Preparation for Parental Leave

Lauren Evans (student)

Employees are entitled to shared parental leave (“SPL”) and statutory shared parental pay (“SHPP”) if they have a baby or adopt a child. Employees can start SPL if they are eligible. Parents are able to decide between them how much time they choose, and who will take it, however in a recent Yougov survey 78% of HR professionals felt that there were problems offering it in their organisation so it appears that there remains a stigma attached to taking this leave.

As societal norms are changing more fathers should feel able to ask for time off or assert their right to participate in childcare. Law Firm Winckworth Sherwood suggests ‘organisations should be preparing for more staff taking shared parental leave, as attitudes towards caring responsibilities begin to shift and more employers decide to enhance pay for parents taking the entitlement’.

More parents are opting to take this, although there are barriers. It is a complex statutory scheme and it is ‘relatively low paid’. Fathers are calling for the pay to match the extended maternity pay. If this happens, or employers agree to this voluntarily, it is expected there will be a major change in shared parental leave.

HR decision- makers told researchers for its’ “Shifting attitudes to flexible working and childcare for working parents’ report that they had seen an increase in requests for SPL and working hours being adapted to assist two working parents.

At Staffordshire University Legal Advice Clinic ( SULAC) we offer free legal advice on employment matters for members of the public. SULAC is currently open and offers appointments in Stoke on Trent and Stafford. For more information or to book an appointment please contact SULAC@staffs.ac.uk or call 01782 294 800.

 

 

The Government Delay Full Roll Out of Universal Credit

Chelsea Leonard (Student)

The principle of universal credit was introduced by the conservative government, in 2010. It was intended to simplify the benefit system, merging all benefits into one. These include income support, income-based jobseeker’s allowance, income-related employment and support allowance, housing benefit, child tax credit, and working tax credit.

Despite the intentions, universal credit has been controversial from the time it was introduced; there have also been concerns over how long new claimants must wait before receiving their first benefit.

There have been many reports of claimants having to wait at least five weeks for the payments to start, consequently people are falling into debt and having to resort to food banks. Some claimants have had to get an advance on their first instalment of the benefit; but this is treated as a loan, so subsequent payments are reduced to pay off the advance.

The new system was meant to be slowly introduced and claimants were expected to report any changes of circumstance and therefore be transferred to the new benefit. Officials say not enough people are moving to the benefit as they are “scared” about falling into debt. The system was meant to be fully live by April 2017, but the new delay will push it back to September 2024.

A BBC news team have recorded a series titled ‘Universal Credit: Inside the Welfare State’; the program shows a mother struggling to feed her family on just over £500 for a month, because of deductions made to pay off the advance she had to take out during the five-week wait.

Paula, like many others, has had to resort to a food bank, telling the debt counsellor “I have just got myself into one big mess and I have lost control over everything’, “I am in debt up to my eyeballs and it’s not going to go away.”

The counsellor tells her: “If you don’t have money saved up already or you don’t have backup of family who can support you, you will fall into taking an advance payment.” She added that benefit deductions to pay off the advance, leave people “constantly trying to catch up”.

Neil Couling, the senior civil servant in charge of the rollout of ‘universal credit’ expressed his concern about the small amount of people transferring to the new benefit system. He said “It’s a potentially serious issue for us, in terms of completing the project by December 2023, but I’m urging people not to panic.” However, in September 2019 he decided to delay full rollout of the new system until September 2024.This extension has added an extra £500 million on the bill.

Margaret Greenwood, Labour’s shadow work and pensions secretary, has called for the new system to be scrapped calling the news ‘hugely embarrassing” for the government.

Despite these problems, Mr. Couling still believes that once universal credit is fully implemented it will be successful. “I have to keep going to the destination or you have to set me a different destination, because there’s 2.6 million people, and if we get something wrong, we could disrupt their lives and they’ve got no alternative. There’s no alternative bank they can go to get help. We are the payer of last resort.”

Staffordshire University Legal Advice Clinic (SULAC) offers free legal advice on all financial matters such as debt, and employment to members of the public. SULAC is currently offering appointments at Stoke County Court and Various locations around Stafford including Signpost Centre and House of Bread. For more information, or to book an appointment please contact: SULAC@staffs.ac.uk or call on 01782 294800.

Too Young to Make a will?

Curtis Dunkley (Student)

When you turn 18 you can legally create a will. You may think that you are too young to be making a will, however this is often not the case. More than half of us are in full time employment by the time we turn 19. If you are employed then you will have more money, especially if you are still living with your parents. You may start to acquire more possessions of value like a car. You may have started saving for a house of your own or something else. Regardless, these are all things that you can leave to your loved ones in a will.

By the time that we are 27 most of us will be living with a partner. If you die before you have made a will, your partner will not inherit any of your belongings, regardless of your wishes unless you are married. There is currently no such thing as a ‘common law spouse’. If you want to ensure that your partner is looked after when you pass, you will need to create a will and put that intention into effect whilst you are still alive.

As a society, we are having children younger. When you have children, you will need to think about what will happen to them if you die. It is not just about choosing someone to look after their inheritance until they old enough to access it, you also need to appoint a guardian to raise your children. The need to create a valid will once you have children cannot be stressed enough – if your wishes are not known when you pass away, your children may be in between arguments with your family and friends at an already stressful time for them.

If you created a will and married after making it your will may be deemed invalid, unless it contained a clause in it stating that you intend for it to remain valid after your marriage. If you make a will that includes your spouse as a beneficiary and then get divorced, your ex-spouse will not be entitled to any inheritance that you left to them. In either scenario, your estate will be distributed according to the rules of intestacy.

At the Staffordshire University Legal Advice Clinic (SULAC), law students offer free legal advice on probate matters and a number of other issues to members of the public. SULAC is currently open and you can visit us at Stoke Combined Courts, and at various locations around Stafford. For more information, or to book an appointment please contact: SULAC@staffs.ac.uk or call 01782 294800.

 

 

Paid Bereavement Leave

Lauren Evans (Student)

New legislation named ‘Jack’s Law’ will be coming into force on the 6th April 2020 to help support bereaved parents in the workplace.

What is Jack’s Law?

Jack’s law protects all employed parents after the loss of a child under the age of 18 or those who have suffered a stillbirth after 24 weeks pregnancy. It allows those with parental responsibility to take two weeks statutory bereavement leave (“SPBL”) irrespective of how long they have worked for their employer. For parents who have worked for 6 months this will be paid leave. Before Jacks Law this wasn’t permitted. Lucy Herd lost her son, Jack Herd, in 2010. She has tirelessly campaigned for Jack’s Law which will now be implemented this year as mandatory leave for grieving parents. Lucy said that she ‘couldn’t believe there was no statutory rights for such a desperate and difficult time’.

Who does Jack’s Law apply to?

Jack’s Law covers all employed parents and adults with ‘parental responsibility’. This can include foster parents, adopters, guardians, or close relatives or friends who have assumed the responsibility for the care of the child in the absence of the parents.

How can Leave be taken?

The leave can be taken in a single block, or two blocks of one week within a year of the child’s death.

The Significance of Jacks Law

Prior to Jack’s Law Lucy Herd’s husband discovered he could only take three days paid leave, and any additional time off had to be taken as part of his sick leave or holiday.

The United Kingdom is the only country who will have two weeks statutory leave for bereaved parents. It is estimated that the new law will support around 10,000 parents a year.

At Staffordshire University Legal Advice Clinic (SULAC) we offer free legal advice on both Employment and Family related matters. SULAC is currently open and offers appointments in both Stoke on Trent and Stafford. If you wish to book an appointment with us call 01782 294 800 or alternatively email SULAC@staffs.ac.uk

WHAT IS DOMESTIC ABUSE?

Beatriz Simpson (student)

Domestic abuse or domestic violence is any incident of controlling, coercive or threatening behaviour, violence or abuse between those aged 16 or over who are or have been intimate partners or family members, regardless of their gender or sexuality.

Domestic abuse can be psychological, physical, sexual, financial, or emotional.

The fact that it is in a domestic environment is an aggravating factor because of the abuse of trust involved. Some of these crimes include:

Violence

Controlling or coercive behaviour

“Honour based” abuse and forced marriage

Female genital mutilation

Stalking and harassment

WHAT DOES THE LAW SAY?

The Domestic Violence, Crime and Victims Act 2004 covers not just physical abuse, but psychological and emotional treatment and coercive and controlling behaviour, where abusers isolate their victim from their friends and relatives or control their finances. Campaigners suggest that domestic violence kills 15 times more people than terrorism in the UK, most of the victims are women but not all. Campaigners said that it is estimated that 400 victims of domestic violence take their own lives every year.

Domestic-abuse related cases referred to prosecutors for consideration for charge fell 11% last year despite an increase in matters being reported to the police.

Legal aid may be available to assist victims who need an injunction, even if the CPS do not bring criminal charges.

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.

 

Tribunal rules, that Ethical Veganism is a philosophical belief.

Abdul Muhid (student)

A vegan is a person who does not eat or use any animal products, including dairy and eggs. Ethical vegans go one step further and try to negate use of all forms of products which have ingredients that trace back to animals. They also tend to avoid wearing or purchasing clothes made from wool or made by companies which use animal testing.

The Equality Act 2010 protects employees from discrimination based on their religion or belief. In a landmark legal case, Jordi Casamitijana claimed he was sacked by the League Against Cruel Sports due to his belief of ethical veganism. However, his former employer states that his dismissal was due to gross misconduct.

Mr Casamitijana (55) claimed, that he was fired after he had told his fellow employees about some information, he had discovered regarding the charity’s investment in pension funds in firms which have relations with animal testing.

Before he informed his work colleagues about the information, he mentioned it to his boss and they did nothing, therefore he decided to inform his peers at work which resulted in his dismissal.

His employer stated that it is factually wrong for Mr Casamitijana to link his dismissal to his veganism.

The judge ruled that people with ethical veganism beliefs, should have access to the same legal protections in British workplaces as those who have religious beliefs. Mr Casamitijana said he was happy with the ruling (which is ongoing), he also added that he wants his fellow vegans to benefit from this.

Religion or belief is in the category for “protected characteristics” covered in the Equality Act 2010. Judge Robin Postle referring to the act, ruled that ethical veganism satisfies several tests of the Equality Act, allowing it to qualify as a philosophical belief. He described ethical veganism as “important” and worthy of “respect” in a democratic society.

At the Staffordshire University Legal Advice Clinic (SULAC), students offer free legal advice on discrimination in the workplace and a number of other issues to members of the public. SULAC is currently open and offers appointments at Stoke and Stafford. For more information, or to book an appointment please contact: SULAC@staffs.ac.uk or call 01782 294800 

 

‘Ill-treatment’ of disabled lawyers in the workplace

Faye Henderson (Student)

New research shows that over half of disabled people working in the legal sector lawyers have experienced discrimination, bullying and ill-treatment related to their disability while at work. The report was published as part of The Disability Research on Independent Living and Learning Programme (DRILL). The report was following a study consisting of approximately 300 survey responses and 55 interviews.

 

Findings from the report Legally disabled? The career experiences of disabled people working in the legal profession shows that 60% of legal professionals who were questioned have experienced ill-treatment in the workplace due to their disability. Approximately 37% of those questioned also stated the ill-treatment was never reported.

 

These professionals had been subjected to ridiculing or demeaning language and exclusion or victimisation. The research also showed that the ‘psych-emotional’ effects of bullying had serious impacts, with regards to their mental health and wellbeing, often resulting in psychiatric support and counselling. In addition to this 54% of respondents were left feeling that their promotion prospects were ‘inferior’ compared to their non-disabled colleagues. It was also reported that 60% experienced inaccessible working environments resulting in their career opportunities being limited.

 

This is an issue that needs addressing, the report states a “zero tolerance policy” is needed alongside clear disciplinary policies and reporting procedure. This is not a new issue being explored. In 2018 the legally disabled? Project found aspiring lawyers were struggling to enter the profession and being blocked due to “poorly equipped” recruitment processes.

 

Staffordshire University Legal Advice Clinic (SULAC) offers free legal advice on employment matters to members of the public. SULAC is currently open and offers appointments in Stoke-On-Trent and Stafford. For more information, or to book an appointment please contact: SULAC@staffs.ac.uk or call 01782 294800.

 

 

 

 

How to complain successfully

Ellen Henderson (Student)

Now we’ve had the highs of Christmas shopping, some of us may be experiencing the lows of disappointing products.

Don’t despair, remember you’re a consumer…

Be empowered and know your rights

  • The Consumer Rights Act 2015 will be your new best friend in these kinds of situations.
  • The legislation states that the item must be fit for purpose, satisfactory quality, match the description provided, and last a reasonable length of time.

Make a folder

  • Set up a folder (on-line or actual physical folder) designated just to this issue
  • Keep a record of the name(s) of who you spoke to, the date of that conversation /email and what the outcome was – even if they didn’t answer the phone or respond to the email.
  • Keep any receipts, invoices, delivery notes, or marketing material in this folder too.

What is your complaint about?

  • Why are you unhappy with this product? Know what your complaint is about – take photographs (if you can).
  • In just a few words, bullet point each issue and use this when you are communicating with the business.

What do you want out of the situation?

  • Have an ultimate goal in mind – it might be an apology, a repair, a replacement or a refund. Be honest and realistic with yourself.
  • Know what you are willing to settle for, as you may need to compromise.
  • Ask yourself, ‘how far am I prepared to take this’?

 Keep calm and focus

  • Give the situation some claim consideration before complaining – don’t act impulsively in the heat of the moment.
  • Don’t lose your temper, it will only muddy the waters and divert from what you really want out of the situation.
  • Keep calm and stick to your bullet points.

Win them over

  • Make it clear you’re not complaining about the person you are speaking to, but about the business because of the service or product they have provided.
  • Remember that you want the person receiving the call or email to do something for you i.e. take it seriously, work with you, escalate the matter, make you an offer.
  • You have more chance of achieving your ‘goal’, if you can win them over and make get them understand your disappointment.

Escalate your complaint

  • If you’re not getting anywhere with customer services, go higher by asking for their line manager or head office. If that does not work ask for their formal complaints procedure.
  • Write a letter of complaint using your bullet points. Include the record of your attempts to resolve the issue with the company and make it clear what you want.

Don’t lose the momentum

  • Don’t be tempted to put your head in the sand, there are often deadlines to complaining.
  • Often companies will be hoping that you’ll go away. Ignoring you can be a deliberate tactic they deploy.
  • Stay focused and determined, keep escalating until you find somebody who hears the issues you are raising.

  Taking the matter further

  • Trading Standards – If you have a complaint about goods or services.
  • The Ombudsman covers some services e.g. Energy, Communication, Financial, among others. Generally, you can’t use an ombudsman until you have exhausted the internal complaints procedure.
  • Mediation – A mediator can help both sides work out an agreement. Sometimes this can be quicker and cheaper than going to court.
  • County Court – Apply to a county court to claim money you’re owed by a person or business (claim form N1): Example Costs:

Claim amount up to £300  cost:£35 (paper) or £25 (online)

Claim amount between £5,000.01 to £10,000  cost:£455 (paper) or £410 (online)

Legal advice

  • Some house or car insurance policies include a free legal helpline where you can get advice on your rights and how to pursue a complaint.
  • Citizens Advice Bureau
  • Or make an appointment with SULAC for free legal advice
  • Contact: 01782 294800 SULAC@staffs.ac.uk

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Let’s keep it civil! New law allows heterosexual couples to become civil partners.

Hannah Lewis (Student)

The New Year brought with it a new change to the law surrounding marriage and civil partnerships. As of New Year’s Eve mixed-sex couples in England and Wales have begun to enter into a civil union that will benefit from the same legal and financial protections offered to married couples. Until this, only same sex couples could enter into a civil partnership.

The campaign to have the law changed was spearheaded by Rebecca Steinfeld and Charles Keidan who will be among the first couples to have a heterosexual civil partnership. After being turned away from the registrar’s office five years ago, the couple decided to bring a judicial review arguing that the Civil Partnership Act 2004 breached Article 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights because it discriminated against mixed sex couples. The couple won a landmark victory in the Supreme Court in June 2018 when it was agreed that the legislation was indeed incompatible with human rights law. This led to Theresa May, the Prime Minister at the time, amending the Act which came into force on December 2nd, 2019.

So, what is a civil partnership? It is a legally recognised relationship with the same legal and tax benefits as a traditional marriage. As with marriage, couples who wish to enter into a civil partnership must “give notice” at a registrar’s office 28 days before the union. There must be a registrar and two witnesses to the signing of the partnership but there is no stipulation for the couple to make vows to one another. Essentially, there is no practical difference between marriage and civil partnerships except a person’s personal beliefs that they are entering into a partnership without any religious associations.

The government estimates that as many as 84,000 ceremonies will be conducted within the first year as couples take advantage of a right originally legislated for LGBTQI couples. Unlike couples who choose to cohabit rather than marry, civil partners are entitled to the same property, pension, inheritance, tax and next-of-kin rights as married couples. Cohabiting families are the fastest growing family type, with 48 percent of children being born to unmarried couples in 2017. This change in legislation may encourage those who see marriage as an antiquated institution to benefit from the same protection as a married couple.

SULAC offers free legal advice on all family matters. We hold surgeries in Stoke on Trent and Stafford. Please call 01782 294800 for an appointment.

Family Lawyers Welcome ‘no-fault’ Divorce – Latest Development

Elisha Poole (Student)

After two previous false starts, the long-awaited reform of divorce swiftly returns to end ‘the blame game’. The legislation reform will make an appearance in the next session of parliament. The ​ Divorce, Separation and Dissolution Bill, first introduced in June 2018, came to a stand-still twice after the general election but has finally made its reappearance. The bill intends to introduce ‘no-fault’ divorce into legislation.

The current grounds for divorce require on one of the five facts: adultery, unreasonable behaviour, desertion, two years’ separation (if the other spouse consents to the divorce), or five years’ separation (no consent required). The new bill, if passed, does not require these allegations to be proved, thuis permitting a “no fault” divorce. To be granted a no-fault divorce, one spouse must simply state that the marriage as irretrievably broken down.

Family lawyers welcome the latest development of the bill after Justice secretary Robert Buckland said: “The institution of marriage will always be vitally important, but we must never allow a situation where our laws exacerbate conflict and harm a child’s upbringing. By sparing individuals the need to play the blame game, we are stripping out the needless antagonism this creates so families can move on with their lives.”

Staffordshire University Legal Advice Clinic (SULAC) offers free legal advice on all family matters to members of the public. SULAC is currently offering appointments at Stoke County Court and various locations around Stafford including Signpost Centre and House of Bread. For more information, or to book an appointment please contact: ​ SULAC@staffs.ac.uk​ or call on 01782 294800.