Dressing for success or sunshine?

Here comes the sun, or, at least, just as soon as this relentless rain clears up. However, every cloud has a silver lining and this (hopefully) brief spell of bad weather gives employers an opportunity to revisit their dress code policies to ensure employees are under no illusion that the sun shining does not mean relaxed dress standards.

I’m not suggesting your employees are going to come to work with their “Taps Aff”, but the effect of un-tucked shirts, creeping hemlines, sandals and casual clothing more generally is often a less than professional look.

Every workplace has different dress codes and expectations, so a list of unacceptable clothing items in the policy will make it clear what is expected of staff. It may seem obvious to an employer that halter tops and shorts should not be worn in the office, but it’s better to spell it out in a policy than have to send someone home to change because it didn’t occur to him or her that it was inappropriate. It might also be useful to include the phrase ‘if you have to think about it, it probably isn’t suitable’.

If you don’t have a dress code policy then it’s time to put one in place. You’ll find it helpful in maintaining dress standards regardless of what the weather is like.

Donna Reynolds is an experience Employment Lawyer and HR Adviser offering Employment Law and HR Advice and assistance to SMEs in Fife, Edinburgh and across Scotland.

 

 

Are These Employment Laws For Real?

Many employers feel that UK employment law gives employees too many rights to enforce against employers already over burdened with rules, regulations and red tape. However, do their European counterparts fare any better? We take a look at some of the employment laws in a selection of the 39 countries participating in this year’s Eurovision Song Contest.

Italy

Winners of the Contest for the first time in 1964, its female employees must not work for 2 months before and 3 months after child birth. If a medical certificate is produced this can be changed to 1 month before and 3 months after child birth. In the UK, female employees can not start their maternity leave any sooner than 11 weeks before baby’s due date and must take a minimum of 2 weeks’ compulsory maternity leave (or 4 weeks in the case of factory workers) after child birth.

Belgium

Belgium’s first and (to date) only winner was in 1986. Its employment laws do not explicitly provide for the protection of whistleblowers. However, an employee who has reported a punishable offence could receive compensation for unfair dismissal if the employer terminated his or her employment solely for reporting that offence. In the UK, whistleblowers have a right not to be dismissed or subjected to a detriment on the grounds they have made a protected disclosure. Employees do not need 2 years’ service to bring a claim as they do for unfair dismissal and compensation is uncapped.

Spain

Spain has participated in the Contest 54 times. When a Spanish employee is dismissed on disciplinary grounds there is no duty on the employer to give him or her notice of dismissal. If a judge subsequently rules that the dismissal is unfair the employer has the option of (a) reinstatement and payment of accrued salary or (b) a severance payment equal to 45 days of salary per year for the period of time the employee worked up to 12 February 2012 and 33 days of salary per year for the period worked after 12 February (but not exceeding 720 days). Unless the reason for dismissal is gross misconduct, a UK employer must dismiss with notice (or payment in lieu of notice). If an Employment Tribunal finds that an employee is unfairly dismissed the employee can ask for (a) reinstatement (b) re-engagement or (c) compensation. Compensation for unfair dismissal is the lower of £74, 200 or 52 weeks’ gross salary.

Australia

In a storm of controversy, Australia will compete in the Contest for the first time this year. In Australia, asking questions about an applicants/employee’s health is not prohibited but relying on the information provided could result in a breach of various state and federal anti-discrimination laws. In the UK, before a job offer is made, it is unlawful for an employer to ask a job applicant questions about his or health. Once a job offer has been made health questions can be asked but employers must exercise caution because its use of the answers provided may expose them to a claim.

And finally, one fun fact about the United Kingdom; in 1981 Buck’s Fizz wowed viewers with their Velcro rip away skirts and within 48 hours Velcro had sold out across the country.

Donna Reynolds is an experienced Employment Lawyer and HR Adviser helping employers throughout Fife, Edinburgh and Scotland.

Goodbye To Unnecessary Travel Costs

People often say that the Law (and lawyers) are slow to adapt to technological changes and to the changing needs of commerce.   In an increasingly open Europe, with fewer restrictions on the free movement of labour, capital and goods, more and more cross border deals are being done, with parties to agreements often in different countries when deals are completed (“completion”) .  Aside from these economic and political changes, technological advances have also had a major impact on how business is done, with business people being increasingly unlikely to meet in person more than a few times, if that.

With that in mind, the fact that the law of Scotland has (until now!) needed people  to be in the same room at the same time when completing a deal, has been a source of frustration for business people and lawyers alike.

The Legal Writings (Counterparts and Delivery) (Scotland) Act 2015 will therefore   come as a welcome relief to people who are tired of having to waste money and time on unnecessary travel costs.  The Act introduces signing in counterpart and electronic delivery into the laws of Scotland.  The term counterpart sounds a bit archaic but it essentially just means a copy of a document.  (The accusation that lawyers like to use unnecessary jargon is not countered in the Act!).  The effect of the Act will be that each party to an agreement will be able to sign an identical copy of the agreement rather than every party signing the same physical document.   The fact that Scots Law did not previously recognise signing in counterpart meant that people who would otherwise have used Scots Law (in other words, Scottish people, living in Scotland, dealing with Scottish matters), opted to adopt the law of England or another European jurisdiction where it was allowed, in order to save the administration and travel costs involved in gathering a lot of busy people all living and working in different parts of the country, in the same room, at the same time.

Agreements will then become effective when delivery of the signed copies have been exchanged between all the relevant parties.  Happily, the Act also provides that documents signed electronically will be capable of being delivered electronically.  It will probably be good practice for lawyers to include a clause (as is common practice in agreements elsewhere in Europe) stating that it is agreed between the parties that such counterparts will be effective between the parties.

The introduction of signing in counterparts brings Scots law in line with the law of other European Jurisdictions and Commercial practice and as such, will no doubt make the use of Scots Law more attractive, even if only for Scots! At last, we are catching up!

Making Your Mind Up!

If you wish to enforce your title conditions, don’t leave it until it’s too late!

It’s getting round to that time of year again (and we don’t mean the dreaded election); we’re talking about Eurovision!

One of the songs that first spring to mind is the Bucks Fizz hit, “Making Your Mind Up”.  In terms of property law (tenuous we know) one thing you do have to make your mind up about quickly is what to do when neighbouring property owners do something that breaches a restriction written into their title deeds.  This applies whether you have residential or commercial property.

The length of time an owner has to enforce these restrictions varies, depending on the type of the restriction.  Take a look at the following examples:

  • a restriction on the use carried out within a neighbouring property (e.g. office use only and not for any retail activity whatsoever)
  • a ban on erecting new buildings or making alterations on a neighbouring property
  • a ban on heavy goods vehicles parking on a private road within a neighbouring property

In the case of the first example, the owner could have up to five years from the date of the breach within which to decide whether or not to enforce the restriction.  By contrast, the time limit in the second example is significantly shorter – very often as short as twelve weeks from the substantial completion of the building/alterations. The time limit in the final example is probably longer than twelve weeks but considerably less than five years.

The main reason for the different time limits is the date when the owner first became aware of the breach.  In some cases the owner may only gradually have become aware of the activity and years may pass before the extent of the breach becomes clear (as in example 1 above).  Where, however, the breach is more obvious – such as in example 3 – the owner ought to have become aware of the breach far earlier.  Lastly, where a person has breached a title condition but incurred significant costs in doing so (e.g. constructing a building), a special rule in the Title Conditions (Scotland) Act 2003 dictates that a twelve week period applies.

So, there are many different possible time limits – but in all cases an owner should definitely make up his or her mind sooner rather than later whether to enforce the restriction.  If you have any questions on this, please feel free to get in touch.

Sophie Graham is a Trainee Solicitor offering property law advice and assistance to property owners.

Magic, Oh Magic: EU Data Protection Regulation

Eurovision is something that is often sniggered at in the UK, but it is held in a quite different regard in many other European states. In some countries, it highly regarded and by many it is seen as a springboard to an international music career – and it has been just that to many past acts. However, the broadening of the number of countries participating has also led to some challenges, with which other European organisations are all too familiar.

The reactions to last year’s Eurovision winner, Conchita Wurst, tended to show the shared views of EU states compared to its nearby neighbouring states. Russia had a particularly strong reaction against this winner, while the EU member states tended to show more acceptance and indifference towards the less traditional character.

Although countries within the EU have a lot in common compared to other parts of the world, even compared to very close neighbours, the differences between the individual member states is still quite stark in some regards. This makes it very tricky for the EU legislators when trying to draft new laws for EU harmonisation.

The new Data Protection Regulation is a good example of this. The relevant committees have been working on this for many years already, but still have a considerable way to go. Use of personal information in the various member states is very different, even under the current EU Directive regime, and compromises are hard to reach.

One crude example of differing attitudes in very close-by states is in Scandinavia. There, individuals’ tax returns are published and are available for inspection by anyone. Such an approach would be subject to outrage in the UK and in many other member states. Although the issues slowing progress with the Regulation are more technical that that, with such polarised attitudes in mind, it is a wonder any harmonised legislation succeeds at all.

However, there are many significant and beneficial measures proposed, and the work on the Data Protection Regulation continues. Some notable provisions are expected to be:

  • The new regime will apply to non-EU bodies offering goods or services to those in the EU.
  • Fines of up to €100m or 2% of global turnover for breaches.
  • The right to be forgotten (or the right of erasure).

If the Regulation passes within the next year, which it is currently (although doubtfully) expected to, there will be a two year transitional period until it becomes firm law. As it is a Regulation, it will apply to each state directly, without the need for national legislation.

So, as with Eurovision, the show will relentlessly go on, and soon you will have to be “Making your mind up” whether to snigger or celebrate at the result.

Alison Marshall is an experienced lawyer and business adviser offering Intellectual Property advice to SMEs in Fife, Edinburgh and across Scotland.