One million workers are being denied their rights

Hannah Lewis (Student)

A think tank called the Resolution Foundation claim as many as one in twenty British workers do not receive any holiday pay despite being entitled to the same. There are recorded to be 32 million people in the British workforce and the foundation suggests that at least one million people across the country are being denied their rights in one form or another. The report produced by Resolution First shows that workers are being failed by employers and despite the government taking steps to increase the resources of the HMRC and other bodies, it is largely up to the individuals of these injustices to hold their firms to account. More than 100,000 applications were made to the employment tribunal system in 2018.

Economists fear that job security is being undermined as the power of the trade union declines and the law fails to keep up with the changing employment landscape since the last recession. Although unemployment has fallen in Britain to the lowest levels since the 1970’s a rise in the use of the zero-hour contracts and employment through agencies has led to an abuse of workers’ rights. It is workers aged under 25 and over 65 that are most likely to be affected by violations of legal entitlements. The research shows that almost one in ten workers did not receive a payslip, which is a legal requirement. It is employees at the end of their working life that are the most likely to not receive payslips. The HMRC recorded 200,000 cases of workers not receiving minimum wage in 2018, the majority of those being at the beginning of their working career.

The British government have made many rules and regulations to control the labour market and ensure fairness to its workers. However, these rules are only as good as the agencies that have the power to enforce them. Violations remain a common feature of the job market and millions of people are missing out.

SULAC is a free legal advice clinic provided by final year law students at Staffordshire University. We can offer legal advice on all areas of employment law. Please call 01782 2944800 for an appointment.


‘More people need educating on Power of Attorney rights’

Bissmah Tariq (Student)

The Government’s Office of the Public Guardian (OPG) have announced a drastic rise in investigations into people with Lasting Power of Attorney over the 2017/18 period.

There have been many complaints of Lasting Power of Attorney misuse with a drastic rise in investigations of 45% over the past year. The majority of the investigations were carried out due to concerns from close relatives, local authorities, care homes, financial institutions and legal professionals.

Friends and relatives often accept the responsibility to make financial or health decisions on behalf of relatives or friends who no longer have the mental capacity to do so.

Since many do not fully understand what they are getting themselves into, this has led to people either accidentally or deliberately making mistakes such as not keeping clear records and wrongly gifting or taking money.

Royal London, which obtained the figures through a Freedom of Information request, strongly encourage people to educate themselves on their responsibilities when they agree to act under a Lasting Power of Attorney.

Helen Morrissey, personal finance specialist at the insurance and pensions firm, said: “When done properly the attorneys fulfil a vital role in safeguarding the interests of the person they are acting for. But the sheer number of investigations into their actions is concerning and something needs to be done to curb poor practice.”

Someone agreeing to be appointed under a lasting power of attorney has a legal duty to help make important life decisions on behalf of the individual even when he/she lacks mental capacity. It is strongly recommended that you keep clear and well written records and bank statements as evidence of expenditure to protect your position.

For further advice on powers of attorney please contact SULAC (Staffordshire University Legal advice clinic. Our team of academics and qualified and experienced Solicitors have experience in this particular area and can provide you with free legal advice. Please call 01782 294800 for an appointment.


Are Employers Disregarding our Freedom of Expression and our Right to Privacy?

Qadir Mohammed (Student)

Arguments made by Professor Virginia Mantouvalou of UCL state that courts and employers are excessively harsh on those they employ in relation to posts they broadcast online.

Social media is a dimension which is changing our lives in many ways. These changes can be both positive and negative. A post put up by an employee can affect a business, so it is no wonder employers choose carefully who they wish to employ as those working for them usually reflect their business image. An unnecessary controversy is something businesses do not want to deal with.

Social media posts will never please everyone though. For example, a post may be seen as stupid or offensive by one person, but another may see nothing wrong with it. This topic is very subjective, so how can a distinction be made? And are the consequences that follow proportionate to what has occurred?

Angela Gibbin’s story is one such example that is embroiled in controversy. Angela was employed by the British Council, when she commented on a Facebook photo of Prince George saying “white privilege. That cheeky grin is the (already locked-in) innate knowledge that he is royal, rich advantaged and will never know any difficulties or hardships in life”. Her comment got a mixed reaction from the public after her post went viral once it was published by the Sun and she later lost her job due to gross misconduct. She brought a claim for unfair dismissal, which was dismissed. Professor Mantouvalou claims that tribunals often disregard the fact that employees have a right to free speech and privacy.

The expectation of privacy has been diminishing in the employment sector due to the fact employees are ordered to comply with their employer’s social media policy. Professor Mantouvalou’s view is that we should use the standard test of proportionality set out in the European Convention on Human Rights. Article 10 is another piece of legislation which ties into this topic and details our freedom of expression. Employers should acknowledge this and allow their employees to make critical comments of others and voice their political views without fear of consequences.

Employment is not the only place where social media comments are being used. They are now also being admitted in evidence in Court and can sometimes sway a judge into a decision which can cause unequal and unfair results.

Staffordshire University Legal Advice Clinic can offer free legal advice on employment issues as well as other areas such as personal injury, family and probate. Please call on 01782 294800 to book an appointment with us at various locations.


New Legislation to outlaw employers misuse of non-disclosure agreements

Kelly Franklin (Student)

A Non-disclosure agreement (NDA) also known as a confidential disclosure agreement (CDA) is a legal contract between at least two parties restricting the disclosure of certain confidential information to third parties. Many legitimate businesses including the government use NDA’s to protect confidential information.

Once a NDA has been signed it is a binding agreement (not to disclose information covered by the agreement) and a confidential relationship between the parties is created.

NDA’s are now referred to as ‘Gagging orders’ which were originally designed to stop employees sharing trade secrets when they moved to another company. They are regularly used by the rich and powerful alongside employee financial pay outs.  

This issue has been highlighted by the Sir Phillip Green case, owner of Arcadia Group-high street fashion brands such as ‘Topshop’ who is alleged to have used NDA’s to silence and pay off at least five members of his staff who have allegedly accused him of sexual harassment, racism and bullying.

Within Parliament Labour peer ‘Lord Hain’, under parliamentary privilege, named ‘Phillip Green’ as the individual in question as the media were subject to an injunction preventing publication of the full details of the story.

It has been suggested that NDA’s are being abused by some employers to intimidate whistle blowers and conceal harassment, discrimination, sexual assaults, physical threats and racism within the work environment.

As a result, the government are reviewing the law in this area and are considering new legislation making the misuse of NDA’s illegal in cases where victims have brought claims of sexual harassment. The intention behind this is to stop the silencing of victims to prevent them reporting serious crimes to the Police or other authorities.

To change the law around NDA’s and confidentiality clauses will bring fairness, safety, equality and a positive culture change within the workplace.


SULAC can provide free legal advice on all areas relating to employment law.

Please call 01782 94800 to make an appointment.



WH Smith Fined for Breach of Health and Safety

Hamza Ali (Student)

WHSmith have been issued a significant fine of £337,500 after a customer fell almost 3m through an open trapdoor on the shop floor. The incident left the victim with serious injuries. As a result of health and safety breaches, WHSmith pleaded guilty. WHSmith have a duty of care to their customers to ensure that they are safe pursuant to the Occupiers Liability Act 1957.

WHSmith have stated that they have made necessary changes to their policies since the incident in order to prevent any further incidents in the future. They have taken steps such as keeping the basement locked and have also completed a risk assessment to provide reassurance to the public.

Councillor Patrick Berry stated that “One of our top priorities is the wellbeing of people in our borough, so I hope the size of this fine serves as a warning to all businesses.”

The company was fined £168,750 for each of the two counts of breaching health and safety laws at a sentencing hearing at Taunton Crown Court. It was also ordered to pay £135,492.66 in costs and a £120 victim surcharge.

Here at SULAC we can provide you with any advice on injuries at work and how to bring a claim. Please call 01782 294800 for an appointment.


Are Robot Wills The Future?

Larisa Astley (Student)

The Wills Act 1837 that governs wills in England and Wales is now more than 180 years old and has been branded “unclear and outdated”. Major improvements are being considered by The Law Commission consultation “to bring the law into the modern world”.

One of the controversial issues surrounding the debate is the need for a will to be in writing, with the emergence of and increasing reliance on digital technology this requirement signed into law almost two centuries ago may be the one of the first things to change.

A recent case caught worldwide attention in Australia, with the court allowing a will found in the unsent draft texts on the deceased’s mobile phone. Some jurisdictions give dispensing powers to courts, including Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and various states in the USA and Canada. There are positive signs that the laws around will-making will be modernised in some significant ways in UK too.

Another consideration is the need for a trusted advisor. In line with technological advances an increasing number of firms across the industry are taking advantage of sophisticated software to reduce costs and increase efficiencies. In fact figures show that around half of all UK law firms are already using artificial intelligence software in their businesses and another 40% of the legal service providers are planning to do the same, especially when generating and reviewing legal documents. Some firms are going a step further. With the latest technology it is now possible to make a will online without any human interaction whatsoever.

Looking more specifically, it could be argued that l so long as a will completes its four main functions (to name executors, trustees, guardians and beneficiaries) it is less important how it is generated. There has been some criticism signalling the public’s lack of trust in this new technology with clients anxious to ensure their documents are properly constructed and checked by suitable qualified humans.

Traditional will requirements would have made perfect sense in the Victorian era where the presence of a trusted adviser was important when it came to an individual’s legal affairs. However in a world where millions of people are already using virtual assistants like Siri or Alexa, and where once highly skilled jobs are now being performed by robots, robot wills could well be the answer to reducing costs and increasing accessibility.

Whilst SULAC cannot assist with the drafting of wills we can help with contentious probate matters. Please call 01782 294800 for an appointment.



Is a Right to Rent Check in Breach of Your Human Rights?

Courtney James (Student)

The Government’s right to rent policy requires landlords in England to check the immigration status of prospective tenants.

In February, a British man and his family were made homeless after a letting agent turned them away under Right to Rent rules. Rory McCormick put a deposit down on a property in Suffolk and he, his wife Anna and their two children, were due to move in to the property. Days before their move back to the UK from Ireland, they were advised that Anna’s Irish residency card could not be accepted even though it showed she had a right to live in the UK. What she needed instead was a UK permanent residence card. Their denial of the rental property led to the family of four sleeping in one bedroom in a relative’s house.

A challenge has recently been brought by the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCQI). They claim that the scheme causes “race discrimination against those who are perfectly entitled to rent”.

The High Court have ruled that the scheme is incompatible with human rights laws. Mr Justice Spencer said that the policy was unlawful because it caused landlords to discriminate against British citizens from minority ethnic backgrounds and against foreign nationals who have a legal right to rent. It was also reported that the government has failed to show that the scheme has had any effect on encouraging illegal immigrants to leave the country, the original aim of the scheme.

Staffordshire University Legal Advice Clinic can provide legal advice on housing matters, to book an appointment please call 01782 294800.

Family must demolish home because it is 75cm too tall

Danyaal Farooq- Student

A family in Stoke-On-Trent could possibly have their home demolished because the house is 75cm too high. To avoid this, Asif Naseem may have to pay around £200,000 to replace the roof of his new home in Lightwood. The Council issued an enforcement notice after local neighbours complained that there were dormer windows in the eaves and that the roof was too tall.  

Stoke-On-Trent City Council’s planning committee have given the owner a stay of execution of 3 months to permit discussions over the property’s future.

A breach of planning control is defined in section 171A of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 as the carrying out of development without the required planning permission or failing to comply with any condition or limitation of the planning order. If there is a breach enforcement action may be taken. Local planning authorities have responsibility for taking whatever enforcement action may be necessary in their administrative areas. It should be noted that local authorities have a range of enforcement powers that extend beyond planning, as do the police in certain instances.

Staffordshire University Legal Advice Clinic (SULAC) offers free legal advice to the general public. SULAC can assist with numerous problems including housing issues; eviction, property rights and homelessness. We currently have a few outreach locations; Dudson Centre, Sign Posts Stafford, Shrewsbury Hospital and HMP Stafford. Please call the SULAC office on 01782 294800 today to book your appointment.

Forced Marriage – 4 Years Later


Arieta Batirerega- Student

What is Forced Marriage?

Forced marriage is when you face physical pressure to marry (for example, threats, physical violence or sexual violence) or emotional and psychological pressure (e.g. if you’re made to feel like you’re bringing shame on your family if you refuse).

What  does the Law say?

The Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 made it a criminal offence in England, Wales and Scotland to force someone to marry.

This includes:

  • taking someone overseas to force them to marry (whether or not the forced marriage takes place);
  • marrying someone who lacks the mental capacity to consent to the marriage (whether they’re pressured to or not).

Forcing someone to marry can result in a sentence of up to 7 years in prison.

The Current position

Since 2014, there have been four convictions relating to this across the UK. While legislation has seen a rise in people reporting concerns, many are unaware it is a crime and, therefore do not seek help. .

A government spokesman said its forced marriage campaign was “raising awareness amongst the public and potential victims”. The government is encouraging people affected by this to contact its helpline.

Here at Staffordshire University Legal Advice Clinic we can advise on family related issues. If we cannot help, we will be able to refer you to another organisation who may be able to assist. Please call 01782 294800 for an appointment.



The cost of cancer

Martha Elliott-Smith (Student)

The cost of cancer in the UK is now estimated to be £15.8 billion, a study by Oxford University suggests. The total apportions around £7.6 billion in economic costs and £2.6 billion for unpaid care, with one researcher commenting that; ‘time off work and unpaid care by friends and family account for 64% of all cancer costs’.

These figures highlight not only the impact on professional healthcare providers but the potential loss of earnings for patients and to those close to them who give up work in order to provide care.

New data released by Cancer Research UK now estimates that one in two people will develop cancer at some stage in their lifetime.

These figures can be highlighted locally in the September 2018 report published by Cancer Research UK on data collected from NHS North Staffordshire and NHS Stoke-on-Trent. This shows that there are around 1,300 cancer cases per year in the Staffordshire region.

Talking about your cancer diagnosis may be difficult, especially to your employer. Many people fear they will be dismissed if they ask for help and support during their treatment. 

What rights do I have as an employee?

Richard Pugh, head of services for Macmillan Cancer Support in Wales, said that with more people receiving a cancer diagnosis, ‘returning to work is not a luxury but a basic necessity’ for people.

Cancer patients may be protected by the Equality Act 2010. This means that employers must make reasonable adjustments to ensure that the employee is not at a disadvantage in their employment for a reason related to their disability (in this case their cancer). Reasonable adjustments could include allowing the employee time off work, which would allow them to attend hospital appointments for treatment. It could also include flexible working arrangements which would allow some employees to work from home. Much will depend upon the nature and size of the employer’s business.

Many terminally ill people find themselves in situations where access to justice has been greatly reduced due to the affordability of advice. Therefore, clinics like SULAC are essential.

Staffordshire University operates a legal Advice Clinic (SULAC) offering free legal advice to the public. At SULAC we can advise you on various matters, including employment, family and consumer protection.

SULAC does not provide advice on criminal or immigration matters or provide debt counselling.

We currently operate free clinics at the Dudson Centre on Mondays and Signpost Stafford on a Tuesday. We also offer a priority service to cancer patients via Macmillan Cancer Support.

If you would like any further information or would like to book an appointment, please call: 01782 294800.