Archive for October, 2013

New Recruits

Tuesday, October 15th, 2013

We are delighted to announce that we have added quite a number of legal staff to our Aberdeen and Stonehaven offices.

They are:-

Raymond McCombieRaymond McCombie – Raymond joined our Stonehaven office in February this year as a private client/chamber solicitor;

Lili HunterLili Hunter – Lili, a specialist in employment law, joined our main office in July as a consultant;

Ignacio ChanzaIgnacio Chanza – Ignacio joined our main office in August and will concentrate on general commercial matters along with work related to his office as Honorary Spanish Consul for the North of Scotland. Ignacio is qualified as a Spanish Lawyer and a Scottish Solicitor;

Jamie RobertsonJamie Robertson – Jamie joined us as a trainee solicitor in August and will be based in our main office;

Emily McLaughlinEmily McLaughlin – Emily joined us at the start of September as a residential property solicitor and will work out of our main office.

You can contact them using our normal telephone numbers or by email, email addresses available on the staff page of our website – www.jgcollie.co.uk

Employment Law Update

Tuesday, October 15th, 2013

Settlement Agreements

One of the biggest headaches for a small business is navigating its way through the employment laws which afford protection to their employees.  More than 90% of all business in the UK are small businesses.  There is a perception amongst many that complying with all of the rules and regulations is costly and interferes with the commerciality of keeping a business afloat and hopefully profitable.  In a recent report by the Department for Business Innovation & Skills the government has recognised this and has stated further that it intends to regulate the labour market in a “light-touch way”.

business-people-shaking-handsWe have seen some legislative changes in recently that recognise this and there are more on the way.  For example last year saw the qualifying period for an employee to be able to bring a claim of unfair dismissal increase from one year to two years’ service.  It remains to be seen whether or not this will have a significant impact on the number of claims.  In 2012/13 there was a 74% rise in sex discrimination claims alone.  Why would this happen?  It is hard to tell, but 2010 saw the introduction of the Equality Act which provides extensive discrimination legislation and in order to bring a claim under discrimination provisions, there is no requirement for any length of service.  It may be that we will see more claimants who do not qualify for unfair dismissal protection to shoe-horn their circumstances to fit a claim of unlawful discrimination.

The main changes affecting industry this year are the introduction of settlement agreements and the introduction of employment tribunal fees, that must be paid by a claimant before his case will be accepted.

Settlement agreements were formerly known as compromise agreements, their purpose was to form a contract between the employer and employee.  Put simply, the employer would pay an amount of compensation to the employee in exchange for the employee signing away his right to make a claim against the employer.  However, it is more than just a name change.  In a situation where an employer wishes to terminate an employee’s contract, whether because of disciplinary, attendance, performance or personality or other issues, he is now free to offer a “settlement” before beginning proceedings against the employee.  This offer and any discussions around it are legally protected and “without prejudice”.  This means that as long as the employer follows the ACAS code of practice on Settlement Agreements, the fact that he has made such an offer cannot be used against him by the employee in future legal proceedings.  Already this is proving to be a very effective tool in some circumstances.  It saves the employer having to try to follow formal procedures that they may be unfamiliar with and allows the employee to leave with their dignity intact.

The system of tribunal fees means that employees are now required to pay a fee up front in order to have their claim listed.  Although it is now possible that a costs award in favour of the winning party can include the reimbursement of the fee, it is still likely to act as a deterrent to some employees.

More reforms are on their way.  Some are likely to benefit employees whilst others are likely to ease the burden for employers.

For advice on any employment law matter please contact Lili Hunter on 01224 581581 or by email at l.hunter@jgcollie.co.uk

Powers of Attorney

Tuesday, October 15th, 2013

The Adults with Incapacity (Scotland) Act 2000 changed the way Powers of Attorney are dealt with in Scotland, requiring the documents to be registered with the Office of the Public Guardian before being operated.

signing-a-document-540

Postal registration used to take up to 12 weeks, meaning that there was a considerable delay before the Power of Attorney could be operated.  However earlier this year the Office of the Public Guardian introduced EPOAR, an electronic facility for the submission, registration and payment of Powers of Attorney online.

James and George Collie are authorised to complete the registration process online, which has reduced the registration time to a few days.

We have now successfully registered well over 100 Powers of Attorney online and find the process to be straightforward.

The cost of registering a Power of Attorney with the Office of the Public Guardian is £70.

James & George Collie can tailor the appropriate documents to meet the requirements of a client and his or her family and give detailed guidance on this matter.  For further information please contact our Philip G. Dawson on p.dawson@jgcollie.co.uk or our Vivienne M. Bruce on  v.bruce@jgcollie.co.uk.