Category Archive: Healthcare

Employment Focus | Menopause – a time for transition of awareness within the workplace

Menopause has been a hot topic for some time now for a variety of reasons. It affects 50% of the population, usually between the ages of 45 and 55, and with more employees working through menopause than ever before, it is important for employers to take notice. Nearly three quarters of people experiencing menopause will have symptoms including hot flushes, tiredness, poor memory, concentration problems and bladder issues, as well as symptoms of anxiety, low mood and insomnia. Transgender men and people who are intersex or identify as non-binary may also experience menopause and its associated symptoms.

Menopause has been suggested as a potential reason for driving older women (as well as transgender and non-binary employees) to leave the workforce. We have also seen it cited in an increasing number of Employment Tribunal claims over recent years. In light of this, and the various headlines, we are focusing in on this topic and what employers can do to help.

Why has it been in the news?

Earlier in the year it was in the news due to rising concerns about HRT shortages, with the Government appointing a new HRT Tzar, and introducing temporary rationing to try and resolve the issue.

However, the menopause has been very much in the news over the past year following the launch, in July 2021, of an enquiry into workplace issues surrounding the menopause (the “Enquiry”) by the House of Commons Women and Equalities Select Committee (the “Committee”). This is examining existing discrimination legislation and workplace practices, to consider whether enough is being done to prevent women leaving their jobs as a result of menopausal symptoms or suffering other adverse consequences. This is supported by the Menopause (Support and Services) Bill which had its second reading debate in October 2021.

Earlier this year the Committee heard evidence as to whether the menopause should be a protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010 (“EqA 2010”) for discrimination claims. It then published the findings of its survey commissioned as part of the Enquiry which, among other things, found that nearly one third of women had taken time off due to menopause symptoms, which included issues with memory or concentration and stress[1].

On 28 July this year, the Committee published a report, ‘Menopause and the workplace’ (the “Report”). Among other things this calls on the Government to immediately commence section 14 EqA 2010 which would allow dual discrimination claims, and to consult within 6 months on making menopause a protected characteristic, including a duty to make reasonable adjustments for menopausal employees.

The current employment law position…

The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 provides for safe working and states that employers must ensure their employees’ health, safety and welfare at work. This includes employees’ working conditions when experiencing menopausal symptoms.

In terms of protection against discrimination, menopause is not in itself a protected characteristic under the EqA 2010. However, employment tribunal case law demonstrates how an employer’s treatment of staff undergoing the menopause can potentially give rise to claims of sex, age and/or disability discrimination. There have been a number of cases in recent years where employees have successfully brought claims under the EqA 2010, as well as unfair dismissal. Here are some examples:

In the case of Davies v Scottish Courts and Tribunal Services ETS/4104575/17, Ms Davies successfully claimed unfair dismissal and discrimination arising from disability. This was after she had been disciplined and dismissed as a result of peri-menopause symptoms including forgetfulness and confused behaviour which had led to her being accused of lying.

In the case of Merchant v BT Plc ET/140135/11, the Employment Tribunal upheld Ms Merchant’s direct sex discrimination and unfair dismissal claims. She had been dismissed following a final warning for poor performance. She had previously given her manager a letter from her doctor explaining that she was “going through the menopause which can affect her level of concentration at times”. In dismissing her, her manager chose not to carry out any further medical investigations in relation to her symptoms, which was in breach of BT’s performance management policy. The Employment Tribunal held that that manager would never have adopted “this bizarre and irrational approach with other non-female-related conditions”. The manager was also wrong to consider that his wife’s experience was relevant evidence.

In the case of A v Bonmarche Ltd (In administration) ETS/3107766/19 an Employment Tribunal upheld an employee’s claims of sex and age harassment. Ms A had worked in retail for 37 years and was a high achiever. In May 2017 she began to go through the menopause and her male manager would demean and humiliate her in front of younger staff who laughed. Her manager also called her a “dinosaur” in front of customers and continually criticised her unreasonably. She complained to higher management about this, but no action was taken. She suffered a breakdown in November 2018 and her manager was extremely cold and threatening towards her upon her return which ultimately led to her resignation.

In the case of Best v Embark on Raw Ltd ET/3202006/2020, an Employment Tribunal held that an employer violated an employee’s dignity and created a humiliating environment for her at work when he asked her whether she was menopausal after she made it clear she did not want to discuss the topic. As well as making a finding of harassment under the EqA 2010, the Employment Tribunal found that there has been victimisation when Ms Best was accused of moaning and being “paranoid”, “petty” and “obsessed”, given a verbal warning and ultimately dismissed due to the complaints she had raised.

What can employers do…?

The Committee also heard that employees and employers have a lack of clarity of employer’s obligations to employees experiencing the menopause and that increased awareness and guidance of the issues would be helpful. The Committee’s most recent report states that there is much employers should do to help employees, citing solutions such as ‘allowing additional flexibility and understanding, alongside fostering a greater respect and understanding of menopause’[2]. So what can employers do in the meantime?

Supportive environment

Employers should create an open and supportive environment where employees can feel able (if they wish) to speak in confidence about symptoms without embarrassment or negative consequence.

Training

Training staff in order to increase awareness of the menopause and its symptoms for all staff in the workplace will be beneficial, particularly for managers. This will be in relation to the potential impact the menopause can have on work and in dealing with menopause-related issues.

Menopause policy

A clear policy can be implemented in order to raise awareness and discourage discrimination. This can be used to confirm an employer’s commitment to open and honest discussions about the impact of the menopause and to set out type of support that might be available.

Flexible working

Considering allowing individuals to work flexibly when necessary.

We will need to wait and see as to what action is taken in response to the Report, and whether this results in any legislative changes. In the meantime, it is important that employers are aware of the potential discrimination claims that may arise as a result of the treatment of employees experiencing symptoms associated with the menopause. It is increasingly important that employers are aware, together with their staff, of the potential impact the menopause can have.  The Acas guidance ‘Menopause at Work’ can be found here.

If you have any questions or would like any further information in relation to this topic, please contact Catherine Hope or a member of the employment team.

[1] Women and Equalities Committee: Menopause and the workplace survey results (23 February 2022)

[2] Women and Equalities Committee: Menopause and the workplace (28 July 2022)

Ask the Experts – a Monthly Q&A with Sintons’ Employment Team – episode 35

Today we recorded our ‘Ask the Experts monthly Q&A with Sintons’ Employment Team – episode 35’ – with Angela Carver and Catherine Hope. These sessions came about due to the employment team here at Sintons having been inundated with COVID-19 and furlough questions following the introduction of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and the ever changing government guidance.

Our session today covers the following questions:

  • Can I dismiss on the spot with less than 2 years’ service?
  • Manual right to work checks and the statutory excuse defence
  • Do I have to give a reference?

For your convenience we have also recorded this session as both a webinar and podcast, links to both are below.

Ask the Experts – a Monthly Q&A with Sintons’ Employment Team – episode 34

Today we recorded our ‘Ask the Experts monthly Q&A with Sintons’ Employment Team – episode 34’ – with Keith Land and Ailsa Hobson. These sessions came about due to the employment team here at Sintons having been inundated with COVID-19 and furlough questions following the introduction of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and the ever changing government guidance.

Our session today covers the following questions:

  • Is there a requirement for an irreducible minimum obligation to accept/offer work when considering worker status?
  • How do you identify a potential comparator where this is required in discrimination cases? – Part 2

For your convenience we have also recorded this session as both a webinar and podcast, links to both are below.

Sintons Summer Drinks returns for 2022

Professionals working across the world of healthcare will again attend a key annual event in Sintons’ calendar this summer.

The specialist healthcare and Neurotrauma teams at Sintons will again host key contacts from around the country at their Summer Drinks event, to be held on June 29.

The event, held at Wylam Brewery’s Palace of Arts in Newcastle, attracts scores of leading professionals from across the entire healthcare sector, comprising NHS and private practitioners working across a spectrum of clinical roles.

Sintons is nationally-renowned in both its healthcare and Neurotrauma specialisms, with its healthcare team – top-rated by Legal 500 – acting for NHS Trusts and healthcare organisations throughout the country.

Its Neurotrauma team is regularly instructed by clients on a national basis, winning work on the strength of its reputation for legal and client service, and fighting hard to secure the very best outcome for individuals and families affected by life-changing injury.

Amanda Maskery, head of NHS healthcare at Sintons, said: “We welcome any opportunity to connect with our colleagues from the world of healthcare, particularly after two years of having to resort primarily to meeting online, and our Summer Drinks presents a very welcome social occasion to do so.

“As a renowned specialist advisor to NHS Trusts and organisations throughout the country, we are very pleased to host this event to unite many key names from across the sector. We look forward to welcoming our guests.”

Andrew McGowan, head of Neurotrauma, added: “Our Neurotrauma team continues to grow on the strength of our work and the outcomes we secure for our clients, and through close co-operation and strong relationships with fellow professionals in this sector, we can only continue to improve the lives of those who need our support. Events such as this one provide a very welcome social opportunity to build those relationships further.

“Our reputation and network extends nationally, and we know how much many of our colleagues and contemporaries love a trip to Newcastle – and particularly to a venue such as the Palace of Arts – so we are very much looking forward to this event.”

Employment Law E-Bulletin – Issue 81

  • Ali v Heathrow Express and Redline Assured Security Ltd [2022] EAT 54 – Conduct may not be classed as harassment if there was no intention
  • Covid-19 – Living with Covid-19 in the workplace from April 2022
  • Mr R Rimal v BSS Associates Ltd 2204538/2021 – Failing to provide a contract of employment can increase compensation awards

 

Ali v Heathrow Express and Redline Assured Security Ltd UKEAT/0105/19 – Conduct may not be classed as harassment if there was no intention

The claimant, Mr Anis Ali, worked as a security guard at Heathrow airport (“First Respondent”. Redline Assured Security Ltd (“Second Respondent”), was responsible for security checks at the airport which involved creating and leaving suspicious objects to test how the security officers responded to such threats. This would then allow analysis to be undertaken to identify any weaknesses and the necessary improvements to be made. In this instance, a test was carried out using a bag containing a box, some electric cabling and a visible piece of paper with the word ‘Allahu Akbar’ written in Arabic. Mr Ali, who was a Muslim, received an email with the images of the testing which was circulated by the First Respondent. He claimed that this associated Muslims with terrorism and therefore amounted to direct discrimination and harassment.

Under section 26(1) of the Equality Act 2010 (“EqA 2010”) harassment occurs when an individual engages in unwanted conducted relating to a protected characteristic (in this case religion or belief) towards another individual and that conduct has the purpose or effect of violating that person’s dignity or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for that individual.

In the first instance, the Employment Tribunal decided that the conduct by the Second Respondent amounted to neither direct discrimination nor harassment. In terms of harassment, in all the circumstances, it was not reasonable for Mr Ali to perceive the conduct as having the effect required under 26(1) EqA 2010. Mr Ali should have understood that the Second Respondent was not seeking to associate Islam with terrorism. The item was used in the context of recent incidents in which the phrase had been used by terrorists, and the Second Respondent produced the item based on possible threats to the airport.

Mr Ali appealed against the Employment Tribunal’s decision in relation to the harassment claim, stating that this was either perverse or insufficiently reasoned. The Employment Appeal Tribunal dismissed both grounds of appeal. It held that Mr Ali’s perception was just one of the matters for the Employment Tribunal to consider when considering whether the conduct amounted to harassment under the EqA 2010. It held that the conduct ‘related’ to religion rather than being ‘on the grounds of/because of’ Mr Ali’s religion. Mr Ali should have appreciated or reasonably appreciated its purpose and intention.

Points to note:

This decision highlights the importance of context when it comes to concluding the perceived effect of conduct on an individual and whether this is reasonable. Here the conduct was found not to have been directed at the claimant because of his religion and it was held that he should have appreciated the reason for it.

Covid-19 – Living with Covid-19 in the workplace from April 2022

From 1 April 2022, the health and safety requirement for every employer to explicitly consider Covid-19 in its risk assessment was removed. The Government has now put the onus on employers to take responsibility and to have the autonomy to make an assessment based on their particular requirements and circumstances. The Working Safely During Coronavirus (COVID-19) has now been replaced with new guidance from 1 April 2022 – ‘Reducing the spread of respiratory infections, including COVID-19, in the workplace’. The guidance includes the symptoms to look out for, what to do if a member of staff has symptoms of a respiratory infection (including COVID-19), actions to reduce the spread of respiratory infections (including COVID-19) and management of members of staff who are at risk of serious illness from COVID-19.

Although the Government has now removed the requirement to explicitly consider COVID-19, employers will still need to consider their statutory and common law health and safety duties.

Mr R Rimal v BSS Associates Ltd 2204538/2021 – Failing to provide a contract of employment can increase compensation awards

The claimant, Mr Rimal, was employed by the respondent, BSS Associates Ltd (“BSS), as a Senior Accountant for five years from 1st March 2016 until 30th June 2021. In June 2021, he received his P45 from BSS which confirmed his employment would be ending at the end of June 2021. This did not contain the reasons why his employment would be ending. Mr Rimal subsequently contacted BSS to request the reasons why he had been dismissed. This was met with an unhelpful response from BSS which did not clarify the reason. Mr Rimal brought claims for unfair dismissal, the wages owed to him for June 2021, holiday pay and notice pay.

The Employment Tribunal (the “ET) noted that Mr Rimal was dismissed by BSS without any disciplinary process and that BSS failed to follow the Acas Code of Practice on disciplinary and grievance procedures. More importantly, BSS had failed to make any attempt to comply with any legal requirements when dismissing Mr Rimal.

Additionally, the ET found that BSS had not provided Mr Rimal with a written statement of employment particulars during his employment. Most notably, the ET decided to increase the award for this specific failure from two weeks’ wages to four, because it held that it was just and equitable to do so. This was because, as a firm of professionals, BSS was used to dealing with legal rules in its business and use to instructing other professionals such as lawyers. The starting point for an award where there has been a specific failure to provide written particulars of employment is a minimum of two weeks’ pay. The ET may award the higher amount (four weeks’ pay) if it considers it just and equitable in all the circumstances, as it did so in this case.

All other claims succeeded against BSS and Mr Rimal was awarded £36,664.76.

Points to note:

Although this is a first instance decision and therefore not binding, it is an important reminder that the ET will take into account the type of business/organisation a respondent is when considering what is ‘just and equitable’. Here, the fact that BSS was used to dealing with legal requirements was a factor taken into account, and ultimately led to increased damages being awarded against it for failure to provide written particulars of employment.

Ask the Experts – a Monthly Q&A with Sintons’ Employment Team – episode 33

Today we recorded our ‘Ask the Experts monthly Q&A with Sintons’ Employment Team – episode 33’ – with Keith Land and Catherine Hope.

These sessions came about due to the employment team here at Sintons having been inundated with COVID-19 and furlough questions following the introduction of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and the ever changing government guidance.

Our session today covers the following questions:

  • If an employer dismisses a disabled employee, but fails to make a reasonable adjustment during that process, must that render the dismissal unfair?
  • How do you identify a potential comparator where this is required in discrimination cases?
  • Should an employer who has a practice of giving time off in lieu (TOIL) pay for accrued TOIL on termination?

For your convenience we have also recorded this session as both a webinar and podcast, links to both are below.

Sintons’ healthcare team to exhibit at the British Dental Conference & Dentistry Show 2022

Dental specialists from Sintons are again attending one of the sector’s major events – the British Dental Conference and Dentistry Show.

The event brings together professionals from across the country, and promotes collaboration and joint working from all parts of dentistry to build a better future for the profession.

The Dentistry Show, held on May 13 and 14 at the Birmingham NEC, will again be attended by members of Sintons’ specialist dental team, who work with dentists and dental businesses on a national basis.

The law firm will be among the exhibitors at the event, which brings together leading names from across the profession to create a two-day conference and exhibition attended by more than 10,000 delegates from across the UK.

As a leading specialist advisor, Sintons is a regular attendee of the sector’s major events, and recently exhibited at the BDIA Showcase.

“We are absolutely delighted to have the opportunity to attend events in-person again, and for the sector to again be reunited at major occasions in the dental calendar like the British Dental Conference and Dentistry Show,” says Karen Simms, partner and dental specialist at Sintons and one of the team who will be attending the dental show.

“Sharing knowledge and collaboration is vital to the further development of dentistry, and as leading specialist legal advisors to the profession, we are keen to play our role in this.

“Through attending the Dentistry Show, we look forward to meeting peers from across the country and supporting them in any way we can in planning for their future. We are very much looking forward to again being part of this event.”

Ask the Experts – a Monthly Q&A with Sintons’ Employment Team – episode 32

Today we recorded our ‘Ask the Experts monthly Q&A with Sintons’ Employment Team – episode 32’ – with Keith Land and Angela Carver.

These sessions came about due to the employment team here at Sintons having been inundated with COVID-19 and furlough questions following the introduction of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and the ever changing government guidance.

Our session today covers the following questions:

  • Do I pay a bonus to an individual on sick leave?
  • Do I need to offer a self employed role to an individual at risk of redundancy?
  • How can I minimise harassment in the workplace?

For your convenience we have also recorded this session as both a webinar and podcast, links to both are below.

Whistleblower receives £1.25m settlement and apology

A former government vet, Dr Tamara Bronckaers, resigned from the Department of Agriculture and Environment (“DAE”) following concerns she raised about animal welfare and traceability in the meat supply of livestock markets. In September 2021 an industrial tribunal in Northern Ireland found that she had been constructively dismissed and the DAE had initially appealed. However, the DAE dropped its appeal earlier this month and Dr Bronckaers received a £1.25m settlement and an apology.

In summary:

  • Dr Bronckaers worked at the DAE for 19 years and was an expert on livestock legislation. She identified serious failings in animal welfare at livestock markets and failings which allowed livestock to be deleted from sections of the tracing systems used to track livestock (animals with fewer moves are more valuable).
  • This could subsequently affect the traceability of meat and monitoring of disease in cattle.
  • Livestock were kept overnight at markets without the necessary bedding, water and food.
  • Concerns were reported to colleagues, including her line manager which was met with no action. Dr Bronckaers was persistent in raising the concerns with emails ignored
  • The tribunal found she was professionally ignored and excluded by her line manager
  • It was also found that behaviour towards Dr Bronckaers was intimidating and dismissive towards her as a professional
  • It was held she was subjected to detriment on the grounds of having raised protected disclosures and unfairly dismissed which was automatically unfair as she was dismissed due to raising protected disclosures

This is a useful reminder that there is no limit on the amount that can be awarded in cases of unfair dismissal as a result of a protected disclosure, which this settlement sum will have taken into account.

If you would like any further information in relation to this topic, please contact a member of the Employment team.

Employment Law E-Bulletin – Issue 80

  • Kocur v Angard Staffing Solution Ltd UKEAT/0105/19 – An agency worker under the Agency Workers Regulations 2010 does not have the right to apply for a directly employed vacancy with the hirer
  • Covid-19 – temporary Statutory Sick Pay provisions revoked from March 2022
  • Waters v The Mote Cricket Club [2022] EAT 28 – A worker operating through own business was not entitled to holiday pay as he was not a worker or employee

 

Kocur v Angard Staffing Solution Ltd UKEAT/0105/19 – An agency worker under the Agency Workers Regulations 2010 does not have the right to apply for a directly employed vacancy with the hirer

The Court of Appeal has held that an agency worker did not have the right to apply for a directly employed vacancy with a hirer, but simply had to be given the same information that was shared with internal candidates.

The Agency Workers Regulations 2010 (“AWR” 2010) is intended to give effect to the Temporary Agency Workers Directive (2008/104/EC) (the “Directive”). Regulation 13(1) of the AWR 2010 is intended to implement Article 6(1) of the Directive and is a right that temporary agency workers are eligible for from day one of an assignment. It provides that: “An agency worker has during an assignment the right to be informed by the hirer of any relevant vacant posts with the hirer, to give that agency worker the same opportunity as a comparable worker to find permanent employment with the hirer … the hirer may inform the agency worker by a general announcement in a suitable place in the hirer’s establishment.”

The claimant, Mr Kocur, was employed by Angard Staffing Solutions Ltd (“Angard”). Angard was a wholly owned subsidiary of Royal Mail providing workers to Royal Mail, enabling it to respond to the fluctuating demand for postal workers. Mr Kocur was given regular work with Royal Mail, and Angard determined his work and conditions of employment. He alleged breaches of the AWR 2010, specifically relating to the advertisement of internal vacancies. Internal vacancies were advertised internally and put up on the noticeboard and offered to Royal Mail operatives in permanent posts first. Agency workers were not eligible to apply for the posts until they were advertised externally. However, when they were advertised externally, they were then in the pool of competition with all other external applicants.

Mr Kocur argued that regulation 13 of the AWR 2010 had been breached as he had not been able to apply for internal vacancies as permanent workers were able to. In the first instance, an Employment Tribunal held the provision under the AWR 2010 not only included the right to receive the same level of information as directly recruited employees, but also the right to apply and to be considered for internal vacancies in the same way. However, the Employment Appeal Tribunal (“EAT”) disagreed, stating that this did not extend to the right to apply for internal vacancies. It was sufficient if agency workers were informed of the relevant vacancies even if they were not given the same opportunity to apply for them.

The Court of Appeal reaffirmed the EAT’s position. It stated that if the AWR 2010 intended to include the right to apply for a vacancy it would have stated this and that it would have included information as to how this should be implemented.

Points to note:

This decision acknowledges the Directive’s position, that agency workers are not, in every way, comparable with permanent workers. It is useful confirmation for employers that regulation 13 of the AWR will be complied with where agency workers are notified of and provided with information about vacancies on the same basis as directly recruited employees.

Covid-19 – temporary Statutory Sick Pay provisions revoked

In response to the Covid-19 pandemic, the Government made some changes to the legislation concerning Statutory Sick Pay (“SSP”) to allow for individuals to be deemed to be incapable of work and therefore entitled to receive SSP where they were self-isolating or shielding.  These changes disapplied waiting days where an individual’s incapacity for work was related to COVID-19 so that SSP was available from the first day of incapacity.

As of 25 March 2022, the Statutory Sick Pay (General) (Coronavirus Amendment) Regulations 2022 revoked these changes. This means that to be eligible for SSP individuals must now be sick or incapable of work, meaning that those who are asymptomatic or only have very mild symptoms will no longer be eligible for SSP even where they test positive. In addition, the entitlement to SSP no longer starts from day one of an employee’s absence relating to Covid-19 but has reverted back to the fourth day of absence.

Waters v The Mote Cricket Club [2022] EAT 28 – A worker operating through own business was not entitled to holiday pay as he was not a worker or employee

An Employment Tribunal (“ET”) held that the claimant, Mr Waters, was not an employee or worker of The Mote Cricket Club (the “Club”), but in business on his own account. Mr Waters was offered a contract by the Club on a contractor basis.

Mr Waters had his own gardening business which he had set up in 2011. The Club engaged his business in relation to the upkeep of its cricket pitches. Under the terms of the contract, 60 hours of work per week was required during the summer months, 40 of which had to be carried out by Mr Waters personally. Mr Waters attempted to renegotiate the terms against the Club and brought a claim against it when he was unsuccessful. The Club terminated the contract. Mr Waters pursued claims for holiday pay and notice pay on the basis that he was a worker or employee due to the control that the Club had over his work. However, at a preliminary hearing the ET held that he was not a worker or employee. A number of findings contributed to this conclusion, including, amongst other things, that Mr Waters was not under any control or supervision, he was expected to provide his own equipment from time to time, and he engaged other individuals to provide work under the contract with the Club.

Mr Waters’ appeal was dismissed by the EAT. It was found that although he was sometimes required to carry out additional work, this was not a key factor in determining whether or not he was a worker. Even if a person enters into a contract where it might be necessary to perform additional work for which there will be no further renumeration, this is consistent with someone who is a self-employed person in business on their own account. The EAT held that the ET had been entitled to find there were no fixed start and finish times which might be common in employment, and that there was also no requirement for Mr Waters to do the work personally. This work could be performed by a member of his team. Ultimately, the EAT held that there was not the type of control or monitoring that you would find with someone who was not in business on their own account.

Points to note:

This judgement is another reminder that the question of employment status is very fact specific. Courts will consider the reality of the working arrangements, as well as the terms of any written contract. Here Mr Waters was already running his own business when he contracted with the Club.

It is extremely important to ensure that engaged individuals have the correct label that truly reflects the relationship with an organisation. Getting it wrong can bring exposure to a number of employment tribunal claims, as well as tax and national insurance liabilities.

Discrimination compensation – update on the guidelines for injury to feelings awards

Guidelines for the amount of compensation to be awarded for injury to feelings in discrimination claims have been significantly updated. Unlike unfair dismissal compensation, which is limited to financial loss, discrimination compensation can also cover non-financial loss. In most cases, this will include an injury to feeling award. The leading case of Vento v Chief Constable of West Yorkshire Police (No 2) [2003] IRLR 102 set out three bands for the potential awards for injury to feelings in discrimination claims. Regularly referred to as the ‘Vento bands’, these include a lower band, middle band, and top band which outline the amounts available for compensation depending on the seriousness of the case.

The Presidents of the Employment Tribunals in England & Wales and in Scotland have now issued updated guidance which amends the bandings, taking into account inflation. For claims presented on or after 6 April 2022, the bands will be as follows:

  • a lower band of £990 to £9,900 (less serious cases);
  • a middle band of £9,900 to £29,600 (cases that do not merit an award in the upper band);
  • an upper band of £29,600 to £49,300 (the most serious cases); and
  • the exceptional cases will be capable of exceeding £49,300

However, claims presented in Scotland will remain subject to the bands in paragraph 12 of the Presidential Guidance issued on 5 September 2017.

If you would like any further information in relation to this topic, please contact a member of the Employment team.

Ask the Experts – a Monthly Q&A with Sintons’ Employment Team – episode 31

Today we recorded our ‘Ask the Experts monthly Q&A with Sintons’ Employment Team – episode 31’ – with Keith Land and Catherine Hope.

These sessions came about due to the employment team here at Sintons having been inundated with COVID-19 and furlough questions following the introduction of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and the ever changing government guidance.

Our session today covers the following questions:

  • What pay is an employee entitled to when they are self-isolating without symptoms?
  • Can an employer force an employee to tell them who their new employer is going to be?
  • Can an employer require an employee to use annual leave during a phased return?

For your convenience we have also recorded this session as both a webinar and podcast, links to both are below.

Ask the Experts – a Monthly Q&A with Sintons’ Employment Team – episode 30

Today we recorded our ‘Ask the Experts monthly Q&A with Sintons’ Employment Team – episode 30’ – with Angela Carver and Emily Richardson.

These sessions came about due to the employment team here at Sintons having been inundated with COVID-19 and furlough questions following the introduction of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and the ever changing government guidance.

Our session today covers the following questions:

  • Can an employer recruit after redundancy, and if so, when?
  • Where an employee is on nil pay (having exhausted sick pay) and has a long notice period, and the employer wants to exercise a PILON, will the PILON be exercised on the basis of zero pay, so the employee does not receive any payment?
  • The end of the isolation period

For your convenience we have also recorded this session as both a webinar and podcast, links to both are below.

Employment Law E-Bulletin – Issue 79

  • Government contemplates revoking mandatory vaccination requirements in care homes and the health and social care sector
  • Lee v United Kingdom (Application no. 18860/19) – The European Court rules the long running ‘gay cake’ case as inadmissible
  • Chell v Tarmac Cement and Lime Ltd [2022] EWCA Civ 7 – Employer held not liable for injury caused by another employee practical joke
  • Menopause: MPs hear evidence on whether menopause should be a protected characteristic

Government contemplates revoking mandatory vaccination requirements in care homes and the health and social care sector

On 31 January 2022, the Government announced that the mandatory vaccination requirement as a condition of deployment in the health and social sector may be revoked.

The Health and Social Care Act 2008 (Regulated Activities) (Amendment) (Coronavirus) (No. 2) Regulations 2022 (SI 2022/15) (the “Regulations”) were due to come into force on 1 April this year and were set to extend mandatory vaccination to workers in the health and social care sector who had face to face contact with service users.

Guidance had previously stated that the latest date workers could receive their first vaccination was 3 February 2020 to have had their second dose by the 1 April deadline.

However, in light of reports that over 127,000 NHS workers and domiciliary staff are still unvaccinated (and so would likely be facing dismissal) and evidence that the new Omicron variant is less severe than the previous Delta variant, the Health Secretary Sajid Javid outlined the need for the Regulations (and the legislation relating to mandatory vaccination in care homes) to be reviewed, confirming an intention to revoke both.

This intention is now subject to a two-week statutory consultation and parliamentary approval. In a parliamentary debate Sajid Javid confirmed that unvaccinated care home staff who had been dismissed from their roles may choose to return to their roles without reinstated continuity of employment.

Lee v United Kingdom (Application no. 18860/19) -The European Court rules the long running ‘gay cake’ case as inadmissibl

The European Court of Human Rights (“ECHR”) ruled that gay rights activist, Gareth Lee, was not discriminated against when the Christian owners of a Belfast bakery refused to produce a cake depicted with the characters ‘Bert and Ernie’ and the words “Support Gay Marriage”.

In 2014, Mr Lee had approached Ashers Bakery to make a cake for a private event which marked the end of the Northern Ireland Anti-Homophobia and Transphobia week (amid great political debate due to same sex marriage still being illegal in Northern Ireland at the time). After initially accepting the order, Ashers’ owners, the McArthurs, decided that they would not be making the cake on the grounds of their Christian beliefs and offered a full refund.

Mr Lee subsequently brought indirect and direct discrimination claims under domestic legislation.

The County Court upheld the claims which prompted the McArthurs to appeal, stating that the legislation under which Mr Lee’s claim was brought was incompatible with their European Convention rights. However, the Court of Appeal held that it was not necessary to interpret the legislation to take their rights into account and that Mr Lee had suffered direct discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation.

As a result, permission was sought to apply to the Supreme Court regarding the validity of the legislation. Here, it was found that there was a lack of sufficiently close association for a finding of such discrimination. It was held that the refusal was not due to the sexual orientation of the customer, but instead due to the McArthurs’ religious objections to same-sex marriage.

Mr Lee took the case to the ECHR, alleging the Supreme Court had “failed to afford weight to his Convention rights.” However, it was held that he had “failed to exhaust domestic remedies” by bringing the complaints under the domestic legislation instead of under the relevant ECHR Articles. As the lower courts were “deprived of the opportunity to consider and rule on those rights”, the case was inadmissible.

Points to note:

The Christian Institute welcomed the “right result” and director of the Evangelical Alliance, Peter Lynas, said the decision aligned with “freedom of conscience, speech and belief and whether someone could be forced to create a message they profoundly disagreed with.”  However, John O’Doherty, Director of the Rainbow Project (a Belfast-based gay rights campaign group) sees the decision as meaning that “legal uncertainty will remain.”

Lee is not the first case looking at discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation. Similar cases involving the refusal to perform same sex ceremonies and a counsellor refusing to provide advice have reached the courts. However, they were ruled in favour of the claimants (who did raise Convention rights in the lower courts). The most notable is Bull and Preddy v Hall. Here, the Supreme Court ruled against the Christian owners of a bed and breakfast who had discriminated against a gay couple, by refusing them a room due to religious views on the sanctity of marriage. Whilst the owners argued rooms were reserved for heterosexual married couples only (and so would have refused a room to an unmarried heterosexual couple too), this reasoning did not stand.

Therefore, it raises the question as to whether the decision in Lee would have been different had the claimant also raised his Convention rights in the lower courts.

Chell v Tarmac Cement and Lime Ltd [2022] EWCA Civ 7 – Employer held not liable for injury caused by another employee practical joke

The Court of Appeal (“CA”) has upheld a County Court decision that an employer was not liable for injury caused by a practical joke to an external contractor, by one of its employees.

The appellant, Mr Chell, was an external contractor engaged by Tarmac to work on a quarry site. During the course of the work, tensions had arisen between the external contractors and employees of Tarmac which Mr Chell had raised with his supervisor, but he had not requested to move sites.

Sometime later, one of Tarmac’s employees played a practical joke on Mr Chell, by hitting some explosive pellets (bought off-site) with a hammer, next to Mr Chell’s ear. This caused Mr Chell to suffer a perforated ear drum, tinnitus and hearing loss.

In the County Court, Mr Chell claimed Tarmac was vicariously liable for the employee’s actions, and also that it was directly liable for failing in its duty of care to prevent a foreseeable risk of injury. However, these claims were dismissed in the County Court, the High Court, and most recently, the CA.

In an employment relationship, vicarious liability involves an employer being liable for the wrongs committed by an employee where there is sufficient connection between these wrongs and the employee’s employment such that it would be fair to hold the employer to be vicariously liable.

In considering vicarious liability, the CA held that there was an insufficiently close connection between the work carried out by the employees, and the practical joke. The equipment used did not belong to Tarmac and it was not used in the employee’s course of employment. It could not therefore be said that Tarmac authorised the employee’s behaviour. As such, it would not be fair, just or reasonable to hold Tarmac vicariously liable.

In terms of the claim for a breach in duty of care, the CA held that it would not be reasonable or realistic to expect employers to be liable for unforeseeable ‘horseplay’. Common sense dictates that employees act with reasonable care and skill in the course of their employment, and so this head of claim was also dismissed.

Points to note:

This common sense decision is welcome news for employers as it confirms that it would be unusual for employers to be liable for personal injury cause by employees’ unforeseen practical jokes.

That being said, employers still have a duty to protect the health and safety of their employees and third parties who work on their premises. They should make sure that they are fully aware of their responsibilities and that they have appropriate and comprehensive policies and procedures in place to cover these. Employers will still need to show that they are taking reasonable steps to prevent foreseeable issues.

Menopause: MPs hear evidence on whether menopause should be a protected characteristic

On 19 January 2022, as part of its inquiry into menopause and the workplace, the Women and Equalities Select Committee heard evidence from employment lawyers as to whether the menopause should be made a legally protected characteristic.

As menopause is not yet a protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010, if an employee or worker is treated less favourably due to any related symptoms, they must seek to rely on another protected characteristic such as age, disability, gender reassignment or sex.

However, with one in four employees in the workplace being menopausal or post-menopausal, and reports that women are facing discrimination or missed opportunities if they are (or are perceived to be) going through the menopause, changes are being sought to address this.

Alongside these reports, businesses have also stated that they lack clarity over their obligations towards employees going through menopause, so it is clear that more needs to be done.

Allette v Scarsdale Grange Nursing Home Ltd: Employee’s dismissal for refusing Covid-19 vaccination was fair and interference with Article 8 right to privacy was justified

The claimant, Ms Allette, worked in a nursing home providing care to dementia sufferers.

Whilst not required under statute at the time, the home had implemented vaccinations as a condition of employment for their workforce, to protect its residents, staff and visitors.

The claimant had vocalised her reluctance of the vaccine and refused to comply, initially because she “did not trust the vaccine would be safe [as it had] been rushed through testing.” However, she later changed her reasoning at a disciplinary hearing, held for failing to follow management instruction, to state that the refusal was due to her Rastafarian beliefs.

This latter changed reasoning was not accepted by her employer and as a result, Ms Allette was summarily dismissed. This resulted in claims for wrongful and unfair dismissal.

The decision

The tribunal agreed that the claimant had breached the home’s Disciplinary Policy, which explicitly listed “Gross insubordination or refusal to carry out legitimate instructions” as examples of gross misconduct. Therefore, dismissal without notice was permitted.

Further, whilst the court agreed that the claimant’s Article 8 (1) rights were engaged, this interference was held to be justified under Article 8 (2) as there was a legitimate aim behind the requirements to be vaccinated and the claimant’s dismissal. When this interference was balanced against the interference of the residents who were placed at risk (and who did not have capacity) the rights of the latter prevailed and the claimant’s interference was also held to be proportionate.

The tribunal also accepted that the refusal was due to fears over the vaccine’s safety and not, as later claimed due to her religious beliefs (which, if true, would have been raised from the outset). The employer genuinely believed the claimant was guilty of gross misconduct and no alternative roles were available which did not require vaccination. Therefore, dismissing the claimant was held to be within the reasonable responses of the respondent.

What is to be taken from this decision

This is an employment tribunal decision, which means it does not create a binding precedent which must be followed. Further, the decision rested on the refusal to comply with management instructions according to an existing policy, which means that a different set of facts could result in a different decision – so the decision must be followed with caution.

It is likely that the approach will also differ where vaccinations are a mandatory condition of entering care homes under the new Regulations. Notwithstanding that the government has recently announced potentially revoking the new Regulations for NHS workers (which will inevitably impact on care homes), here employers will likely rely on their legal obligation to comply with the Regulations to ensure a fair dismissal. Instead, the focus may more likely be on the procedure leading up to the dismissal and ensuring it was correct.

The case has, however, shown an insight into the approach the courts will take on Article 8 interference and that refusal due to mere concern about the vaccine may not suffice.

If you would like any further information in relation to this topic, please contact a member of the Employment team.

Ask the Experts – a Monthly Q&A with Sintons’ Employment Team – episode 29

Today we recorded our ‘Ask the Experts monthly Q&A with Sintons’ Employment Team – episode 28’ – with Catherine Hope and Emily Richardson. These sessions came about due to the employment team here at Sintons having been inundated with COVID-19 and furlough questions following the introduction of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and the ever changing government guidance.

Our session today covers the following questions:

  • As companies such as IKEA and Morrisons have cut sick pay for unvaccinated staff who are self-isolating, are we able to do the same? If so, how would we go about this and what implications do we need to consider?
  • Now that isolation periods have been reduced to 5 days if employees receive two negative LFT, do we have to implement this into our policies, or can we keep the period at 10 days?
  • In light of the Covid-19 vaccine becoming mandatory for CQC-regulated NHS staff, what do we need to do and what considerations do we need to take into account if employees refuse?

For your convenience we have also recorded this session as both a webinar and podcast, links to both are below.

Ask the Experts – a Monthly Q&A with Sintons’ Employment Team – episode 28

Today we recorded our ‘Ask the Experts monthly Q&A with Sintons’ Employment Team – episode 28’ – with Ailsa Hobson and Emily Richardson. These sessions came about due to the employment team here at Sintons having been inundated with COVID-19 and furlough questions following the introduction of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and the ever changing government guidance.

Our session today covers the following questions:

  • How can an employer ensure that they follow a fair process when recruiting internal and external candidates?
  • If an employee takes too much holiday in one holiday year, what options are open to employers?
  • Can an employer rely on a specific flexibility clause to require employees to work from home indefinitely?

For your convenience we have also recorded this session as both a webinar and podcast, links to both are below.

Sintons supports Newcastle Hospitals Charity

Staff and patients in two flagship Newcastle hospitals will receive some festive cheer this Christmas through a donation from law firm Sintons.

Sintons has become a partner supporter of Newcastle Hospitals Charity – the dedicated charity for Newcastle Hospitals – which has seen it make a contribution towards making Christmas a special one for those in hospital.

The charity – which supports Newcastle Hospitals – will use the financial donation from Sintons to buy items including decorations for the wards, as well as funding seasonal gifts and activities for staff and patients alike.

The firm’s neurotrauma and serious injury teams also work closely with many patients who are treated by the Trust, supporting them and their families to rebuild their lives following life-changing injury.

Kate Oliver, partner and specialist serious injury lawyer at Sintons, said: “Newcastle Hospitals are quite rightly renowned around the country for the amazing work they do in treating patients and supporting them and their families during the most difficult of times. We’re delighted to be partnering with Newcastle Hospitals Charity to offer support at this special time of year.”

“After another year in which frontline staff have battled huge pressures to deliver the most outstanding care, we wanted to help show our gratitude for the phenomenal roles they all play by helping to bring a bit of Christmas cheer to the wards.

Head of NHS Healthcare at Sintons, Amanda Maskery added: “Being in hospital over Christmas is extremely difficult for patients, so we hope our donation will also bring some joy to them and make their festive season that little bit brighter.”

Sonia Graham, Fundraising Manager at Newcastle Hospitals Charity said: “We are very grateful to Sintons for their wonderful support this festive season. Their generosity will make a huge difference to staff and patients at this very special time of year.”

Ask the Experts – a Monthly Q&A with Sintons’ Employment Team – episode 27

Today we recorded our ‘Ask the Experts monthly Q&A with Sintons’ Employment Team – episode 27’ – with Catherine Hope and Fiona Campbell. These sessions came about due to the employment team here at Sintons having been inundated with COVID-19 and furlough questions following the introduction of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and the ever changing government guidance.

Our session today covers the following questions:

  • Settlement agreements – what are the requirements and considerations for employers?
  • How should an employer approach a flexible working request by an employee?
  • Is overtime included in “normal working hours” for the purpose of calculating statutory redundancy payments?

For your convenience we have also recorded this session as both a webinar and podcast, links to both are below.

GP Mergers

In the third of our ‘Top tips for GPs’ podcast series, Head of NHS Healthcare Amanda Maskery gives an overview of GP Mergers.

Please click on the play button below to listen.

Ask the Experts – a Monthly Q&A with Sintons’ Employment Team – episode 26

Today we recorded our ‘Ask the Experts monthly Q&A with Sintons’ Employment Team – episode 26’ – with Catherine Hope and Fiona Campbell. These sessions came about due to the employment team here at Sintons having been inundated with COVID-19 and furlough questions following the introduction of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and the ever changing government guidance.

Our session today covers the following questions:

  • Does a lack of appeal in itself make a redundancy dismissal unfair?
  • Should an employer who has a practice of giving time off in lieu (TOIL) pay for accrued TOIL on termination?
  • Can an employer withdraw a job offer made to a maternity cover applicant on the basis that she herself is pregnant?

For your convenience we have also recorded this session as both a webinar and podcast, links to both are below.

Healthcare team again confirmed as national leader

Sintons’ nationally-renowned healthcare team is again confirmed as a UK-wide leading advisor by Chambers and Partners 2022.

The independent legal publication hails Sintons as being a key advisor to NHS Trusts and healthcare organisations, with particular strength in medical partnership matters.

The firm truly stands out in the marketplace and “possesses a deep understanding of the intricacies of the NHS and the secondary care market,” Chambers finds.

Its wide range of work – spanning mergers, procurement, collaboration agreements, employment and real estate matters, as well as issues involving Primary Care Networks – is highlighted as making Sintons a leading name in healthcare.

Its “robust and notable experience” in medical partnership matters, from practice mergers and incorporations to primary care network arrangements, is also quoted as being outstanding.

Partner and Head of NHS Healthcare Amanda Maskery, regularly hailed as a leading healthcare lawyer nationally, is again singled out for praise by Chambers.

“Amanda is extremely knowledgeable, always knows the correct answer and can appreciate the NHS politics that we need to be aware of,” quotes Chambers.

“Nothing is too much trouble and she often deals with queries at the very last minute, even when away from the office.”

Associate Chloe Dinsdale is also praised as a notable practitioner for her work in supporting NHS clients, and advising on collaborations and joint ventures. “She is very knowledgeable, experienced and responsive,” says one client quoted in Chambers.

The across-the-board praise from Chambers comes only weeks after Legal 500 reported similar findings of Sintons’ national healthcare expertise, similarly pointing to its legal and client service excellence as being crucial factors in its standing in the sector.

Christopher Welch, managing partner of Sintons, says: “Sintons is rightfully regarded on a national basis for our healthcare capability, which brings together expertise from across the firm to deliver an outstanding offering to NHS Trusts, organisations and professionals – alongside other healthcare providers – throughout the UK.

“We are very pleased this has again been independently confirmed by Chambers, which again hails us as a true national leader. We have held this status for many years – and from Legal 500 too, who confirmed our standing in this field again in their most recent publication – and our reputation and commitment to delivering the best possible legal and client service are factors we will continue to build and develop further.”

Sintons again recognised for capability across the board by Chambers 2022

Sintons has again been hailed as one of the leading law firms in the North of England in newly-released rankings from Chambers and Partners UK.

The firm, consistently praised for its strength and capability throughout the business, again wins recognition for its legal expertise, deep experience and first-rate levels of client service.

Practice areas across the business win recognition as leaders in their field, with healthcare again being confirmed as one of the key advisors nationally for its work with growing numbers of NHS Trusts, organisations, professionals and healthcare businesses across the UK.

Chambers and Partners 2022, published today, also highlights 17 of Sintons’ lawyers as being stand-out names in their specialism, many of whom are recognised in the legal marketplace as being leading figures regionally and nationally.

The rankings come only weeks after Sintons won similar praise across the board from Legal 500, which also recognised the wide-ranging expertise, legal capability and service excellence the firm delivers to its clients.

Both Chambers and Legal 500 are independent publications which assess and rank law firms and lawyers throughout the UK, based on interviews, examples of work, and client and peer testimonials.

“For over 125 years, Sintons has built a well-deserved reputation as a first-rate legal advisor delivering outstanding levels of service to its clients, and those values have remained at the heart of the firm since our foundation in 1896,” says managing partner Christopher Welch.

“That these key features are consistently highlighted by independent legal publications like Chambers and Partners, and recently Legal 500 too, is a huge endorsement of what we do here at Sintons. Businesses, families and individuals put their trust in us to deliver an outstanding legal and personal service and that is what we deliver.

“Chambers again confirms our strength across the whole Sintons business, with capability and talent running throughout the firm, and a shared commitment by everyone here to continue to build Sintons so it can be the best it can be. We are all delighted to again have our efforts recognised in this way.”

Sintons sponsors major diagnostics event

A major diagnostics conference in the North East is again being supported by law firm Sintons.

The Diagnostics North East Conference 2021 will explore precision diagnostics for precision medicine, and brings together some of the leading names in the field regionally and nationally to share their expertise.

The event, to be held online on October 13, attracts an audience of key professionals working across healthcare in the North East, a region renowned for its world-leading innovation in the sector.

Sintons, independently acknowledged as one of the leading healthcare advisors in the UK, has again committed its support to the event, which will hear from an array of nationally-renowned figures including Sir John Burn, Professor Alistair Burt and Professor Mike Barnes.

Diagnostics North East was established in 2018 to bring together the various research infrastructures, capabilities and resources that support the development, research and innovation of diagnostic technologies into a single body, to achieve greater efficiencies and opportunities to improve patient health.

Its conference, which was cancelled last year due to COVID-19, marks a key opportunity for the region to showcase the diagnostic resources and expertise available to support researchers, clinicians, and industry in developing and deploying new and innovative diagnostic technologies.

Amanda Maskery, partner and head of NHS healthcare at Sintons – whose healthcare expertise extends across the entire sector, spanning NHS, life sciences, diagnostics and pharmacies – said Sintons is delighted to add its support to the event.

“The creation of Diagnostics North East has been highly significant in bringing together all aspects  involved in diagnostics in the region, creating a powerful voice which can only be of benefit to our world-leading healthcare sector,” she says.

“Its annual conference again promises to be an outstanding event and has become known for the insight and learning opportunities it gives from an array of true leaders in their fields. We are delighted that it has returned for 2021.

“As a leading advisor to the healthcare sector nationally, working with clients from major NHS Trusts through to life science startups, we are very proud of the role we play in supporting and developing healthcare. The opportunities going forward are many, particularly in such a dynamic and innovative region as the North East, and working alongside Diagnostics North East we are very keen to continue to play our role in realising our full potential.”

Sintons once again wins praise from Legal 500 2022

Law firm Sintons has again maintained its reputation as one of the leading law firms in the North of England in newly-released rankings from Legal 500, winning plaudits for its strength and expertise across the firm.

Legal 500 2022, released today, renews its praise of Sintons and confirms them as being a go-to legal provider in the region in many key practice areas.

The independent publication – which ranks law firms and lawyers across the North, compiled as a result of examples of work, interviews and client and peer testimonials – names eight of Sintons’ lawyers as leading individuals, three as next generation partners and a further six as rising stars. One of its lawyers also secures the highly coveted accolade of being named in the Legal 500 Hall of Fame, in recognition of consistent achievement throughout their career.

The latest Legal 500 rankings add further to the long-standing reputation of Sintons – winner of five awards at the most recent Northern Law Awards, including overall Law Firm of the Year – as a leading player in the North of England, with national reach and capability in many of its departments.

The leading individuals at Sintons, as identified by Legal 500, are:

The next generation partners, as identified by Legal 500, are:

The lawyer named as member of the Legal 500 Hall of Fame is:

The rising stars at the firm are:

Christopher Welch, managing partner of Sintons, said: “We are very proud of the reputation we have built during our 125 year history as being a law firm which consistently offers legal excellence and an outstanding service to our clients, and for these two factors to again be recognised by Legal 500 as being a staple of Sintons’ offering is very pleasing.

We are delighted to maintain our position as one of the leading law firms in the North of England, with strength, capability and experience running throughout our practice areas.”

Ask the Experts – a Monthly Q&A with Sintons’ Employment Team – episode 25

Today we recorded our ‘Ask the Experts monthly Q&A with Sintons’ Employment Team – episode 25’ – with Keith Land and Angela Carver. These sessions came about due to the employment team here at Sintons having been inundated with COVID-19 and furlough questions following the introduction of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and the ever changing government guidance.

Our session today covers the following topics:

  • Flexible Working
  • Mandatory Vaccinations

For your convenience we have also recorded this session as both a webinar and podcast, links to both are below.

Ask the Experts – a Monthly Q&A with Sintons’ Employment Team – episode 24

Today we recorded our ‘Ask the Experts monthly Q&A with Sintons’ Employment Team – episode 24’ – with Angela Carver and Catherine Hope. These sessions came about due to the employment team here at Sintons having been inundated with COVID-19 and furlough questions following the introduction of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and the ever changing government guidance.

Our session today covers the following topics:

  • Can I force an employee to take holiday during the notice period?
  • Does an employer have to conduct a fair selection process for lay-offs (rather than redundancies)?
  • Can I extend a probation period?
  • Is it possible to sign an employment contract by electronic signature?

For your convenience we have also recorded this session as both a webinar and podcast, links to both are below.

Ask the Experts – a Monthly Q&A with Sintons’ Employment Team – episode 23

Today we recorded our ‘Ask the Experts monthly Q&A with Sintons’ Employment Team – episode 23’ – with Angela Carver and Fiona Campbell. These sessions came about due to the employment team here at Sintons having been inundated with COVID-19 and furlough questions following the introduction of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and the ever changing government guidance.

Our session today covers the following topics:

  • Right to work checks
  • Hybrid working
  • Refusal to return
  • Flexible working

For your convenience we have also recorded this session as both a webinar and podcast, links to both are below.

Ask the Experts – a Monthly Q&A with Sintons’ Employment Team – episode 22

Today we recorded our ‘Ask the Experts monthly Q&A with Sintons’ Employment Team – episode 22’ – with Keith Land and Catherine Hope. These sessions came about due to the employment team here at Sintons having been inundated with COVID-19 and furlough questions following the introduction of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and the ever changing government guidance.

Our session today covers the following topics:

  • Do you have to disclose the investigation report and witness statements to an employee within a grievance process?
  • Maternity rights/premature birth
  • What are the risks of an employee returning to work for their ex-employer shortly after leaving under a settlement agreement?

For your convenience we have also recorded this session as both a webinar and podcast, links to both are below.

Ask the Experts – a Monthly Q&A with Sintons’ Employment Team – episode 21

Today we recorded our ‘Ask the Experts monthly Q&A with Sintons’ Employment Team – episode 21’ – with Keith Land and Catherine Hope. These sessions came about due to the employment team here at Sintons having been inundated with COVID-19 and furlough questions following the introduction of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and the ever changing government guidance.

Our session today covers the following topics:

  • Hybrid working – do we need to change our employment contracts and policies?
  • Should an internal disciplinary process be paused in circumstances where an employee makes a data subject access request?
  • Can we withdraw a notice of redundancy if there is an upturn in work while an employee is working their notice period?

For your convenience we have also recorded this session as both a webinar and podcast, links to both are below.

Sintons Employment Law E-Bulletin – Issue 75

  • Acas publishes advice on long Covid for employers and workers
  • Flatman v Essex County Council UKEAT/0097/20 – Confirmation that employers cannot cure a fundamental breach once committed
  • Maternity Action publishes proposals to reform shared parental leave
  • The Queen’s Speech: Employment implications

Acas publishes advice on long Covid for employers and workers

Acas has published advice for employers and workers in response to the growing impact of long Covid in the workplace. This includes a long list of symptoms associated with the condition which can last weeks or months after the initial infection has gone, ranging from fatigue to memory and concentration difficulties.

The guidance suggests that upon diagnosis, employers and workers should discuss the potential impact of long Covid as early as possible, and work together to consider flexible working options and adjustments which could support staff suffering from this condition. Acas also confirms that, despite the variations in the condition, the usual rules for sickness absence and sick pay will apply when a worker is off sick due to long Covid.

With the Office for National Statistics estimating that over one million people have reported experiencing long Covid, this is likely to be an important issue over the coming years.

The full guidance can be found here.

Flatman v Essex County Council UKEAT/0097/20 – Confirmation that employers cannot cure a fundamental breach once committed

The Employment Appeal Tribunal (“EAT”) has reaffirmed that, once committed, a fundamental breach cannot be cured.

In this case, Ms Flatman was employed as a Learning Support Assistant, a role which involved daily lifting of a disabled pupil. She repeatedly requested manual handling training over a period of many months but this was not forthcoming. She was eventually signed off sick with back pain. She was advised that, upon her return, she would not be required to lift the pupil and would be assigned to another class, as well as being promised training. However, she resigned and claimed constructive unfair dismissal.

Her claim was dismissed in the first instance with an employment tribunal finding that her employer had not been in fundamental breach of its implied duty to take reasonable care for her health and safety. They found that communication when Mrs Flatman returned demonstrated genuine concern.

Ms Flatman appealed and this was allowed. The EAT found that her employer had breached the implied duty to provide a safe working environment by failing, despite Ms Flatman’s repeated requests, to provide training over many months when Ms Flatman was required to lift a pupil. The employment tribunal has been wrong to only look at the overall picture at the point of resignation. The focus should have been on whether, at any point during the relevant period, the breach had become fundamental (here it had due to the increased and continued risk to Mrs Flatman and the actual harm caused), and whether the contract had been affirmed (it had not here). The EAT found that the breach had become fundamental at the latest when Ms Flatman went off sick. Statements of intention can be relevant if they are accompanied by action, but they are less significant than in cases involving the implied duty of trust and confidence.

This decision is a useful reminder that a fundamental breach cannot be cured by an employer’s subsequent actions. A fundamental breach of contract, such as the one demonstrated in this case, will entitle an employee (with two years’ service) to resign in response and claim constructive dismissal, despite any further action taken by an employer. Employers should take particular note and make sure they are aware of the duties implied into every employment contract, including those such as the implied duty of trust and confidence.

Maternity Action publishes proposals to reform shared parental leave

Maternity Action has published a report on the failure of the current shared parental leave (“SPL”) scheme and has recommended proposals for reform. With take up by eligible fathers for the SPL scheme reaching just 3.6% during 2019/20 (against a Government target of 25%), Maternity Action considers it unfit for purpose.

There is recognition that the pandemic has increased this problem, with the Women and Equalities Committee February 2021 report on the gendered impact of Covid 19 finding that the gender childcare gap increased during the pandemic.

In the report Maternity Action proposes that a new system should be introduced which provides individual, non-transferable, rights for each parent, as sharing the leave between parents has not workers. The SPL scheme is a complex one and poorly understood by parents. Maternity Action proposes a 6-6-6 approach to replace the current statutory maternity and SPL scheme. The first 6 months of leave would be reserved for the mother and there would then be six months of non-transferrable leave for each parent. The idea is that this could be taken concurrently or consecutively, all at once or in smaller weekly or monthly blocks, within the 18 month period after birth.

The report also recommends:

  • that maternity, paternity and parental leave and pay should be day one rights despite someone’s status;
  • the strengthening of the right to return to the same job; and
  • that statutory leave pay should be increased to at least the national minimum wage level, and should be increased in time to the real living wages and wage replacement levels.

A full copy of the report can be found here.

The Queen’s Speech: Employment implications

On 11 May the Queen’s Speech set out the Government’s legislative programme for the coming year.

What was missing was any reference to the Employment Bill which had previously been promised by Boris Johnson in response to concerns that workers’ rights could be eroded following Brexit.

Mention was made of the employment tribunal procedure being aligned with that of other tribunals in the Unifed Tribunal structure to aid the claims backlog.

The Skills and Post 16 Education Bill in support of a “Lifetime Skills Guarantee” to enable flexible access to education and training throughout people’s lives may be of most interest to employers. The follows a previous Government commitment to give employers a central role in shaping reforms in order that local labour needs could be met.

The Government said that it will bring forward measures to address racist and ethnic disparities, but it remains unclear at this stage what measures these will be.

In terms of immigration, new legislation to strengthen the UK’s boarders was promised to support the Government’s “New Plan for immigration”. New legislation is set to deter illegal entry to the UK and make it easier to remove individuals from the UK.

Roadmap out of lockdown: Employment law considerations

Sintons’ Employment team, in partnership with Reed HR, have recorded the following complimentary online employment law seminar, where they discussed employment law considerations as lockdown eases.

Please click on the play button in the bottom left corner of the below video image to start viewing.

To follow the full size slides the team are using throughout the presentation, please click here prior to commencing watching.

We have also included a podcast version should you wish to listen to the seminar again at your leisure, the link is also below.

Sintons again support Bright Ideas in Health Awards

Awards which recognise the achievements of NHS, industry and academia in their contribution to healthcare have again secured backing from law firm Sintons.

The Bright Ideas in Health Awards were established 17 years ago to celebrate the innovation across the North of England by individuals and organisations in the healthcare sector.

The awards highlight the outstanding work that has been done in devising innovative solutions to challenges, such as through better service delivery or technical breakthroughs.

Sintons is a longstanding supporter of the awards, which were not held last year due to COVID-19, but are resuming for 2021.

The law firm is a nationally-renowned specialist advisor to the healthcare sector, with clients including NHS Trusts, alongside healthcare professionals and organisations.

This year’s Bright Ideas in Health Awards will open for entry in the spring, with the award ceremony being scheduled as a virtual event on November 25.

“We are continually impressed by the levels of innovation that happen in the region, and how academia, industry and the NHS all play their role in making change happen,” says Amanda Maskery, head of NHS healthcare at Sintons who is recognised as one of the leading lawyers in the North.

“While the past year has been one of the most challenging periods in living memory, the work that has been done in devising solutions within the healthcare sector has been absolutely fantastic. As we continue to emerge from the pandemic, this promises to be a very exciting time for the sector as we look at moving forward.

“We are delighted to again lend our backing to the Bright Ideas in Health Awards, which we have supported for many years but this year they take on an added significance in recognising the work that healthcare has done during 2020, the year that traditional ways of operating changed beyond recognition, and how the sector has led us through that.

“We look forward to celebrating the work and achievements of so many individuals and organisations during the period, and look forward to the event in November.”

Are you a care home provider? Covid and a loss of capacity of a resident can impact on your business

A care home provider’s regular flow of income inevitably comes from residents paying their fees on time. Care home providers have been, and will continue to be, affected by residents losing the capacity to authorise payments and by them not having the appropriate lasting power of attorney (LPA) in place to enable someone to arrange payment on their behalf.

Over the past year, Covid has also been an extremely challenging time for care home providers. Restrictions have meant that residents have had to stay indoors and family members have not been able to visit their loved ones until recently. As a result, we have seen care home providers struggle with their cash flow due to residents not having put in place a LPA for property and financial affairs.

The ability to collect in residential fees promptly is essential for many care homes to remain open, not least during difficult times such as the Covid pandemic. By a resident having a LPA, this facilitates payment. It is essential that care homes ensure provision is made for payment of fees as the effect of late payments can impact heavily on the day-to-day running of the business.

As a matter of course, a care home provider will assess the mental capacity of its residents and will discuss how payments are to be made. However, it should also be established whether the resident will retain responsibility for his or her own financial affairs or whether he or she would like to appoint someone else (known as an “attorney”) to act on his or her behalf via a LPA should he or she lose capacity in the future to deal with property and financial matters. The resident can also give consent for the LPA to be used before a loss of capacity if he or she wishes. Using the LPA with his or her consent can assist in circumstances where Covid restrictions continue to be in place. The attorney could be a trusted family member, friend, or a professional advisor. By a resident having a LPA in place, this will ease the burden on care home providers to pursue outstanding fees. Even if the resident is unable to arrange payment for whatever reason then, depending on the circumstances and the how the LPA has been drafted, the resident’s attorney can arrange payment. There are so many advantages for both the care home provider and the resident, for the resident to have a LPA in place.

Should a resident lose capacity without a LPA in place, someone will have to apply to the Court of Protection to become a deputy in order to ensure that the care provider’s fees are paid from the resident’s funds. An application to the Court of Protection can be a lengthy and expensive process. This can have a further huge impact on care home providers who need to ensure that wages, maintenance and other fees are paid in order for the business to run efficiently.

To avoid the potential difficulties that can arise if a resident loses capacity to deal with his or her own affairs, it is worthwhile for the care home to discuss LPAs from the outset with the resident and put a plan in place in case the resident needs someone to assist him or her.

Paul Collingwood is a senior associate in the specialist WillsTrusts & Estates team at Sintons. To speak to Paul about this or any other matter, contact him on paul.collingwood@sintons.co.uk or 0191 226 3713.

Ask the Experts – a Monthly Q&A with Sintons’ Employment Team – episode 20

Today we recorded our ‘Ask the Experts monthly Q&A with Sintons’ Employment Team – episode 20’ – with Catherine Hope and Angela Carver. These sessions came about due to the employment team here at Sintons having been inundated with COVID-19 and furlough questions following the introduction of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and the ever changing government guidance.

Our session today covers the following topics:

  • Sabbaticals and the impact on holiday entitlement
  • Sick leave and fit notes
  • An ET1 relating to a former employee

For your convenience we have also recorded this session as both a webinar and podcast, links to both are below.

Sintons Employment Law E-Bulletin – Issue 74

  • New shielding guidance to those categorised as extremely clinically vulnerable
  • Increase in rates of pay from 1 April
  • IR35 changes from 6 April 2021
  • Post-Employment Notice Pay- new formula from 6 April
  • Royal Mencap Society v Tomlinson-Blake; Shannon v Rampersad and another (t/a Clifton House Residential Home) [2021] UKSC 8 – carers are not entitled to minimum wage while they sleep at their workplace
  • Update to Vento bands

 

New shielding guidance to those categorised as extremely clinically vulnerable

Public Health England has issued new guidance to those categorised as extremely clinically vulnerable. As of 1 April 2021, they are no longer advised to shield and are no longer eligible for Statuary Sick Pay or similar benefits automatically as a result of being advised to shield.

Although clinically extremely vulnerable people will no longer be advised to shield, they are still advised to take extra precautions. The guidance states that people are still advised to continue working from home where possible, but if people are unable to do so, employers are required by law to take steps to make workplaces COVID-19 secure and should discuss this with their employees.

The guidance can be found here.

Increase in rates of pay from 1 April

From 1 April 2021, the National Living Wage (“NLW”) increased 2.2%, from £8.72 to £8.91 an hour. This year, the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, announced that the NLW will be extended to 23 and 24-year-olds, representing a substantial pay rise of almost 9%.

The National Minimum Wage (“NMW”) rates for those under 25 will also increase as follows:

  • 21-22 Year Old Rate: £8.20 to £8.36
  • 18-20 Year Old Rate: £6.45 to £6.56
  • 16-17 Year Old Rate: £4.55 to £4.62
  • Apprentice Rate: £4.15 to £4.30
  • Accommodation Offset: £8.20 to £8.36

It is important to remember that apprentices aged 19 or over, who have completed their first year, must be paid at least the NMW rate for their age.

From 4 April 2021, the weekly rates of statutory family leave (Statutory Maternity Pay, Statutory Paternity Pay, Statutory Adoption Pay, Statutory Shared Parental Pay and Statutory Parental Bereavement Pay) increased from £151.20 to £151.97, or 90% of an employee’s average weekly earnings, whichever is lower.

The Statutory Sick Pay (“SSP”) rate also increased from 6 April 2021 to £96.35 per week. The government’s SSP calculator will help you to work out how much SSP employees are entitled to.

All of these statutory pay changes will need to be reflected in employers’ payroll, as well as any information regarding the expenses and benefits provided to employees.

IR35 changes from 6 April

The changes to the off-payroll rules were due to come into effect on 6 April 2020. This was delayed last year until April 2021 because of the coronavirus pandemic.

As of 6 April 2021, medium and large companies in the private sector that contract with personal service companies (“PSC”) for the provision of worker’s services will now have to account for tax and national insurance through PAYE in the same way as the public sector has been required to do since April 2017 (off-payroll working rates). The private sector end clients will be responsible for determining the tax status of contractors who work through PSCs and whether they are therefore caught by the IR35 rules.

The IR35 rules will apply where there would have been an employment relationship between the engaging business and the individual if the individual had engaged directly with the business rather than through the PSC.

Despite this, and in anticipation of these changes, it is still essential that medium and large businesses carry out an assessment to determine whether the new rules under IR35 apply to their independent contractors and review their contracts and pay arrangements. Small businesses will not be caught by the changes.

Post-Employment Notice Pay – new formula from 6 April

The government has introduced an alternative Post-Employment Notice Pay (“PENP”) calculation to use where an employee’s pay period is defined in months, but their contractual notice period or post-employment notice period is expressed in weeks. It is stated that the measures are aimed at removing unintended outcomes and to bring fairness and clarity to the legislation on termination payments.

The new formula provides that, instead of using the number of days in the pay period, 30.42 can be used as “P” in the PENP calculation, as it is the mean average number of days in a month. This measure ensures that PENP does not vary according to the number of days in the monthly pay period preceding the trigger date where the remuneration for that period would not have varied.

The measure also aligns the tax treatment of PENP for individuals who are non-resident in the year of termination of their UK employment with the treatment of all UK residents. Currently PENP is not chargeable to UK tax if an employee is non-resident for the tax year in which their employment terminates.

The changes took effect from 6 April 2021 and apply to those individuals who have their employment terminated, and where the termination payment is received, on or after 6 April 2021.

Royal Mencap Society v Tomlinson-Blake; Shannon v Rampersad and another (t/a Clifton House Residential Home) [2021] UKSC 8 – carers are not entitled to minimum wage while they sleep at their workplace

The Supreme Court has ruled in this case that carers are not entitled to be paid the national minimum wage when they are on sleep-in shifts. This does not mean people on ‘sleep-in’ shifts aren’t ‘working’; but they’re not ‘working’ for the purpose of the national minimum wage rules unless they’re both awake and doing work for their employer.

Claire Tomlinson-Blake, a Mencap support worker in the East Riding of Yorkshire, appealed against a Court of Appeal ruling that carers are only entitled to the national minimum wage when they are required to be awake for work – and not while asleep. She challenged the decision in the Supreme Court alongside a linked appeal brought by John Shannon, a Surrey care home worker.

The Supreme Court dismissed both appeals. In the judgment, Lady Arden said that “sleep-in workers… are not doing time work for the purposes of the national minimum wage if they are not awake”. She added: “The sleep-in worker who is merely present is treated as not working for the purpose of calculating the hours which are to be taken into account for national minimum wage purposes and the fact that he was required to be present during specified hours was insufficient to lead to the conclusion that he was working.”

The decision has received conflicting reactions. It has provided some welcome clarity following years of inconsistent authorities on the issue and will be a relief for care providers concerned about potential claims up to an estimated £400m in backpay. However, care workers are calling for changes in how workers are remunerated so this is unlikely to be the last we hear on this matter.

Update to Vento bands

The rates for injury to feelings awards in discrimination cases increased from 6 April 2021 as follows:

  • lower band £900 – £9,100 (for “less serious cases”);
  • middle band £9,100 – £27,400 (for “serious cases which do not merit an award in the highest band”); and
  • upper band £27,400 – £45,600 (for “the most serious cases”).

Only in “the most exceptional case” would an award exceed the top band.

These will apply to claims presented on or after 6 April 2021.

Sintons’ Healthcare Team wins reappointment to the panel of the North of England NHS Commercial Procurement Collaborative (NOE CPC)

Law firm Sintons has again been recognised for its capability in healthcare through its reappointment to a specialist legal panel.

Sintons has again been named by the North of England NHS Commercial Procurement Collaborative (NOE CPC) as a member of its board of legal advisors, after successfully completing its initial four-year appointment.

The law firm, which is regularly confirmed as a national leader in healthcare, successfully re-tendered for a place on the panel, which will see it continue to provide advice to NOE CPC members on commercial, estates and employment matters.

NOE CPC works with more than 80 NHS organisations across England, and was established to provide collaborative and bespoke procurement solutions to the NHS and other public sector organisations.

The re-appointment again confirms Sintons’ healthcare expertise, which has seen the team – independently ranked as a top tier advisor by both Legal 500 and Chambers – become a trusted advisor to NHS Trusts, healthcare professionals and providers across the country.

Amanda Maskery, head of NHS healthcare at Sintons, says: “Our healthcare team are regularly recognised as being a specialist advisor to the NHS and wider healthcare sector on a national basis, and this re-appointment by NOE CPC helps to again demonstrate the vast expertise we have in this area.

“We are specialist and highly experienced healthcare lawyers who understand the unique challenges and complexities of the NHS, which is why we are able to advise NOE CPC and its members so effectively.

“The past year in particular has been one of the most challenging ever for our amazing NHS and the hugely dedicated people working within it, and we will look forward to continuing to support them as we emerge from the pandemic and look to the future.”

An Employment law overview

Associate Catherine Hope from the Employment Team at Sintons recently recorded a webinar for Founders Friday, where she gave an Employment law overview.

Please click on the play button in the bottom left corner of the below video image to start viewing.

We have also included a podcast version, the link is also below.

Ask the Experts – a Monthly Q&A with Sintons’ Employment Team – episode 19

Today we recorded our ‘Ask the Experts monthly Q&A with Sintons’ Employment Team – episode 19’ – with Fiona Campbell and Angela Carver. These sessions came about due to the employment team here at Sintons having been inundated with COVID-19 and furlough questions following the introduction of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and the ever changing government guidance.

Our session today covers the following topics:

  • April 2021 changes
  • Business Immigration

For your convenience we have also recorded this session as both a webinar and podcast, links to both are below.

Dental specialists take part in major online event

Dental specialists from Sintons are to take part in an online event for the sector, after one of the biggest showcases of the year was postponed to 2022.

As a leading advisor to dentists across the UK, Sintons is regularly part of the BDIA Dental Showcase, one of the sector’s biggest annual events which attracts hundreds of dental professionals from across the country.

However, due to the ongoing restrictions and uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the event has been rescheduled to March 25-26 2022, and an online showcase will take its place for 2021.

The BDIA Showcase on Demand will run on March 22-26, and will include a live clinical conference programme, with advice and analysis from experts from across the country.

Amanda Maskery and Fiona Campbell from Sintons, will be among the guest speakers, and will deliver a seminar which covers buying and selling a dental practice.

The video presentation will offer tips on how to gain maximum revenue from the sale of a practice and how specialist advisors can assist.

“While it is of course unfortunate that we cannot meet in-person with our fellow professionals working in the dental sector, we have become very adept at making the very best use of online resources over the past year, so welcome the opportunity to take part in the BDIA Showcase on Demand,” says Amanda.

“As specialist advisors to the sector, we continue to challenge the prevalent topics for dentistry professionals, one of the main ones is buying and selling a practice and how to maximise revenue and make the very most of your asset. We will tackle this very subject in our presentation.

“I’m sure everyone looks forward to such time when we can meet again and hold large-scale events such as these as we used to, but in the meanwhile, we are very pleased to have the opportunity to advise people working within the dental sector in what continue to be unprecedented times.”

Sintons Employment Law E-Bulletin – Issue 73

  • Allay (UK) Ltd v Gehlen UKEAT/0031/20 – employer could not rely on “stale” equality and diversity training as a defence to show it had taken all reasonable steps to prevent harassment.
  • Uber BV and others v Aslam and others [2021] UKSC 5 – Supreme Court confirms Uber drivers are workers
  • Employers named and shamed by BEIS for failing to pay national minimum wage

 

Allay (UK) Ltd v Gehlen UKEAT/0031/20 – employer could not rely on “stale” equality and diversity training as a defence to show it had taken all reasonable steps to prevent harassment.

The Employment Appeal Tribunal (“EAT”) upheld an Employment Tribunal’s finding that an employer had failed to take all reasonable steps to avoid an employee being racially harassed by another and could not rely on “stale” equality and diversity training.

Mr Gehlen (the “Claimant”) was employed by Allay (UK) Ltd (the “Respondent”) for 11 months. Following his dismissal the Claimant brought proceedings in the Employment Tribunal for direct race discrimination and harassment related to race. The Employment Tribunal upheld the complaint of harassment related to race and found that racial comments were regularly made to the Claimant. The tribunal also found that despite two managers being aware of the racist comments, they took no action.

The Respondent argued that it had taken all reasonable steps to prevent the harassment. It maintained that it had an equal opportunity policy and an anti-bullying and harassment procedure in place and that staff had undertaken equality and diversity training and bullying and harassment training. However, the EAT concluded that whatever training had taken place was no longer effective as racist comments had regularly been made to the Claimant, which the Respondent characterised as “banter”.

The EAT emphasised that merely having an equal opportunity policy and carrying out “brief and superficial” training is not enough for an employer to escape liability for acts of discrimination carried out by its employees. Employers should ensure they carry out thorough equality and diversity training on a regular basis to avoid it becoming “stale”, and if there is reason to believe that employees have forgotten or haven’t appreciated the training, it should be refreshed.

Uber BV and others v Aslam and others [2021] UKSC 5– Supreme Court confirms Uber drivers are workers

The Supreme Court has confirmed that Uber drivers are workers for the purposes of the Employment Rights Act (“ERA”) 1996, the National Minimum Wage Act (“NMWA”) 1998 and the Working Time Regulations (“WTR”) 1998.

The claimants were private hire vehicle drivers providing their services through the Uber smartphone application (the “Uber app”). They brought claims against their employer, Uber, for failure to pay the minimum wage, and failure to provide paid leave. The respondents asserted that the claimants were not workers and were not afforded protection under the ERA 1996, the NMW 1998 and the WTR 1998.

The Employment Tribunal found that the respondents were workers and that they were working whenever they (a) had the Uber app switched on; (b) were within the territory in which they were authorised to work; and (c) were able and willing to accept trips. These findings were upheld by the Employment Appeal Tribunal and the Court of Appeal.

Uber appealed to the Supreme Court who unanimously dismissed their appeal. The Supreme Court held that the Employment Tribunal was justified in its findings and considered the following factors as part of its judgment:

  1. Uber sets the fare and so dictates the drivers’ pay;
  2. the contract terms are dictated by Uber;
  3. Uber can impose penalties on drivers if they cancel or decline too many trips once logged on to the Uber app;
  4. Uber exercises significant control over how services are delivered; and
  5. Uber restricts communications between the driver and passenger.

With approximately 5 million people in the UK currently employed in the gig economy, this case will have wide ranging implications in how workers are defined in the modern and increasingly technology-influenced workplace.

Employers named and shamed by BEIS for failing to pay national minimum wage

On 31 December 2020, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (“BEIS”) published a list of 139 employers who had collectively failed to pay £6.7 million to over 95,000 workers between September 2016 and July 2018. The offending companies range in size from small businesses to large multinationals who employ thousands of people across the UK.

This is the first time the Government has “named and shamed” employers since the scheme was paused in 2018 while the process was reformed. The publication is intended to serve as a warning to employers that the Government will take action against those who fail to pay employees properly. One of the main causes of National Minimum Wage (“NMW”) breaches was where low-paid employees were required to cover work costs, such as paying for uniform, training or parking fees which would take them below the NMW threshold. Some employers also failed to raise employees’ pay following birthdays which should have moved them into a new NMW bracket.

Employers who under pay workers must pay back arrears of wages to workers at current minimum wage rates. Employers also face financial penalties of up to 200% of arrears, capped at £10,000 per worker, which are paid to the Government.

The Government has announced a measured increase in the National Living Wage (“NLW”) and NMW rates, which will come into effect from April. Every worker is entitled to the NMW, no matter their age or profession. The rates will increase as follows:

  • NLW: £8.72 to £8.91
  • 21-22 Year Old Rate: £8.20 to £8.36
  • 18-20 Year Old Rate: £6.45 to £6.56
  • 16-17 Year Old Rate: £4.55 to £4.62
  • Apprentice Rate: £4.15 to £4.30
  • Accommodation Offset: £8.20 to £8.36

Ask the Experts – a Monthly Q&A with Sintons’ Employment Team – episode 18

Today we recorded our ‘Ask the Experts monthly Q&A with Sintons’ Employment Team – episode 18’ – with Fiona Campbell and Catherine Hope. These sessions came about due to the employment team here at Sintons having been inundated with COVID-19 and furlough questions following the introduction of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and the ever changing government guidance.

Our session today covers the following topics:

  • I understand the Government guidance will continue to be to work from home where possible, but I do not feel my employees are working as effectively at home as in the office. What are my options?
  • I made a number of employees redundant as trade disappeared from my business. However, business has started to return and I have hired some new people. Am I at risk of unfair dismissal claims from the employees I made redundant and on what grounds could I defend any claims?
  • The Government Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme is currently due to end on 31 April. Is there any other Government support available after this date? I cannot sustain my staff salaries without financial assistance until business returns to pre-lockdown levels, but I am concerned this will be too late.

For your convenience we have also recorded this session as both a webinar and podcast, links to both are below.

‘We’re proud to have helped make Sintons the firm it is’

As Sintons celebrates its 125th anniversary, some of its team share their thoughts and experiences of being part of the firm and playing their role in its growth. From those who have been at Sintons for over 30 years to those who have joined more recently, here they discuss what makes the firm stand out in the competitive legal marketplace, while also being a great place to work.

Amanda Maskery, partner and head of NHS healthcare

“I have been at Sintons now for nearly 20 years and during that time I have progressed from trainee to partner level and more recently to head of our fast-growing NHS Healthcare team. Many of my clients have been with Sintons for years and grown with me and I think a large part of that is because we have built such strong and trusting relationships with them.

The firm has grown significantly since I first started working here – it has doubled in size.  However, the same culture, values and traditions are still imbedded which means whilst the firm changed in size, it still embraces the supportive nurturing culture you only find at Sintons which cascades from the top down.

As I began life as a trainee at Sintons, it’s fantastic to be able to support others in progressing and achieving their goals. We have a strong team and great dynamic and that is evident to our young lawyers who bring with them a refreshing approach to the Sintons culture.”

Leah Greenwell, solicitor apprentice

“Starting my career, it was important to find a firm with local roots and a reputation for providing high quality training. The first-class levels of service Sintons provide is testament to the standard of training they deliver, and there was no question which firm I wanted my career to start in.

Sintons have always focused on ensuring that my development is put first and have laid the foundations for a successful career as a solicitor. Being a full service firm has given me the opportunity to experience all areas of law and has exposed me to a variety of high value and complex work. I look forward to what the future holds for me at Sintons.

Although the marketplace is competitive, Sintons longstanding history and their presence, both locally and nationally, will always place them at the forefront.”

Anne Smith, secretary

“I started at Sintons in 1986 and this year in November will have been here for 35 years.

I still remember my first day like it was yesterday. Everyone was so friendly and welcoming, and it is still like that today – almost like a second family to me.

“I have mainly worked in private client and worked for lots of fee earners and partners. In 2000 I started working for Steve Freeman who then went on to become a Partner and Head of the Private Client Department. I have now worked for him for 21 years this year and I can honestly say it has been a pleasure and an honour to work for such a lovely man – we have a great working relationship. I also work with the rest of the Family Department and work for such lovely fee earners.

I am also very proud to say that my daughter Emma also works for Sintons in the Conveyancing Department and she also loves her job and the team she works with.

I have seen many changes over the years but one thing remains constant – Sintons is a great place to work. I have made lifelong friends here and they will remain so.”

Emelie Vardon, solicitor

“Sintons’ heritage was very important to me when choosing to join Sintons. I came here as a trainee solicitor in 2017 and making the right choice for my future career was crucial. Knowing Sintons’ reputation and history, I couldn’t have made a better decision.

This is such a great place to work with a warm and welcoming environment. Following the completion of my training contract in 2019, I joined our developing Wills, Trusts and Estate Disputes team. Under Emma Saunders’ excellent leadership and support, my first year as a qualified solicitor has been excellent groundwork for my future career in this specialist area of law.

As a full-service law firm, I consider that Sintons is well-placed in the competitive market.”

Mark Dobbin, partner and head of real estate

“I joined Sintons as a trainee in September 1997. At the time the firm consisted of about 80-90 people. We were operating from an office in Portland Terrace in Jesmond, it was like a rabbit warren for a new starter as it was multiple old terraced houses converted and joined on different floors.

The main changes have been the massive growth in size and expertise, plus multiple office moves until finally landing at the Cube. When I qualified in 1999 myself and the partner at the time (Andrew Walker) were the Sintons commercial property department. Since then we have grown significantly.

Sintons has always been and remains a great place to work, we have an excellent team in Real Estate and will continue to succeed because of the efforts of our staff.”

Pippa Aitken, senior associate

“Sintons was much smaller when I joined in 1998. It was a friendly, family firm renowned for its reputation in private client and personal injury work. There was no dedicated corporate and commercial department.

“I was the only trainee and was sent on all sorts of weird and wonderful jobs – witnessing wills, attending infant settlements and the odd trip to the bank for the accounts department!

Sintons has become a lot more sophisticated in its working procedures and there is a much faster pace of life with emails being the most popular form of communication. I have seen some great lawyers leave and some great lawyers arrive but everyone soon seems to inherit the ‘old’ Sintons sense of fun, respect and teamwork.

Sintons is in a great place going forward. Virtual working has opened up some great opportunities to spread our wings and engage with clients even better than before.”

Sarah Smith, partner and head of licensing

“The firm has almost doubled in size since I started in  2005. The range of services offered by the firm has expanded quite significantly since then too, making the firm much more attractive to commercial clients.

When I first came to Sintons, I headed up the department with Lucy Winskell (now chair of NELEP and Pro Vice-Chancellor of Northumbria University). Since her departure I have headed it up myself. In spite of that, the department has grown in its client base and the amount of work we deal with on an annual basis.

With the growth in size and services we continue to see, I think Sintons are very well placed in the market to take advantage of opportunities going forward.”

Astrid Stevenson, secretary

“I joined Sintons on 21 October, 1997, and will have been here for 25 years this year.

I think when I started there were only about 80 people working at Sintons. We were based in Portland Terrace then moved to Osborne Terrace. We didn’t have open plan working like we have now, we had little rooms with approximately 3 secretaries in each room. I shared a room with Anne Smith from the first day I arrived and we have been firm friends ever since. Fee earners all had their own office. Basically, it was like a rabbit warren.

The staffing levels were very much smaller then, as I say about 80 staff then and now we have more than double that number. The computer system (Word Perfect 5.1) and equipment were top of the range for the time, and I think that has carried on until this day, our IT department have the latest of everything and are basically top notch.

Since I started 25 years ago, the firm has changed and has always moved forward with the times.  When I started there were no female partners. Hilary Parker and Karen Simms became the first, which was a very welcome breakthrough for Sintons.

We were like one big happy family with lots of social events, which thankfully still happen to this day, keeping the ethos of Sintons going.

I think if I didn’t enjoy working here I wouldn’t be celebrating my 25th years this year at Sintons. I’ve worked for the head of dispute resolution Angus Ashman for 24 of those years, and I think we work well together because we work as a team.

This is a very nice place to work, the people are all friendly and If anyone needs help with anything there is always someone there to help. I always think we are only as good as the tools we work with and I must say Sintons do provide all the best equipment and people and it makes the job so much easier if you have things like that in place.”

Sintons’ development – reflections from the Chairman

Sintons’ chairman, Alan Dawson, is one of the firm’s longest-serving people, having joined in 1980. Here, he shares his thoughts on some of the biggest changes and advances he has seen in the past 41 years.

Technology

When I joined in 1980, we used manual typewriters, although thankfully electric typewriters had recently become available. There were no screens at that time, but over the years we added one-line screens to the typewriters, then that went up to three or four lines. It was the early 1990s before we introduced computers.

There were no colour photocopiers so all of the plans we copied were in black and white. We would have to go over them with coloured pens to make them the same as the original.

The introduction of fax in the 80s was a game changer, everything before then was done by Telex or telegram if we needed ‘instant’ communication. The only problem was that due to the paper fax machines used at that time, the print would fade – we’d go back to the file six months later and the sheet would be completely blank! We had to remember to photocopy the fax when they came in for use in our records.

With property completions, all bank-to-bank transfers involved getting an actual cheque from the bank, and then going to the office of the other solicitor in the transaction to inspect the deeds and then complete the deal. Fridays, the traditional completion day, were often spent going between solicitors’ offices in Newcastle.

When mobile phones were introduced, we had one mobile for the firm to use, we didn’t have one each. It was one of the brick-like phones with a huge battery, but it was a huge novelty.

Thankfully things have moved on hugely, and Sintons now has a first-rate technology and IT infrastructure, which enables us to offer a very efficient service to our clients while keeping their data fully secure.

Size of the firm

Back in 1980, we had about 36 people – now we have around 170.

We really started to grow from the mid to late 90s, and in 1998 we moved our offices from Portland Terrace in Jesmond to bigger premises in Osborne Terrace, which comprised three and a half houses next to each other with an overspill office further down the road. We imagined that would give us room to grow for the next 15 years – but within the next two or three years, it was already too small.

We came to The Cube in 2004 and at first didn’t use the top floor of our four-floor building, although within the next couple of years we had expanded into there.

Over the years, we have added many outstanding lawyers to our team, both through recruitment from other firms as well as training young people-in house. Our commitment to supporting aspiring lawyers through their training contract has been unfaltering – I joined as an articled clerk (or trainee, as it’s now known) and have progressed through the ranks.

As the firm has grown then so too has our back-office and support functions developed. We didn’t have the infrastructure we have now, so no HR, IT or marketing department.

Our accounts system was all manual, the cashier had to write everything by hand. There was one card per client, so if you had to borrow it, then they couldn’t make any more entries for that client until you returned it.

Our HR function was our office manager, who kept a record of who was off and the reasons for their absence – reading it now, some of the reasons are quite amusing!

Law firms weren’t allowed to advertise at all until the late 1980s, so the only kind of marketing we could do was through the Yellow Pages. Now, we operate at the very forefront of the sector, adopting digital way before many of our competitors, and that early investment is helping us to stay ahead in the marketplace.

Practice areas

In the 1980s when I joined, Sintons had a very significant insurance litigation practice which acted for four or five of the major national insurers. The revenue from that area of the business probably accounted for two thirds of our entire income. However, in the early 1990s, we recognised that reliance on a few large clients or a particular work stream was not the best way to develop the firm and could make us vulnerable. We therefore made concerted efforts to radically change our business model and to further grow the other practice areas we had operated in for many years, including private client, corporate and commercial and real estate, and they proved to be areas of strong development for us. They continue to be key areas of the business for us and will be central to our ongoing progress as a firm.

We also moved into claimant personal injury work, which really took off in the late 90s and early 2000s. More recently, we have developed our national reputation as specialists in catastrophic and serious personal injury work with a thriving specialist neurotrauma department which handles life-changing brain and spinal cord injury work.

National reach

In the early days, we were more of a regional firm with clients mainly across the North East, and some in the wider North. Occasionally, clients moved to elsewhere in England which helped us to reach out nationally on a small scale, but we didn’t have much of a national reach.

However, as we grew as a firm, we started to work on a more national basis and now on an international basis as well. The improvement of technology was also an important factor in enabling us to communicate with people wherever they were by phone or fax, but more recently by mobile phone, email or even video calling which has proved so important during the pandemic.

Through our efforts to grow individual areas of the business – which in many instances have demonstrated substantial growth over the course of a number of years, underpinned by the hard work of our people – we have been able to add outstanding new lawyers to the team, whether they have moved to Sintons from elsewhere or have been trained in-house.

Now, we have a number of areas of the business which are regarded in the highest terms nationally, including our healthcare team, which has grown its presence over the past 10 to 15 years to become a national leader in its field.

We continue to receive growing numbers of instructions from across the UK and wider afield in almost all areas of the business, as our capability and reputation as a firm builds further still.

Building on our heritage to create a strong future

1896 marked a year of historic new beginnings and breakthroughs.

The year that saw the first modern Olympic Games held in Athens;

The introduction of the X-ray;

The development of the first Ford vehicle, the Quadricycle.

And in such a landmark year as 1896, with events taking place which went on to change history, it is fitting that this was the year when Sintons was founded and the foundations laid for the firm that it would become.

Having been founded as Sutton Cheshire & Thompson on February 8, 1896, to serve the people of Newcastle, the firm then merged with John H. Sintons & Co in 1971 – later becoming Sintons – and has grown into one of the leading law firms in the North of England, acting for ever-increasing numbers of business and private clients both regionally and across the UK.

Over the past 125 years, Sintons has developed a reputation for the quality of its advice, and crucially, the deep and trusting relationships it builds with its clients borne out of the outstanding service it delivers to them.

There are so many momentous events and developments which have taken place over such a long period of time and the world has changed, and continues to change, beyond recognition.

However, throughout that period Sintons has been working alongside individuals, families, businesses and organisations for 125 years, adapting and changing to meet new challenges and will continue to do so for the years to come.

As a law firm for changing times, Sintons continues to evolve, as it has done since 1896, to ensure it stays at the forefront of the legal market and in the best possible position to deliver excellence to its clients.

“Over the past 125 years, we have continually shown we are innovators, we are leaders. We have never been afraid to take bold decisions,” says Christopher Welch, managing partner of Sintons.

“A great example of this is when we invested in our head office, The Cube, in 2004. We were moving to an area of the city which was largely undeveloped and were, largely, surrounded by the old Scottish and Newcastle plant. Looking around us now, this is a thriving, fast-growing and sought-after area, which is the site of huge investment from both business and academia. We had the foresight to buy into these brave future plans and the ambition to want to become part of it.

“In these changing times, we will continue to evolve and develop, as we have done throughout our history, to ensure that at all times we are delivering the very best service to all our clients while also building and investing in the firm from within.

“We have stood the test of time for 125 years and are committed to ensuring Sintons maintains the reputation and presence that has been built so carefully into the future.”

For Christopher, who joined Sintons in 2003, the main differentiator between Sintons and its competitors is its unfaltering commitment to clients.

While continuing to attract new clients nationally, the firm is rightly proud of its longstanding client base, which includes many who have been with Sintons through multiple generations of their family or business ownership.

“The firm’s absolute priority from day one has been our clients and ensuring they receive the highest standards of legal and personal service. Our reputation is built on those foundations, which were laid by our previous generations of Sintons’ lawyers, and is one we are proud to continue to develop further,” says Christopher.

“At Sintons, we care about what we do, how we do it and we never forget that the clients we are working with are depending on us for, often, some of the most momentous decisions of their lives. As a firm, we recognise both the privilege and the responsibility that goes with this, it is fundamental to how we work and to our values as a business.

“Our clients are the front, back and centre of everything we do. We’ve been there for them whenever they’ve needed us for 125 years and that will continue to be the case as we move forward.”

And building further on its reputation for leading the way in the legal marketplace, Sintons continues to innovate to stand out from the crowd.

Having carried out a full rebrand in early 2020, to give the firm a fresh yet timeless identity, Sintons continues to invest in its future.

“Our rebrand was a significant step for the firm,” says Christopher. “Our branding represents the firm that we are; bold, innovative and providing clear and confident advice to our clients – a firm that stands out from the crowd.

“The use of technology to better serve our clients has always been an essential part of our growth strategy. Our founding partners would be aghast at the thought that we were able to have virtually all our colleagues working remotely – with some as far away as the Cayman Islands and Texas – without any impact on client service.

“By investing heavily in our website and online presence, we have created a resource which is available to clients wherever they are in the UK or indeed the world, giving them immediate access to information and support in ways which weren’t available before.

“The legal sector isn’t always the first to embrace change, but we are rightfully proud of the reputation we have built for standing out in that respect. For 125 years, we have taken bold moves, we have never shied away from making investment to equip the business for the long-term, and we have shown foresight and innovation to make the firm what it is today.

“This is a landmark anniversary for us, and in uncertain times, the investment we have made for many years in our infrastructure, development of our people and strategic recruitment means we remain confident in our future and the service we can continue to provide to our clients and to the regional community of which we are a fundamental part.

“These truly are changing times – but with 125 years behind us then we must be doing something right!  We know that our business will continue to evolve, with further investments in technology and infrastructure changing how and where we work. However, as we move forward, what is clear is that Sintons will always be right there, by the side of our clients, as we have been since 1896.”

Law firm Sintons is marking its 125th anniversary

Since its foundation in 1896, Sintons has grown to become one of the leading law firms in the North of England with a client base which extends across the whole UK.

It has become known as a key advisor to businesses and individuals acting on major, complex matters, regionally, nationally and internationally.

In many of its practice areas, including business, healthcare, private client and neurotrauma, Sintons is regarded as one of the UK’s leading specialist advisors.

Sintons has built a well-deserved reputation for delivering expert legal advice and outstanding service to every client, which is at the heart of the trusting and long-lasting relationships it has built during the past 125 years.

Testament to the quality of service provided is the fact that many of the firm’s clients have been with Sintons for decades, with the firm routinely being trusted to advise multiple generations of families and business owners.

Now, in its 125th year, and despite the ongoing challenges being presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, Sintons remains confident in its future as the firm continues to develop and grow.

The firm can trace its roots back to the formation of Sutton Cheshire & Thompson on February 8, 1896, which merged with John H. Sinton & Co in 1971 to become Sinton & Co, and later Sintons.

The expansion of the amalgamated firm has seen it move offices a number of times in order to house its growing number of employees, moving from Portland Terrace in Jesmond to bigger premises in Osborne Terrace which were soon outgrown, resulting in the relocation in 2004 to its current purpose-built home, The Cube, opposite St James’ Park in Newcastle. A second site was added with the opening of a consulting office in York two years ago to help the firm service its increasing demand for work from around Yorkshire.

The move in 2004 acted as a springboard in the development of Sintons, with many people not having realised how big the firm had grown and heralded a period of strong growth across the firm as a whole, with legal talent continually added to build its expertise and capability further still.

This has been backed by continued investment in its IT infrastructure, digital offering and people, to ensure Sintons is well positioned for the future.

“We are very proud of the reputation we have built over the past 125 years, which has seen us become known on a national scale as a law firm of the highest capability which is absolutely dedicated to its clients,” says Christopher Welch, managing partner of Sintons.

“We have never been afraid to be leaders and to take bold decisions, which have frequently put us at the very forefront of the legal sector. We were, for example, building our online presence and digital business development platforms way ahead of our competitors and long before it was something that was embraced widely within the legal sector.

“Going forward, we are in a strong position, having built on the heritage and legacy of Sintons over the past 125 years to create a law firm with a national reach, regarded in the highest terms for the quality of both our legal and personal client service.

“This is a very significant milestone for us as a business, and while we reach it during some of the most challenging economic conditions in the country’s history, we remain confident in the future of Sintons.”

Ask the Experts – a Monthly Q&A with Sintons’ Employment Team – episode 17

Today we recorded our ‘Ask the Experts monthly Q&A with Sintons’ Employment Team – episode 17’ – with Angela Carver and Catherine Hope. These sessions came about due to the employment team here at Sintons having been inundated with COVID-19 and furlough questions following the introduction of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and the ever changing government guidance.

Our session today covers the following topics:

  • Can an employer hire someone to do a basic role which could easily be carried out by a furloughed worker, or should it be offered to the furloughed worker?
  • Restrictive covenants
  • Can an employer require employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19?

For your convenience we have also recorded this session as both a webinar and podcast, links to both are below.

Top lawyer again named as Leading Individual

One of the region’s most esteemed commercial lawyers has again been independently confirmed as a leader in her field in the North of England.

Karen Simms has become established as the trusted advisor to many businesses across the UK, based on her ability to handle matters of the greatest complexity while advising clients in a clear and direct manner.

Her expertise in the energy, waste and natural resources sector is a particular niche in the legal world, which leads to Karen’s instruction on some of the most significant deals in the country.

In recognition of her work, Karen has recently been named by Legal 500 2021 as a leading individual in the North of England – an endorsement she has received by the independent legal publication for the past six years.

Alongside her client work, Karen heads Sintons’ corporate and commercial team, a department known for its deep expertise and experience and involvement in completing major deals on a regional and national basis, which was named Corporate and Commercial Team of the Year at the Northern Law Awards 2019.

The team was also hailed as a leading name in the North of England by Legal 500, which praised its combination of delivering outstanding legal advice and focus on “maintaining excellent relationships with clients”.

Christopher Welch, managing partner of Sintons, said: “Karen is, without question, one of the most capable and experienced lawyers in the commercial world, who routinely handles major complex deals in the region and far beyond. Her expertise in the energy, waste and natural resources sector sets her apart even further.

“She has become the trusted advisor to business owners for whom she has supported their aspirations and development of their business for many years, and continues to be the go-to lawyer to assist them in their plans. The fact Karen has again been named as one of the leading individuals in the North of England’s legal sector is little surprise, but is worthy recognition of the outstanding work she does and the efforts she goes to on behalf of her clients.”

Leading healthcare lawyer again hailed as go-to specialist

A specialist healthcare lawyer who advises NHS Trusts and professionals nationally has again been independently confirmed as a leader in her field.

Amanda Maskery has amassed a reputation as a go-to lawyer in healthcare, being regularly instructed by NHS Trusts, healthcare organisations and professionals from across the UK on a host of matters.

Regularly praised for her knowledge and understanding of the fast-changing and complex NHS and wider healthcare sector, Amanda has become respected for her advice on key strategic issues, governance, structural, commercial and charitable matters.

In recognition of her work in healthcare, Amanda, head of NHS healthcare at Sintons, has again been named as a leading individual in the North of England by Legal 500 2021.

Her healthcare team, a long-standing top-rated specialist advisor by Legal 500, maintains its band one ranking for 2021, winning praise for its “in-depth sector understanding and the quality of their advice….differentiate themselves by being at the forefront of change”.

Christopher Welch, managing partner of Sintons, said: “Amanda has established herself as a leading healthcare advisor on a national basis, and is the advisor of choice for many organisations and professionals working within this very specialist sector. It is a great endorsement of her work that she has again been named as a leading individual by Legal 500.

“Our healthcare team continues to make great strides, acting for NHS Trusts, healthcare organisations, GPs, dentists and other professionals throughout the UK, and winning significant praise for its work. Legal 500 again maintains its top rating, which is yet more independent endorsement of the outstanding legal and personal service we deliver to our clients.”

‘But it is not yet business as usual…’ – NHS England Dental Update

Yesterday NHS England published its latest Preparedness letter for primary dental care.

This confirms the contractual arrangements for NHS dentistry for the period 1 January to 31 March 2021. Practices which deliver 45% of their contractual units of dental activity (“UDAs”) will be deemed to have delivered their full contractual obligation.

From 1 January 2021 there will be a return to the usual contractual measurements of UDAs, units of orthodontic activity (“UOAs”) and courses of treatment (“COT”). The contract targets have been adjusted to 45% of the NHS contract target in respect of UDAs and 70% of the target for UOAs for the last quarter of the NHS financial year.

If these targets are reached there will be no claw back under an NHS contract.

In the event that a practice falls short, there is some additional protection for those that still achieve at least 80% of the targets set out above. In terms of UDAs, if a practice delivers at least 80% of the 45% requirement between January and March (i.e. 36% of overall contracted activity for this period), NHS England will still waive some of its claw back rights. Practices meeting between 80 and 100% of the 45% target will be deemed to have met a sliding scale of between 80 – 100% of their overall contract target and be paid accordingly.

However, if a practice delivers less than 80% of the 45% target between January and March (i.e. less than 36% of contracted activity), they will only be taken to have delivered the actual activity delivered during this period. For example, if they achieve 35% of their contractual UDAs they will only be paid 35% of the contract value, as opposed to being paid 80% of the contractual value if they achieve 36%.

The contrast here in treatment seems stark and will likely cause great difficulties for any dental practices already struggling.

The British Dental Association (“BDA”) has confirmed that it has refused to sign up to this arrangement which it believes will ‘threaten practice viability and undermine patient care’ and is not the approach it would expect during an ongoing pandemic. According to the BDA,

NHS England’s own contract data, which we have seen, suggests in November only 43% of contract holders are likely to escape penalties. This is untenable. Most dental practices provide a mix of NHS and private care and many are already suffering due to a lack of support for private dentistry throughout the pandemic’.

We are aware that the impact of COVID-19 on dental services is up for Parliamentary debate on 7 January 2021 so this will be one to keep an eye on.

If you have any questions in relation to this content please contact a member of Sintons’ specialist dental team.

Quote references 

  1. NHS England
  2. BDA

Healthcare Estates Legal Update – December 2020

Welcome to your NHS Estates caselaw update – December 2020 from Sintons.

If you require any further information, one of our team of healthcare specialist lawyers would be pleased to talk through your requirements and answer any questions. Please contact us at any time.

Please click on the image below to view the full Newsletter.

Ask the Experts – a Monthly Q&A with Sintons’ Employment Team – episode 16

Today we recorded our ‘Ask the Experts monthly Q&A with Sintons’ Employment Team – episode 16’ – with Keith Land and Fiona Campbell. These sessions came about due to the employment team here at Sintons having been inundated with COVID-19 and furlough questions following the introduction of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and the ever changing government guidance.

Our session today covers the following topics:

  • Disciplinary procedures
  • Notice and furlough leave
  • Can employees on long term sick leave who are clinically extremely vulnerable be placed on furlough leave, or should they remain on sick leave?

For your convenience we have also recorded this session as both a webinar and podcast, links to both are below.

Annual Pharmacy Sector Update 2020 Online

Sintons’ Healthcare team, Lloyds Bank, RMT Accountants and Christie & Co invite you to join them for their annual discussion on topical pharmacy issues, with presentations from key local and national figures.

Please click on the play button in the bottom left corner of the below video image to start viewing.

We have also included a podcast version should you wish to listen to the conference again at your leisure, the link is also below.

Annual Dental Conference Online 2020

Sintons’ Healthcare Team, in conjunction with Perspective (North East), Parklane Plowden Chambers and UNW, have recorded the following complimentary educational conference for dentists.

This conference covers various ‘hot’ topics, and helps you plan how best to manage opportunities and risks for your practice and personal finances and has become a staple in the calendar of dental professionals from the region and beyond.

Please click on the play button in the bottom left corner of the below video image to start viewing.

We have also included a podcast version should you wish to listen to the conference again at your leisure, the link is also below.

Dental Conference 2020

Sintons’ Healthcare Team, in conjunction with Perspective (North East), Parklane Plowden Chambers and UNW, invite you to watch their annual complimentary educational conference for dentists.

This conference covers various ‘hot’ topics, and helps you plan how best to manage opportunities and risks for your practice and personal finances and has become a staple in the calendar of dental professionals from the region and beyond.

Please click on the play button in the bottom left corner of the below ‘North East Dental Conference 2020’ window to start viewing.

We have also included a podcast version should you wish to listen to the conference again at your leisure, the link is also below.

If you have any questions please use the ‘Talk to Sintons now’ Live Chat facility in the bottom right hand corner of your current screen and a member of the team will be happy to assist.

Ask the Experts monthly Q&A with Sintons’ Employment Team – episode 15

Today we recorded our ‘Ask the Experts monthly Q&A with Sintons’ Employment Team – episode 15’ – with Keith Land, Catherine Hope and Ailsa Hobson. These sessions came about due to the employment team here at Sintons having been inundated with COVID-19 and furlough questions following the introduction of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and the ever changing government guidance.

Our session today covers the following topics:

  • PILON payments
  • Sick pay? Symptoms, isolation and quarantine – what are the rules?
  • Job Support Scheme.

For your convenience we have also recorded this session as both a webinar and podcast, links to both are below.

Key pharmacy event to be held online

An annual conference which brings together pharmacy professionals from across the country is to be held online for 2020.

The Annual North East Pharmacy Sector Update is held every year, and is attended by pharmacists and others working in the profession, who travel from far and wide to hear from the event’s array of nationally-known speakers. This year will feature main speaker Peter Cattee – Chair of the AiM, CEO of PCT Healthcare Ltd & Committee Chair of the Funding & Contract Committee (PSNC).

The event – organised by Sintons’ healthcare team, Lloyds Bank, RMT & Christie & Co – has become known for its insightful advice and is regarded as a must-attend for many people, who have become regular attendees for several years.

This year, the conference is being held online, enabling it to still go ahead despite the ongoing COVID-19 restrictions.

Adrian Dye, partner at Sintons and a specialist advisor to pharmacy clients nationally, said: “The Annual North East Pharmacy Sector Update is always a very popular event in our calendar, and has become known for its quality of speakers and the great advice and insights they offer. For our clients, many of whom come from across the country to attend, this is a really valuable opportunity.

“It is great news that we are holding it online this year. Not only will it allow the event to go ahead, but we can also reach more pharmacy professionals nationally, for whom travelling to the region may not have always been feasible. The fact we can seamlessly transfer some of our major events  into online webinars is fantastic and has worked extremely well for Sintons during the period of lockdown, enabling us to engage with existing and potential clients in a highly effective way.”

The Annual North East Pharmacy Sector Update 2020 will be held on Thursday, November 19, from 6pm onwards. To register, please contact head of marketing David Pritchard on david.pritchard@sintons.co.uk or 0191 2267802.

Healthcare team again confirmed as national leader

The “high quality” healthcare team at Sintons is again confirmed as being a national leader in its field, with its legal advice and client service both hailed as enabling it to stand out from the crowd.

The team – which “possesses a deep understanding of the intricacies of the NHS and secondary care market” – works nationally with NHS Trusts, GPs, dentists and other healthcare organisations, supporting them on an array of matters involving specialists from across Sintons.

The healthcare team comprises specialism in corporate and commercial matters including mergers, procurement, collaboration agreements, partnerships, employment and real estate matters, as well as issues involving Primary Care Networks.

Chambers and Partners UK Guide 2021 praised its national reputation and capability, which has seen it become established as the trusted advisor to organisations and individuals across the UK.

“They go above and beyond for any client,” quotes Chambers, citing the “high quality” of the team and its ability to deliver a “high level of expertise with good communication”.

Chambers’ findings come only weeks after Legal 500 Guide 2021 awarded similar praise to Sintons’ healthcare specialists, also naming them as being of national significance with a strong commitment to clients.

Amanda Maskery, head of NHS healthcare, again wins praise for her experience and expertise in healthcare work.

Senior associate Chloe Dinsdale is also named as an Associate to Watch, for her ability to support NHS clients in issues including governance, procurement, mergers and the negotiation of commercial contracts. “She is a very knowledgeable lawyer who has great insights,” says Chambers.

Christopher Welch, managing partner of Sintons, said: “Our healthcare team has become established as a key national name in this very specialist sector, and has built an unrivalled reputation based on the high quality of legal advice it delivers, alongside a first-rate personal service to every client. We are proud of how highly we are regarded in this field of work, and to become the trusted advisor to so many organisations and individuals within it.

“To achieve yet more independent recognition of our national standing and expertise from Chambers is excellent news, particularly so soon after very similar findings from Legal 500.”

Healthcare team again top-rated by Legal 500

Sintons’ healthcare team has maintained its top-band ranking in Legal 500 2021, in recognition of its national presence and reputation in the specialist sector.

The team is known across the UK for its in-depth healthcare knowledge, which has seen it become the advisor of choice to growing numbers of NHS Trusts, GPs, dentists and other healthcare organisations nationally.

Legal 500 notes its capability in a wide range of complex healthcare matters, and quotes one client who remarks: “Their in-depth sector understanding and the quality of their advice is the best I have dealt with”.

The team, led by head of NHS healthcare Amanda Maskery, brings together expertise from practice areas across the firm, with team members being hailed for standing out as “they differentiate themselves as being at the forefront of change”.

Amanda, praised for being “at the top of her field”, retains her place as one of Legal 500’s leading individuals in the North of England.

The additions of regulatory associate Sheila Ramshaw and employment associate Angela Carver were hailed as adding further strength to the team.

Christopher Welch, managing partner of Sintons, said: “Our healthcare team has built a reputation as being a leading advisor in this very specialist field on a national basis, and to again have that independently confirmed is very pleasing. Legal 500 rightly points to the outstanding quality of their advice, client service and understanding of what is a very complex area, which combine to make a team which has become the trusted advisor to Trusts and many other organisations across the country.”

Ask the Experts monthly Q&A with Sintons’ Employment Team – episode 14

Today we recorded our ‘Ask the Experts monthly Q&A with Sintons’ Employment Team – episode 14’ – with Keith Land and Ailsa Hobson. These sessions came about due to the employment team here at Sintons having been inundated with COVID-19 and furlough questions following the introduction of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and the ever changing government guidance.

Our sessions today covers the following topics:

  • The job support scheme
  • Agile working
  • Working from home – September 2020.

For your convenience we have also recorded this session as both a webinar and podcast, links to both are below.

Dental Conference 2020 to be held online

A much-anticipated annual dental event which attracts professionals from across the the UK is being held online for 2020.

The Dental Conference has become a staple in the calendar of dental professionals from the region and beyond, and is held every year to help dentists plan effectively to manage opportunities and risk from both a business and personal finance perspective.

The educational event, held by Sintons’ healthcare team in conjunction with Perspective (North East) Chartered Financial Planners, Parklane Plowden Chambers and UNW Chartered Accountants, regularly attracts scores of attendees with its array of speakers who are known for their valuable advice and insights into the dental sector. CPD points are also awarded.

This year, due to ongoing COVID-19 restrictions and to ensure the Dental Conference 2020 can go ahead, it is being held online, in a move which will enable increased numbers of people to participate and will also ensure geography is no boundary.

Karen Simms, partner in Sintons’ healthcare team and specialist advisor to the dental profession, said: “The Dental Conference has become known as an event dental professionals must attend, with its genuine insights into the sector and content tailored exactly around the needs of dentists and how best we can support them in running a successful business while also planning for the future on both a personal and professional level.

“Attendees join us from across the North of England, and as our client base is national, we know many more would like to attend if geography permitted. This year, we are delighted they will be given the chance to do so through the event being held online, and look forward to welcoming attendees, both new and regular, to the Dental Conference 2020.”

The Dental Conference will be held on Thursday, November 12 from 6pm. To register, please contact David Pritchard, head of marketing at Sintons, on david.pritchard@sintons.co.uk or 0191 2267802.

Ask the Experts monthly Q&A with Sintons’ Employment Team – episode 13

Today we recorded our ‘Ask the Experts monthly Q&A with Sintons’ Employment Team – episode 13’ – with Keith Land and Angela Carver These sessions came about due to the employment team here at Sintons having been inundated with COVID-19 and furlough questions following the introduction of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and the ever changing government guidance.

The team has also given much thought as to what work may look like following the relaxation of the current restrictions.

For your convenience we have also recorded this session as both a webinar and podcast, links to both are below.

SDLT, Surgery Premises and Partnership Changes

It is important that any GP Partnership obtains professional advice when looking to change the composition of the partnership or deal with the surgery premises. This includes both financial and legal advice from properly qualified individuals with wide experience of dealing with NHS partnerships and property.

Most practices are aware that whenever there is a change to the partners making up a partnership, it is essential to properly document those changes to ensure liabilities are clear between the ongoing partners, new partners and any retired partners, and to avoid lengthy and usually costly disputes from arising following such changes.

Any formal partnership agreement in place between the partners will often contain provisions specifically relating to the treatment of surgery premises upon changes to the composition of the partnership. It is important to consider the application of those provisions where any change occurs, to avoid missing deadlines and potential disputes.

SDLT Liability and partnership assets –

Where the surgery premises is a partnership asset, the property documents dealing with any change in partners will not follow the usual form for a transfer of property ownership and poorly drafted documents can lead to the uncertainty around tax treatment of the asset and unnecessary liability arising in respect of Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT). It is extremely tricky, if not impossible, to unpick a transaction that has been completed using incorrectly drafted documentation, and therefore very difficult to avoid the associated SDLT liability that can arise.

Whilst obtaining financial advice from a properly qualified and experienced accountant can assist in mitigating SDLT liability, properly drafted legal documentation can help avoid unnecessary liability arising in the first place. Your professional advisors should be working closely together to ensure the best outcome for the partners.

SDLT Liability and partnerships –

The Finance Act 2003 sets out particularly complex SDLT rules in respect of transfers of property in or out of a partnership. These rules will need careful consideration at the outset of any transaction involving a partnership and transfer of property. Such prior consideration is absolutely crucial where the property does not comprise a partnership asset and therefore the transfer reflects a transfer in shares in the property, which will carry value.

In an NHS setting, this is most often the case where a separate property owning partnership exists in respect of the surgery premises. A property owning partnership will often arise where retired partners continue to hold the surgery premises as an investment and permit the clinical partnership to occupy for the purposes of running the practice.

Wherever any surgery premises transfers from a property owning partnership into the clinical partnership, perhaps where the retired partners choose to dispose of their shares, very careful treatment and planning will be required from a legal perspective.

Obtain Early Specialist Advice –

We have found over our decades of advising GP practices on their legal requirements, that surgery premises is very often overlooked when changes occur within a GP partnership, or very often shelved to be dealt with at a future date. We have advised countless partnerships experiencing the fallout of undocumented partnership changes or inappropriate advice from advisors with insufficient NHS experience.

It is imperative that partners consider the effects that any change in the partnership will have on the ownership, occupational arrangements or lending criteria of any loans secured against the surgery premises.

We would urge any partnership that is planning for any upcoming retirements or admissions, or any changes in property ownership to obtain advice at an early stage from qualified professionals experienced in dealing with NHS partnerships. If you would like to speak to one of our specialists regarding any partnership or property matters, please contact the team.

Ask the Experts weekly Q&A with Sintons’ Employment Team – episode 12

Today we recorded our ‘Ask the Experts weekly Q&A with Sintons’ Employment Team – episode 12’ – with Ailsa Hobson and Angela Carver.

These sessions came about due to the employment team here at Sintons having been inundated with COVID-19 and furlough questions following the introduction of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and the ever changing government guidance.

The team has also given much thought as to what work may look like following the relaxation of the current restrictions.

For your convenience we have also recorded this session as both a webinar and podcast, links to both are below.

Ask the Experts weekly Q&A with Sintons’ Employment Team – episode 11

Today we recorded our ‘Ask the Experts weekly Q&A with Sintons’ Employment Team – episode 11’ – with Keith Land and Catherine Hope.

These sessions came about due to the employment team here at Sintons having been inundated with COVID-19 and furlough questions following the introduction of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and the ever changing government guidance.

The team has also given much thought as to what work may look like following the relaxation of the current restrictions.

For your convenience we have also recorded this session as both a webinar and podcast, links to both are below.

Ask the Experts weekly Q&A with Sintons’ Employment Team – episode 10

Today we recorded our ‘Ask the Experts weekly Q&A with Sintons’ Employment Team – episode 10’ – with Ailsa Hobson, Angela Carver and Catherine Hope.

These sessions came about due to the employment team here at Sintons having been inundated with COVID-19 and furlough questions following the introduction of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and the ever changing government guidance.

The team has also given much thought as to what work may look like following the relaxation of the current restrictions.

For your convenience we have also recorded this session as both a webinar and podcast, links to both are below.

Settlement Agreements

Associate Catherine Hope from the Employment department at Sintons recorded a podcast today concentrating on Settlement Agreements.

Click the link below to listen to the full podcast.

Ask the Experts weekly Q&A with Sintons’ Employment Team – episode 9

Today we recorded our ‘Ask the Experts weekly Q&A with Sintons’ Employment Team – episode 9’ – with Ailsa Hobson and Catherine Hope. These sessions came about due to the employment team here at Sintons having been inundated with COVID-19 and furlough questions following the introduction of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and the ever changing government guidance.

The team has also given much thought as to what work may look like following the relaxation of the current restrictions.

For your convenience we have also recorded this session as both a webinar and podcast, links to both are below.

An investigation into the resilience of dental practices following the covid-19 outbreak

By the invitation of the Chief Dental Officer England an independent task group involving a wide range of dental stakeholders is currently looking at the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on dental practice finances, particularly those relying on both NHS and private income. The stakeholders involved in the piece of work are listed below.

The task group has started to carry out a rapid review of current evidence as to the whether the pandemic will impact on the sustainability of high street dental practices across the next 18 months and examine the causes, nature and duration of any such impact. The task group will consider the impact of “doing nothing” and whether there is a unique business case to be made for additional support for dental practices relying on different sources of income for the benefit of healthcare provision and wider society.

The task group met for the first time in early July 2020 and agreed that a survey would help the group’s objectives. The British Dental Association is hosting the survey and will share the results with the task group.

The task group would be most grateful if you could support this important piece of work by filling in this survey. Please complete responses by Monday 13th July 2020.

https://www.smartsurvey.co.uk/s/covidandyourpractice/

Stakeholders

  • Association of Dental Groups
  • British Association of Clinical Dental Technology
  • British Association of Dental Nurses
  • British Association of Dental Therapists
  • British Dental Association
  • British Institute of Dental & Surgical Technologists
  • British Society of Dental Hygienists and Therapists
  • Faculty of General Dental Practice
  • Local Dental Committees Conference
  • Local Dental Networks and commissioners
  • National Association of Specialist Dental Accountants and Lawyers
  • Office of the Chief Dental Officer England and CDO representatives from the devolved nations (as observers)
  • Society of British Dental Nurses ​

Sintons supports care providers during COVID-19

This article was featured in the June issue of North East Times.

Care providers including NHS Trusts, GPs, dentists and other healthcare organisations are being supported through the COVID-19 pandemic by nationally-acclaimed advisors at law firm Sintons.

Frontline NHS services have come under huge pressure during the past few weeks as Coronavirus swept the UK, leaving tens of thousands of people seeking urgent medical care having contracted the deadly disease.

The pandemic has brought individual challenges to each of the main groups of healthcare providers – NHS Trusts have been at the forefront of the efforts to tackle COVID-19, with hospitals and their teams providing outstanding urgent care to people, despite the well-documented controversies of a lack of PPE and provision and testing for staff.

In support of the efforts of hospital teams, many GP practices and local medical centres have taken on additional roles after NHS England commissioned extra capacity for the treatment of patients, not only to support the treatment of COVID-19, but also to help the NHS deliver other urgent operations and cancer treatments.

Many dental surgeries have faced a different kind of challenge, with a decline in business as a result of social distancing seeing many practices turning to business support measures including the Government’s Job Retention Scheme.

The specialist healthcare team at Sintons has been advising senior figures from across the healthcare spectrum, supporting them in dealing with the unprecedented current situation and enabling them to take the major decisions that are frequently required in such a fast-changing environment.

Sintons’ healthcare team, which is regularly hailed as one of the UK’s leading specialist advisors to the sector by the independent Legal 500 and Chambers legal guides, is the long-standing legal advisor to several NHS Trusts across the UK. The team has played a vital role in helping them to achieve stability behind the scenes, supporting the smooth running of the Trusts to enable them to concentrate on their frontline healthcare provision.

Amanda Maskery, head of NHS healthcare at Sintons and one of the leading specialist healthcare lawyers in the UK said: “Our healthcare clients and their fantastic staff are rightly being hailed as the heroes of the COVID-19 crisis. The way they have responded to the huge pressure of soaring diagnoses of this deadly illness, while having to deal with the additional challenges of lack of resource and equipment, has been phenomenal. We have never been more proud of our NHS and everyone working in healthcare.

“As a leading specialist advisor to the sector, we have worked with NHS Trusts, GPs and other providers for many years, and our in-depth understanding of the continually-changing NHS landscape enables us to give valuable insight and clear advice to these organisations, even in the most urgent of situations.

“We are delighted to continue to support them through these difficult and uncertain times, and will be with our clients every step of the way as they negotiate their way through the pandemic and come out of the other side.”

Sintons’ Employment Seminar – Procedural Pitfalls and Pointers

Sintons’ Employment team, in partnership with Reed HR, have recorded the following complimentary online employment law seminar.

This seminar focuses on ‘Procedural Pitfalls and Pointers’.

Please click on the play button in the bottom left corner of the below image to start viewing.

To follow the full size slides the team are using throughout the presentation, please click here prior to commencing watching.

Reopening of dental practices – employment law considerations

On Thursday 28 May the Government announced that face to face patient care can resume within the dental industry from 8 June. NHS England and the Chief Dental Officer confirmed that full resumption of routine dental care is supported in a way that is ‘safe, operationally deliverable and allows dental practices flexibility to do what is best for patients and their teams’. In light of this announcement, we highlight some of the employment law considerations that may arise for practices in the preparation to reopen:

Health and safety duty

As employers, practice owners have a legal duty to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work of all their employees. They must therefore ensure they carefully monitor and follow the Government and industry specific guidance in this regard. In practice this will involve preparing a return to work system which can mitigate the health and safety risks associated with the potential spread of COVID-19 within the practice setting.

Dentists are being advised to take a risk-based approach. More guidance is due to be made available and practices should keep a close out for this. The British Dental Association states that practices should carry out a risk assessment of the practicing environment and the treatment needs and status of any potential patient before reaching a decision on the approach to take. It also sets out further guidance in relation to what Personal Protective Equipment (“PPE”) is required.

Although the announcement about reopening has been made, the letter from Sara Hurley and Matt Neligan dated 28 May 2020 makes it clear that the request to reopen from 8 June is where practices assess that they have the necessary infection prevention control and PPE requirements in place.

Bringing staff back to work

Practice Owners will need to consider their initial staffing needs which will depend on the practice size and employee numbers. A plan will need to be made, based on the health and safety measures and practice requirements, together with the ability of staff to physically get to work as a result of reduced public transport resource.

If not all staff are to return together and some are remaining on furlough leave, practice owners should ensure that no discriminatory criteria are applied when selecting who will return, except where this can be justified. The Government guidance makes it clear that the usual equality and discrimination laws apply in relation to the furloughing of employees.

A plan should then be clearly communicated to staff. Throughout this process practice owners should bear in mind that staff will have had very different experiences during lockdown. Some may be anxious about the thought of returning to work, or even leaving the house as a result. Communication will be key in reassuring them of the steps taken to provide protection.

What if an employee refuses to come back to work?

If an employee does not want to return to work practice owners will need to carefully consider the reason why. It may well be a concern that can be easily resolved informally following further conversation. It may be that they are extremely vulnerable and have been advised to shield by the Government, or by their health practitioner, or that they are clinically vulnerable. It could also be that they live with someone who is extremely vulnerable to COVID-19. Each of these different scenarios would need to be considered separately and additional steps taken as required. Alternatively, it could be that they are worried that they will not have childcare in place and don’t think they will be able carry out their role as a result. If this is the case, you will need to sit down with them and understand what their situation and concerns are. Understanding the concerns and putting forward flexible solutions to work around these is going to be key, especially while ordinary childcare and educational arrangements remain inaccessible for some parents.

If there is no discriminatory element, and the practice has put all of the necessary health and safety measures in place, then an employee could be investigated for refusal to follow a reasonable management instruction, and unauthorised absence. If the absence is unauthorised then they would not be entitled to pay as they would not be willing to attend work. However, practice owners would need to carefully consider the context of a refusal to attend work before taking any disciplinary action, particularly if concerns are raised about health and safety. Certain dismissals related to the raising of health and safety concerns amount to automatically unfair dismissals which do not require qualifying service, and action short of dismissal on these grounds could amount to an unlawful detriment giving rise to further claims.

Creating new, and updating existing policies and procedures

NHS England has not yet published a new Standard Operating Procedure to reflect the return to face-to-face practice although this is expected at any time. Practices should keep a close eye out for this guidance.

Alongside this practice owners should consider whether existing policies are sufficient to ensure employees will comply with all new safety measures. It may be necessary to update existing policies or develop new ones.

Training staff

It will then be important for dental businesses to factor in training employees on any new safety measures and procedural changes, before they begin to perform their duties. Practice Owners should think about how they will do this, whether through virtual training or otherwise.

If you have any questions in relation to this article please contact Catherine Hope.

Changes to the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme

On Friday evening (29 May), the Chancellor announced a number of changes to the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (the “Scheme”) which will take effect over the coming months. The full details of the changes are yet to be published, but here is a summary of the main changes:

  • from 1 August employers will be required to start paying national insurance and pension contributions;
  • from 1 September the Government will only reimburse 70% of salary (maximum of £2,190), with employers having to top up the remaining 10% (or more depending on what is agreed with an employee);
  • from 1 October the Government will only reimburse 60% of salary (maximum of £1,875), with employers having to top up the remaining 20% (or more depending on what is agreed with an employee);
  • the Scheme will close to new entrants from 30 June, meaning that the final date by which an employer can furlough an employee for the first time will be 10 June, in order for the current 3 week furlough period to be completed by 30 June;
  • part-time working will be allowed under the Scheme from 1 July, brought forward from August as originally intended; and
  • the Scheme will close on 31 October 2020.

In terms of part time working, HM Treasury has confirmed that from 1 July, employers will be able to bring employees on furlough leave back to work for any amount of time and any shift pattern. Employers will be able to claim under the Scheme for any of an employee’s normal hours not worked, whilst having to pay any full hours worked together with the tax and NI contributions on those payments. To be eligible for a continued grant under the Scheme, employers will have to agree a new flexible furloughing arrangement with their employees and confirm this agreement in writing.

Further guidance on flexible furloughing and how employers should calculate claims is due to be published on 12 June.

You can find the full details published so far here.

If you have any questions in relation to the content of this article please contact a member of the Employment Team.

Ask the Experts weekly Q&A with Sintons’ Employment Team – episode 5

Ask the Experts weekly Q&A from Sintons’ Employment Team – episode 5 – with Keith Land and Ailsa Hobson.

These sessions have come about due to the employment team here at Sintons having been inundated with COVID-19 and furlough questions following the introduction of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and the ever changing government guidance.

The team has also been giving some thought as to what work may look like following the relaxation of the current restrictions.

So, In order to give you an opportunity to share in some of that wisdom, the team have opened themselves up to these Q&A sessions which are going to last until the end of May. During these short, bite sized sessions, members of the employment team will answer three questions, although it will actually be four today, (either COVID-19 related or not) that you haven’t either quite got to the bottom of or that your employees persistently ask you.

Please click on the image below to watch the session.

Ask the Experts weekly Q&A from Sintons’ Employment Team – episode 4

Ask the Experts weekly Q&A from Sintons’ Employment Team – episode 4 – with Keith Land and Ailsa Hobson.

These sessions have come about due to the employment team here at Sintons having been inundated with COVID-19 and furlough questions following the introduction of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and the ever changing government guidance.

The team has also been giving some thought as to what work may look like following the relaxation of the current restrictions.

So, In order to give you an opportunity to share in some of that wisdom, the team have opened themselves up to these Q&A sessions which are going to last until the end of May. During these short, bite sized sessions, members of the employment team will answer three questions, although it will actually be four today, (either COVID-19 related or not) that you haven’t either quite got to the bottom of or that your employees persistently ask you.

Please click on the image below to watch the session.

Sintons’ Employment Seminar – Managing the End of Furlough

Sintons’ Employment team, in partnership with Reed HR, have recorded the following complimentary online employment law seminar.

This seminar focuses on how to manage the end of furlough & potential restructuring.

Please click on the play button in the bottom left corner of the below image to start viewing.

To follow the full size slides the team are using throughout the presentation, please click here prior to commencing watching.

 

COVID-19 Q&A | Sintons | Healthcare | GPs

During these unprecedented times, where the situation is changing on a daily basis, we are aware that individuals and business owners will have many questions and uncertainties about how these developments impact on them.

Here, through a series of Q&A with expert lawyers from across our firm, Sintons hopes to be able to answer some of those pressing questions, and provide some certainty and clarity for people who are unsure how to proceed.

We will bring you a question and answer per day for the next few weeks.

  1. Will I need to review my partnership during the current working arrangements?

Your GP partnership agreement will contain a number of provisions in relation to how the practice is run that may not be applicable at the current time, for instance the frequency of Partners’ meetings and the ability to carry these out via video/telephone conferencing and it is therefore recommended that amendments are made to accommodate new ways of working, particularly if these are likely to continue in some form for the foreseeable future.  This will avoid potential litigation at a later date in the event that there is a dispute between the Partners about any key business decisions.

Many practices have also not yet amended partnership agreements to take into account Primary Care Networks and if the current crisis has brought network working forward. Partnerships should consider making this amendment in the current climate.

  1. Will I need to review contracts made with third parties?

You should review any contracts made with third parties to establish whether the “force majeure” clause deals with pandemics and specifically refers to governmental steps taken in respect of such a pandemic. It may be necessary to rely on if the performance of a contract cannot be fulfilled.

  1. What about after the COVID-19 crisis?

GPs should give some thought as to whether the existing working arrangements will continue for the longer term and consider formalising those that have not been put into writing, for example working relationships with other practices. This will avoid the need for expensive litigation should a dispute arise.

  1. What is the guidance for GPs working?

GMC online guidance is available for those GPs who are currently working or have returned to the NHS to assist with the current crisis.

  1. How does guidance on consent apply during the COVID-19 pandemic?

The current guidance from the General Medical Council in relation to consent remains the same as before insofar as it`s practical in the circumstances. While some interventions need a signature because of local policies, there is nothing in the guidance which stipulates that a patient’s written consent must be obtained prior to any treatment being provided. Further, for most healthcare decisions GPs can rely on a patient’s verbal consent as before. The important thing is that the patient has had the opportunity to consider the relevant information and has decided to go ahead with the treatment intervention. All decisions about a patient’s treatment and care should be recorded in the patient’s record where written consent is not obtained. The primary requirement for all doctors is to respond responsibly and reasonably to the circumstances they face

  1. One of our practice staff members is refusing to attend work for fear of COVID-19. What should we do?

If your employee cannot work from home, then you will need to consider the current public health advice, the specific reason why they are concerned about attending the practice and  if there are no satisfactory reasons, take disciplinary action, or withhold pay in light of their refusal.

You should be checking whether they fall within one of the categories of people that the Government has “strongly advised” to work from home, or whether they are refusing to attend because of a disability which they believe puts them at high risk of serious illness if they catch COVID-19.

If there is no increased risk, the public health advice is such that the employee could reasonably be asked to continue to attend work. If they do not, then it is possible that you could investigate them for misconduct in terms of a refusal to follow a reasonable management instruction, and their unauthorised absence. If the absence was unauthorised then they would likely not be entitled to pay as they would not be willing to attend work.

That being said, the context of the refusal to attend work would need to be carefully considered. It could well be that they are concerned about colleagues not following hygiene rules and worrying about being placed at an increased risk and that steps could reasonably be taken to resolve the issue. You should listen to their concerns carefully as there may be issues that need to be addressed in terms of the business taking appropriate steps to mitigate any dangers concerning risks of contracting COVID-19. A complaint that the workplace is unsafe could also amount to a protected disclosure for the purposes of whistleblowing legislation and the protection against detriment and dismissal that this provides.

It would be prudent to seek legal advice before taking any disciplinary action in these circumstances.

  1. We are expecting a surge in demand once we start to take steps out of the lockdown, can we cancel employees’ planned holidays?

Provisions under the Working Time Regulations 1998 allow employers to order a worker not to take statutory leave on specified dates, by giving as many days’ notice as the period of holiday to which the notice relates. This could effectively allow you to cancel pre-approved statutory leave if there was enough time to comply with the notice requirement.

That being said, any such step should be exercised with caution. If holidays are cancelled at short notice this is likely to be unpopular, may damage employee relations and you could end up with compensation claims for any cancellation charges incurred. Consideration should be given to individual circumstances as there may be other reasons why the holiday has been booked which need to be taken into account.

In addition, unreasonably cancelling or disrupting holiday plans in this way could end up placing you in breach of the implied term of mutual trust and confidence, leaving you open to a constructive unfair dismissal claim. You should clearly explain the reasoning behind any proposal and try and come to an agreement whilst trying to resolve any concerns.

In terms of employees then being able to take the statutory holiday at a later date, it is important to note that emergency legislation was passed at the end of March which allows carry over of the 4 week holiday entitlement under the Working Time Directive for a period of 2 years following the year in which it was due. This is where it has not been reasonably practicable to take it in the leave year “as a result of the effects of the coronavirus (including on the worker, the employer or the wider economy or society)”.

  1. Can we require that staff are tested for COVID-19 where the test is available?

Practice staff are more than likely going to want to be tested for COVID-19 given the potential implications. That being said, if testing is accessible safely, a requirement to be tested is likely to be a reasonable management instruction for individuals carrying out certain duties given the position of primary care in the response to COVID-19 and the need to protect colleagues and patients.

In the event that an employee refused to be tested and refused to work, this may amount to an unauthorised absence where pay could be withheld. However, care would need to be taken to understand the reasons for any refusal and whether steps could be taken to address any concerns. If an employee continued to object without good reason then it would need to be made clear that continued refusal could amount to misconduct for failing to follow a reasonable management instruction and disciplinary action taken. Alternative options such as working from home would also need to be considered. Clear communication is going to be key, as well as fair and consistent treatment.

The situation would be different if an employee is not able to be tested safely, for example, they are self-isolating, and they would be entitled to statutory sick pay in such circumstances.

  1. We need to second staff to work at a GP COVID-19 “hot site”. What should be our main considerations?

The general idea behind a secondment is that an employee is temporarily assigned to work for a different part of their own employer or a separate organisation. In the current context it is likely to be that practice staff are simply working at another site under the direction of another organisation.

A secondment is going to amount to a three-way arrangement and there are a number of considerations to be made Some of the main issues include (without limitation): the correct identification of the employer of the seconded employee; whether an employee’s contract of employment allows for their secondment; the duration of the arrangement; who bears responsibility for the management of an employee; practical arrangements in terms of pay and other costs; the protection of confidential information; the termination of the arrangement; and who will bear any liabilities arising during the secondment or on termination.

Practice employers will retain a duty of care to take all reasonable steps to ensure the safety of their employees in the course of employment. The extent of that duty during a secondment will depend on a number of factors including among other things: the place where the work is to be done; the experience of the employee who is despatched to work at the site; the nature of the work they are required to carry out; and the degree of control that the employer can reasonably exercise in the circumstances.

Although a secondment of this nature is going to be slightly out of the ordinary given the circumstances, and time may be particularly of the essence, the parties should agree the main terms and conditions of the arrangement and put these in writing if possible.

Ask the Experts weekly Q&A from Sintons’ Employment Team – episode 3

Ask the Experts weekly Q&A from Sintons’ Employment Team – episode 3 – with Keith Land and Catherine Hope.

These sessions have come about due to the employment team here at Sintons having been inundated with COVID-19 and furlough questions following the introduction of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and the ever changing government guidance.

The team has also been giving some thought as to what work may look like following the relaxation of the current restrictions.

So, In order to give you an opportunity to share in some of that wisdom, the team have opened themselves up to these Q&A sessions which are going to last until the end of May. During these short, bite sized sessions, members of the employment team will answer three questions, although it will actually be four today, (either COVID-19 related or not) that you haven’t either quite got to the bottom of or that your employees persistently ask you.

Please click the image below to listen.

Healthcare laws relaxed temporarily to aid COVID-19 joint working efforts

Healthcare providers have found new ways of working during the COVID-19 pandemic, with competition laws being relaxed to allow joint efforts to ease the strain on the NHS frontline resources.

As the spread of the deadly disease swept the UK, frontline healthcare came under unprecedented capacity challenges, particularly in hospitals as they battled to cope with the fast-increasing levels of admissions in the early weeks of the crisis.

NHS England responded by commissioning independent healthcare providers to offer additional capacity for patient treatment, particularly in helping the NHS to deliver both urgent and non-urgent operations and treatments to ease the fast-developing backlog.

The requirements of this clearly require providers, in some situations at least, to work together and share commercially sensitive information, which is ordinarily prevented by the terms of the Competition Act 1998. Activities such as the sharing of staff or facilities, or collective planning for the provision of local services, could be interpreted as being anti-competitive.

As a result, the Government passed emergency legislation to help alleviate this problem – The Competition Act 1998 (Health Services for Patients in England) (Coronavirus) (Public Policy Exclusion) Order 2020 specifically allows the following types of agreement, designed to assist the NHS in dealing with the pandemic:

* information sharing in relation to capacity for providing health services of a particular kind during the healthcare disruption period, including information regarding staff and facilities

* coordination as regards the deployment of staff between NHS bodies and independent providers or between independent providers during the healthcare disruption period

* the sharing or loan of facilities for the provision of health services during the healthcare disruption period

* the joint purchasing of goods, materials, vehicles, plant, apparatus, facilities or services (including the services of staff), for the purpose of the provision of health services during the healthcare disruption period

* coordination as regards the provision of health services which involves agreement that during the healthcare disruption period one or more independent providers or NHS bodies are to undertake a particular activity or type of activity either generally or within a particular geographical area, including agreement to limit or expand the scale or range of health services to be or being supplied by one or more independent providers or NHS bodies.

These agreements are to be between NHS England, or another NHS body, and one or more independent providers, or else between independent providers themselves.

Agreements covered by the new legislation must be notified to the Secretary of State within 14 days of them being made, with full information about what services are being provided and which parties are involved.

However, all parties must note that this relaxation of the competition laws relate only to the COVID-19 response. These unprecedented times have given rise to unprecedented circumstances, and the co-operation that is currently being allowed between healthcare providers is a temporary measure to enable the sector as a whole to get through this crisis.

Our specialist team at Sintons has advised healthcare providers across the country in preparing and agreeing such joint working arrangements. If you need any advice or guidance in this area, please get in touch with our team, who remain contactable at all times

Government publishes COVID-19 recovery strategy – work update

The government has published its plan to bring the country out of lockdown following Boris Johnson’s speech to the nation on Sunday 10 May. ‘Our plan to rebuild: The UK Government’s COVID-19 recovery strategy’ (the “Plan”) sets out a plan to rebuild the United Kingdom in the face of COVID-19.

The Plan sets out a planned timetable for lifting the current restrictions, starting with ‘Step One’ which shall apply from Wednesday 13 May. Within Step One there are some changes which effect the workplace which we set out below.

The Plan confirms that for the foreseeable future workers who can work from home should continue to do so, where this is possible. In terms of those who can’t work from home, the Plan states that they should travel to work if their workplace is open. Sectors of the economy that are allowed to be open should be open and this includes ‘food production, construction, manufacturing, logistics, distribution and scientific research in laboratories’ The exception to this is workplaces in the hospitality industry and non-essential retail.

Employers are then told that they should, as soon as practicable, be following the Government’s “COVID-19 Secure Guidelines” which were published last night. There are 8 guides covering a range of different types of work including sectors such as ‘Construction and other outdoor work’ and ‘Factories, plants and warehouses’, as well as ‘Offices and contact centres’. These look at a number of preventative measures employers should take to reduce the risks from COVID-19.

The position in terms of anyone who is symptomatic (or where a member of their household is) remains the same, that they must stay at home and self-isolate.

On the question of travelling to work, the Plan also states that everyone should continue to avoid public transport wherever possible.

Employers should take particular note of the guidance provided in terms of providing a safe workspace in the context of COVID-19, and ensure they continue to comply with their duty of care regarding the health and safety of their workforce.

The full Plan and COVID-Secure Guidelines can be accessed at the following:

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/our-plan-to-rebuild-the-uk-governments-covid-19-recovery-strategy/our-plan-to-rebuild-the-uk-governments-covid-19-recovery-strategy#our-roadmap-to-lift-restrictions-step-by-step

https://www.gov.uk/guidance/working-safely-during-coronavirus-covid-19

We are expecting a further announcement this evening from the Chancellor in relation to the future plans regarding the Government’s Job Retention Scheme and will provide a further update in this respect.

If you have any questions or queries in relation to the information provided, please contact a member of our Employment Department.

Ask the Experts weekly Q&A with Sintons’ Employment Team – episode 2

Ask the Experts weekly Q&A from Sintons’ Employment Team – episode 2 – with Keith Land and Angela Carver

These sessions have come about due to the employment team here at Sintons having been inundated with COVID-19 and furlough questions following the introduction of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and the ever changing government guidance.

The team has also been giving some thought as to what work may look like following the relaxation of the current restrictions.

So, In order to give you an opportunity to share in some of that wisdom, the team have opened themselves up to these Q&A sessions which are going to last until the end of May. During these short, bite sized sessions, members of the employment team will answer three questions, although it will actually be four today, (either COVID-19 related or not) that you haven’t either quite got to the bottom of or that your employees persistently ask you.

Please click the image below to listen.

COVID-19 and Primary Care Networks

The current key principle of the NHS is to free up general practice capacity to prioritise workload to deal with the COVID-19 crisis. This has affected the intended development of Primary Care Networks (PCNs) as Networks have had to adapt to meet the requirements of the crisis. The aim behind the creation of PCN model is enhanced integration across out of hospital care and the steps already taken towards integration may have helped practices in dealing with the crisis but the crisis has also highlighted the need to allow for flexibility and adaptability for PCNs – something which the current contracting structure does not always allow for.

  • Network level response – the PCN structure allows practices to more easily respond to the crisis at a Network level by the sharing of resources, staff, planning and knowhow. The concept of COVID hot hubs being established across several GP practices which enable patients to be seen who have COVID symptoms but need to be assessed face-to-face for other health issues means some of these hubs have been established at a Network level.
  • PCN Services – although NHSE/I has acknowledged that for at least the next 6 months and potentially beyond, the response to COVID-19 will be the priority for practices, the DES Specifications for 2020/21 have still been published which has attracted criticism in some quarters. The 2020/21 services cover:
    • Enhanced Health in Care Homes
    • Structured Medication Review and services optimisation
    • Early Cancer Diagnosis

In terms of service provision, NHSE/I has confirmed that PCNs are required to provide the Enhanced Health in Care Homes services. PCNs are also required to “make every possible effort to begin work on the Early Cancer Diagnosis specification as planned unless work to support the COVID-19 response intervenes” with the service start date set at 1 October 2020.  The implementation date for the Structured Medication Review service requirements has been postponed until 1 October 2020 and NHSE/I has also acknowledged that this date will be kept under review.

  • Contract Sanctions – as PCN services are implemented by way of a variation to each GP practices’ contract, it remains to be seen what the consequences will be of PCNs failing to meet the service requirements due to focusing on their COVID-19 response. The GMS and PMS Regulations and APMS Directions have been amended to enable NHSE/I to suspend specific terms of GP contracts but the current suspension has not covered PCN services to date.
  • Workforce response – PCNs have been able to review the role of their Social Prescribing Link Workers and Community Pharmacists to determine how best to utilise this resource during the crisis with revised roles being put in place to assist with the COVID-19 response. NHSE/I has also confirmed that some Clinical Director roles can be passed to non-clinical staff so the CD can focus on purely clinical matters. The crisis has also meant the sharing on non-PCN staff across Networks and it is still important to ensure that appropriate documentation is in place to govern such working arrangements to protect both the employer and employee.
  • Data sharing – many PCNs already have a data sharing agreement in place between practices based on the model contract which has allowed for patient data to be easily shared during this time.

It remains to be seen how the PCN model will look once we emerge from the current crisis and whether the contracting arrangements will be updated to allow for the flexibility that COVID-19 has highlighted.

Ask the Experts weekly Q&A with Sintons’ Employment Team – episode 1

Ask the Experts weekly Q&A from Sintons’ Employment Team – episode 1  – with Keith Land and Ailsa Hobson.

These sessions have come about due to the employment team here at Sintons having been inundated with COVID-19 and furlough questions following the introduction of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and the ever changing government guidance.

The team has also been giving some thought as to what work may look like following the relaxation of the current restrictions.

So, In order to give you an opportunity to share in some of that wisdom, the team have opened themselves up to these Q&A sessions which are going to last until the end of May. During these short, bite sized sessions, members of the employment team will answer three questions, although it will actually be four today, (either COVID-19 related or not) that you haven’t either quite got to the bottom of or that your employees persistently ask you.

Please click the image below to listen.

COVID-19 Q&A | Sintons | Corporate

During these unprecedented times, where the situation is changing on a daily basis, we are aware that individuals and business owners will have many questions and uncertainties about how these developments impact on them.

Here, through a series of Q&A with expert lawyers from across our firm, Sintons hopes to be able to answer some of those pressing questions, and provide some certainty and clarity for people who are unsure how to proceed.

We will bring you a question and answer per day for the next few weeks.

Q – I am looking into buying a business I know is struggling – would you suggest now is a good time to make such a purchase? Can I still access funding, will my bank lend?

A – Buying a struggling business referred to as ‘distressed’ or ‘accelerated sales opportunities’ can have its advantages and be for the commercial benefit of a similar or competitive business. It is, however, vital that any potential buyer takes legal advice to avoid risks and protect their position as much as possible.

One of the advantages of purchasing a distressed business it that the purchase price is usually discounted to reflect the risks being assumed by a buyer and this can be attractive to potential buyers who are prepared to take a punt. The reason for the reduced price is that any prospective buyer will be expected to take on any commercial risk associated with the business and assets. The principal ‘caveat emptor’, meaning ‘buyer beware’, applies, as any potential buyer will be buying the assets ‘as seen’, subject to any defects (including defects in title, physical condition or claims by third parties).

Another advantage is the time scales (and therefore the associated costs) in purchasing a distressed business. Because of the lack of available cash to fund the trading of a business (and the risk for an administrator in trading a business whilst insolvent) the sale process is usually accelerated and takes between 5-10 days from an offer being accepted to completion, compared to solvent acquisitions which can take months. Time is of the essence and therefore any potential buyer needs to take a commercial view on the transaction and rely on pragmatic due diligence which focuses on the key issues at a very high level. Such a high level review will reduce the professional fees associated with an acquisition.

A combination of sound commercial judgement and legal knowledge is needed to understand the opportunities and risks for the buyer. The key risks are:

  1. Commercial risk – as noted above the risk is always with the buyer in an insolvent acquisition
  2. Ongoing contracts – sellers will want buyers to assume responsibility for performing ongoing contracts, even if loss making. Poorly/unreasonably drafted arrangements may fix the buyer with responsibility for historic product/service warranties.
  3. No warranties or title covenants will be given in relation to the business and/or assets. This approach is in complete contrast to a purchase from a solvent seller where the buyer can expect the seller to warrant that it owns the assets, they are in good order and that there are no unexpected liabilities and where a buyer can bring an action against the seller if the warranties are untrue
  4. Employees – the Transfer or Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations 2006 could apply which could mean employees transfer to the buyer, which means the seller’s obligations and liabilities associated with these employees will transfer and become the legal responsibility  of the buyer
  5. Retention of title clauses over the stock – many suppliers incorporate retention of title clauses into their terms and conditions of supply. The effect of this is that a buyer may pay good money to a distressed seller to purchase the stock only to find that the seller has no rights in it, as the supplier has not been paid and they have a retention over the stock.

We are being told that the banks are still open for business but would anticipate that it will take longer than usual to access funding which may present difficulties if you need an accelerated completion.

* For any advice on this matter or any other acquisition or insolvency purchase matters, please contact Matt Collen or Emma Pern in the corporate team at Sintons on matt.collen@sintons.co.uk or emma.pern@sintons.co.uk. For assistance or advice with any banking or finance matters, please contact Jane Meikle, head of banking at Sintons, on jane.meikle@sintons.co.uk