Category Archives: Legal news

Latest changes in the Legal System

The various specialist civil courts in England and Wales will be reorganised and be officially known as the “Business and Property Courts of England and Wales” from June 2017. They will handle, amongst other matters, international dispute resolution jurisdictions. The courts included within the Business and Property Courts will be as follows:

  • The Commercial Court which will continue to cover all its existing subject areas of shipping, sale of goods, insurance and reinsurance etc.
  • The Admiralty Court.
  • The Mercantile Court.
  • The Technology and Construction Court which deals with major technology and construction cases.
  • The Financial List which deals with all banking and financial market issues.
  • The Companies and Insolvency Court.
  • The Patents Court.
  • The Intellectual Property and Enterprise Court.
  • The Competition List.

The new structure will provide more flexibility while preserving the practices and procedures of these courts. Judges with suitable expertise and experience will be able to cross-deploy so as to be able to sit on cases where their expertise can be best utilised. The current situation means that judges who are experts in a particular legal field are not readily available to sit in cases in that area in another court, so, highly expert competition law judges in the Queen’s Bench Division cannot easily sit on the bulk of competition law cases that take place in the Chancery Division.

The overall intention is to enhance the U.K.’s reputation for international dispute resolution and to ensure that the U.K. continues to provide the best business court-based dispute resolution service in the post Brexit world. Business and Property Courts will be set up in Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Leeds and Manchester, initially with planned future courts in Newcastle and Liverpool and these courts will enhance the connections between Business and Property work carried out both outside and within London.

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Filed under Arbitration, Commercial law, Company Law, Competition Law, Construction, contract law, Copyright Law, Dispute resolution, EU Law, Intellectual Property, Legal news, UK Law

Article 50 is here.

Well article 50 has been effectively triggered today. Since the referendum there has been a period of uncertainty, but the latest analysis of possible effects on businesses and the probable changes to the law can be better understood.

One of the major issues that will need to be addressed will be all the EU registered trademarks, designs and the protected food and drink designations. Currently we have a national system which closely mirrors the EU regime, but after Brexit, the EU Trade Mark and the Community Registered Design legislation will no longer apply in the UK. Also protected names such as “Stilton” cheese will no longer apply to UK products so we may see in the future, French “Stiltons” or “Melton Mowbray Pies” and UK “Champagnes” and “Parma hams”.

Although the government has stated it will transpose much of EU law into UK law (The Great Repeal Act), this is not a simple as it sounds, there are many, many, alterations needed for the Laws to continue to make sense in the UK only and it remains unclear what will happen to current EU Trade Marks and Community Registered Designs. In any event, it’s possible that the UK Intellectual Property Office could be inundated with new and renewed registrations.

Data protection is another area of concern; currently the UK is committed to implementing the General Data Protection Regulation, but this may not be enough to prevent future problems with the EU as there may be legal challenges within the EU to recognise non-EU country’s data laws. On possible solution would be to have individuals either specifically give their informed consent to transfer their data or add clauses to contract that may involve data transfer.

Regulated industries are also likely to be affected; currently London houses the headquarters of the EU pharmaceuticals and veterinary products regulator, the European Medicines Agency, but this must change post Brexit which might mean delays to the clinical testing or marketing of new products in the UK. This might also apply in other heavily regulated sectors like the motor and aviation industries.

Businesses will encounter difficulties in many areas planning for the future with the legal outlook so uncertain. Although this brief overview doesn’t cover the thorny subjects of immigration restrictions and trade barriers, business needs certainty, which will only happen as the negotiations begin in earnest and the Government’s approach to tidying up the legal mess that Brexit involves becomes clearer.

What is certain is that if you are planning to enter into, or have existing long term agreements with partners in the EU you may need to consider the implications for those agreements. Some changes can sensibly be made now to deal with a post-Brexit world, so why not give us a call.

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Filed under Commercial law, Company Law, Copyright Law, Dispute resolution, Ecommerce, EU Law, Intellectual Property, Law and Technology, Legal news, UK Law

But I don’t want to go!!

One legal issue that rarely gets mentioned is what happens if a company decides to re-locate. Many contracts of employment include mobility clauses which effectively force employees to move, leave or face dismissal. While these clauses are perfectly legal, should an employee choose to leave as a result of the move it may not just be a simple case of dismissal or dealing with a resignation, and if an employee flatly refuses to move, you may have to acknowledge they’re redundant and pay redundancy or you may find yourself at the wrong end of an unfair dismissal claim.

In a recent case, a company decided to close one of their two sites and move the workforce to the remaining site. The company did make arrangements to make redundancy payments for “exceptional circumstances” to some staff who were elderly or had specific problems which made the move impossible, but during this process, two employees were told to move under their mobility clauses and when they refused to relocate, were dismissed.

The Employment Appeal Tribunal heard that although there was a redundancy situation, the actual reason given for dismissal was “misconduct”; but since the company thought that it could rely on mobility clauses to avoid paying out redundancy payments the Employment Appeal Tribunal found that the actual reason for the dismissals was the employees’ refusal to relocate. The Employment Appeal Tribunal also found that the instruction to relocate to offices on the other side of London to be unreasonable, even with the mobility clauses, so that made the decision to dismiss unfair.

Although these types of cases are always adjudged based on the specific circumstances involved, it pays to consider the company’s options. They demanded that their employees relocate without considering the possible legal ramifications, and had they acknowledged their positions would have been redundant and they could probably have been made redundant fairly which would have resulted in redundancy payments far less than the cost of the legal action and subsequent compensation paid. So if you are planning to relocate or downsize, why not give us a call.

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Filed under Arbitration, Employment Law, HR Issues, Legal news, UK Law, Unfair Dismissal

What’s new in 2017? (Part 2)

Following on from last week in our continuing look at what’s in the legislative pipeline in 2017 we come to the National Living Wage, which is set to increase from April this year. The National Living Wage will rise by 4%, from £7.20 to £7.50 an hour as of 1stApril, as will all other national minimum wage rates.

Although Trade Union Act 2016 set out new rules for balloting Trades Union members in that a successful vote for strike action will now require a 50% minimum turnout and a majority vote in favour of industrial action there have been no indications so far as to when this is likely to be implemented, but it’s considered highly likely this will happen sometime during 2017.

The government indicated last year it will attempt to reduce employers’ reliance on migrant workers by imposing a ‘visa levy’. This levy will be imposed on companies that sponsor workers from outside the European Economic Area and Switzerland. The charges are expected to come in force later this year.

Lastly legislation which is likely to have a significant impact on businesses, who will have to prepare in advance throughout 2017, is the new General Data Protection Regulation, that comes into force in May 2018. Under this regulation, employers will have to carry out audits of their employee’s personal data that they have collected over time and ensure that it meets General Data Protection Regulation conditions for employee consent. Employers may need to create or amend policies and processes on privacy notices, data breach responses and subject access requests. Companies that do not comply with the Regulation will risk fines up to £20 million or 4% of annual worldwide turnover, whichever is higher.

As always if you are likely to be affected by any of the new legislation, and need help or advice, give us a call.

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What’s New in 2017? (Part 1)

As the new legislative year begins, here are a few pointers to what employers and employees can expect to see in the New Year as regards employment laws and laws that may impact businesses and employers in general. Firstly, pay disparity, the Gender Pay Gap Reporting regulations  that we blogged about last year, although the regulations are still in draft form the deadline for the first report is expected to be 4 April 2018 based on pay and bonus data from 2016/17.

Apprenticeships Levy; employers with an annual payroll of more than £3 million will be required to pay a 0.5% levy on their total pay bill starting on 6 April 2017. The Apprenticeships Levy is a payment that will be collected from employers in both the public and the private sectors to HMRC via PAYE returns. The idea is to encourage employers to invest in apprenticeship programmes and to raise additional funds to improve the quality and quantity of apprenticeships. All businesses accessing the levy to fund apprenticeship training in their business, may qualify for a government top-up of 10%; while small businesses will also be able to receive funding for accredited apprenticeships by contributing 10% towards the cost of an apprenticeship.

From 6th April 2017, benefit offerings provided by employers as a tax saving method, will be abolished from 6 April 2017. Employees will then have to pay the same tax on what they put into these salary sacrifice schemes as they would on any other income, and employers will have to pay the same NI. Schemes related to pension savings and advice, childcare, cycle-to-work and ultra-low emission cars, will not be affected. Schemes already in place prior to April 2017 will be protected until April 2018, while arrangements related to cars; accommodation and school fees will be protected until April 2021.

Next week we’ll look at the changes to the national living wage, trades union legislation, the visa levy and the new data protection regulation. As always, if you need help or advice give us a call.

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Filed under Employment Law, HR Issues, Legal news, UK Law

New Insolvency Rules on the way.

The Government has modernised and consolidated the insolvency rules from 1986 and the new rules will come into force on 6th April 2017. The new rules replace the old Insolvency Rules 1986 and their 28 subsequent amendments and have been developed working with the insolvency profession. They have now also been approved by the Insolvency Rules Committee.

The new 2016 Rules do three things:

  • They consolidate the Insolvency Rules 1986 with the 28 amending instruments made since the 1986 Rules came into force.
  • They restructure the Rules and update the language including gender neutral drafting.
  • They modernise those Rules to take account of the changes made to the Act by the Deregulation Act 2015 and the Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Act 2015; in particular amendments enabling modern methods of communication and decision making to be used in place of paper communications and physical meetings

The new rules:

  • Enable the use of E mail communication with creditors as opposed to hard copy documentation previously.
  • Remove the automatic requirement to hold creditors meetings in person, although creditors will still be able to request such meetings, they will be able to be held on-line.
  • Enable creditors to opt out of further correspondence and for small dividends to be paid by the office holder without requiring a formal claim from creditors.

Further details will be available in the Explanatory Memorandum, which is published alongside the new Rules, available here. The rules will apply in England and Wales only. The Scottish Parliament is also currently performing a similar exercise for Scotland’s insolvency rules.

If you are likely to be affected or need advice, give us a call.

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Filed under Company Law, Debt, Dispute resolution, Insolvancy, Legal news, Mediation, UK Law

Buy now!

Recent statistics reveal a general increase in both commercial property rental and acquisition sectors; it seems banks and finance houses are more willing to fund commercial property purchases and commercial tenants appear more confident to commit to longer term leases. The recent change in stamp duty rules should have less effect in commercial property investments than on the private rental market.

Many commercial property owners and buyers have been turning to auctions as a way of buying or selling property quickly, and there is a wide variety of commercial property available, such as development land plots, retail outlets and office buildings. If you are thinking of going to an auction to buy commercial property, it is vital to carry out due diligence as there is a legal commitment to buy the property when your bid is successful and you generally have to pay a deposit of around 10%.

Get an auction pack in good time, at least a fortnight before an auction and get it looked at by a legal expert to allow your solicitor to investigate the property information pack. Sellers have been known to leave out documents that could discourage a potential buyer, so it’s imperative to get the proper research done well in advance.

If you are a tenant who wants a longer term lease get legal advice on what you are likely going to commit to before your current lease expires. Treat a longer term lease as if you are going to buy the property, as there can be significant financial obligations.

We pride ourselves in our expertise in this area so why not give us a call?

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Filed under Commercial Property, contract law, Duty of care, Legal news, Property Development