LIFE BITE: Redundancy – What next for Thomas Cook employees?

apple-150579_1280The devastating news of the closure of Thomas Cook has dominated the headlines this week and all of us feel deeply saddened for affected staff members and holiday makers alike, many of whom are still stranded with questions remaining about what, if any, redress could be available to them.

 

Employees with two or more years of service are entitled to statutory redundancy pay.  In situations where the employer is insolvent, payments may be made from the National Insurance Fund. Free guidance and an online calculator are available on government websites.

A recent tribunal decision in England Harper and Others v BJS Yorkshire Limited, 26 employees brought a claim against their former employer, a freight company, after the company had gone into voluntary liquidation without any notice to employees or any period of consultation. These employees were ultimately awarded a £100,000.00 having complained about being “being kept in the dark” about the future of their employment. While no two cases are the same, it is reassuring to see how the law can assist those who find themselves out of work through no fault of their own.

It is important to be aware that time frames are strict for employment law claims and therefore advice should be sought as soon as possible.

For further information relating to redundancy or for any other employment law issue, feel free to contact us here on using the form below

Renting a Home – 5 Questions all Students Should Ask

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Last week, many pupils from our local schools will have received their A-Level results.   A common rite of passage for many students finishing school is to leave the family nest and live independently in the big wide world – so after accepting a place in university or college, the next big step is often to secure private rented accommodation.

But before packing up and shipping out, here are 5 questions that all students should ask for before renting property:

1.   Has my landlord given me the basics?

Once you have found your new home, you should make sure that the landlord provides you with the following:-

  • A Tenancy Agreement – This is the contract between you and your landlord giving both of you certain rights, for example, your right to occupy the property for a set period of time and the your landlord’s right to receive rent from you.
  • A Rent Book – This is a book which should contain your landlords contact details – not just the details of any lettings agency. It is compulsory for all landlords in Northern Ireland to provide a rent book for all tenancies.
  • A Statement of Tenancy Terms – This statement is essentially a shorter version of your Tenancy Agreement and should contain details such as both yours and your landlords name and address, contact details of the landlord or letting agency, and details of the amount of deposit you paid and the monthly rental charges
2. Have I done an Inventory?

Make sure that you get an Inventory of the items at the property provided by the landlord including details of condition and damage that these items are in.

You should always accompany your landlord to complete the inventory on the property and photographs can be useful to document the condition of various items as the date that you moved in.

3. Is my deposit protected?

Your landlord will likely take payment of a deposit from you as a type of guarantee against any loss they might face because of the tenancy. This is normally the equivalent of one month’s rent. However, by law,  your landlord has to protect any deposit you pay them. They must enter into an authorised scheme run by one of the 3 companies approved to provide a tenancy deposit scheme in Northern Ireland.

If, at the end of your tenancy your landlord decides to keep some of your deposit for alleged loss or damage and you do not agree with this decision, the tenancy deposit scheme will have a procedure for you to follow to dispute this decision.

4. Has my landlord registered with the Landlord Registration Scheme ?

Before signing for a tenancy, you should also check that your landlord is registered in the Land Registration Scheme – this is a central database that all landlords must sign up to before renting out a property.

5. Is the property HMO registered?

If you are renting out a property with two or more friends, the property must be correctly registered by your landlord as a HMO – that is, a House of Multiple Occupancy.   If a property is HMO registered, it must meet certain standards in terms of safety, facilities provided and occupancy.   It is important to ask your landlord to confirm that the property is HMO registered in this instance.

Renting a place of their own for the first time is a big milestone in any young person’s life and the start of a new chapter in growing up.
Whilst for some this may be daunting, being aware of your legal rights and responsibilities when renting your first home will help ensure that you have a safe, secure place to live so that you can concentrate on enjoying student life to its full.
For further information on tenancy agreements, feel free to contact us here or leave your comments below.

 
 
 
 
 

Social Services & Your Children

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Many parents may feel anxious at the prospect of having Social Services involved with their family– perhaps because of experiences they may have heard from others, read in the media or just simply because they are frightened that Social Workers will try to remove their children from their care. 

These fears are completely natural and certainly in my experience, not many parents appreciate a stranger, no matter how professional and qualified they may be, “coming into my home and telling me how to raise my kids”.

That being said, Social Services do play an important role in our society when it comes to ensuring the safety and well-being of children within our communities.

Who are Social Services?

Community Care and Social Service in Northern Ireland is provided by a number of Health & Social Care organisations, known as ‘Trusts’. There are a total of 6 Health and Social Care (HSC) Trusts in Northern Ireland.

Each HSC Trust provides an array of social services, from children’s services, disability services, older people services, mental health services and services for vulnerable adults to name a few.

What is the role of Social Services when dealing with children?

Social Services have an obligation by law to safeguard the welfare of children who they believe may have suffered, or are at risk of suffering harm.

How can Social Services become involved with my family?

A Social Worker can become involved with your family in many ways:-

  • You may directly request support from Social Services in times of stress or for help regarding a particular child or family problem you have.
  • Teachers, Health Visitors, GPs or other professionals working with your family or children may make a referral to Social Services if they have any concerns about a child.
  • Any person, whether known to you or anonymous, who is concerned about the treatment of your child can make a referral to Social Services seeking that they investigate matters.
  • It is also common for the Police to refer matters to Social Services, for example in instances where domestic violence between adults could potentially result in harm to the children.

Can Social Services remove my children from me?

If Social Services believe that your child is at risk of suffering significant harm if they remain with you, they can (if certain criteria are satisfied) apply to the Court and request an Order for the removal of your child from your care. These proceedings are known as care proceedings.

However, issues that Social Services have with your care of your children can be resolved without the need for care proceedings

How can I avoid care proceedings?

If a Social Worker becomes concerned about the welfare of your child, in most cases they will firstly arrange a meeting with both parents to see if it is possible to reach agreement about what needs to happen to protect your child from harm, so that Court proceedings can be avoided.

This meeting is known as a pre-proceedings meeting.

The Social Worker is required to send both parents a letter inviting them to attend at this meeting.  This letter will also set out in detail and in plain language exactly what the concerns are and exactly what Social Services suggest should be done to deal with these concerns and avoid Court proceedings. It is very important for parents to attend at a pre-proceedings meeting with Social Services.

Am I entitled to legal representation at a pre-proceedings meeting?

Yes, each parent is entitled to bring a legal representative with them to a pre-proceedings meeting and they will be entitled to Legal Aid to cover any legal costs, regardless of their income.

What if I do not attend at the pre-proceedings meeting?

If there is a failure to engage in this process for whatever reason, this may result in Social Services issuing care proceedings in respect of your child.

If you receive a letter from Social Services inviting you to a pre-proceedings meeting you should seek legal advice immediately.

Experienced and professional legal advice at this stage of Social Services involvement with your family will go a long way in helping to address any issues or concerns that Social Services may have whilst potentially avoiding the need for lengthy and stressful Court proceedings.

We will be posting more information on care proceedings in the coming weeks however if you need any further information on the pre-proceedings stage, or have any general comments on your experiences with Social Services, we would love to hear your comments below.
Or alternatively, please contact Karen (kconnolly@fhanna.co.uk) or Claire (cegdar@fhanna.co.uk)

Maternity & Paternity Leave: Your Rights

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So your little bundle of joy has finally arrived and you are spending your days getting to grips with the general overwhelming feeling of being a new parent.  The last thing on your mind at the early stages of parenthood is how things at the office are going!

However, it is important that before you leave the working world to enter into the new world of dirty nappies and sleepless nights that both you and your partner are fully aware of your rights to maternity and paternity leave following the birth of your baby.

Here, we have answered some of the most popular questions from new parents regarding their entitlement to maternity/paternity leave:-

When can I start my maternity leave?

All mums-to-be can start their maternity leave any time from 11 weeks before the beginning of the week when their baby is due.  If your baby arrives early, your maternity leave will start the day after your baby is born and if you are absent from work as a result of a pregnancy-related illness in the 4 weeks before your baby is due, your maternity leave will start automatically.

Is maternity leave compulsory?

We are sure there aren’t very many women out there who would wish to get straight back to work following the birth of their baby, however for those who do, it is important to be aware that as a mother, it is compulsory to take 2 weeks off work following your baby’s birth – this is extended to 4 weeks if you work in a factory.

What is Statutory Maternity Leave?

Most new mums are entitled to take 26 weeks Ordinary Maternity Leave (which includes the 2 weeks compulsory maternity leave) and 26 weeks Additional Maternity Leave.  Therefore, in total, a mother can take up to a maximum of 52 weeks maternity leave which is known as Statutory Maternity Leave.

What will I be paid during Statutory Maternity Leave?

What you are paid during your period of statutory maternity leave will vary throughout the 52 weeks if you decide to take the full period of maternity leave. The minimum maternity pay you will receive for the first 6 weeks is 90% of your average earnings.  After that, presently you will be entitled to £139.58 per week or 90% of your average weekly earnings (before tax), whichever is lower.  This entitlement may end before the full 52 weeks is up.

Should you be lucky to work for an employer who offers over the statutory minimum then you may be paid more.

You can seek more information on whether you are entitled to statutory maternity leave and if so how much you are likely to be paid at https://www.gov.uk/pay-leave-for-parents

Is my job safe when I am on maternity leave?

Yes, when you are off on maternity leave, your employment terms and conditions are protected.  You will therefore still be able to access any work benefits which you may have as part of your employment contract.

If your employer makes contributions to a pension scheme on your behalf, they must continue to make these payments during your maternity leave.  Your entitlement to holidays will continue and you can add these days to the beginning or end of your maternity leave.

It is automatically unfair and discriminatory for your employer to dismiss you for a reason connected with your maternity leave or pregnancy. If you have been dismissed for this reason it is important to seek legal advice immediately.

Is every new mum entitled to Statutory Maternity Leave?

To qualify for Statutory Maternity Leave, you must satisfy two basic rules:

  • The ‘continuous employment’ rule – i.e. you have to have been working for your employer for a continuous period of 26 weeks into your ‘qualifying week’. Your qualifying week is the 15th week before the week in which your baby is due.
  • The ‘earnings’ rule – i.e. you have to have been earning, on average, an amount which equals the ‘lower earnings limit’ for that tax year.   The lower earnings limit is the amount you have to earn before you are treated as paying National Insurance contributions. In the 2014/2015 tax year the lower earnings limit was £112.00.

If you do not satisfy these rules, you may not be eligible to Statutory Maternity Leave so be sure to check with your employer whether you are eligible.

When should I tell my employer that I want to take Statutory Maternity Leave?

If you wish to take Statutory Maternity Leave, you must tell your employer at least 15 weeks before the beginning of the week your baby is due. If this is not possible (for example, because you didn’t realise you were pregnant), you should tell them as soon as possible.

What about Paternity Leave?

A new father is entitled to 2 weeks of paternity leave which is paid presently at a rate of £139.58 per week or 90% of their average weekly earnings, whichever is lower.

What is Shared Parental Leave?

From 5th April 2015, the Work and Families (NI) Act 2015 introduced shared parental leave and statutory shared parental pay to Northern Ireland.  This means that parents can share leave between themselves following the birth or adoption of a child.

In order to be eligible, you must have either given birth or adopted a child on or after 5th April 2015.  Parents now have the flexibility to share leave as long as the leave is taken between the baby’s birth and their first birthday or within a year of adoption.

Am I entitled to time off if I adopt a child?

If you adopt a child, you may have the right to 52 weeks of Statutory Adoption Leave.  This is made up of 26 weeks of Ordinary Adoption Leave followed by 26 weeks of Additional Adoption Leave.

To qualify for Statutory Adoption Leave, you must be an employee and be newly matched with a child by an adoption agency (‘matched’ means that the adoption agency gives you the details of the child they think is suitable for you to adopt).

What are ‘Keeping in Touch’ days?

Keeping In Touch (‘KIT’) days are days that you can work during your Statutory Maternity Leave without losing your statutory maternity pay, maternity allowance or ending your leave. During your maternity leave you are entitled to 10 days KIT days.  These days must be agreed between both you and your employer.  You are not permitted to work any KIT days during the first two weeks following the birth or adoption of a child.  If you agree to KIT days, then your employer should agree the amount you will be paid for each day.

It is important to realise that there is now more flexibility than ever before for parents of children to be able to share leave and return to the work force. 

Should you have any queries regarding entitlement to leave surrounding maternity please contact us here or via email on info@fhanna.co.uk

 

Controllerships – All You Need To Know

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This week is Dementia Action Week 2019 – a week aimed at highlighting the ways in which we can all take action to improve the lives of people living with dementia.  

For those who have loved ones who are suffering from dementia, it is important to consider how becoming mentally incapacitated with such an illness could affect their ability to manage their financial affairs.

In a previous article on Enduring Powers of Attorney, we set out information on how any one of us can take sensible steps whilst mentally and physically capable of doing so, to put in place measures that would reassure us that our financial affairs would be managed by a trusted family member in the event that we lost mental capacity.

However, what if a person has already become mentally incapable and an Enduring Power of Attorney has not been executed?  What action could be taken on behalf of this person to manage their property and financial affairs? 

When a person is deemed no longer able to manage their own finances and they have put nothing in place to stipulate who can manage their finances on their behalf, the responsibility for the management of their property and affairs is vested in the High Court through what is known as a ‘Controllership’.

Here’s all the information you need:-

What is Controllership?

A Controller is a person appointed by the High Court of Justice in Northern Ireland under the Mental Health (NI) Order 1986 to manage the property and financial of an adult who is mentally incapable of doing so themselves.

Who acts as Controller?

Typically a Controller will be a family member or friend of the Patient but may be Court Officer if circumstances require.

When is a Controller appointed?

If a Court is satisfied on the basis of medical evidence that a Patient is mentally incapable of managing personal property and financial affairs and the Patient has assets or income requiring management, a Controller should be appointed.

Is Controllership a temporary arrangement?

Once appointed, a Controller will remain in charge of a Patient’s affairs unless the Court is satisfied:-

  • The Patient has recovered.
  • That such an Order is no longer necessary.
  • The Controller is replaced by retirement or otherwise.
  • The Patient dies.

What responsibility does a Controller have and is it a paid role?

A Controller does not receive payment for work undertaken but may recover reasonably incurred expenses to a limited degree. The Controller’s powers are limited to those set out in the Court Order by which the Controller is appointed and will only ever extend to financial and property matters pertaining to the Patient. The Controller has no authority to manage health, social and welfare matters for the Patient.

What if the Patient disagrees and wants to manage their own affairs?

Once a Controller is appointed the Patient is no longer deemed legally capable of undertaking the management of their financial and property affairs. Before a Controller is appointed,  a Notice is served on the Patient advising that the procedure is underway and allowing the Patient the opportunity to object.

Who is the Controller responsible to?

The Controller is normally required to submit an annual vouched account reflecting all expenditure in relation to the Patient’s funds, to the Office of Care & Protection. The Controller cannot take any significant steps in respect of the Patient’s affairs unless authorised by the Court Order under which the Controller appointment is made, or a subsequent authority is obtained from the Master of the Office of Care & Protection.

A Controller may not incur an expense on behalf of the Patient at a cost of £500 or more without Court authority, and should retain receipts for all transactions involving the Patient’s money which exceed a value of £50.00.

How can application be made to be appointed as Controller?

Such an application can be made directly to the Office of Care & Protection or with the assistance of a solicitor experienced in Office of Care & Protection work to guide the applicant through the process.

If you would like any further information on the areas of Controllership, Enduring Power of Attorney or any other area of future planning, please feel free to contact us here or use our confidential contact form below.