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As this week sees Valentine’s Day, what could be more sobering than a warning of the dangers of office affairs?

February 13, 2017 at 9:00 AM

Around one in five of married couples meet at work - if the evidence of divorce petitions are anything to go by, and with the increasing number of workplace affairs involving a colleague or client, the percentage of people who meet at work and have an affair is likely to be far greater than this.

An unexpected Valentine’s card from a colleague is bad enough but when workplace affairs go wrong, the fallout can be significant.

Cards and Letters for Valentine's Day

As pressure grows to spend more time at work, for some, the office becomes the focal point of their life and one of the main ways to meet people: working late in the office turning around documents; team drinks after work to celebrate the end of a deal; sending a flirty email...

Affairs at work are nothing new, yet they continue to cause headaches for HR. Those involving a senior and a junior member of staff can cause particular problems. The rumour-mill of truths and untruths around an affair can unsettle teams and departments, upset the dynamic, affect morale and productivity and leading to calls of favouritism and even discrimination.

Employers need to tread a fine line between protecting the business and interfering in an employee’s private life. Some businesses have policies and procedures to ban workplace relationships (the “anti-hanky-panky-policy”), though it is more common for employers to require relationships are declared to take appropriate action to avoid conflict or difficulties in line management from occurring. The danger with outright bans is that employees will often carry on in secret with the potential to do harm to the business.

A relationship that is out in the open is far easier to deal with - usually by ensuring the couple do not work together and minimising any risk of favouritism or discrimination.

The picture is more complex for ‘regulated’ professions, or where an individual has special responsibilities – like in the police, healthcare, education and banking. A dentist who had a long affair with a nurse was suspended by the General Dental Council for four months for conduct described as "unprofessional, inappropriate and not in the best interests of patients". The nurse was suspended for two months for selling her story to a magazine.

For many businesses the biggest threat is a harassment or discrimination claim. The best starting place is to cultivate an open atmosphere: where employees feel able to raise concerns and if the facts are known, the business will be better able to tackle any potential issue before it escalates.

Further, it is important not to forget that discrimination, harassment or victimisation might not just arise between the parties. There may be colleagues who disapprove of the relationship, whether through morals or jealousy and treat one or both of those involved differently as a result.

Relationships between colleagues are always going to happen and, unless permitted by law, outright bans are not usually the best way forward. A mature and consistent approach clearly communicated to all staff will be easier to negotiate and minimise the risk of a costly and time consuming tribunal claims when things go wrong.


About the Author

Philip McCabe Photo

Philip McCabe is an experienced employment lawyer who has been advising businesses and individuals on a wide range of employment and HR issues since 2000.

He is a member of the Employment Lawyers Association, Industrial Law Society, and Law Society. He regularly writes for national publications on employment law issues and is a regular columnist in the Derbyshire Times.

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Instead of updating your Facebook relationship status, update your Will!

February 8, 2017 at 9:00 AM

Valentines Day is soon to be upon us – a typically ‘Marmite’ day for most. Social media users love to post statuses and photos of the gifts and cards they have received, or to moan that the day is just another ‘money making’ scheme.

Instead of updating your Facebook status, why not think about your relationship status and whether you need to update your Will!?

Heart cut-outs

Did you know that marriage, separation and divorce all have a different affect on your Will?

Marriage

Many people don’t realise, or it doesn’t even cross their mind, that when they get married, their existing Will automatically becomes invalid – unless you have a correctly worded clause in your Will specifically stating that it will not be revoked on marriage to a named person. These Wills are only valid on “contemplation of Marriage” to a named person.

If you do not make a new Will after you marry, when you die the intestacy rules will apply and decide how your assets are divided upon your death. This is unlikely to be how you want things to be for a number of reasons, so you should make a Will once you are married.

Separation

Many married couples separate and move on with their lives with new partners, but don’t bother divorcing, sometimes because of the cost involved or because they are still on good terms, etc.

The Will made during your marriage will still stand, regardless of your new life with your new partner. If your spouse was named as a beneficiary or trustee; then this is what they remain. If you want your new partner to be your beneficiary or trustee, or you just want to ensure that your spouse is no longer the beneficiary or trustee, you should update your Will.

Divorce

Getting divorced does not revoke your Will. However, all clauses in your Will naming your former spouse as a beneficiary will no longer be valid. Your former spouse will also no longer be able to act as an executor for you and they will not be entitled to apply for Grant of Probate. Your ex spouse is treated as having died on the date of the marriage dissolution, and any gift to them will pass under the Intestacy Rules.

You may have children with your ex-spouse and still want them appointed for the benefit of your children; it is therefore important to make a new will after your divorce, especially if your ex-spouse was a beneficiary or trustee.

Notepad and Pen

What types of Will are available?


A Simple Will

Typically a 'Simple Will' will work for you if:

•  you have a spouse or partner and your entire estate is left to them

•  you have no spouse or partner and your entire estate is left to your children in equal shares

•  you do not have a spouse, partner or children and your entire estate is left to another individual or organisation, or a group of individuals or organisations in equal shares

•  you would like to leave a legacy to a charity

•  the value of your estate does not exceed £325,000

Mirror Will

A 'Mirror Will' is where each partner agrees to distribute his or her estate (except for special gifts) to their surviving spouse/partner. If the surviving spouse/partner dies or you and your spouse/partner die together then the estate will pass to your children in equal shares. If there are no children, then it will pass to other beneficiaries in equal shares. When a Mirror Will is made, the makers of these Wills acknowledge that the surviving spouse/partner has the right to change his or her Will.

Other Wills

Your personal situation may mean your requirements fall outside the scope of a Simple Will. For example it could be that you:

•  are in a second marriage or partnership with possible disagreement over the treatment of your children from a previous marriage(s)

•  have dependents or children that have disabilities and therefore specific instructions are required for their care

•  have a complex estate that includes businesses or property abroad

•  want to leave gifts or legacies to more than a few beneficiaries or not in equal shares

•  have children that you do not support

•  are appointing a guardian for your children, where trusts need to be arranged

•  want to disinherit a close family member

This is not an exhaustive list and individual families and estates can have very different requirements.

A specialist member of our team would be happy to discuss your particular needs and prepare a Will that suits your circumstances.


About the Author

Sarah Wright Photo

Sarah Wright is a Chartered Legal Executive within our Serious Injury Team.

Sarah, who joined the business in 2008, has extensive practical experience handling personal injury cases including road traffic and credit hire claims. Sarah was admitted as a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives in 2014 and assists the Serious Injury Team on a diverse range of cases including road traffic accidents, employers’ liability, occupiers’ liability, criminal injuries and medical negligence.

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#PurpleDay - Raising Awareness for Epilepsy

February 6, 2017 at 9:00 AM

Epilepsy is a term I have heard in the past and one that I am hearing more often, most recently after a friend lost a loved one following an epileptic seizure.

My serious injury colleagues at Spencers also come across this condition when representing clients who have suffered life changing head injuries and because of what I have learned about epilepsy, this year on 26 March I will be wearing purple along with people all around the world to raise awareness and help Epilepsy Action “bring epilepsy out of the shadows”.

Purple Day - Supporting Epilepsy Around The World

What is epilepsy?

•  Everyday 87 people in the UK are diagnosed with epilepsy and there are more than 500,000 affected by the condition, that equates to one person out of 100

•  Epilepsy is a neurological condition caused by malfunctioning nerve cell activity in the brain, these malfunctions cause episodes known as seizures

•  The severity of a seizure can vary from person to person and symptoms can range from staring blankly for seconds or minutes, to a loss of consciousness or even uncontrollable shaking

•  It can start at any age but is usually diagnosed in people under 20 or over 65, this is thought to be due to some causes of epilepsy being more common in these age groups

•  One in 20 people will have a seizure in their life but this does not mean they have epilepsy

•  One in 50 people will have epilepsy at some time but not everyone with epilepsy will have it for life.

•  Epilepsy is most commonly treated with medication called anti-epileptic drugs (AED's) which aim to stop seizures happening.

Types of epilepsy

There are thought to be around 40 different types of seizure and a person may have more than one type. Seizures are commonly divided into two groups and each group is then sub categorised. There is so much information about the types of epilepsy and I want to share this in more detail in the run up to #PurpleDay so look out for further information in future blogs.

Causes of epilepsy

Different epilepsies can have different underlying causes which may be complex or difficult to identify. A person may start having seizures because of one or more of the following:

•  A genetic tendency, passed down from one or both parents (inherited)

•  A genetic tendency that is not inherited, but is a new change in the person's genes

•  A structural or symptomatic change in the brain, such as the brain not developing properly, or damage caused by a brain injury, infections like meningitis, a stroke or tumour

•  A structural change due to genetic conditions such as tuberous sclerosis (a condition that causes growths in organs including the brain which can cause epilepsy) or neurofibromatosis (a condition that causes benign tumours to grow on the covering of nerves which can cause epilepsy)

Epileptic seizure triggers

Triggers are situations that can bring on a seizure in some people with epilepsy. As with severity, triggers can vary from person to person but common triggers include tiredness and lack of sleep, stress, alcohol and not taking medication. Flashing lights may cause a seizure if a person has photosensitive epilepsy, this is thought to be less than 5% of people with epilepsy.

Seizure First Aid -  Image reproduced with permission from The Epilepsy Network (TEN)

Epilepsy Action

Epilepsy Action is a charity that improves the lives of everyone affected by epilepsy. They give advice, improve healthcare, fund research and campaign for change. You can find further information regarding epilepsy and the charity by visiting their website www.epilepsy.org.uk or calling 0808 800 5050.

On Purple Day (March 26) Epilepsy Action will be sharing stories from people with epilepsy about their feelings, seizures and how the condition affects their daily lives in the hope that people will understand more about epilepsy and the impact it has on people’s lives.

If you want to help the valuable work of Epilepsy Action there are a number of ways to donate. You can:

•  Call 0113 210 8857

•  Text “ACT NOW” to 70700 to donate £5*

•  Buy a wristband from the Epilepsy Action shop

•  Leave a gift in your will, my colleague Samantha Ibrahim is an expert in Wills and Probate and can offer you advice on this. Samantha can be contacted on 01246 266637

Your donation would improve the lives of people affected by epilepsy when they need it most but, consider helping raising awareness as well. I will be encouraging my friends, family and colleagues to wear purple on 26 March and you can do the same. You can also share this article on social media to spread awareness far and wide.

*Texts cost £5 plus your standard network rate. Epilepsy Action will receive 100 percent of the donation. UK only.


About the Author

Samantha Handley Photo

Samantha Handley is a Litigator within our Loss Recovery Team.

Samantha deals predominantly with corporate fleet clients and in addition to handling her own caseload, Samantha enjoys supporting and training new members of the team.

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Time to Talk – Time for Change

January 25, 2017 at 9:00 AM

Mental health has been in the spotlight in recent weeks with Theresa May’s pledge to reform mental health services. During her speech to the Charity Commission on 9 January 2017, the Prime Minister spoke about mental illness being “a hidden injustice in our country, shrouded in a completely unacceptable stigma and dangerously disregarded as a secondary issue to physical health”.

Where does this stigma come from? Perhaps from the cliché of the British ‘stiff upper lip’ – a mistaken (and unfounded) belief that you are expected to be stoic and resolute in the face of difficulties and pressures (however great or all-consuming) and to express emotion or to want to talk about your struggles is somehow an admission of weakness and failure. We must apparently ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’.

This is particularly the case when it comes to talking about struggles with mental illness. Most people have no problem in discussing and seeking help in relation to a physical illness or complaint; but mental health somehow seems to be a taboo subject. Many people are reluctant to talk about their difficulties with family and friends or with professionals.

Some suffer in silence until they reach a crisis point. Some will consider suicide.

There has been a sharp rise in people presenting to A&E with mental health issues which has put significant strain on an already squeezed NHS but for many, it is a last resort. However a busy, noisy emergency department may not be the right environment for them to find the support and help they need.

Children and young people are also suffering - with an increasing number struggling with depression, anxiety and the newer pressures brought about by cyber bullying.

Those suffering with mental illness need to have rapid access to specialist services, treatment and therapies to ensure their problems are addressed before they reach crisis point.

The focus must be on lifting the ‘shroud’ that has covered mental health for too long and demystifying the issue; encouraging those who are struggling with mental illness to come forward and to tackle the issues openly and without fear.

Access to the right support will need funding. Theresa May’s speech focussed on the need for action within schools, workplaces and communities however her words have been met with some caution by those who work in front line mental health services and mental health charities as there is a question over how these services can be provided without a commitment to provide the additional funding needed.

We are fortunate to have organisations like MIND and the Samaritans who provide vital advice and support to those affected by mental health issues. MIND is currently running a ‘Find the Words’ campaign which provides useful practical guides on how to speak openly about mental health.

Some dates for your diary:

•  ‘Time to Change’ was set up in 2007 to work to end the discrimination against mental health. 2nd February will see their ‘Time to Talk Day’; an initiative to get as many people as possible to talk about their experiences of mental health.

•  6-12 February 2017 is Children’s Mental Health Week run by children’s mental health charity Place2Be with the aim of supporting children who struggle with mental health difficulties. Their focus this year is on spreading kindness and helping others who are struggling.

•  10 October is World Mental Health Day with the aim of raising awareness of mental health issues.

Following an accident or traumatic event, it is very common for a client to suffer psychologically as well as physically. As a solicitor in the Serious Injury Team here at Spencers Solicitors, I have worked with clients who have suffered psychological trauma and as a firm we are committed to ensuring that our clients affected by Post Traumatic Stress Disorder; depression; specific phobia and anxiety have the access to the right expert help and support they need both in the short term and in the future.


About the author

Mary Kay PhotoMary Kay is an experienced solicitor who has worked with the firm for over eighteen years having qualified as a Solicitor in 2007. Mary works within the Serious Injury Team and is experienced in dealing both personal injury and clinical negligence claims and has with a wide variety of cases including catastrophic injury claims, accidents involving fatalities and clients who have sustained serious, orthopaedic and psychological injuries.

Mary's previous blog was On the ropes: is the boxing community doing enough to prevent head injuries?

Can temporary incapacity be a disability?

January 23, 2017 at 9:00 AM

It is well established law that for someone to be considered as disabled under the Equality Act 2010 their physical or mental impairment must have lasted or be likely to last 12 months. However, it is not always possible to identify how long an impairment might last, even though it is clear it will only be temporary in nature.

In the Spanish case of Daouidi v Bootes Plus SL the Europena Court of Justice (ECJ) considered exactly this point. Mr Daouidi had been dismissed from his job as a kitchen assistant for poor performance following a fall at work that had resulted in a dislocated elbow.

Elbow X-Ray

He brought a claim, which included disability discrimination - his elbow was in plaster and prognosis uncertain. The Spanish Court accepted he was dismissed because of his incapacity but asked the ECJ for guidance on whether the temporary incapacity could amount to a disability.

Although the ECJ found that a temporary incapacity for an indeterminate time does not in itself mean it is long term, it may be possible to establish a potential disability where there is no clear short-term prognosis. Whether or not that was the case would turn on the evidence available at the time.

This means that what might appear to be a fairly straightforward injury such as broken or dislocated bone carries the risk of a finding of a disability if the recovery is significantly prolonged. Depending on the circumstances employers may want to consider seeking medical advice before dismissing.


About the Author

Philip McCabe Photo

Philip McCabe is an experienced employment lawyer who has been advising businesses and individuals on a wide range of employment and HR issues since 2000.

He is a member of the Employment Lawyers Association, Industrial Law Society, and Law Society. He regularly writes for national publications on employment law issues and is a regular columnist in the Derbyshire Times.

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