This is an ever changing area at the moment and already, our article of just a week ago, needs updating.

What is the updated advice and what does it mean to you?

Well, now staff do not need to have returned from an affected area, to be advised to self-isolate. Anyone displaying the symptoms of Covid-19 are advised to self-isolate.

If you have any staff with symptoms, they should be self-isolating, even if those symptoms are mild. They will still be expected to and should follow your absence reporting procedure. If you have staff in self-isolation, then please note that they are entitled to SSP during this time and fit notes can be obtained by contacting the NHS on 111. The Government has advised that the first three days for SSP purposes are paid and they have also announced their intention for employers to be able to claim back SSP payments for staff off with coronavirus, if they have less than 250 staff.

What works for your business, will depend on the nature of it. Staff who can work from home, should be allowed to do so, if they need to self-isolate. During this time, they can be paid as normal.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms of COVID-19 include:

Everyday Advice:

COVID-19 is ultimately a virus just like influenza and the many other viral illnesses which go around from time to time. The virus can cause more severe symptoms in those suffering from respiratory problems, weakened immune systems, cancer, diabetes or those who are elderly.

In order to best protect yourselves and your colleagues, please follow the below advice on personal hygiene:

Advice in this area is changing regularly, so for more up to date information, the Government’s guide can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-stay-at-home-guidance/stay-at-home-guidance-for-people-with-confirmed-or-possible-coronavirus-covid-19-infection

If you need advice on how to manage staff during this time, then please talk to Tollers. We’re here for you.

As you know, coronavirus is a hot topic at the moment. It can be a worry for companies to know how to keep staff safe during this time and how to handle absences for staff who are in self-quarantine, or ill with the coronavirus.

The Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, has said that staff in self-quarantine may be eligible for SSP and Boris Johnson has said that staff should be paid SSP for the first three days of their absence.

What does that mean to you?

Staff returning from affected areas:

If a member of staff returns from an affected area, they should call NHS 111. If they’re displaying symptoms, even mild ones, they will most likely be advised to self-quarantine for 14 days. Each case will need to be looked at individually and staff should be encouraged to phone NHS 111 for the latest advice and to follow it. Currently, the advice from NHS 111, is that if they don’t have symptoms, staff can go to work as usual. This may change, so it’s important to follow the advice of NHS 111 at the time.

Staff in self-quarantine:

Staff who are advised to self-quarantine by NHS 111 or their GP, are eligible for SSP, or company sick pay, depending on your policy. Those who aren’t advised to self-quarantine, are not.

Staff returning to work without symptoms:

You may find that staff are concerned if a colleague has been to an affected area and returns to work, even if they don’t have symptoms. Staff with these concerns should be encouraged to raise them with management, rather than behave disruptively towards the colleague in question.

Everyday guidance:

COVID-19 is ultimately a virus just like influenza and the many other viral illnesses, which go around from time to time. The virus can cause more severe symptoms in those suffering from respiratory problems, weakened immune systems, cancer, diabetes or those who are elderly.

In order to best protect yourselves and your colleagues, all staff should follow the below advice on personal hygiene and should:

ACAS have also published guidance for employers, which answers a lot of FAQs, such as:

The guidance can be found here: https://www.acas.org.uk/coronavirus, but as always, if you have questions, then talk to Tollers. We’re here for you.

Our specialist Elderly and Vulnerable Client Unit (EVCU) team have a proven track record when it comes to recovering assets lost to financial abuse for our vulnerable and incapacitated clients.

The EVCU team undertakes forensic accounting to identify mismanaged and misappropriated funds and works closely with the dispute resolution department to recover assets where possible. We also work with the Police and Social Services to safeguard our clients and their assets and to bring perpetrators of financial abuse to justice.

Sadly, in many cases of financial abuse of a vulnerable person, the perpetrator of the abuse is more often than not a close relative of the victim. This can make criminal prosecution difficult to pursue. When it comes to restoring the estate itself, it is quite often the case that the victim’s assets have been considerably depleted, often to extinction, before our involvement and that the perpetrator has completely dissipated the assets, making our chances of recovery lesser still.

Our latest success story however involves some form of justice for an elderly gentleman, D.

D’s Story

A Deputy Order was granted in our favour and we met with social services to collect documents and share the background of the matter so far. We obtained historic bank statements dating back several years in order to check for financial abuse. This is standard practice for our experienced team, but we had also received an indication from social services that some abuse may have occurred.

From the history of statements, we could see a clear pattern in use of D’s card, such as where D liked to shop, how often and his method of payment. Familiar activity could be seen for D over a period of months and years. It was therefore noticeable when a change in use had occurred on the account several years prior to our involvement.

Overnight, D’s activity changed from small, weekly grocery shops at a regular local convenience store, to daily ATM withdrawals of the maximum amount, online transactions and gaming and betting stores. D’s account balance was drained rapidly and transfers then started to be made via ATM to top up the account from his savings. It was immediately apparent that there had been some fraudulent activity on the account, both before and after D’s admission to care.

We undertook detailed forensic accounting, reviewing all statements and itemising suspicious transactions and changes in use. We cross referenced dates with medical evidence, capacity assessments and D’s admission into care and quickly built up a picture of the financial abuse which had occurred.

We were able to establish that D’s son had taken up occupation in D’s London property as D started to have memory problems. D’s son proceeded to make use of his father’s bank card thereafter and after D entered care, he continued to do so. D’s son also allowed several other people to occupy his father’s property and allowed it to fall into disrepair with damage as it was seemingly used as a drug den. This continued for several years prior to our involvement.

Our EVCU team worked closely with our dispute resolution department in order to achieve a successful repossession and eviction of the occupants of the property and it was later sold.

In relation to the cash assets lost however, given the lack of residence and assets of the son and in light of the drug and gambling habits evident from the misuse of our client’s account, recovery of assets from the son would not be a viable option.

Banks Beware Fraud and Financial Abuse of Older People

In this case we had no alternative but to pursue the bank itself, due to the volume of evidence of fraudulent activity and the failing of D’s bank to provide adequate checks and safeguards on his account to protect him from fraud.

We started with a letter of complaint to the bank to highlight the fraud and the issues which were apparent from the statements. The bank refused to investigate the matter and claimed that the complaint was out of time. This was because our client fell ill and lost capacity to investigate and complain himself and was left unrepresented for several years before a Deputy was appointed. This was clear discrimination and unfairly prejudiced D’s already vulnerable position.

We therefore moved matters onto the Financial Ombudsman Service, which investigated our complaint against the bank further. The Ombudsman found the evidence to be overwhelming and upheld our complaint. The bank was asked to award our client almost £70,000 to account for funds lost due to fraud and to go some way to restoring his estate. Inadequate reviews of the account and its activity proved a very costly exercise for the bank in this instance.

Tonina Ashby, Head of the EVCU at Tollers commented “This outcome, whilst just and right for D, does raise several questions, such as what level of protection should banks be offering to people? How should this be applied and to whose accounts? Where do we draw the line?”

“In this case, there was a very obvious change in use of the account from one day to the next and tens of thousands of pounds were removed in a matter of weeks. It would be difficult for anyone, particularly a large high street bank such as this, to establish that this was not a clear and obvious abuse of the account by a third party. This case is not however unique in its facts, in the experience of our EVCU team.”

“This decision seems to prove that banks do have a duty to go some way to protect people from financial abuse and fraud and that they should consider having greater supervision of the accounts they hold. With an ever-growing elderly population and a prevalence of conditions such as dementia, it seems to me that banks should now be sitting up and taking responsibility to educate themselves as the gatekeepers to our assets, in order to protect those in need and to prevent their own liability.”

What is a force majeure clause?

Force majeure clauses are commonly found in commercial contracts and seek to suspend or excuse one or more parties from performance of their contractual obligations if an event occurs that is outside their reasonable control.

With the coronavirus outbreak now becoming a global concern as the disease spreads across Europe, it begs the question as to whether companies will be able to declare the epidemic a force majeure event.

What does ‘force majeure’ mean?

Rather unhelpfully, force majeure is a term deriving from French law and doesn’t have a recognised definition or meaning under English law. This means that any force majeure clause must be carefully drafted to include the specific types of events that the parties want the provision to cover, for example: fire, flood, industrial action or in the case of coronavirus, disease.

What if there isn’t a force majeure clause in the contract?

A force majeure clause cannot be implied, consequently, there will be no protection for parties without an express clause in the contract. Even if the contract does contain a force majeure clause, there is no certainty that a party will be able to successfully rely upon it.

In the absence of an express clause, the common law doctrine of frustration may apply in circumstances where a contract has become impossible to perform due to an unforeseen event. The effect of frustration is that a contract will be automatically discharged and the parties are excused from their future obligations.

Can I invoke the force majeure clause in response to the coronavirus outbreak?

The English courts have typically interpreted force majeure clauses strictly so it is not guaranteed that you will be able to successfully rely upon it. The clause will require careful analysis to establish whether it covers events such as “disease” or “epidemic”.

You would then need to show that you have been prevented, hindered or delayed from performing your obligations directly due to the coronavirus outbreak.

What should our business do?

If you are concerned about the impact of the coronavirus on your business, you should review your contracts and consider time limits and notice requirements under any force majeure clauses. The defaulting party is usually required to use its reasonable endeavours to prevent or mitigate the effects of the force majeure event so it is important that you take any appropriate mitigation steps before invoking the clause.

Going forwards, it would be sensible to consider whether your current force majeure clauses adequately cover potential eventualities outside your control that could prevent you from performing your obligations under any existing or future contracts.

If you would like to discuss the impact of coronavirus on your commercial contracts please contact Liz Appleyard of our Commercial Team on 01908 396230.

The Guardianship (Missing Persons) Act 2017 came into force on 31st July 2019. This long-awaited law provides families with the ability to gain access to and control over the property and financial affairs of those who are missing, have been taken hostage or kidnapped and those who are imprisoned abroad.

According to the Charity “Missing People”, someone is reported missing every 90 seconds in the UK. Whilst the majority of these people will return home, for some this is the beginning of many weeks, months and years of unrest, unknowing and financial turmoil.

Guidance for Families of Missing People

Also known as “Claudia’s Law”, the Guardianship (Missing Persons) Act 2017 provides a new category of legal representative to address the financial burden often left behind when a person goes missing. Prior to this Act, there was no recourse for families left in such a situation until they could satisfy the Presumption of Death Act 2013, which required that a person be missing for at least 7 years.

Under the new Act, an appointed Guardian will now have the power to manage and safeguard the financial affairs of the missing person, such as cancelling direct debits, settling bills and dealing with property for an initial period of 4 years. This will help to alleviate the financial burden experienced when a person goes missing.

To become a Guardian, an application must be made to the High Court and Tollers’ specialist Elderly and Vulnerable Client Unit (EVCU) is proud to be able to support families through the application process to become a Guardian.

Tollers are also pleased to confirm that Martin Timothy Hill, Court of Protection approved Panel Deputy has now been added to the Office of the Public Guardian’s list of approved Panel Guardians for Missing Persons. As a Panel Guardian, Martin will be able to manage the property and financial affairs on behalf of those who do not have an alternative representative to act in this capacity for them.

As an experienced Panel Deputy, Martin Hill has spent many years safeguarding the financial affairs or those who lack capacity and Tollers’ specialist team in the EVCU support him in this role.

If you have had the misfortune of experiencing the loss of a family member in this way and for information and support in making an application, please contact our EVCU team.

Get On Your Bike Kettering: Tollers have teamed up with KLM taxis to be headline sponsors for the Cycle for Cransley Sportive that will take place on June 28th 2020.

The sportive raises much-needed funds for Cransley hospice in Kettering.

This event grows in popularity each year and offers routes to cater for all abilities;

The sportive starts from Kettering Rugby club which will also host fun activities and attractions for all the family.

For more information and details of how to enter please head to https://www.cransleyhospice.org.uk/event/cycle-cransley-2020/

Get On Your Bike Kettering

Tollers also sponsor Kettering Cycling Club’s adult leagues and pictured below are the winners receiving their trophies from Tollers’ managing partner, Duncan Nicholson. The winners receive a trophy, a winner’s jersey and gift vouchers.

Tony Brown

Tony has been the person to beat for some time but in 2020 swept up all the club’s male senior titles.

The highlight of his year apart from winning the Tollers trophy was taking part in the Tour of Cambridgeshire this year where he came 3rd in his age group and this qualified him to represent Great Britain in the World amateur championships. Tony came home 4th in his age group IN THE WORLD! And 1st GB rider in his age group.

Sue Rust

Remarkably the year started with Sue struggling to find fitness but it all started coming together in the May day 10TT on the B10/43 when she came home as Joint winner with a time of 24.31 and that gave her 6 months of holding The Jane Travers Memorial trophy.

Then June saw her first PB of the year and the new KCC 15 mile TT Club record of 34:33 on the summer flying fifteen event in Hampshire.

In July she secured another PB securing the KCC 10 mile TT Club record with a 21:49 in the VTTA London & Home counties event and coming first lady on the day.

Also in July she secured a new PB for a 50 crossing the line at 2:00:58, slicing almost 6 minutes off her previous time and secured the KCC 50 mile TT Club ladies record for a female.

The RTTC National 25 mile championship event was next in her sights and sure enough, she crossed the line in 56:44, giving her an all-time PB and slicing a tad more time off the KCC 25 mile TT Club record.

Although her sights were set on the 30 mile distance there were no further races in the season. Sadly that will have to wait till this season.

On the spur of the moment she entered her first ever 100 mile (AS YOU DO!) in the first week of September on the A100/4, the B.D.C.A. event brought the biggest smile of the season with a fantastic first ride of 04:09:43.

Being her first ride it was a PB, and also secured the KCC 100 mile TT Club record

This ride also set a new Veteran Women’s Record for 100 miles for 56 year olds breaking a long-standing record held by Carol Gandy.

Sue also received a certificate from the Best British All-Rounder Competition to certify that she was placed 12th in the 2019 women’s competition after competing in road time trials over 25,50 and 100 miles the average speed of her performance being 25.089miles per hour.

Get On Your Bike Kettering

April is approaching and with it, come new changes to Employment Law. As well as the proposed usual annual increases to minimum wage, statutory sick pay and statutory family pay, there a number of additional changes to Employment Law, which are coming into force on 6th April this year. It is therefore advisable for employers to spend some time now reviewing the upcoming changes in addition to their current practices, to ensure that they will continue to be compliant come April.

Employment Contracts:

The first change relates to the requirement to supply employees with a statement of their main terms and conditions of employment. Currently, employers have two months to provide the statement to new employees; from April, the statement will have to be provided to not only all new employees, but also all new workers, by their first day of working at the latest. Additional information will need to be included in the statement of terms, which can currently be placed in a separate document.

Agency Workers:

There are also several key changes relating to agency workers. Firstly, the “Swedish Derogation”, a mechanism by which recruitment agencies can pay workers less between assignments than they would earn where they were working an assignment for the client, is being abolished as of 6th April 2020. Any worker whose contract contains a provision allowing this practice will need to be contacted by their recruitment agency by 30th April and told that the provision no longer applies. Agency workers engaged by Temporary Work Agencies should be given a Key Information Document which provides them with information on the type of contract they are on, the rate of pay, the method of payment and by whom they will be paid.

Consultation Rights:

There will also be a lowering of the threshold for employee consultations. Broadly speaking, at present where either 10% of employees or 15 employees (whichever is greater) request that they are consulted on an economic matter or that they be party to negotiations with their employer, the employer will need to set up a consultation agreement and go through a formal process. From April, the required number of employees will fall to 2% or 15 employees, whichever is greater.

Holiday Pay:

A further change will arise in respect to holiday pay calculations. In order to calculate the amount of holiday pay an employee or worker will receive, an employer will usually take the earnings over the past 12 weeks of work and calculate the average earnings over that period. In order to reduce the unfair bias that exists against seasonal workers, the reference period will soon be 52 weeks. This will be more applicable to those employees and workers who work variable hours.

Bereavement Leave:

Additionally, draft Regulations have been produced which introduce a new form of family leave for parents whose child sadly passes away before their eighteenth birthday. This includes children who are stillborn after 24 weeks. Though the Regulations have not yet been enacted, the draft indicates that parents will be entitled to up to two weeks of paid leave at the statutory rates in force at the time, such leave to be taken within 56 weeks of the date of the child’s death.

Taxation of Ex Gratia Payments under Settlement Agreements:

Finally, there will be a few changes to taxation. Firstly, soon all termination payments above £30,000 will be subject to PAYE and National Insurance. Furthermore, the IR35 taxation rules regarding self-employed persons working in the private sector is due to change to reflect the rules currently operating in the public sector.

As you can see, there are multiple changes coming into effect which means this year shall be no less eventful than the last few. This does not take into account the current situation with Brexit, which we hope to have more information on soon.

For advice on how the changes outlined above will affect your business, or help in drafting compliant statements of terms and policies, the talk to Tollers and contact Rebecca List on 01604 258558 or rebecca.list@tollers.co.uk. We’re here for you.

It’s been a long and complex saga, but the day when the UK finally leaves the EU is nearly upon us. On 31st January, the UK and the EU are expected to sign the withdrawal agreement, which will allow the UK to leave the EU, and negotiations into the shape of our future relationship with the EU will commence.

One thing which will be fundamentally important to employers is the rights of an individual to work in the UK. To assist with this, the Government have set up a Settlement Scheme which allows individuals from the EU, EEA or Switzerland to apply for “settled” or “pre-settled” status.

Whether a person can apply for “settled” or “pre-settled” status depends on how long they have been living continuously in the UK. If they have lived here continuously (meaning without a break of more than 6 months in any 12 month period) for a period of 5 or more years at the date they apply, then they can apply for “settled” status. If granted, the individual will have the right to remain in the UK indefinitely and may even be able to apply for citizenship at a later date. If they have been living continuously in the UK for less than 5 years at the application date, then they can apply for “pre-settled” status. This, where granted, gives the individual the right to remain in the UK for a further five years. They can then apply for “settled” status once they achieve the criteria set out above.

Brexit Your Employees Right To Work In The UK

It is important that employers ensure that all their workers who are EU, EEA or Swiss citizens have carried out the necessary steps to ensure that they are remain eligible to work in the UK after Brexit. The deadline for doing so is dependent on what happens next in the negotiations. If the UK cannot agree a deal with the EU regarding the finer points of our future relationship by 31st December 2020, then any individuals who intend to remain working in the UK must have been successful in applying to the Settlement Scheme by this date. If we do agree a future deal, then the date by which individuals will need to have received acceptance to the Scheme will be 30th June 2021. Employers should be mindful of these dates and should prepare themselves to carry out right to work checks with their employees once the applicable deadline has passed.

In the meantime, employers are encouraged to remind their employees and workers of the need to apply for settled status if they are an EU, EEA or Swiss citizen who is intending to remain in the UK after Brexit. This may be a difficult conversation to have for some, so try to ensure that, whilst you have the necessary conversations, you provide an informal and relaxed environment and support to any employee who needs it whilst undergoing this process.

If you need any help on how to manage these chats with your employees or workers, or advice on your obligations to ensure that an individual has the right to work, talk to Tollers and please contact Rebecca List on 01604 258558 or rebecca.list@tollers.co.uk. We’re here for you.

In January 2017 Dr Jasjot Singhota, 30, was on her way to work at St Thomas’ Hospital in Lambeth, as she crossed the road on a pedestrian crossing on Tulse Hill she was struck by a Ford Fiesta. The driver of the car had set off earlier without defrosting the windscreen.

Jasjot suffered a traumatic brain injury and died the next day.

The driver claimed that because his windscreen was covered in frost he could not see Jasjot on the crossing.

Had he have just taken the two minutes or less to make sure that the glass areas of the car were clear of frost then Jasjot may be alive today.

It takes less than a few minutes to clear a car or van window and yet some people make a conscious decision not to do it.

It may be reckless bravado or the thought of “it’ll never happen to me” but if it does happen the consequences can be tragic, as proven in Jasjot’s death.

No one should have to go through the pain of loss and grief, and certainly not because of such a simple omission.

Jasjot’s family have teamed up with the Metropolitan Police’s Command for Roads and Transport Policing and are campaigning to make motorists think twice before starting their journeys. More details of the campaign can be found by here or on twitter under #readyfortheroad

Jasjot’s sister Neha Santasolo has a clear message. “People won’t drive with their eyes closed so why do it when you can’t see out of the windscreen?”

Jasjot’s death continues to impact the family’s lives every single day

Jasjot had dedicated her life to helping others. Before working at St Thomas’ Hospital in Lambeth she had volunteered in children’s hospitals in New Zealand.

Even after her death, she saved five lives through organ donation.

The Royal College of Anaesthetists have set up a bursary in her memory.

Are You Ready For The Road?

With the cold weather upon us it will not be long before we have to reach for the de-icer spray or the ice scraper before turning a wheel and so please make sure that you have cleared your windows and windscreen before setting off.

Please spread the word, share the hashtag #readyfortheroad and think before you drive.

On Monday 2nd December, Tollers marked the beginning of Christmas festivities with the annual Christmas Bake Off in aid of our Charity of the Year, Secondary 1st. Secondary 1st is a charity, based in London, which funds research into the prevention, diagnosis and causes of secondary breast cancer.

The winning cake baked by Alex Gill

To raise money for this brilliant cause, staff in our Northampton, Milton Keynes and Corby offices took to their kitchens, lined their baking tins, and created some festive tasty treats.  This year came with a fantastic turnout and fierce competition, with chocolate brownies, ginger cupcakes and snowball cheesecakes being amongst the bakes!

Once all the bakes were lined up (and a few hours had passed for those who did not fancy cake for breakfast), the judging began with the bakes being scored on several different categories, including creativity, taste and festiveness. Once the judging was complete, there was a bake sale where staff could enjoy the festive treats, with all donations going to Secondary 1st. Needless to say, there were some pretty full plates coming out of the kitchen that day so that everyone could try as many different bakes as possible.

Tollers Christmas Bake Off 2019

That afternoon, the first round of winners were announced. In our Northampton Office, conveyancing assistant Alex Gill took the crown by a measly half a point! In Milton Keynes, personal assistant Claire Davies won with her delicious brownies, and one of our newest trainee solicitors Emma Blacow satisfied the judge’s chocolate cravings with her chocoholic crispy cakes in Corby.

The scoresheets and photos were then compared by our independent committee, who were delighted to announce today that our Bake Off 2019 winner is Alex Gill! She now takes the coveted Bake Off trophy and is already making plans for next year in an attempt to retain her title.

We hope you enjoy the wonderful photos of the bakes from this year and cannot wait to see our bakers’ creations next December!

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