Sydney Mitchell presented £5000 to local charities at their Christmas Movers & Shakers networking event, where over 60 professionals from the Midlands area met at Ginger’s Bar, Purnell’s Bistro in Newhall Street Birmingham.

Sydney Mitchell Charity Fundraising - Eileen Rock, Dean Parnell, Diane WattEileen Rock of the Birmingham Women’s Hospital Charity and Diane Watt of the Maria Watt Foundation were invited along to receive the £5000 from the fundraising undertaken by Sydney Mitchell over the past 12 months.

Dean Parnell commented:

“It prides me to present £2500 to each of our local charities this year; the Maria Watt Foundation and the Birmingham Women’s Hospital Charity. Over the year the firm has held a number of charity events to raise funds: Charity Quiz, Charity Golf Day and a lot of dress down days, fun-runs and bake-off events.”

“We thank all of our clients, contacts and staff for their continued support, helping make our fundraising so successful.”

Diane Watt, founder of the Maria Watt Foundation and Eileen Rock of the Birmingham Women’s Hospital Charity thanked Dean and Sydney Mitchell for their continued support and for the magnificent fundraising over the years.

Eileen Rock of the BWH Charity commented:

“We are really grateful to Sydney Mitchell for continuing to support the Neonatal unit and the great fundraising work they do over the year.  The funds raised will enable our staff to purchase additional medical equipment for the care of sick and premature babies. The Birmingham Women’s Hospital Neonatal "Tiny Babies, Big Appeal" is the Neonatal appeal at Birmingham Women's Hospital. All donations will help care for sick and premature babies, not just in Birmingham but throughout the West Midlands.”

Diane Watt, Maria Watt Foundation, added:

“Sydney Mitchell and their supporters have continued to raise funds for The Maria Watt Foundation for over 10 years. The Maria Watt Foundation is a local charity which promotes understanding about leukemia and other cancers that affect children, teenagers and young adults. I set this charity up after the tragic loss of my daughter Maria who had planned to go to university to become a lawyer. Thank you for your continued support.”

Sydney Mitchell specialist teams include employment, commercial property, company and commercial services, litigation, insolvency, licensing and gambling law. Private client teams include family law, residential property, dispute resolution and wills and probate, tax and trusts and personal injury.

Pictures from the event .... Movers and Shakers Event Pictures

The right of individuals to do as they wish with their own assets is jealously guarded by the law. In one telling case that proved the point, the High Court rejected claims that a wealthy farmer had given a £2.5 million cottage to his eldest son and daughter-in-law or that he had promised to leave it to them in his will.

The son argued that the cottage was his just reward for working hard and for low pay in the family farming and property development business for 20 years. He and his wife had lived in the property throughout that time, bringing up their children there, and claimed to have spent about £700,000 on improving it.

In rejecting the couple’s claim, however, the Court found no evidence that the farmer had given the cottage to them when they became engaged to be married. He had also given them no binding assurance that they would inherit the property. The son had been paid for his work in the family business, from which he stood to benefit in the long term, and had no moral entitlement to the cottage.

The son had knowingly taken a risk when he invested in improving a property that did not belong to him and had never had more than an unenforceable expectation that he would inherit the property on his father’s death. The farmer had not acted unconscionably and the Court noted that the possibility remained open that he would in due course choose to leave the cottage to his son and daughter-in-law.

For advice for Wills Trusts and Probate matters contact Tracy Creed 0121 746 3320, email t.creed@sydneymitchell.co.uk and on failure to pay on contracts or money related matters contact Kamal Majevadia 0121 746 3300, email k.majevadia@sydneymitchell.co.uk

Merry Christmas from all at Sydney Mitchell LLP

Widow’s Intransigence Puts Her £2 Million Farm in Jeopardy
 

In almost any dispute, legal advice is vital so that you know when to dig your heels in and when to give ground. In one example of unwise intransigence, a 91-year-old widow’s refusal to pay a £68,000 debt that she owed to her son left her at risk of eviction from her £2 million home.

FarmhouseA judge accepted that the son had been promised a barn and an acre of farmland by his father before the latter’s death. The son had acted to his detriment in reliance on his father’s word, but the whole of the farm passed to the father's widow after his death. She had refused to honour her deceased husband’s promise and was ordered to pay her son £68,000 in compensation for his loss.

The debt was secured by way of a charging order against the farm. In rejecting the widow’s challenge to that order, the Court of Appeal noted that she had taken no steps to raise the necessary funds to pay the debt to her son. Combined with interest and legal costs bills, that debt had swelled to about £150,000.

The son had been attempting to enforce his security for more than two years and his mother had made a number of unsuccessful attempts to resist that outcome. In the circumstances, the Court gave her a month to pay the debt in full. If she failed to comply, stays on an eviction notice and an order for the sale of the farm would be lifted.

For advice on failure to pay on contracts or money related matters contact Kamal Majevadia 0121 746 3300, email k.majevadia@sydneymitchell.co.uk and for Wills Trusts and Probate matters contact Tracy Creed 0121 746 3320, email t.creed@sydneymitchell.co.uk.

Diabetic Salesman Put Under Too Much Pressure to Meet Targets


A diabetic telephone salesman who was put under intense pressure to meet targets – and was eventually sacked for failing to do so – has won the right to substantial compensation for unfair dismissal and his employer's failure to make reasonable adjustments to cater for his disabilities (Vodafone Limited v Winfield).

Mr Winfield began working for Vodafone Limited in June 1999 as a sales adviser in a call centre in Stoke-on-Trent. He has suffered from diabetes for over 20 years and is insulin dependent. More recently, he developed an associated condition, retinopathy, which has significantly affected his eyesight. Both conditions are disabilities under the Equality Act 2010.

His employer had always been aware that Mr Winfield's diabetes constituted a disability and became aware shortly after it was diagnosed in January 2014 that retinopathy was also a disability.

Mr Winfield's difficulty in meeting sales targets was worsened when he was moved onto flexible shift working. His grievances were poorly dealt with and, although some adjustments were made to his work conditions, the pressure on him to achieve sales targets continued until his dismissal.

The Employment Tribunal (ET) found that Mr Winfield's two complaints that Vodafone had failed to make reasonable adjustments to accommodate his disability had been brought out of time, but judged that it was just and equitable to extend the time limit. In the ET's view, Vodafone had breached his rights under the Act. The adjustments made were inadequate and his performance targets should have been reduced in the light of his disabilities. His claim of unfair dismissal was also upheld, in large part related to the failures that the ET had found with regard to the making of reasonable adjustments, but there had also been procedural failings and his dismissal was premature.

In rejecting Vodafone's appeal against those decisions, the Employment Appeal Tribunal agreed with the ET that, in the particular circumstances of the case, it was just and equitable to extend the three-month time limit which normally applies to claims brought under the Act. The finding of unfair dismissal also disclosed no error of law.

The amount of Mr Winfield's compensation has yet to be assessed.

If you have any discrimination law matter you would like to discuss, please contact Jade Linton on 0121 746 3300 email, j.linton@sydneymitchell.co.uk

‘Ban on Second Homes’ In Seaside Town Upheld by High Court

Burgeoning numbers of second homes in picturesque areas can have a dramatic impact on property prices and a community’s character. In one case that starkly raised that issue, the High Court approved plans to restrict ownership of newly built homes in a seaside town to those who intend to use them as their principal residences.

More than 80 per cent of the town’s residents had voted in favour of the restriction following a local referendum in respect of a neighbourhood plan, held under the aegis of the Localism Act 2011. In challenging the restriction, however, a developer argued that it would violate householders’ human rights to respect for their homes.

The developer pointed out that owners of new homes subject to the restriction would be at risk of planning enforcement action, and ultimately criminal prosecution, if they used their properties as second or holiday homes. The definition of ‘principal residence’ was problematic and the restriction was likely to seriously depress the market for construction of new homes in the town.

In dismissing the challenge, however, the Court noted evidence of uncontrolled growth of second and holiday homes in the town and was unimpressed by arguments that that was causing no demonstrable harm. The neighbourhood plan had been exhaustively examined before being put to referendum and the restriction in respect of new-build homes would be reflected in their prices. Purchasers would be aware of the restriction and the potential consequences of disobedience.

If you would like help on conveyancing contracts, contact  Adam Oleskow for advice on 0121 746 3300, email a.oleskow@sydneymitchell.co.uk or fill in our online enquiry form.

Christmas - Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow.....You may be facing a claim!

As arrangements for our various Christmas or New Year parties are approaching the final planning stage, our employment team at Sydney Mitchell LLP Solicitors, take a light hearted look at the pleasures and potential pitfalls of an office "Do" and provides a gentle but sobering warning in an effort to prevent things getting out of hand.

Bah Humbug? … No, not a bit of it. Anyone who knows either Dean or Jade will confirm that they are at the front of the queue where good food, wine and company is on offer.

Having survived many years of office Christmas parties we feel that we are well qualified to offer what we hope is a helpful guide to acceptable behaviour and point out a few potential "hotspots!"

Have you ever woken up the morning after the works party and wondered who and where you are? Ever returned to work in the New Year and walked past a line of staff who are staring grimly at their computer screens and refusing to respond to your cheery "Happy New Year?"

If so, then read on ... this Article is for you.

As an employer organising any type of social function you have to remember that you could be potentially held liable for the actions of your staff. An article lobbed playfully across a room at the Christmas lunch could leave you liable for damages and/or personal injury. This is obviously bad news.

Remember to invite everyone

Those members of staff who are on maternity or sick leave can easily be forgotten when it comes to parties and Christmas bonuses and failure to include them could lead to accusations of discrimination – yes it has happened!

Catering – Have you considered all attendees?

i.e. remember vegetarians and coeliacs and also remember to provide soft drinks for tee-totallers, under age members of staff and those whose religion forbids the consumption of alcohol.

Party "Policy"

It would be wise to display this on your intranet or staff noticeboard so that acceptable levels of behaviour are clearly understood from the outset.

Photocopiers

Always best to keep them in a locked room or isolate the power – avoids temptation – nuff said!

Transport facilities

If your budget permits, consider providing alternative transport facilities for your staff. Whether you bus 'em in and bus 'em out is a matter for you but it could prevent accidents, potential claims and consequent absenteeism.

As function organiser you will be busy and you may not always spot the person who (despite several glasses of wine) does not want to leave their Ford Focus in the NCP overnight.

Under-age drinking

Clearly stipulate this will not be tolerated in your party policy and, as above, provide soft drinks. There is nothing worse than leaving a venue, quietly congratulating yourself on what you thought was a successful, trouble-free evening, only to spot the 17 year old "junior" whispering sweet nothings to the water cooler in the corner of the foyer whilst clutching an empty bottle of fizz. Parental wrath should not be underestimated !!

Some Do's and Don’ts for Staff

DON'T drive the next day – you may have been bussed home at 3 am that morning but that doesn’t mean you’re safe to drive a few hours later that same day.

DON'T discuss work issues. When alcohol has loosened your brain/tongue what you consider to be a reasoned and constructive criticism of your immediate boss, the organisation as a whole and/or your work colleagues may come back to haunt you. 12 Barcardi Breezers, 3 Jack Daniels and a bottle of red is no excuse for telling your boss what you really think. If you wouldn’t raise it at a normal work’s meeting; don't do it at the office party.

DON'T be too tactile – you may have long fancied Gemma from reception or Wayne from Accounts but that last slow dance or "innocent" mistletoe kiss can easily slip over into allegations of "groping" and a subsequent harassment claim depending on the recipient's interpretation of your actions.

DO be wise before the Event.

DON'T skive off. Employers are not stupid. There is an amazingly high incidence of absences in the week before the Chistmas/New Year shut down (shopping) or on the morning of the work’s party (hair appointment). A threat of a disciplinary warning in such cases concentrates the mind.

DON'T spend hours online at the office.

DO take note of your firm's Internet policy. Get off e-bay looking for that perfect "little black number" or fancy bow tie and get on with your work!

Most important of all

DON'T let this article dishearten you! Most functions are a huge success and a great opportunity to socialise and celebrate with colleagues.

We are all now going to search for our novelty Christmas jumpers and flashing reindeer antlers in readiness for our own Christmas parties.

We would like to take this opportunity of wishing you all a safe and Happy Christmas and a claims-free New Year.

Dean and Jade – from our Employment Team

Dean at Birmingham office on 0121 698 2200 or Jade Linton at our Shirley Office 0121 746 3300.

 

Health and Safety Fines Must Match Ability to Pay

Employers whose breaches of health and safety law result in injury to workers are made to pay for their non-compliance – but, as with individuals, the penalties levied are tailored to the seriousness of the offence in each case and the employer's ability to pay. This was illustrated in a recent case in which a £1.8 million fine imposed by Basildon Crown Court in January 2016 on a port operator was reduced to £500,000 by the Court of Appeal (R v C.RO Ports London Limited).

C.RO Ports London Limited was prosecuted following an investigation by the Health and Safety Executive into an accident in which a maritime terminal worker's arm was caught in a powered capstan. The injured worker was one of a three-man team securing an ocean-going vessel's heavy mooring ropes to land. His fingers became caught between the rotating drum of the capstan and the heaving line, causing his arm to be wrapped around the drum. A co-worker realised what was happening and operated an emergency stop device on the capstan, but this was too late to prevent the man suffering multiple fractures of the limb and nerve and ligament damage. He was still not able to bend and straighten his arm properly 18 months after the accident.

C.RO Ports pleaded guilty to a breach of Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 and was fined £1.8 million and ordered to pay £14,328 in prosecution costs.

The company appealed against that decision, pointing to its otherwise good safety record and its early guilty plea. It had also introduced revised health and safety procedures, to take into account the risks associated with electric capstans, immediately after the accident. It was facing challenging trading conditions, its pre-tax annual profits having fallen from £13 million at the time of the accident to £2.7 million in its most recent accounts.

In the circumstances, the Court of Appeal found that the fine was manifestly excessive and allowed the appeal.

Dean Parnell, specialises in defending companies/businesses in relation to health and safety prosecutions and is able to answer any questions you may have on health and safety investigations and/or prosecutions.

Contact Dean Parnell on 0121 698 2200 or email D.Parnell@SydneyMitchell.co.uk

GOOD DIVORCE WEEK – 28 November to 5 December

Can a divorce ever be good? 

Resolution – First for Family Law is an organisation which campaigns for better outcomes for families when a relationship ends, regardless of whether or not the parties are married.  The idea behind “good divorce week” is to highlight the alternative ways that families can resolve disputes such as divorce, money and childrens issues as amicably as possible.

I am a Family and Collaborative Lawyer and a Member of Resolution.  I subscribe to the Resolution Code of Practice.  How will that help you?  

I will:

  • Listen to you, be honest with you and treat you with respect
  • Explain all the options and give you confidence to make the right decisions
  • Help you to  focus on what’s important in the long-term for you and your family
  • Help you balance financial and emotional costs with what you want to achieve
  • Work with others such as accountants, pension advisors, financial experts and
    family therapists to find the right approach and the best solutions for you

Collaborative Process

The collaborative process has been around for over 10 years old and is becoming increasingly popular. In the collaborative process the parties and lawyers work together to reach solutions. The court only become involved to approve the agreement reached. It can save time and costs.

I am a supporter of Resolution’s campaign to change the current divorce laws so that instead of having to blame someone for the end of the marriage, couples can divorce quickly after a period of separation. 

So how can we make divorce “good”? 

I do not think divorce can ever be “good”,  but a bad divorce can be more painful and more costly.

Amanda Holland
Family and Collaborative Lawyer and Member of Resolution

Contact Amanda Holland on 0121 698 2200 or email on a.holland@sydneymitchell.co.uk

 

 

 

Before making any amendments to standard documents, great care and consideration should be given to what it is you are trying to achieve. This point was strikingly made by the Court of Appeal in a case concerning a £121 million hotel development.

The relevant contract here was a standard Joint Contracts Tribunal (JCT) form which had been amended in relation to the stage payments due from the developer to the contractor as work progressed. An email which included a timed schedule in respect of 23 payments formed part of the contract.

Final completion of the project was delayed by over a year and by that time the 23rd stage payment had been requested and made. The contractor sought a 24th stage payment, but the developer refused to pay on the basis that it was under no contractual obligation to do so. The contractor’s bid to enforce payment of the relevant sum was rejected by a judge.

In dismissing the contractor’s appeal, the Court found that, on a true construction of the amended contract, there was no obligation to make the 24th payment, nor could such an obligation be implied. The schedule of stage payments constituted a complete record of what had been agreed and arguments that further payments accorded with commercial common sense could not avail the contractor.

Please contact Roy Colaba on 0121 698 2200 email, r.colaba@sydneymitchell.co.uk or complete our online enquiry form.

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