Category Archives: Business

Employee Rights and Workplace Accidents

Accidents have the potential to happen in just about any workplace, and in some they are a definite and ever-present risk. Under the law, employees have some very strict rights relating to accidents, both in terms of protection from injury and in terms of what they can do and expect if an accident should occur.

Accident Books and Reporting

All but the smallest of employers are required to record all accidents, even minor ones, in an accident book. The relation of this to employee rights is twofold. Firstly, it ensures that there is a record of the accident for reference if it later results in the employee having to exercise their rights, for example by taking time off or claiming compensation. Secondly, this is arguably an employee right in itself; a right to have any accident recorded as possible future evidence.

For similar reasons, employers are also under an obligation to report all accidents. Every accident in the workplace must be reported by the employer to the relevant local authority’s department of Health and Safety. This duty is enshrined in regulation, specifically the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurences Regulations or RIDDOR. It is the employer’s responsibility to make this report, though many workers prefer to make sure that their accidents have been reported properly.

Financial Rights

If you have to take time off because of an accident at work that has left you injured or sick, in most cases you will only have an automatic right to receive Statutory Sick Pay. Individual employers may have policies in place to provide additional pay to people who have to take time off because of accidents that have happened in the course of their work. You may also be able to negotiate an individual arrangement with your employer to receive additional pay since the injury was acquired through your work.

If you have suffered an accident at work and your employer was at fault, you will also have the legal right to claim compensation. Your employer was at fault if they were negligent in any way, such as not observing proper health and safety procedure or failing to take proper steps to mitigate specific dangers, and this was the cause of your accident. Financial compensation is designed to both make up for any financial loss incurred, for example by having to take time off work, as well as to compensate you for pain and distress caused by the injury.

New Software Solution Aims to Aid Legal Research

One of the harsh realities of legal work is the need to spend long, long hours researching past cases that may be relevant to current ones. Indeed, this requirement is one of the key reasons behind the long working hours and poor work/life balance that have come to almost define the role of a solicitor, especially in the City.

However, a new software solution is in development aimed specifically at helping the legal industry tackle this problem. The new tool aims to make the process of researching case law considerably faster and easier by making key information from relevant cases readily available through the intelligent handling of typed queries.

The tool is being developed by tech start-up Ross Intelligence. It is an artificial intelligence (AI) solution which aims to provide highly relevant results to user queries. This may sound like a specialist legal data base with a search function, but the developers of the software hope that using the most up-to-date developments in AI will make it something much more. Search queries can be entered in natural language, phrased in much the same way they would be addressed to a human colleague. Queries will, it is hoped, be analysed intelligently to provide information that is directly relevant, and it is intended that the system will be able to adequately deal with questions that are quite specific. It is based on the IBM Watson platform, an advanced system that uses natural language and machine learning principles to accurately identify relevant information in large and unstructured quantities of data.

According to Andrew Arruda, Ross Intelligence chief executive and co-founder, “Lawyers may know the law and where it stands on a particular issue today but many cases come out and it can change that so they’re always looking into the past to build the future.”

Arruda continued: “The issue with that is there’s just millions of cases. What our system is able to do is keep up to track with all these changes in the law so at a glance a lawyer can help their clients really, really efficiently.”

Arruda claims that lawyers using the system stand to cut their working time by up to 30%. This claim, he insists, is based on an accurate assessment of the amount of time that they currently spend researching through traditional databases, and how this compares to the amount of time it would take to perform equivalent research with his company’s system.

Ross Intelligence is based in the US, and is currently developing its AI system to answer queries relating to US case history. If the tool proves successful in delivering on its promises and is taken up by the legal industry in the USA, however, it seems likely that variants of the system or similar solutions will be created to help lawyers research case history in other countries.

US Prosecutors Level Multiple Accusations at FIFA Officials

As investigations into the scandal in which international football governing body FIFA has found itself embroiled, US prosecutors have levelled a list of allegations. Several of the organisation’s officials have, the prosecutors claim, been involved with fraud and racketeering for more than two decades.

Prosecutors also claim that these officials are guilty of laundering money, with tens of millions of dollars involved over the course of 24 years. Overall, 14 individuals have been indicted, seven of which are being held in Zurich since Wednesday. One of the seven in Zurich is Vice President of FIFA Jeffrey Webb. Swiss authorities report that six of these seven individuals are currently contesting extradition for trial in the US.

Overall, the US prosecutors claim to have discovered around a dozen different schemes that represent the kind of activities they allege took place. One such scheme, they say, resulted in the decision to award South Africa the honour of hosting the 2010 World Cup.

Most prominently, the indicted officials are accused of taking bribes. Since 1991, it is claimed that they collectively accepted bribes and kickbacks with a total value of over US$150 million (£97 million). According to Attorney General Loretta Lynch, these officials “corrupted the business of worldwide soccer to serve their interests and to enrich themselves.”

Summarising the accusations against the officials, Lynch said that they had “used their positions to solicit bribes,” and they had done so “over and over, year after year, tournament after tournament.”

Sepp Blatter, the president of FIFA, is not one of those on the receiving end of the allegations. In a statement, Blatter insisted that corrupt officials would be booted out of the organisation. 11 of the 14 people involved in the recent allegations from US prosecutors, including all of those currently held in Zurich, have been given a “swift and immediate provisional ban” from any activities relating to professional football.

The organisation is due to hold its presidential election this Friday, in which Blatter is the favourite candidate. Should he be successful, it will be Blatter’s fifth term as FIFA president. UEFA, the European football body, has said that this election should be postponed, and it is considering a boycott of proceedings. Currently, however, FIFA insists that its presidential election is to go ahead on Friday as planned.

As well as accepting bribes, including bribes that influenced the decision of where major tournaments would take place, officials are accused of organised racketeering, obtaining money through fraud, and money laundering.

Black Lawyers Still Underrepresented in South African Legal System

South African CourtSince the days of Apartheid, South Africa has been hailed for undergoing a complete transformation which has seen drastic improvements in racial equality. However, black groups still remain very much underrepresented among the country’s lawyers.

Those who would once have been severely restricted by Apartheid now make up two thirds of the past ten years’ law graduates. While this figure would look encouraging on its own, data from the Law Society of South Africa reveals that only 37% of the country’s practising attorneys are black. There is evidently great disparity between the number of black people who complete law degrees in South Africa and the number who go on to work as lawyers. When it is considered that approximately 79% of South Africa’s population as a whole are black, even the two thirds (66%) of graduates that are black begins to look a little low.

According to South African attorney Michael Motsoeneng Bill, “The rhetoric has been that there was room for all of us, but it created too high an expectation. The idea that you are a black lawyer and therefore your fate is sealed is wrong.” Bill himself has enjoyed success as a black lawyer, but has also seen how difficult it is for his peers to get on in the industry.

The reason for the underrepresentation of black people among South Africa’s 22,000 practicing solicitors, Bill theorises, is that 80% of law firms remain white-owned, and this figure includes many of the big players. This is coupled with the fact that corporate clients are the most lucrative and desirable ones in the legal industry, and corporations in South Africa also remain heavily white-dominated. Bill suggests that ultimately, “They often don’t have the courage to change the status quo and diversify briefing patterns.” This leaves black lawyers confined to lower-paying areas of practice such as conveyancing, and such restrictions could potentially be a disincentive to work as a solicitor at all.

For some, the issue of underrepresentation has been highlighted by the high-profile Oscar Pistorius trial. Thanks to the decision to allow the trial to be televised, it has shown a case within the South African court system to the world. The picture the world has seen has included an all-white defence team and predominantly white team acting for the prosecution. Considering the giant steps towards equality and diversity that so many other parts of South Africa have experienced in recent years, many have found this image a surprising one.

Samsung to Sue Dyson

Samsung-LogoSouth Korean electronics firm Samsung is to sue Dyson for 10 billion Korean won(£5.6 million). The lawsuit claims that the British appliance maker had “hurt Samsung’s corporate image” through past litigation falsely claiming the electronics firm was copying features of its appliances.

In August 2013, Dyson brought a case for infringement of patent against Samsung, claiming that the electronics company had copied a steering system used in some of Dyson’s cleaners. According to a statement made by Dyson chief executive James Dyson at the time “Although they are copying Dyson’s patented technology, their machine is not the same. Samsung has many patent lawyers so I find it hard not to believe that this is a deliberate or utterly reckless infringement of our patent.”

The lawsuit was later dropped in October, as the Korean company was able to show it had been using this technology before Dyson filed their patent. It was, therefore, decisively established that the company had not been copying Dyson. However, Samsung contends that this was too late to prevent harm to their image in the eyes of the public.

The new lawsuit was filed at Seoul District Court last week, and the reasons behind the case were explained in a statement to the Korea Times. The company originally stated an intention to assess the damage that had been made to their image at the time that Dyson’s lawsuit was dropped. They said they would then decide whether they should take action of their own, and it seems this decision has now been reached.

The sum that is initially being demanded may not be the full extent of the lawsuit. According to the statement a spokesperson for the company made to the Korea Times; “We are initially seeking 10bn won from the UK-based manufacturer. However, the amount will increase depending on how the court proceedings go.” The spokesperson went on to say that “Samsung’s marketing activities were negatively affected by Dyson’s groundless litigation, which is intolerable.”

According to a spokesperson for Dyson, the company is “not apologising.” The spokesperson went on to claim that Dyson have not yet been provided with a copy of the complaint made against them.

Responding to the new litigation from Samsung, James Dyson called it “surprising” that Samsung was “so worried.” Of the original lawsuit for patent infringement which started the trouble, Dyson said simply “We patent our technology, and naturally defend it.” He then went on to suggest that the judgement of the original case suggested the protection afforded by the patent system is “not enough.”

Chancellor confirms LLP tax clampdown

In the autumn statement chancellor George Osborne revealed that controversial measures to stop employees claiming partnership status to avoid tax, will be implemented in due course.

This year’s Autumn Statement was held on 5th December 2013. The most expected announcement, as a result of the summer consultation, concerned the proposed controversial legislation which affects fixed share members and the taxation of corporate members.

1The chancellor declared that he is determined to guarantee that tax advantages of partnerships are not abused. Furthermore, he revealed that changes proposed in the draft National Insurance Bill earlier this year will be applied soon.

The requirements postulated in the new rules are for many members of limited liability partnerships to be obliged to pay higher national insurance contributions by removing an automatic exemption. This is a result of a government announcement in the budget that the government would remove the assumption that LLP members are self-employed rather than employees.

However, the Law Society made a warning that these proposed measures would have serious implications for the legal and business community, and posed a risk to UK’s reputation as an attractive business location.

The role of finance lawyers in tax investigations

Anyone can cringe at the idea of having a tax investigation. It is definitely one of the most stressful things in life. It is necessary to find a specialist in helping you in resolving tax investigations and give you some peace of mind. Things like investigations, enquiries, disputes as well as conflicts can affect you not only mentally but also with many other aspects of your life. The HM Revenue and Customs are very stringent when it comes to these tax issues and that is why it is necessary to be aware about your situation and seek help from a professional finance lawyer to help you should you be under investigation for your tax activities.

Finance lawyers often deal with cases from sole traders as well as large corporates, and even trustees or partnerships. Should there be some inconsistencies with the past tax payments, the finance lawyer will shoulder the pressure, and help these entities to find better ways to handle the situation and avoid sanctions that could affect their business, employees and their reputation. Through the help of a finance lawyer, the client need not to have contact with the HMRC since he or she will represent the client and fight hard to ensure that the tax penalties will be fair and not make the matter too complicated for both parties. It is necessary to have a team of professionals who will make an exhaustive analysis of the tax history of the client and they will analyze every detail to avoid serious problems in the future.

One of the most popular ways a lawyer can give to the client is preparing voluntary disclosures and paying the necessary amounts to ensure that they pay their dues and not be subject to more serious legal sanctions. They also help in resolving tax investigations and deal with tax enquiries for different entities.

Legal Tips for Employers in the Coming Year

Small business owners need to be aware of any changes to employment laws. The ramifications for breaking any of these laws can be serious, even if the employer wasn’t aware of the change ahead of time.

These laws are changing quickly so employers will need to be diligent about keeping up with them. A number of new laws are already being introduced in 2013 that you will need to be aware of.

What Changes Should We Expect in 2013?

The government is passing several new laws that will extend more rights to employees throughout the United Kingdom. Here are some of the biggest changes that you will need to be aware of.

Shareholder Contracts with Employees

Many employers have shareholder contracts with their employees. A new law will require these contracts to be structured differently two months from now. Shareholder contracts will give employees the right to demand training when needed and file a complaint when they believe they were unfairly terminated.

Addition of Tribunal Fees

The government has grown concerned that too many employees have tried to manipulate the complaint system and file compensation claims against their employers. This new system will charge a fee of 250 pounds to discourage employees from trying to exploit their employers.

Limits of Compensation on Any Claims

More jaded employees have filed unjust termination claims against their employers. The government wants to ensure employees who have a legitimate case will still be able to seek compensation. However, they are also going to place some limitations on the amount that they can claim. There are two new criteria that set the limit of the amount an employee can claim:

  • The employee cannot be awarded more than  £74,200
  • The employee also will not be awarded more than a year’s salary

Wrongful termination claims can be financially devastating to small and medium sized businesses, so these new standards should limit the financial damages they will face.

Be Aware of these Laws in the Coming Year

Employment laws change drastically throughout the year. You will want to make sure that you understand the changes that will go into effect in 2013 and adopt to them as best as possible.