Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Pre Employment health questionnaires and what not to ask

Changes brought in by the Equality Act 2010 introduced on 1 October mean that employers are now going to have to be far more careful about asking job applicants questions about their health.

The main points to be aware of are:

• With only some exceptions, an employer must avoid asking about a job applicant’s health until that person has either been offered a job or placed in a ‘pool’ of successful candidates.

• However, employers are allowed to ask very specific questions to determine if the candidate is physically able to carry out tasks that are essential to the post in question.

• Although the legislation does not outlaw asking health-related questions, acting on an applicant’s responses to unnecesary questions may be discriminatory.

• Employers may ask health questions to determine whether candidates will be able to undergo an assessment or if any ‘reasonable adjustments’ need to be made.

• Employers may also ask questions aimed at monitoring diversity or improving disabled people’s employment rates.

Below are a few examples of the type of questions that should be avoided

• How many sick days have you had in the past year etc.?
• Have you suffered from any illness or accident in the past 3 years etc.?
• Do you suffer from depression, panic attacks or stress related illness etc.?
• Are you in receipt of an ill-health pension, or have you been compensated for a previous industrial injury?
• Any questions relating to the health of mother, father, grandparents, etc.
• Any other questions that are of the type; “have you ever suffered from…….”

If you have any concerns about health questionnaires or your recruitment process then please contact Martin Williams on 01273 775533 or email at

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Mayo Wynne Baxter Support Sussex Achievers

Last Sunday a contingent from Mayo Wynne Baxter were proud to be amongst the 700 invited guests at the ninth annual Argus Achievement Awards hosted by Nick Owen.

The heart-warming ceremony at the Theatre Royal Brighton gave the unsung yet deserving heroes of Sussex their moment in the spotlight.

The awards saw more individuals recognised than ever before with 18 different award categories looking for the finest of our emergency services, schools, businesses and residents.

All of the record 180 inspiring entries for the awards had been nominated by members of the public before a judging panel of Argus staff and sponsors had the almost impossible task of trying to pick a shortlist of three and an overall winner in each category.

Mayo Wynne Baxter were pleased to be able to sponsor an award for the Contribution to Arts & Culture which was won by a deserving Robyn Steer (centre) and our Managing Partner, Chris Randall (right), was on hand to present the award.

Friday, 1 October 2010

Equal Pay – not just a local government thing

In 2008-09 there were some 37,400 equal pay claims made to Employment Tribunals in Great Britain. Of these, only 200 claims were successful at the Tribunal stage. While this could suggest that an equal pay claim is unlikely to succeed defending a claim can be a time consuming and costly business. Employers of men and women doing equal work but on unequal pay need to be able to demonstrate that any differences in pay are not related to the sex of the job holders and that the different rates of pay can be justified. This is not a straightforward process.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has set up a quick-start guide designed for small and medium-sized businesses to make it easier for them to examine their pay systems to help ensure that they comply with equal pay legislation. The guide provides helpful information on how small businesses can compare pay structures for different types of work carried out by male and female workers and what can be done if pay differences are discovered.

To look at the guide visit the EHRC website by using the following link.Click here.

If you find that you are in need of advice about equal pay please contact our Head of Employment, Martin Williams on 01273 223263 or email

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Foreign bankruptcies now enforceable

In a potentially ground-breaking case, the Court of Appeal has ruled that bankruptcy judgments made overseas can now be enforced through the UK Courts.

On 30 July, David Rubin & Partners, an insolvency practitioners, successfully convinced the Court that it should be allowed to enforce a bankruptcy judgment made in New York.

Adrian Roman and his two sons, from an office based here in the UK, set up a US company called Eurofinance SA. Relying on the relatively weak consumer protection legislation in the US, Eurofinance sought to scam American consumers out of millions of dollars. The idea was that consumers were given vouchers if they bought goods in certain shops. The vouchers could be used to get all their money back after three years. No-one ever actually got their money back. 15% of the purchase price of goods was paid into The Consumer Trust. However, the Trust only contained $9,000,000 whereas if all those who partook of the scheme successfully claimed back their money, the Trust would have to fork out $160,000,000.

In October 2007, the Trust was liquidated by the US Bankruptcy Court. Mr Roman had made approximately $8,000,000. David Rubin and Partners were appointed as liquidators. They sued Mr Roman. Mr Roman stayed in the UK under the impression that any bankruptcy judgment made against him in the US was not enforceable in the UK. At first instance, he was right. However, the Court of Appeal reversed this decision. Prior to the decision, it was possible to avoid liability established in foreign courts by remaining in the UK. No longer. It is a case which could have enormous ramifications. Over the next few months, it will be interesting to see the volume of cases in the UK which are based on foreign debts. It is a stark reminder of the care which must be taken by all those who conduct their business abroad and further evidence of how small the world is becoming.

If you have any query regarding this case or indeed any other insolvency matter, please do not hesitate to contact Duncan Wilks of this firm.

Thursday, 2 September 2010

ACAS Annual Report Reveals 13% Increase in Employment Claims

ACAS Annual Report Reveals 13% Increase in Employment Claims

ACAS, the independent employment relations service, have recently published their annual report and accounts for the 2009/10 period. The report provides an insight into the volume of disputes arising out of employment relationships.

ACAS reports that although the number of large-scale collective disputes being referred to ACAS has dropped, there was a 13% increase in the amount of individual employment claims totalling 87,421 for the year, 25% more than they were resourced to deal with. They also reported a drop in the overall rate of resolution indicating that more cases are proceeding to expensive tribunal hearings.

Over 45% of individual employment claims involved unfair dismissal, 10,000 more claims than the previous year, and more than 25,000 claims were made relating to discrimination on grounds of sex, race or disability. To put this in a financial context, the average awards made in 2008/09 ranged from £27,235 for Disability Discrimination to £7,959 in cases of Unfair Dismissal.

Whilst it is never possible to wholly prevent claims, the figures published by ACAS remind us of the fact that effective policies, procedures and employment contracts can save hundreds, if not thousands, of pounds defending claims. Employers need to ensure they are in the best position to mount a defence.

If you find that you are in need of advice about Employment Tribunal claims please contact our Head of Employment, Martin Williams

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Top 10 tips for avoiding Inheritance Tax

By Fiona Dodd, Mayo Wynne Baxter

Inheritance Tax is money that is paid out of your estate to the Inland Revenue on your death. The current rate is 40% of everything over £325,000 for an individual or £650,000 for married or civil partners.

You cannot avoid Inheritance Tax if your assets exceed these thresholds but there are procedures you can put in place now which can reduce the amount that goes to the taxman.

If you would rather see your friends, family or favourite charities benefit, then follow my top ten tips for reducing Inheritance Tax (IHT).

1.Know exactly what you have got

List your assets. How much are they worth? Do you need them all? Are any in joint names? Can you transfer any to your heirs now?

2. Get married

If you are a widow or widower, you can add your deceased partner’s allowance to yours, giving you an allowance of £650,000.

3. Spend it!

Ever thought of SKIing - Spending the Kids Inheritance! However, if winter sports aren’t your thing, then round the world cruises, sports cars (assuming they depreciate in value), or even second marriages can significantly reduce your capital and therefore the amount of IHT that would need to be paid.

4. Give it away

A simple solution is to give it away now, but unless you live for seven years after making the gift, your beneficiaries will still be liable for any IHT. However, there are some exemptions:

• Regular gifts from your income (rather than your capital) are not liable for IHT if they do not affect your standard of living.
• You can gift a total of £3000 a year from your capital without incurring IHT
• Contributions to family weddings (parents can give up to £5000, grandparents up to £2500 and other family members £1000)
• Donations to charity – any amount at any anytime, providing the charity is registered.

5.Check your investments

There are a number of IHT efficient investments such as Gift & Loan Trusts, Discounted Share Trusts and shares listed on the Alternative Investment Market (AIM) An Independent Financial adviser will be able to help you.

6. Use your business exemptions

Business property is entirely exempt from IHT as is agricultural land, providing it is a proper working farm. Land used for business purposes gets 50% tax relief.

7. Life insurance and pensions

This is a very good time to look at your policies, as you may have collected a few throughout your career.

• Who receives the benefits?
• Can you nominate a beneficiary?
• Are the policies sufficient to cover your dependants’ needs after your death?

8. Make a Will

If you don’t have a will, you will die intestate. This means that your assets will be distributed according to the law rather than according to your wishes. An up-to-date and professionally drafted will:

• Clearly sets out your intentions
• Ensures all your tax allowances are used
• Avoids arguments and bad feeling among your beneficiaries

9. Take professional advice

Don’t be tempted to try and write your own will. It is a complex process and it is very easy to make mistakes which can turn into a real headache for your beneficiaries.

It’s also wise to take advice from an Independent Financial Adviser, particularly if you have complex, high value or multiple assets.

Professional advisers have specialist, up-to-date knowledge and will ensure that your estate is passed on according to your wishes. They will probably save you money through tax and other savings in the long run.

They will also have professional indemnity insurance so if you are given bad advice, there will be recompense for you and your dependants. Whereas if you make the mistake, there is no recourse.

10. What not to do

• Bury your head in the sand - death and taxes are both inevitable
• Leave it too late. Remember, anything you give away seven years before your death is exempt from tax
• Write your own will
• Believe every sales pitch. Do your research and take advice before committing to an investment plan
• Worry. The sooner you start organising your assets, the sooner you can relax

Fiona Dodd is an Associate Solicitor within the Probate, Trusts and Wills Department with Mayo Wynne Baxter LLP. For further information please contact 01273 775533 or email

Don’t forget you can follow us on Twitter for regular tweets on Mayo Wynne Baxter news and views!

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Solicitors go back to School

One of the great things about being a Trainee Solicitor at Mayo Wynne Baxter is that they encourage you to use your initiative and take the lead on projects. Nothing has shown this better than our involvement in Local Lawyers in Schools.

Local Lawyers for Schools is a fantastic scheme run by the Citizen Foundation, a charity that arranges for solicitors to link up with local schools. When I first heard about this I was determined that Mayo Wynne Baxter should get involved.

For lots of students the thought of working in the legal profession hasn’t even occurred to them. Having the opportunity to spend time with practising solicitors offers them a great insight into a career many would never have even considered.

When I suggested to my colleagues at Mayo Wynne Baxter that they took part in the project, which would involve them teaching Law to GCSE students, some weren’t quite sure if they were ready to go back to the classroom. But a bit of gentle persuasion, and the promise of minimal homework, meant we were soon packing our satchels!

Mayo Wynne Baxter joined the scheme last year, becoming the first firm in the country to take part. Since then we have been working with the Year 10 Citizenship students at Hove Park School. We’ve covered all kinds of subjects, including police powers, drug legislation, human rights and what you have to do to become a lawyer.

The feedback from the students and their teachers has been really positive and I think they enjoyed the lessons almost as much as we did. My favourite comment was from someone who said that he thought solicitors could never get in trouble with the police because we always knew how to get away with things. Alas I had to inform him that being a solicitor wasn’t an automatic get out of jail card. He took it in his stride though and decided that a legal career was still a good idea as he liked the thought of getting paid to argue with people.

Mayo Wynne Baxter recently won praise for our involvement in Local Lawyers in Schools from the new MP for Hove, Mike Weatherley. He is going to be visiting the school this Friday (18th) to meet the students and staff and find out what they really think of lawyers and politicians. I hope they won’t be too honest!

And then, in a couple of days, we’re branching out and taking Local Lawyers for Schools to Sussex Downs College in Eastbourne. There we’ll be running tutorials for unemployed people as part of a project training volunteers for the 2012 Olympics and Paralympics. Watch out for my next post for an update…

For further information visit