Monthly Archives: July 2021

What is it like to be a newly qualified solicitor? Here is an insight of what it is like for Ramona our FGS newly qualified solicitor…

Hi, it’s Ramona here from FG Solicitors.

I started with the firm in May 2018 as a member of the Business Support Team. After 8 months, I transferred into the Legal Team as a Legal Assistant, providing support to the firm’s solicitors. By August 2019, I had started my training contract and qualified as a solicitor in February 2021.

The day in the life of a newly qualified solicitor is ever changing, take a look at a day from last week…

6:30am My day starts off with a bit of yoga and a fresh coffee in the garden. After catching up with the news, I get ready and head into work.

8:30am By the time I reach the office, I am ready to attack the day. It starts off with checking my emails, calendar and the daily tasks list to forecast what my day will look like. However, a day in the life of a lawyer does not always stick to the plan as clients may call with an urgent piece of work that needs to be turned around on the same day. Prioritisation and flexibility are key.

9:00am It’s time for the legal team meeting. An opportunity for my colleagues and I to discuss ongoing work, bounce ideas and strategies across to one another and set out our priorities and goals for the day. Part of FGS’ values is to create a collegiate culture where team members can support and learn from one another in an open space. The morning meeting is the perfect example of the team coming together and practicing this value.

9.30am One of our UK based retainer client’s is expanding into Ireland and requires an Irish consultancy agreement for a number of independent contractors. I spend the next hour and a half preparing the first draft of the precedent to ensure it is compliant and tailored to meet our client’s needs. I liaise with Helen Taylor, a Principal and senior employment lawyer, who has had previous experience working with a number of Irish based companies discussing the general principles and laws surrounding employment status in Ireland.

11.00am Floyd Graham, the Managing Principal and I attend our recurring weekly meeting with our client. Acting as General Legal Counsel for our international client, this meeting is an integral part of its 14-year relationship with the client. The meeting is an opportunity for our client to seek advice on any legal matters and updates on current projects.

12:00pm I attend a mediation meeting on behalf of our client who is currently dealing with a contract dispute. During the mediation, we set out our client’s legal position and undertake negotiations with a view to settling. Having worked on the case from the beginning and being heavily involved in preparing the statements of case, I am responsible for taking notes and assisting Floyd during the advocacy with identifying relevant documents and legislation. The mediation is successful and the matter has settled. I will draft the consent order and issue it to the other side tomorrow.

13:00pm It’s lunch time. I take out my packed lunch and sit around the table with my colleagues either chatting away or watching an episode of The Office. We have always been encouraged to take a break and switch off at lunch so it’s a great time to just sit back and relax and get involved with the lunchtime discussions.

14:00pm Floyd and I attend a client site for a strategic planning session and to get a deeper understanding of the operations of the company. Our client is contemplating a management restructure and wishes to also utilise our services for an audit of its existing HR and contractual documentation. As part of our audit framework, we will attend client sites for the purposes of undertaking individual consultations, training sessions and planning with the senior management team.

16:00pm Our client requires a master service agreement for a tender they have recently won. I review the existing documentation between our client and the customer. With the assistance of Pippa, our trainee solicitor, we begin drafting the schedules to the agreement dealing with our client’s services, KPIs, service levels and service credits, charges & data protection.

17:00pm I attend a Teams call with one of our client’s other professional services providers in New York to deal with an employment matter relating to a separation and release of claims agreement I had drafted the day before.

18:00pm My day is complete, and I attend to any outstanding admin tasks which I had not completed during the day, this will include time recording, file referrals, archiving and updating the daily tasks list. As I have completed the targets I set out for myself for the day and there is no additional incoming work, I gather my stuff and head home. I usually spend my evenings with my family or partner and take the dogs for an evening walk.

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A hybrid working era… is your Business ready?

 

The buzz word has become  “hybrid working,” where individuals split their time between home and their employers’ premises. For many employers it is a compromise to full-time remote or homeworking. Despite the lifting of lockdown restrictions, it appears to be a working model that is here to stay.

“The trend for working from home will continue to be commonplace.”

The statistics are clear; there has been a shift in the way many of us will work in the future. The Institute of Directors’ 2021 survey of business leaders showed that 63% of them intended to move towards one to four days of remote working per week. The British Chamber of Commerce’s research identified a similar trend with more than two-thirds of businesses continuing to offer some remote working. The professional body CIPD topped this off by finding that some 66% of employers planned to introduce or expand the use of hybrid working.

“Hybrid working creates employment law and HR challenges if employers do not assess whether their current employment documentation is fit for purpose.”

If hybrid working is to become the norm for your business, you need to ask whether your business is actually ready for this change. The following top-level questions need to be considered when assessing your level of readiness:

  • What do your existing HR policies say and do they support hybrid working?
  • Have you considered how your employees will be managed and supervised?
  • Do contracts of employment need updating to reflect the change?
  • Is the business insured for staff working from home?
  • How will confidential information and personal data be protected?
  • How will employees’ health and safety be protected?
  • Are there any hidden costs?

In most cases, HR practices, policies and procedures are unlikely to be able to accommodate this new way of working and will need updating. If hybrid working is to be adopted, now is the time to take stock by reviewing and auditing your business’ practices and procedures to ensure that the behaviours to support an effective hybrid working model are clearly defined.  Where there is certainty and clarity, there is less legal risk.

“Hybrid working is going to be a welcome benefit for most employees but there are still legal risks that need to be managed.”

Happy employees usually means employers do not have to worry about grievances and tribunal claims. There are however some key risk areas that need to be managed.

If terms and conditions are to be changed, employees will need to agree. While most employees are likely to be happy, if agreement cannot be reached, the change cannot be imposed unilaterally. To do so could be a breach of contract and also lead to constructive unfair dismissal claims. Consultation is therefore essential.

All employees need to be treated consistently whether they work from the employer’s premise or from home. Discrimination complaints can arise where a difference in treatment results in those with protected characteristic being worse off.

Just because employees are off site does not mean the duty to protect their health and safety stops. Employers still have a duty of care to ensure employees’ welfare is protected. A failure to ensure there is appropriate protection could give rise to negligence claims.

With the focus being on employee rights and particularly on employee wellbeing, business owners need to step back and ask themselves what they are doing to protect their businesses.”

Adopting a hybrid working model is not just about changing the place of work or carrying out a health and safety risk assessment.  While  any HR  audit referred to above needs to address these issues and employment law risks, consideration must be given to the broader financial and commercial risks that arise from homeworking, which could affect the business’ reputation or cause financial loss.

Where employees are working from home, employers have less control; the risks of a  data breach, the loss of confidential information or the misuse of social media are increased. If the aim is to protect the business, consideration should also be given as to whether post-termination restrictions remain reasonable and relevant where there has been a change to the workplace. Likewise, to protect intellectual property rights further clarity is required to ensure that there is certainty over ownership when work has been created from home.

A risk assessment to identify how high the risks are and how to manage them is sensible. In the case of data security, a move to a hybrid working model would justify a data protection impact assessment.

Embracing hybrid working has many benefits for businesses and their workforces. However, if this model is to be effective and sustainable, employers need to be aware of all the risks and introduce measures to minimise those risks.

FG Solicitors offer a proactive and practical approach, providing Businesses with the confidence to tackle the legal issues and risks that arise from the introduction of hybrid working.

Why not give us a no obligation call on 0808 172 9322?

This update is for general guidance only and advice should be taken in relation to a particular set of circumstances.

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End of lockdown restrictions – How will your Business deal with these questions?

  • “Can we get all staff back to the workplace?”
  • “Who should we still let work from home?”
  • “Can I still have a policy on social distancing in the workplace now that it’s no longer compulsory?”
  • “Are there any specific health and safety requirements that need to be implemented?”
  • “Can employees still ask to wear face masks?”
  • “Is it true that there is a focus on good workspace ventilation?”
  • “Should the cleaning and sanitisation policy continue?”
  • “Should I update our COVID-19 health and safety risk assessment?”
  • Do I need to consult with employees about the end of the lockdown restrictions?
  • “Can I insist employees take regular COVID tests and ask for the results?”
  • “Do I have the right to ask about vaccinations?”
  • “Do I have to permit employees to work from home?”
  • “Can employees be asked to use the track and trace app?”
  • “What do I have to pay employees who have been contacted by track and trace and asked to self-isolate?”
  • “Do I need to take particular care for those employees who are pregnant,, clinically vulnerable or who have disabilities?”

The end of lockdown has arrived but not in a COVID free landscape.  The Government’s aim is that all employers take steps to reduce the risk of COVID-19 spreading by making their workplaces safer.

Are you prepared for what this means for your business and you can achieve this?

FG Solicitors offer a proactive and practical approach, providing Businesses with the confidence to tackle employment issues.

Why not give us a no obligation call on 0808 172 9322.

This update is for general guidance only and advice should be taken in relation to a particular set of circumstances.

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What is it like to be a trainee solicitor? Here is an insight of what it is like for Pippa our FGS trainee solicitor…

Hi, I am Pippa, a trainee solicitor at FG Solicitors.

I joined the firm in August 2020 as a Legal Intern, and now having completed six months of my training contract, I can honestly say that every day at FG Solicitors is different. Whilst there is no typical day as a trainee, here is a day from last week.

6:45 I wake up, workout and get ready for work. Having a short commute (just 15 minutes) means that I have plenty of time in the mornings for hitting the gym, reading a book or keeping up to date with the latest news.

8:15 I arrive at the office, have a catch-up with the team and sit down with a cup of tea. I always check my emails, the calendar and our tasks list first thing in the morning, so that I know what we have on that day.

8:30 I sit down with Floyd Graham, the Managing Principal and my training supervisor, to make some final amendments to a letter that I drafted for a client regarding a shareholder dispute. One of the best things about being a trainee at FG Solicitors is that I am given the responsibility of drafting documents and letters on topics that I have not come across before, with the comfort that these will always be checked by a supervising principal. Floyd and I discuss the amendments that need to be made, and I ask any questions that I have on the topic. I always keep a copy of any amendments in my training log and use these for the next time that I undertake a similar task.

9:00 The legal team meeting. We sit down together as a team every morning to discuss our priorities for the day. We also discuss any complex, challenging and interesting matters that have arisen, which, as a trainee, I have found to be very useful.

09:30 I attend a client meeting with Floyd and Ramona Bakshi, a newly qualified solicitor, regarding a commercial dispute. During the meeting I am responsible for taking notes and assisting Floyd with identifying relevant documents and legislation.

10:30 Following the client meeting, Floyd, Ramona and I discuss the legal and commercial issues from the client’s perspective. Having done this, we create a project plan and begin to prepare a letter rejecting a part-36 offer and making a counter offer, which is due by the end of the following day. As Floyd has an urgent meeting to attend, Ramona and I draft the remainder of the letter together before it is checked and sent to the client for final approval.

11:30 I have been working on the first draft of a defence to an employment tribunal claim. The defence has to be filed by the end of the week, so I spend the next hour reviewing the client documents and the claim form in preparation for a meeting with my supervising principal to review the draft and make any amendments.

12:30 Lunch! I usually bring lunch from home so that I can sit with my colleagues, watch something on the TV and have a chat. Today, we have ordered lunch in, so we all sit together to eat and talk. From my first day at FG Solicitors, lunch time discussions have been one of my favourite things about the firm, it is a great opportunity to get to know my colleagues better.

13:30 We have recently assisted a client to expand their business into a foreign jurisdiction, by incorporating a branch of the Company in Germany. As a trainee, I was responsible for researching German incorporation requirements and preparing the first draft of the incorporation documents. Following on from the incorporation, the client now requires a set of bespoke German precedent contracts for their German employees. After speaking with Helen Taylor, a Principal and senior employment lawyer, about German employment law, I begin to research the specific requirements and prepare the precedent contract.

16:45 A principal asks if I can assist them with researching US contractors’ licence requirements, as a client is having an issue with their US operations. I use our international resources to research the matter and identify the cause of our client’s issue. As I am not able to find all of the information that the client needs, I telephone the Washington Secretary of State and the Washington State Department of Labour and Industry to resolve the issue for the client.

17:50 I check off all the tasks that were completed and write a to do list for tomorrow with any outstanding tasks. After this I finish any administrative tasks such as client referrals, time recording and file notes before checking with my supervisor and colleagues whether they need any assistance.

If we do not have any urgent pieces of work, we are always encouraged to finish work and go home, so that we have an opportunity to unwind, be active or spend time with friends and family. However, when there is a deadline that needs to be met, the team always pulls together and to ensure that we deliver for our clients.

During my first few months as a trainee, we worked on a company acquisition, which meant that we had to stay late in the office on a few occasions. As a trainee, I had always anticipated the need to stay in the office late, but at FG solicitors, staying late is a little different, we order a takeaway, gather our laptops and the papers and get the job done as one team.

18:00 I leave the office and drive home. When I get home, I head out with my partner for a game of tennis at our local club.

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Is it ok to say no to the growing trend for flexible working?

During the pandemic having to balance the need to remain  operationally effective and financially viable with the requirement that people should  work from home meant the majority of employers had to adapt quickly to a different way of working. The outcome was that workers were either furloughed, worked remotely or had a more flexible working arrangement to manage health risks.

In anticipation of the change to the work from home guidance, employers have more recently been planning what the future workplace will look like for their organisations. While some organisations have been clear about their position, for many others there is still a lot of uncertainty and confusion about what to do when it comes to this issue. This is made all the more difficult given the amount of press coverage flexible working has commanded over recent months suggesting it should be the norm.

The TUC advocates flexible working for all!

If the Trades Union Congress (“TUC”) has its way flexible working should be the norm. Earlier this week it tweeted in response to the change to the work from home guidance that no one should “miss out” on flexible working.

While the remainder of the TUC’s tweet had some merit by acknowledging that the same approach to flexible working will not work for all employers and promoting the need to consult with staff about continuing flexible working patterns, creating an expectation that everyone should have the right to work flexibly is  unrealistic. It is also a very simplistic view.

Employers do have a choice…

For employers who are still trying to work out what is best for their organisation such comments like the one made by the TUC are unhelpful because they create  a mistaken belief that there are automatic rights when it comes to the way that employees would like to work.

The TUC appears to have forgotten that the current legal framework provides that in most cases there is no automatic right to flexible working. Although there is a process to follow, employers can refuse flexible working on one or more of the legally permitted eight business grounds which take into account the needs of the organisation, its customers and other colleagues.

It is ok to say no… 

Despite the emphasis being on the need to embrace flexible working, there is nothing wrong with an organisation once it has weighed up the pros and cons in deciding that flexible working  for all its workforce is not the right operating model, and instead leaving individual cases to be dealt with when they arise. Interestingly, even in the future, if the government makes flexible working a right from the first day of employment, which has been proposed, employers will still be able to exercise commercial judgment and refuse to offer a role on a flexible basis where there is good reason to do so.

Employers must however know how to manage flexible working requests…

Organisations who choose not to go down the flexible working route for all will still need to be prepared to manage expectations and any formal flexible working requests under the current legal framework. For further information about managing such requests, please click here: As an employer would you be prepared to introduce flexible working as the norm?

Still not sure what to do?

If you are unsure if flexible working should be the new norm for your organisation  or are concerned about managing a formal request, find out what you CAN do by contacting FG Solicitors on 0808 172 9322 for a no obligation discussion.

FG Solicitors employment law specialists offer a proactive and practical approach, providing employers with confidence when it comes to managing their day-to-day employment law and HR issues.

WELCOME TO A MORE CONFIDENT FUTURE!

For further details about the commercial legal services and assistance we provide to businesses, please click here. 👇

https://www.fgsolicitors.co.uk/services/

This update is for general guidance only and advice should be taken in relation to a particular set of circumstances.

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