or if your employer is not currently paying you the NMW contact your local Liverpool Solicitors on 0844 412 4348.

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Liverpool Solicitors Employment Law: Social Media Risks.

Both individual employees and your business as a whole needs to be careful about what is posted online or said in emails. Posting inappropriate content online has several reputational risks for individuals and whole organisations. Anything you write on the internet can damage reputations.

Employees risk losing their jobs, could be sued or face criminal charges for anything they write online. Businesses could be sued or fined, and the effects could be detrimental. Here is our advice, as solicitors in Liverpool, we have seen that business and employment law has always been tricky, but in the digital age, there are even more reasons for caution.

Stop and Think 

Writing online is the same as writing on paper except you have even less control over who sees it. Businesses cannot be sure of what the recipents might do with information they send out via email or post online.

Inappropriate information viewed online can have severe financial repercussions for a business. If you are an employee don’t send or post anything you wouldn’t want your boss to see. You could get into trouble and face disciplinary issues.

Even if you post something in your own time or from a personal social media account, it could still cause problems for you and the business so take additional care.

Emails and Internet Postings Definitely Can Be Used in Legal Proceedings 

Saying it online doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist in the real world. The real world has legal consequences. Emails and internet pastings can be used against your business in regulatory investigations and you might even have a legal obligation to show them to a third party who wasn’t previously aware of them. This could lead to the loss of clients.

Absolutely do not delete emails related to a legal dispute or investigation. Even if you do, deleting doesn’t solve your dilemma. Forensic IT equipment exists and it is powerful. Nothing is truly lost even when you press the delete button.

Don’t be Personally Hurtful 

Don’t say anything online that is hurtful, obscene, racist, sexist etc. We’d like to think that you wouldn’t anyway. Again, doing so even from a personal account can effect the company that you are employed by.

If a comment is made from one employee about a fellow employee online, it can amount to harassment, a serious offence. The business could be liable even if you posted it from a personal account from your own personal device.

Exaggerating or making a false accusation about another company or person online is not acceptable either. Your business could be sued even if it was only sent to one individual.

Confidentiality Crisis 

If you can, avoid sending confidential info about your business or any clients via email. If you have to do this (clients abroad etc) you can consult us for legal advice about the best ways of protecting this information.

A starting point is by clearly marking any email with confidential information as CONFIDENTIAL.

If your business receives an email containing information that is potentially ‘dangerous’ such as another company’s financial or trade detail, contact us for legal advice.

Do NOT Make a Contract You are Not Serious About 

A legally binding contract can be made online via email. This is convenient but must be taken seriously. You and the business should make it clear if you don’t want to be bound by agreements made over email.

Not an Opportunity to Copy Work Not Your Own

Other people’s work shouldn’t be used in emails or online posts unless you have permission from the original owner; or you know it not protected by copyright.

Constantly Monitor for Offensive or Unknown Materials 

If you are a company director or owner, encourage employees to monitor their inbox, ESPECIALLY if they don’t know the sender or the title appears suspicious.

If there is a risk a virus may be contained in an email, don’t open it. Contact your IT department immediatly. This may not be specifically a legal issue but can cause major inconvenience.

Make sure employees know that they could be disciplined or even dismissed for forwarding inappropriate emails or accessing inappropriate content on their work machine or own machine whilst at work. This could be a criminal offence.

Avoid Unproductive Usage 

Most businesses do allow light personal internet and email usage as long as it does not interfere with their employees’ duties. However you should make sure employees know excessive use isn’t acceptable and could be disciplinary.

We know the internet is a great tool for the promotion and day to day goings on in a business. However just take care if you are a business owner and encourage employees to do so too, as it is increasingly used as evidence in employment and business legal disputes.

For any more information, contact our Liverpool Solicitors Office.

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Liverpool Solicitors News: General Election 2015: Party Pledges on Employment Law.

As solicitors in Liverpool we have our fingers on the pulse of the latest political party manifesto announcements in the run up to our May 7th General Election. As leading employment law solicitors in Liverpool, Bell, Lamb and Joynson have devised a summary of the pledges that have been made regarding employment law so that you are just as knowledgeable as us as you make your decision of who to vote for in the 2015 election.

Conservatives

The leading party of Britain’s current government have pledged to raise the minimum wage from £6.50 to £7.00. They also have stated plans to tackle zero hours contracts by scrapping them entirely. In regard to the European Court of Human Rights, the conservative party plan to introduce the British Bill of Rights and Responsibilities that will repeal the Human Rights Act 1998 and thus the EU Court of Human Rights and their judgements will become ‘advisory’ only and not binding on the UK Supreme Court.

Labour

Labour’s proposals include raising the minimum wage to £8 an hour by 2020. Also they will fine employers who fail to pay their workers this minimum wage and will offer a tax rebate to employers who sign up to pay the living wage in 2015.

Labour also plan to address atypical workers to improve their conditions. Those on zero hour contracts will be given new rights; this includes a right for employees who work regular hours to receive a fixed hours contract with their employer automatically. They will ban exclusivity provisions as well as receiving atypical worker availability on the off chance they would be needed as this is unfair to the worker. If shifts for such workers are cancelled at short notice, employers will be made to play compensation.

Liberal Democrats

The Liberal Democrats have made a proposal to the Low Pay Commission for a single national minimum wage for 16-17 year olds who are in work, and for apprentices in their first year of apprenticeship. The aim of this is to ensure that younger workers will not be discriminated.

They want to tackle the National Minimum Wage Enforcement Section on HM Revenue and Customs and will work on enforcement by combining the Working Time Directives section of HSC with the Employment Agency Standards Inspectorate and Gangmaster Licensing Authority to become a new Worker’s Rights Agency.

UKIP

Britain’s most controversial party want to introduce working time regulations that can be amended to give trainee doctors, surgeons and medics the proper environment to train and practice.

Like the other main parties, atypical workers would receive support from UKIP. The Agency Workers Directive, gives agency workers who have been hired for 12 continuous weeks the right to equal treatment with their hirers employees to be repealed and a code of conduct (or legislation) if necessary. They want to introduce the requirement that employers have to offer fixed hours contracts to employees who have worked on zero hours terms for a year or more.

UKIP also want to give businesses the opportunity to discriminate if they wish. This would mean businesses can discriminate in favour of young British workers.

Under UKIP the UK would withdraw from the jurisdiction of the European Court of Human Rights and replace with a new British Bill of Rights.

Green Party

The Green Party will commit to turning the minimum wage into a genuine living wage.  Public sector workers would have new measures introduced to protect the pay conditions and status of professionals in health and education sectors.

The Green Party want to introduce pay equality, this would see a cap on bankers bonuses to be enforced and will make proposals aimed at reducing the pay gap between the UK’s most highly paid workers and the lowest.

 

If you feel that you have been treated unfairly by an employer, don’t hesitate to get in touch with BLJ Solicitors, here for your Liverpool Employment Law needs.

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Family Law: Growing Grandparent Relationships.

As solicitors in Liverpool for nearly 200 years, BLJ solicitors understand the importance of family law. We know that things don’t always go to plan and sometimes relationships can turn bad.

Seven applications were made to court each day last year by Grandparents seeking contact with their grandchildren. BLJ solicitors want to make sure Grandparents know their rights.

If a Grandparent wants to apply for a Child Arrangements Order (CAO) then they must first get permission off a court to even make the application. However, if the child has lived with them for a period of at least 3 years in the last 5 years – ending not less than 3 months before, they will NOT need the courts permission. Otherwise, they will.

Liverpool solicitors have seen cases of this in the city, time and time again. From experience, BLJ know the court will consider many factors when making their decision. But most significantly these:

 

  • The nature of the application for CAO
  • The applicants connection with the child
  • Any risk there might be of that proposed application disrupting the child’s life to such an extent that the child would be harmed by it.

Providing the application is accepted, the case is usually only a two stage process:

  • First, obtaining permission from the court to make the application.
  • Second, when permission is granted, making the application itself.

 

BLJ want Grandparents to not only know their rights but know what their up against. To do so, BLJ want to supply you with The Welfare Checklist. The court will apply the considerations to the welfare of the child concerned, factoring in the following 7 matters to reflect the general circumstances behind the application.

 

  • Wishes and feelings of the child (considered in the light of the child’s age and understanding).
  • The child’s physical, emotional and educational needs.
  • The likely effect on the child of any change in circumstances.
  • The child’s age, sex, background, and any characteristics of the child, which the court considers relevant.
  • Any harm which the child has suffered or is at risk of suffering.
  • How capable each of the child’s parents and any other persons in relation to whom the court considers the question to be relevant, is of meeting the child’s needs.
  • The range of powers available to the court.

 

As Liverpool Solicitors, we at BLJ understand that an application by a biological parent will always be given primacy. We want to ensure that children have a good relationship with their wider family, for numerous reasons. Or if parents have had a traumatic relationship with their immediate family, being able to seek comfort from grandparents etc is crucial.

For more information regarding Grandparents rights or Family Law in general, please contact:

 

08444 124 348

contact@bljsolicitors.co.uk  

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Liverpool Solicitors Review: Up to 600% rise in court fees

Civil court fees for money claims over £10,000, BLJ Solicitors Liverpool can report that the court fee is now 5% of the sums claimed, as of March 9th 2015.

As long serving solicitors in Liverpool, we have witnessed court fees increase before, but never quite as much as this. Last year, in the January of 2014 the court fee to issue a money claim of £190,000 in England and Wales rose from £1.080 to £1,315. This was a shock to some; but on Monday, that same fee was perplexingly increased to £9,500 which is an increase of 622%.

Why is this? As leading Liverpool Solicitors we feel the public deserve an explanation. Even if it doesn't wholly justify the rise incourt fees.

The  Ministry of Justice's reform proposals stated that the deficit in the civil and family courts in the year of 2014 exceeded £100m. Their proposals argued that the courts need to be properly financed, the government suggesting that 'litigants should pay more when they can afford to.' This however is problematic because it presupposes that just because you have a valuable claim, you have substantial resources to pursue it; which as we in our Liverpool Solicitors branches have seen, isn't always the case.

It should also be known that the fees in family courts aren't rising.

The case for change that is being used in the proposals is that the courts play a vital role in our democracy and provide access to justice for those who need it. This kind of dramatic increase, in our opinion,will likely deter not help this cause for the majority that need it.

The Civil Justice Council commented that the increases will act as an effective barrier to entry to the justice system through pricing many court users out of the courts; meaning alternatives to the civil process increase in attractiveness as opportunities. However it will have a disproportionately adverse impact on small and medium sized enterprises and litigants in person and therefore leads to inequality in the law.

The court fee is capped at £10,000 and will be the same whether your claim is for £200,000 or £10m. Fee remissions will continue to apply, however;  they are only available to individuals in extremely limited circumstances and do not include charities,companies or other organisations.

The Law Society has issued a pre-action protocol letter forjudicial review to challenge the government's decision. Amongst other reasons,they cite the changes as being tantamount to 'selling justice' which goes against historic document, the Magna Carta.

The issue probably will not be quickly resolved, and it is likely that other alternatives to litigation will prove more popular than they have been in the past. For more information feel free to contact our Liverpool Solicitors. 08444 124 348

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Liverpool Solicitors Review: Up to 600% rise in court fees

Civil court fees for money claims over £10,000, BLJ Solicitors Liverpool can report that the court fee is now 5% of the sums claimed, as of March 9th 2015.

As long serving solicitors in Liverpool, we have witnessed court fees increase before, but never quite as much as this. Last year, in the January of 2014 the court fee to issue a money claim of £190,000 in England and Wales rose from £1.080 to £1,315. This was a shock to some; but last month, that same fee was perplexingly increased to £9,500 which is an increase of 622%.

Why is this? As leading Liverpool Solicitors we feel the public deserve an explanation. Even if it doesn’t wholly justify the rise in court fees.

The  Ministry of Justice’s reform proposals stated that the deficit in the civil and family courts in the year of 2014 exceeded £100m. Their proposals argued that the courts need to be properly financed, the government suggesting that ‘litigants should pay more when they can afford to.’ This however is problematic because it presupposes that just because you have a valuable claim, you have substantial resources to pursue it; which as we in our Liverpool Solicitors branches have seen, isn’t always the case.

It should also be known that the fees in family courts aren’t rising.

The case for change that is being used in the proposals is that the courts play a vital role in our democracy and provide access to justice for those who need it. This kind of dramatic increase, in our opinion, will likely deter not help this cause for the majority that need it.

The Civil Justice Council commented that the increases will act as an effective barrier to entry to the justice system through pricing many court users out of the courts; meaning alternatives to the civil process increase in attractiveness as opportunities. However it will have a disproportionately adverse impact on small and medium sized enterprises and litigants in person and therefore leads to inequality in the law.

The court fee is capped at £10,000 and will be the same whether your claim is for £200,000 or £10m. Fee remissions will continue to apply, however;  they are only available to individuals in extremely limited circumstances and do not include charities, companies or other organisations.

The Law Society has issued a pre-action protocol letter for judicial review to challenge the government’s decision. Amongst other reasons, they cite the changes as being tantamount to ‘selling justice’ which goes against historic document, the Magna Carta.

The issue probably will not be quickly resolved, and it is likely that other alternatives to litigation will prove more popular than they have been in the past. For more information feel free to contact our Liverpool Solicitors. 08444 124 348

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Motoring Law Liverpool: Medication can put You over the New Drug-Drive Limit

From the 2nd March this year, it became possible for abusers of prescription medication to be prosecuted if they drive with excessive levels of a relevant substance in their system without the need for prosecution to prove any level of impairment to driving. Medications on the list include Clonazepam, Diazepam, Morphine and Lorazepam; amongst others.

The amount of substance required to reach the above limits would depend on external factors, these are based on height, weight and metabolic rate.

Those taking prescription drugs must consider how they feel in themselves regarding the effects of the medication on their health, for example feeling disorientated or sleepy. Those taking these prescription drugs should then speak to their GP or pharmacist if they are concerned about the level of drug that they have been prescribed. Most patients will not need to be concerned as the limits for these legal drugs have been set within or above normal therapeutic doses. Those who take doses higher than usual would have a medical defence available to them, if the medication has been personally prescribed to them and they have taken the medication in accordance to the prescribing instructions. This includes adhering to any restrictions regarding the length of time that they are required to refrain from driving after taking their medication. Those taking higher than average doses of relevant medicines should carry with them evidence of the prescription instructions given to them by their medical professional, as this will speed up investigations should they require a medical defence. 

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