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NHS Staff to Get Pay Rise

It has recently been reported that 1.3 million NHS staff are being offered pay increases which will be staggered over three years. The staff that will benefit from the salary increases are ones who have an ‘Agenda for Change’ contract, this covers nurses, porters and paramedics – all professionals except doctors, dentists and senior leaders.

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Cost £4.2b

As we all know, the NHS is vastly understaffed and the loyal NHS workers have been working harder and longer hours to compensate. When staff are spread thinly this can lead to a drop in morale and makes it easier for mistakes to happen within the service, which of course can not only be costly, but can dramatically alter lives, some unfortunately ending in loss of life.

The agreement was formally agreed yesterday by union leaders and ministers, and will cost £4.2 billion.

Sara Gorton, lead negotiator for the 14 health unions, says: "It won't solve every problem in the NHS but it will go a long way towards making dedicated health staff feel more valued, lift flagging morale and help turn the tide on staffing problems."

Danny Mortimer, chief executive of NHS Employers, said “Compromises have had to be made” but he predicts the deal will make the NHS a "desirable" employer once again.

It isn't straightforward

There are certain caveats involved and it isn’t as straightforward as all employees getting a £X pay rise. Some staff will receive 6.5%; some will get rises between 9% and 29% if they are currently not at the top of their pay bands, and lowest paid staff such as cleaners, porters and catering staff could have pay rises of 15% and will benefit the most by the salary increase.

The NHS has been under pressure for a long time to retain staff, after it was revealed that one in 10 nurses were leaving the public sector in England every year.

Jeremy Hunt, Health Secretary, said the cost of the salary increases would be covered by the Treasury rather than coming out of existing NHS budgets.

He said "The agreement reflects public appreciation for just how much they have done and continue to do".

Reduce high rate of sickness

The pay rise agreement does require commitment from both staff and the Department of Health to reduce the high rate of sickness in the NHS, which of course leads to reduced levels of staff, creating a knock on effect within highly pressured jobs in A&E departments for example, along with others.

It looks like the changes won’t come into effect until summer 2018 after staff have voted, but it makes for some positive news for the NHS staff.

Motoring, Medication and The Law

I was recently asked to defend a client for a drug driving offence. He told me he had tested positive for Diazepam which his GP had prescribed him for pain relief, thereby raising the possibility of running the statutory defence.

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I eagerly filled out the relevant medical authorities and got him to sign a legal aid application whilst waiting for the CPS to forward us the prosecution papers. The papers arrived….my heart sank…”you didn’t mention the other two charges involving cocaine!”

I was able to persuade the prosecution to drop the Diazepam offence as my client accepted he had no defence to driving under the influence of cocaine…twice!

The dangers of not declaring medical conditions to The DVLA

It got me thinking about medical matters in general when it comes to motoring law.

I read recently that lots of drivers fail to disclose health problems to the DVLA, putting themselves and other road users at risk.

This could lead to a fine of up to £1,000 or possible prosecution if the driver is involved in an accident.

Mostly this is down to driver ignorance that the medical conditions could impact on driving but concerning none the less.

As well as not notifying the DVLA of medical conditions, it seems that drivers also fail to notify their insurer which could not only invalidate the policy but also lead to serious issues if there was an accident.

How to avoid your licence being revoked or refused

The Government have helpfully provided a full list of medical conditions that should be declared on their website. If in doubt, about whether to drive, drivers should speak to their GP.

Voluntarily surrender of a driving licence may mean people can drive again sooner if the medical condition is addressed and a GP declares the driver is fit to drive again.

If however the licence is revoked or refused for medical reasons, the process is more complicated and may mean the licence is never returned.

In summary, it is better to be safe than sorry!

Marriage Rates Fall Once More

The ONS has published marriage figures for the year 2015. This was the first full year that same sex couples were able to enter into a marriage. In 2015 there were 6,493 marriages between same sex couples. Marriage rates for opposite sex couples in 2015 were the lowest on record since 2009.

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Nicola Haynes, ONS Vital Statistics Output Branch has commented “Despite this overall decline, marriages in older ages rose; the number of weddings increased for men aged 50 and over and women aged 35 – 39 years and 45 and over”.

According to the statistics for 2016 divorce rates have also increased by 5.8% in comparison to the statistics for 2015. However, Nicola Haynes has said “The number remains 30% lower than the most recent peak in 2003”.

Why Should I Make a Will?

Your Will tells everyone what is to happen to your money, possessions and property after you die. If you don’t leave a Will (which is called intestacy), the law decides how your estate is dealt with, and this might not be in line with your wishes.

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The main reasons for making a Will are:-

  • A Will can make it much easier for your loved ones to sort everything out when you die, without a Will the process can be time consuming and more stressful. 

  • To appoint the person or people you would wish to act as the executor(s) of the estate (these are the person(s) who have the legal authority to deal with your estate)

  • If you don’t write a Will everything will be shared out in a particular way defined by the law, which isn’t always the way you might want. 

  • To leave something specific to someone in particular. 

  • Unmarried partners, including same-sex couples who don’t have a civil partnership, have no automatic right to inherit if there is no Will.

  • A Will is especially important if you have children or other loved ones who depend on you financially.

  • To appoint guardians who you would like to take care of your children if you die whilst they are under the age of 18. 

It is advisable to review your Will at least every five years or if you have a change in circumstance. This makes sure that it still adequately provides for your needs and to establish if there have been any changes to the law which might affect your Will.

Some such changes in circumstances that should prompt you to review your Will include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • If you get married – getting married will revoke an existing Will, unless it was made in contemplation of the marriage.

  • If you get divorced – in such circumstances your Will essentially remains valid but will be read as if your former spouse or partner has pre-deceased you. 

  • New children or grandchildren – to ensure they are included in your Will.

  • If someone named in your Will dies before you.

  • If an executor is no longer suitable, loses capacity, or dies – it is important that your executors are able and willing to administer your estate.

 

Lorry, Bus & Coach Drivers Take Note

Although it has received very little press coverage to date, from 5 March 2018, the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) will be able to fine lorry, bus or coach drivers who break the rules, by exceeding the drivers’ hours limit and not taking the required breaks, up to £300. Additionally, they may also face prosecution or have their vehicle immobilised.

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Currently the DVSA are only able to fine drivers for offences committed on the day, they will now also be able to fine drivers for offences that have been committed in the previous 28 days.

£1,500 in a single stop

DVSA traffic examiners will be able to issue fines for up to five separate offences regardless whether the offences took place here or abroad.

This means drivers could be fined up to £1,500 in a single stop, if they have repeatedly broken the rules.

Full details can be found on www.gov.uk.

Common Law Marriage Myth

To mark cohabitation week in late 2017, Resolution commissioned a poll by ComRes. The poll was recently published and worryingly found:

“37% of British adults wrongly think it is true that unmarried couples who have lived together for more than 2 years benefit from what is known as “common law” marriage”.

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What isn’t protected?

It seems that nearly two fifths of the British public are unaware that cohabiting couples do not enjoy the same or similar protection to that given to married couples. For example:-

  • Property law offers less protection to cohabiting couples than couples that are married.

  • Following separation, a former cohabitee has no legal right to continue living at a property where they are not the named tenant or legal owner.

  • A former cohabitee has no right to pursue maintenance (other than child maintenance via the Child Maintenance Service) or a pension sharing order on separation. 

  • An unmarried father does not automatically acquire parental responsibility in relation to any child of the family unless he is named on the birth certificate.

How can a cohabitation agreement can help?

Those who are currently cohabiting or contemplating cohabiting with their partner may benefit from obtaining legal advice (especially if one or both parties are considering purchasing a property). Parties may further benefit from entering into cohabitation agreements which not only can regulate the household financial responsibilities between parties, but more importantly can also deal with what will happen in the event that the parties’ relationship breaks down. In the long term this may not only save the parties a lot of stress but also potentially save a significant amount of money which may otherwise be spent on costly court proceedings.

At Lanyon Bowdler’s Family Department we offer a half hour appointment from £120 inclusive of VAT or an hour appointment from £180 inclusive of VAT. During such appointments we can advise parties more in depth as to their current rights and also whether a cohabitation agreement would be to their benefit

Cervical Cancer Screening

I recently settled a case arising out of the delay in diagnosis of cervical cancer in a young women. The consequences of what was a catalogue of errors, was terrible for this young women, who ended up having to have a radical hysterectomy at the age of 29. She has one young child but had been planning to expand her family. That opportunity was lost. She has gone into menopause at the age of 32 and has been left with bladder damage and lymphoedema. All of which could have been avoided.

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She is a remarkably strong young woman but you cannot underestimate the impact of these failings.

Victim of three errors

In my client’s case she was the victim of no less than three errors by three Trusts over a period of four years before the cervical cancer was diagnosed. The first error was in 2009 when a consultant failed to heed the advice of a pathologist, suspicious of the findings from a biopsy and unhappy with the quality of the sample. She had been referred following concerns on smear testing.

Preserving surgery would have been possible

Had this Consultant carried out the further biopsy the condition would have been identified at the pre-malignant stage, and my client would have undergone treatment by way of diathermy loop excision of the transformation zone, with appropriate follow-up to ensure complete removal of the abnormal tissue. Radical surgery would have been avoided and progression to invasive carcinoma would have been prevented. She continued to have symptoms and a further smear test in 2012 was misreported, another opportunity was missed in 2013 to carry out investigations that would have identified cervical cancer, meaning treatment would have been commenced nine months earlier and fertility preserving surgery would have been possible.

It was only after concern, following a further smear test that her cancer was identified and treatment commenced.

Importance of early detection and treatment

There has recently been another reported case of a delay in diagnosis of cervical cancer, as a result of a GP not referring a 27 year old with red flag symptoms.

What is clear from the medical evidence is the importance of early detection and treatment. The important first step is the routine smear testing. Whilst there are cases where these are interpreted incorrectly this is very rare and smear tests save lives.

Too embarrassed

Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust advises that cervical cancer is the most common cancer in women under 35. Unfortunately they also advise, following a recent survey, that young women are too embarrassed to attend for a smear test and are missing this vital screening. 75% of cervical cancers are detected on smear testing. According to statistics provided by Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust, of the five million women in the UK invited to cervical screening each year, one in four do not attend. This rises to one in three among women aged 25 to 29 and is particularly bad in some geographic areas. The statistics provided confirm that, on average, 5,000 women’s lives are saved each year through routine cervical screening.

This was also considered recently on the Victoria Derbyshire Show where they were questioning why so many women put themselves at risk by not attending for their smear test when invited. It is understandable it is not fun, as identified by the recent research there are a lot of things women would put off a smear test to do, probably pretty much anything, but we need to be open and educate each other about the importance of smear testing and raising awareness of the symptoms which will result in lives being saved..

If you or a family member has suffered in the same way regarding misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis, then contact Lanyon Bowdler to find out more about making a Cervical Cancer Claim

Reviews in Failure to Disclose Evidence

The Crown Prosecution Service has confirmed that an urgent review is going to be carried out in respect of all current rape and serious sexual assault cases, following the recent collapse of some cases where there had been failures in the disclosure of evidence.

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The police and prosecution have an ongoing duty to disclose evidence that might either assist the defence case or undermine the prosecution case but this has not been happening, risking possible miscarriages of justice.  

The recent collapse of several rape cases has heightened concerns that evidence is not being disclosed early enough and that rules are not being followed. I find this is consistent with my own daily experiences in the criminal justice system.

If anybody has any concerns regarding an ongoing case, or they feel that somebody they know may have been the victim of a possible miscarriage of justice, (particularly due to non-disclosure issues) then please do not hesitate to contact myself or one of our expert team for further advice.

Reflecting on Mediation

Family Mediation Week takes place from 22 – 26 January this year. It provides a helpful opportunity for both individuals and family practitioners to reflect on the benefits that mediation can bring for those attempting to find resolution at what is surely one of the most difficult and draining times of their lives; the breakdown of a marriage or relationship.

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Big decisions ahead

Not only does the ending of a relationship bring with it a huge emotional challenge, invariably there will be significant financial decisions to be made too, which will impact upon the entire family immensely. There will also be major decisions for a couple to make if they have children, regarding the arrangements for them. We as solicitors often see the real stress and anxiety that a divorcing spouse is faced with when contemplating the future on their own; ‘what will happen to the house?’, they may ask, or fundamentally, ‘where will our children live?’. Relationships with their soon to be ex-partner may be raw and couples may require assistance in trying to navigate a path through this unknown territory. This is where mediation, coupled with solicitor’s advice, can really assist.

What does mediation entail?

Mediation is a form of Alternative Dispute Resolution, meaning that it is an alternative option to going to Court. During mediation sessions, with the assistance of the professionally trained and independent mediator, couples will endeavour to discuss the options available to them, and hopefully reach an agreement in respect of their specific family situation, which is fair and with which both parties are content. The role of the mediator is never to make decisions for the parties but simply to help guide them, by providing information on legal principles they may wish to consider. They facilitate genuine and constructive discussions, giving the parties control of the decision made about their assets, their divorce or their children.

Always best to seek advice

Given that mediators cannot give legal advice, it is fundamental that individuals seek advice from their solicitor upon any agreement or proposals following a mediation session. There may have to be a number of sessions before an agreement can hopefully be reached. If the individuals are able to come to a decision, particularly in respect of their assets, then this will need to be incorporated by solicitors into a Consent Order, to become a legally binding agreement.

Mediation is of course not for everyone. However, it is important to remember that it is an option available for those who wish to attempt to resolve issues themselves, together , rather than asking a Judge to do so for them.

We have links with a number of Mediation Services and are able to recognise when this option may be beneficial to our clients, make a referral and provide the necessary legal advice to clients going through the mediation process.

For more information on Family Mediation Week, please visit http://www.familymediationweek.org.uk/

Monitoring Employees’ Private Communications

The European Court of Human Rights ruled yesterday that it is possible for employers to justify reading workers’ private online messages.

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The Court ruled that a Romanian company had been entitled to read deeply personal messages that one of its engineers had exchanged over Yahoo Messenger whilst he was supposed to be working. The employee, who had been communicating with his brother and his fiancée about ‘very intimate’ issues including his sexual health, was dismissed for breaking company rules against staff making personal use of work resources.

Infringed his right

The employee argued that the Romanian courts should have excluded all evidence of his personal communications on the grounds it infringed his right to respect for private life and correspondence under the European Convention on Human Rights. However, the Court recognised the need for employers to be able to verify that employees are completing professional tasks during working hours.

Warning for businesses

Whilst this is a useful decision for employers, I have the following warning for businesses.

This case has been widely reported as creating a ‘snoopers charter’ for employers, allowing unrestricted access to employees’ private messages. However, this is not the case.

In fact the Court made it clear that it is not acceptable for employers to conduct unregulated monitoring of staff’s private messages, and policies must be in place to define what information employers can collect and how. Further, any such monitoring must be reasonable and proportionate.

If employers monitor internet use, emails, telephone calls or other communications without appropriate policies in place, they risk breaching UK legislation relating to electronic communications and data protection. Further, employers can incur liability for unfair dismissal, including constructive dismissal – where an employee resigns in response to a breach of contract by the employer.

Employees be aware

Clearly, this case also shows that where employers do have appropriate policies in place, private communications made using their systems can be monitored, and this can result in disciplinary action up to and including dismissal. Indeed, in certain circumstances, employers can also access private messages and data on devices belonging to employees, such as smart phones, tablets and laptop computers, where they have been used for work-related purposes.

My suggestion

An employee should not communicate anything using a system or device that their employer has notified them can be accessed, or otherwise monitored that they would not be happy communicating directly to the employer.

Resurgence of Corporate Reorganisations

The New Year rush shows no signs of abating, with another busy week having just passed. This week I have been working with clients on a number of interesting corporate and commercial arrangements.

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Intellectual property

In particular, I have been assisting a client with the implementation of an intellectual property rights licence agreement. The client’s group is involved in the development of certain intellectual property rights relating to the renewable energy sector (some of which have been patented). As part of a new business venture, the client wishes to exploit some of these ideas and bring them to the market. Of course, one of the client’s key concerns is to ensure that its intellectual property rights are protected from the trading risks associated with this new business venture.

For this reason, we have decided to implement a group structure with a parent company owning and licensing the relevant intellectual property rights to its wholly owned subsidiary. One of the key benefits of having a non-trading holding company in place above of a trading subsidiary is that the holding company’s assets are ring-fenced from the ordinary trading risks and liabilities of the subsidiary. This concept can also be extended beyond intellectual property rights to other critical assets, such as commercial premises, goodwill and, perhaps most importantly, cash reserves. Of course, often lenders and other creditors will seek to curtail the benefits of this structure by requiring intra-group guarantees and other security; nonetheless, it is always worth exploring whether or not such a group structure is of benefit to a particular business.

Corporate reorganisations

My department has seen a resurgence of corporate reorganisations in the last 12 months or so, with clients looking to take advantage of the benefits discussed above, and we expect this trend to continue throughout 2018.

Law Firm advice for Work Experience Students

As you’re most likely aware, one of the most important things for a legal career is experience. As such, many law students and aspiring solicitors will seek and hopefully obtain work experience. It’s vital to make the most of this, and there are a few simple things you can do to help you do so.

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1. Apply in plenty of time

Law is a competitive field. It’s sensible to make sure you apply early to give yourself the best chance of scheduling in some work experience, as firms often have limited availability.

At Lanyon Bowdler we recommend students apply at least 12 months in advance, particularly if you are looking to spend a week with us in June. Undergraduates or students who are happy to join us for a week during school/university holidays still need to apply well in advance, but may find there are more options available.

2. Be prompt

Lateness is a bad sign. Make sure you arrive on time, ready for the day, every day!

3. Be enthusiastic

It might well be that you’re lucky enough to experience a variety of departments during your work experience, to give you an overview of several areas of law – certainly here at Lanyon Bowdler we try to offer this. We appreciate you might not know anything about the departments you join, so enthusiasm is really key for making sure you pick up as much as you possibly can to try to understand what life in that department is really like.

4. Ask questions

We love talking about our jobs. We really do. We very rarely have an excuse to do this, so please, take advantage – we’re very happy to answer any questions you might have!

Lanyon Bowdler does offer work experience placements. If you are looking for such a placement please contact info@lblaw.co.uk

Best of luck!

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