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.

Claiming Compensation for Your Child

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While none of us like to think about any harm coming to our little ones, accidents do happen and our children may be injured as a result.  Such injuries may cause pain, distress, absence from school and even an inability to carry out hobbies and past-times.

If your child is unfortunate enough to be involved in an accident through no fault of their own, it is important to know that it may be possible to claim compensation on their behalf.

Here are some commonly asked questions about the process involved:-

When can a claim be made on behalf of my child?

In personal injury cases, the person bringing a claim is known as a Plaintiff.  For a case to be successful,  it must be shown that your child’s accident was caused due to the fault of another person who is known as the Defendant.  

Can my child claim in their own right?

No  –  a child is not entitled to bring proceedings in their own right and therefore any compensation claim will be brought on their behalf by a responsible adult who is known as a Next Friend.   Usually, a Next Friend is the child’s mother or father or someone with parental responsibility.

Are there time limits in making a claim on behalf of my injured child?

Normally, personal injury claims must be made within 3 years of the accident occurring.  However, where the injury is suffered by a child,  this period is extended to 3 years after the child has turned 18.  This means that if your child was 10 years old when they were injured in an accident, they have until their 21st birthday to make a claim for compensation.

How much compensation will my child be entitled to?

If the Defendant is found to be at fault, medical evidence will be needed to  confirm the extent of your child’s injuries in order to decide how much compensation should be paid.  This medical evidence will usually include your child’s GP notes and records, hospital notes and records and a report from a medical expert.

From this medical evidence, your solicitor will be able to ascertain the value of your child’s claim.  The amount of compensation is calculated in two parts:-

  • General damages – this is compensation for any physcial and/or psychological injury caused to your child as a result of their accident.
  • Special damages – this is compensation for any other loss such as damage to property (for example, glasses, clothing, bicycle etc) or out of pocket expenses.
What happens when an offer of settlement is made?

If an offer of settlement is made in your child’s case, as his or her Next Friend you will have to decide, with the advice of the solicitor, whether to accept the offer or not.

Unlike cases involving adults, in a child’s case if you decide to accept the settlement offer, this then has to be approved by a Judge.  You and your child will both be required to attend Court with your solicitor for this approval and answer any straightforward questions the Judge may ask about the case and your child’s injury.

If the Judge is satisfied that the settlement reflects a good outcome for your child they will approve the settlement figure.  If the Judge is not satisfied that the damages agreed are sufficient, they will not approve the settlement figure and instead will direct that the matter is negotiated further between the parties.

What if settlement cannot be agreed?

If settlement cannot be agreed, then Court proceedings will have to be issued.   Settlement of the case may still be discussed once Court proceedings have been issued but if settlement cannot be reached, ultimately there will be a Court hearing where the Judge will decide the case.

As the Next friend, you may be required to give evidence at the hearing about the facts of the accident, the injuries sustained, and the effect that these have had on your child.

What happens to any compensation money received?

Any compensation monies paid will be placed into a special Court bank account and will be held there on trust for your child until they reach 18 years of age.  This means that your child will not have access to their compensation until then.  Any monies held by the Court will gather interest which will also be paid to your child when they turn 18.

How will I pay my child’s legal costs?

Currently in Northern Ireland, children under the age of 18 years are automatically entitled to Legal Aid assistance in relation to civil claims involving injury, regardless of their parent’s income.

So, if your child has been injured as a result of a car accident, a dog bite, a slip, trip or fall, or a failure to be treated properly in hospital or any other situation where you feel a third party was at fault, there is nothing to lose in seeking legal assistance in order to ascertain whether your child would be entitled to compensation for any pain or suffering they may have suffered as a result of an accident.

If you require any further advice in relation to making a claim on behalf of a child, please contact us here or by emailing us on info@fhanna.co.uk

A Simple Guide to Divorce Procedure in NI

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Ending a marriage can be one of the most difficult and stressful times in a person’s life.

Making the decision to end your marriage brings with it many worries and fears about how life will change upon divorce. The last thing that any person going through a divorce wants to worry about is having to navigate a long, complicated legal process to reach the end result.
It will be a relief to many that the legal procedure for divorce here in Northern Ireland is fairly straightforward. We have put together below some information for you to explain how this process works.

What is the procedure for divorce?

The first step in getting divorce is to issue what is known as a Divorce Petition. This is simply a document which sets out details needed by the Judge to consider your divorce. Importantly, the Petition will detail the grounds on which you are applying for a divorce. If you are the person who has filed for divorce, you will be referred to as the ‘Petitioner’ in these proceedings and your spouse will be referred to as ‘the Respondent’.

The Divorce Petition, once finalised, is then stamped by the Court and served on your spouse who is asked to complete an Acknowledgement of Service Form and lodge this with the Court. This form will confirm that your spouse has received the divorce papers and will detail whether they intend to defend your Petition for divorce.

If your spouse is not challenging the divorce, the case will then be listed for a Decree Nisi hearing.

What is a Decree Nisi hearing?

This is the initial hearing where the Judge will have to determine whether your marriage has irretrievably broken down.   You must attend at Court and give evidence at this hearing.   If the Judge is satisfied that the grounds for divorce have been met, a Decree Nisi is granted – this is an Order stating that are entitled to obtain a Divorce.

Am I divorced after I get my Decree Nisi??

No. The Decree Nisi is simply the first stage of the divorce. In order to be fully legally divorced, you must obtain a Decree Absolute.  You may apply for a Decree Absolute six weeks and one day after the Decree Nisi hearing. Your Solicitor makes the application for a Decree Absolute after this time has passed and you are not required to attend at Court.

What about the family finances and property?

Often, if the division of the family finances and property has not been agreed between you and your spouse, Court Proceedings would then be issued to decide how to divide the finances. These proceedings are called Ancillary Relief proceedings.  In cases where the family finances and property have not been finalised, the Petitioner is generally advised not to apply for the Decree Absolute until after the finances are resolved.  This is because both parties could lose certain rights such as widow pension benefits.

How much will a Divorce cost?

There will be Court fees payable for issuing divorce proceedings.  these include a fee for the issuing of the divorce petition, setting the case down for Hearing and then obtaining a copy of the Decree Absolute.  these fees increase every tax year though are currently around £600-£700.00.   There will be solicitor’s professional costs on top of this.  Most solicitors will give a quote for a divorce in advance of lodging anything with the Court.   Legal Aid may be available depending on your financial circumstances.

If Ancillary Relief proceedings are issued to resolve the financial matters after Decree Nisi, legal costs are likely to be calculated on a time-spent basis.  It is important that you speak with your solicitor about costs before issuing proceedings.

What about the future?

If you had made a Will before getting divorced, it is important to review this after your divorce. Once a divorce has been granted, any part of a Will leaving property to your former spouse will be invalid.

Although a divorce ends your marriage, often you and your former spouse will have to continue to share a relationship with one another for the sake of your children. It is therefore in everyone’s interests to try to ensure that the divorce, if at all possible, is dealt as amicably as possible so that despite your differences at the end of their marriage, you can both move on to the next stage of your lives.

If you would like more information on the legal process of divorce or if you have a query regarding your own divorce, please do not hesitate to contact claire or karen by email or leave your comments confidentially below.

*October 2015

 

 

Buying a new home? What exactly does your solicitor do?

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So, you’ve spent the past few months with your nose deeply buried in property brochures. Your Google search list consists solely of property websites and viewing houses has almost become a hobby.  You’re even sick of the sight of Kirsty and Phil on ‘Location Location Location’

But, at long last, it has happened –you’ve finally found your ideal home!

That’s the hard part right?  Once the mortgage is through, surely all you need to do is arrange a date to pick up the keys and then you can get down to the important stuff, like where to put the sofa and what colour to paint the living room??

Unfortunately not…before keys can be placed in your hand and all your furniture packed up, the legal process of buying a house needs to be completed.  

It’s not a matter of just signing on the dotted line either – the entire legal process normally takes between 6-8 weeks before you can get moving.

What exactly does my solicitor do?

You may wonder what it is exactly that a solicitor does when dealing with buying a house for you.

Your solicitor’s main job is to protect your interests and make sure that all of the title deeds under which you will own the property are in order.

To do this, they have to check the following:-

  • They check all of the title deeds (which may consist of hundreds of pages!) to make sure there is nothing contained in them that may restrict your use of the property.
  • They check the maps of the property and make sure the boundary to the property is correct – after all, there’s no point in buying a house and realising when you go to sell it that you didn’t actually own part of your back garden!
  • They review any survey reports you or your mortgage company have to get to check if work has been done to the property which may to be queried with the seller.
  • They ensure that you are connected to a mains sewer, or that the necessary consents are in place for a septic tank, and that you have access to a public road.
  • They check through paperwork (such as searches and certificates) to make sure that any necessary planning permissions and building control documents are in place.
  • They liaise with you and your mortgage company throughout this process and highlight to you any issues which you should be aware of before you actually buy the house.
  • If there are any service charges or if ground rent is payable, they ensure that these are all paid up to date by the seller so that no unwanted bills arrive at your door once you’ve moved.

All checks and searches have been done – what now??

Once your solicitor is satisfied that everything is in order and any problems have been resolved, they will report to you on the property, and ask you to meet them so that you can sign the contract.

Your solicitor will also contact your mortgage company and ask them to forward mortgage monies through to them directly before you buy.

When can I move in?

Once the contracts are signed, a date is arranged between you and the seller for when money (and more importantly, keys!) will change hands.

On this date, once the financial transaction has gone through via your solicitor, you will officially be able to move into your new home!

Whilst you’re busy picking out wallpaper and getting the TV installed, your solicitor’s job is not finished yet! After completion,  they will deal with the registration of the property into your name.

To be done thoroughly and correctly this entire process will take time. A little time invested now should ensure that when it is your time to sell the property, everything proceeds smoothly.

When you are told the matter is ‘with your solicitor’, rest assured that your purchase is being well looked after and your solicitor will be in touch to allow you to get your keys as soon as possible.
If you would like any further information on the legal process of buying or selling your house, or any other aspect of Property Law in NI, feel free to contact us here