To Dismiss or Not To Dismiss

We are delighted to be running an Employment Forum for Fife Chamber on Wednesday 30 September 2015 and we would love for you to join us. We will be exploring some of the practical issues faced by employers when dealing with disciplinary and dismissal issues and helping you to answer the question: To Dismiss or Not To Dismiss.

Our guest speaker is Steph Brown, District Manager East Scotland for Signet trading, H Samuel Division who will speak about her experiences of managing employee relations and conducting disciplinary hearings.

You will join others just like you who do a great job in their chosen industry or sector but, from time to time, benefit from meeting with, and learning from, others who have experience of the very problem they need help with. Chatham House Rule applies making for a relaxed and free discussion.

The session will start at 12noon with lunch and refreshments provided and we should finish up no later than 2pm.

Book online at http://my.fifechamber.co.uk or email kellylister@fifechamber.co.uk

Venue: Evans Business Centre, John Smith Business Park, 1 Begg Road, Kirkcaldy, KY2 6HD

You reap what you sow….

Taste your own terms before serving them up to consumers.

The latest guidance from the CMA, (the Competition and Markets Authority – who replaced the Office of Fair Trading) has advised businesses when dealing with consumers – not to use terms that the businesses wouldn’t like to sign up to themselves.

To see the short guide from the CMA click here.

A lot of the guidance from the CMA will sound familiar – for example that unfair terms and notices are not binding on consumers. A list of top tips is set out in the guidance as well as mention of certain terms that are considered “blacklisted” – to see the list click here.

The CMA has issued the guidance ahead of the Consumer Rights Act 2015 coming into force on 1 October 2015. This aim behind the 2015 Act is to consolidate much of the consumer law in the UK.

If your business deals with consumers and you’d like further advice on your terms of business or the effects of the 2015 Act, please get in touch.

Emma Arcari is an experienced corporate & commercial solicitor advising businesses on contract law, transactions, procurement & disputes.

Make hay while the sun shines

It’s been a tough time for many businesses through the recession, but for many (if not most) those tough times are now being resigned to history and there is a much more positive outlook. Over the last 12 months, we have seen many of our clients make long term plans a reality and they are looking forward to growth rather than survival.

Most businesses are more efficient and slicker, because they have had to be, and they are now harvesting the rewards of proving their robustness. But some can barely remember how to deal with a positive outlook and some businesses are so young that they have not experienced this before.

So, what do you do when you suddenly start to make significant profits? A nice problem to have! The answer will, of course, be quite different for every business, but here are some examples of what our clients have been doing lately:

  • Paying higher dividends (or resuming the payment of dividends)
  • Buying new machinery and technology to make them more efficient and competitive
  • Getting the company in good order in preparation for sale
  • Raising staff salaries and taking on new staff
  • Using spare profits to buy out legacy shareholders
  • Investing in new websites and mobile apps
  • Upgrading properties
  • Acquiring other businesses

It’s a great time to be thinking of the future, and we are delighted to be working with our clients and their other advisers to help make these aspirations a reality.

We are happy to meet with any business owners or managers who want to discuss their aspirations, to discuss the processes involved and explore any challenges and opportunities they may bring.

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

Bringing in the harvest: are boom times back for property?

With headlines in the press like “Property boom for Scotland as prices soar” and “Commercial property boom yields deals”, much is being made of the recent growth of property prices and yields across the UK and Scotland.  Office net rents for offices have recently risen by 11% with Edinburgh seeing some of the strongest growth http://www.gva.co.uk/research/Thebignineq22015/.

Retail is faring well, with projected 2.3% annual rent increase forecasts http://pdf.euro.savills.co.uk/uk/commercial-retail-uk/spotlight-retail-myths-2015.pdf.

Industrial property demand increased sharply in the Central Belt post-Referendum and vacancy rates are falling [http://www.ryden.co.uk/sites/default/files/spr/76thScottishPropertyReview.pdf].

Overall, the volume of commercial property transactions has increased, both in the UK and Europe more generally – up 36% within a year according to a recent Savills property report.  The housing market, in particular, has seen substantial growth in volume of sales [http://www.heraldscotland.com/news/13739215.House_sales_jump_by_record_amount/], with projected house price increases over the next 5 years of 19.3% in the UK as a whole and 17.6% in Scotland [http://www.savills.co.uk/research_articles/141285/192265-0].

Mortgage lending volume has also recovered from the depths of 2008-9 [http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/personalfinance/borrowing/mortgages/11824892/Scotland-and-Wales-lead-mortgage-boom-as-London-housing-market-cools.html].   Of course, there remains substantial variation from one region to another or between different neighbourhood in towns and cities, but all the signs are encouraging.

Or are they?  Most of us well remember the difficult years of 2008-9 with falling property prices, yields and contraction of the UK economy. Our theme this month is harvest time – and it is perhaps relevant to note that whilst farming communities in the past would mark abundant harvests with festivities (Lammas, the festival for wheat and the Harvest Moon for taking in crops in the light of the Equinox full moon), this was tempered by caution and local superstitions for the next year’s harvest.

We should do well to remember this note of caution.  Clearly, there is no telling the future and in terms of property prices and trends surveyors, not solicitors, are best to comment.  Yet, whilst the winds in the overall economy might rise and fall, a property investor, a business wanting to buy or a tenant wanting to enter into a lease can take some simple steps to ensure shelter when difficult times come:

you reap what you sow: if you don’t take care when you buy, you may make nothing when you come to sell. So, when buying, make sure that you investigate thoroughly the property.  Make sure you get not just a valuation survey but also a building survey for older properties and a full set of construction warranties and guarantees for newer ones.  Get your solicitor to check the titles carefully to ensure that when you come to sell, you have a marketable title that a purchaser will readily accept.  Ask your solicitor to check the relevant public regulations that apply to the property – for instance, compliance with the planning and building permissions and more detailed regulations such as control of asbestos . A similar point applies to tenants about to enter into leases: make sure you negotiate sensible repair obligations, check the detail in the use restriction clauses and in restrictions on being able to sub-let or assign.

don’t just follow the trends but think ahead to the future: valuation survey reports are important but they cannot predict everything in the future. You should think carefully yourself about the exact location and characteristics of your property – what future changes or new regulations might affect them?  There are many planned energy efficiency regulations relevant to commercial premises; changes to rules on flood insurance policies; continuing changes to building regulations that may make future alterations non-viable and a host of technological changes that might affect properties (we will write about impact of drones on properties in a forthcoming article).  You can do much to minimise risk by thinking through these points now and by asking for the input from your property advisers on these points.

So, as a final thought, it is good to celebrate the recovery in the property market but only sensible to take care and plan ahead for the future.

Michael Dewar, Commercial Property Partner

Team CCW does its bit for charity

The CCW Linlithgow 10k and Fun Run took place on Sunday, 20 September 2015, and was a great success. The event took over the historic town for the day with around 1000 people participating: including adult runners, junior runners and volunteers. Local scouts, guides, rotary club, churches and many other local businesses and groups played their part in the day, which attracted runners and spectators from far and near.

A team of 17 from CCW took part including 10k runners, fun runners and volunteers. Our runners all successfully made it to the finish line, and Team CCW raised more than £500 for MS Society in the process.

There were many charity runners and first timers on the day, but the sharp end of the race was hotly contested with a winning time of 31:31 – a very impressive time on the challenging course. The overall 10k winner, local lad, Alastair Hay of Central AC, won by a clear margin from Patryk Gierjatowicz of Hunters Bog Trotters (and Poland). The ladies’ winner, Karen Kennedy of Carnegie Harriers, crossed the line in 40:16 followed by local runner, Lynne McGill of Linlithgow AC, in 41:20.

The Fun Run enjoyed over 200 participants this year, aged eight to fifteen, who were all included in the official chip timing of the event. The winners of the 1.5k(ish) race were Lewis Pentecost and Olivia Vareille, both of Falkirk Victoria Harriers, with very impressive times of 6:09 and 6:50 respectively. Lewis successfully defending his title from last year.

CCW volunteers held the finish tape for the winners and Alison Marshall (after completing the race herself) presented the prizes to top off a great day. CCW are proud to have sponsored the event and would like to thank Linlithgow AC for staging such a wonderful day.