News Archive for September, 2015

Online Assets 'In Limbo' Warning

According to a recent survey by the Co-Op, more than 94 per cent of all adults in the UK have an online account, yet only a quarter have put in place any mechanism for them to be dealt with after they die.

With the average online asset value exceeding £250, the total value of assets involved is estimated to exceed £17 billion.

If you have online accounts, even if only for books and films, for example, it is sensible to make sure your loved ones are aware of them and can access them after your death. Where the contents have value, this should be made clear, as well as to whom the online assets will belong.

If this information is not passed on, the assets will fall into the 'residue' of your estate.

For advice on all aspects of estate planning, contact us.

Posted by Peter Nicholas on Wednesday, September 09, 2015 at 09:59 AM

Investment Fraud a Reminder of Need For Pension Caution

Clients are warned that the pension reforms, which now allow pension funds to be treated almost like a personal piggy-bank, are likely to lead to an upswell in attempts by shady financial advisers to help themselves to the nest eggs of the elderly or vulnerable.

There is already a regular flow of cases running through the courts involving thefts of assets by unscrupulous financial advisers.

Most of these have a similar background story – an offer of investment returns above the market average.

In a recent Scottish case, an investment adviser stole nearly half a million pounds from an elderly couple who entrusted him to look after their investments. He was caught when he took £80,000 from them with the promise of a guaranteed return of 5 per cent – well above the available market rates.

Although the couple eventually got their money back from the insurer the financial adviser worked for, they had to bear the uncertainty and worry that inevitably follow the discovery of such a fraud.

It is worth pointing out that had the adviser not been the agent of a UK-regulated company, the investors may well have lost out: the adviser had used the money stolen from them to meet his considerable debts.

With large pension pots now 'in play' for fraudsters, it is sensible to be even more cautious than usual if you are offered a 'great deal' on any investment.

Unsolicited calls offering 'ground floor' opportunities and investments offering above market rates of interest should be treated with extreme suspicion.

It should be borne in mind that not all investments offer any form of buyer protection and criminals will go to great lengths to appear credible.

The fraudsters will do their research and will target people they think are likely to be vulnerable. If you have a family member whose assets could be at risk to a scammer, there are steps you can take to protect them, such as placing assets in trust, getting the family member to appoint an attorney over their assets or making sure that their assets are managed by a reputable and regulated firm.

Authorised financial advisers can always provide the credentials necessary to prove their bona fides, and it is relatively easy to check that they have the accreditations they claim.

For advice on any of these issues, contact us.

Posted by Peter Nicholas on Wednesday, September 09, 2015 at 09:48 AM

Timing Can Be Everything in Employment Cases

Employment proceedings are subject to strict time limits and those who sit on their hands before seeking legal advice will often sacrifice the opportunity to enforce their rights. In one striking case, a worker came within an ace of having a crucial appeal rejected without a hearing after documents were filed ten minutes after the deadline (Farmer v Heart of Birmingham Teaching Primary Care Trust and Others).

The man wished to challenge an adverse decision of an Employment Tribunal and had 42 days in which to lodge a notice of appeal with the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT). Owing to an unusual combination of circumstances – including illness and an office move – that deadline was missed by a matter of minutes.

The EAT observed that the time limit was strict and not a target merely to be aimed at. Under the rules, a notice of appeal which had almost finished coming off a fax machine or through the email system when the deadline expired would be viewed as out of time.

However, noting that a full and honest explanation had been given for the brief delay, the EAT agreed to extend the deadline by half an hour, thus enabling the man's appeal to be considered on its merits.

For advice on making sure any employment issues you have are dealt with in the correct way, contact us.

Posted by Peter Nicholas on Wednesday, September 09, 2015 at 09:40 AM

Collective Redundancy Consultation

In last quarter's newsletter, we reported on the opinion of the Advocate General in the case of USDAW and Another v WW Realisation 1 Limited (in liquidation) and Others.

The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) has now confirmed that, when assessing the number of employees being made redundant across multiple sites for the purposes of the collective redundancy consultation requirements, each of the employer's establishments must be looked at separately.

Under Section 188 of the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992, employers have a duty to consult with appropriate representatives of employees concerning forthcoming redundancies if 20 or more employees are to be dismissed at one establishment within a 90-day period.

Failure to do so can lead to a protective award requiring the employer to pay each affected employee 90 days' gross pay.

The Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) had ruled that the words 'at one establishment' should be deleted from the Act in order to give effect to EU Council Directive 98/59EC, which it is intended to implement, and protective awards were payable to former employees of Woolworths and Ethel Austin who had worked at stores with fewer than 20 members of staff.

Permission to appeal against the EAT's decision was granted, and the Court of Appeal sought the opinion of the CJEU.

In the CJEU's view, where an undertaking comprises several entities, it is the entity to which the workers made redundant are assigned to carry out their duties that constitutes the 'establishment', not the business as a whole. The
term 'at least 20' requires account to be taken of the redundancy dismissals in each establishment considered separately.

Whilst member states are entitled to increase the level of protection afforded to workers when there are to be collective redundancies, they are nonetheless bound by the 'autonomous and uniform interpretation' given to the term 'establishment' in EU law.

We can advise you on any redundancy matter.

Posted by Peter Nicholas on Wednesday, September 09, 2015 at 09:35 AM