Newsletters and Articles

Private Client Update 15

22 February 2018 Written by Owen White Catlin Solicitors Category: Newsletters

Government scraps ‘unlawful’ employment tribunal fees

The government has announced that it is scrapping employment tribunal fees following the Supreme Court ruling that they’re unlawful.

Claimants who have paid fees while bringing a case will be given a refund.

The fees were introduced in 2013, with employees having to pay up to £1,200 to bring a claim.  The move was widely criticised for restricting access to justice.  The number of claims brought to tribunals fell by more than 70%.

Following a challenge by the union Unison, the Supreme Court has ruled that the fees are discriminatory, unlawful and unconstitutional.

Gillian Guy, chief executive of Citizens Advice, said: “People’s employment rights are only as good as their ability to enforce them.  Employment tribunal fees have prevented people from getting justice when they’ve been treated unfairly at work.”

Unison general secretary Dave Prentis said: "The government has been acting unlawfully, and has been proved wrong - not just on simple economics, but on constitutional law and basic fairness too.

"These unfair fees have let law-breaking bosses off the hook these past four years, and left badly treated staff with no choice but to put up or shut up.”

The Law Society also welcomed the ruling calling it a “victory for the tens of thousands of people denied their rights at work”.

Society president Joe Egan said: ‘As the Supreme Court identified, these fees placed an insurmountable barrier in the way of tens of thousands of people.  Access to justice is a fundamental right – if you can’t enforce your rights then it renders them meaningless.’

Please contact us if you would like more information about the issues raised in this article or any aspect of employment law.


Cancer sufferer awarded £47,000 in discrimination case

A woman who claimed she was subjected to discrimination and harassment while undergoing treatment for cancer has been awarded more than £47,700 compensation.

Eimear Coughlan worked for the Hideaways Club (UK) Ltd, a property investment firm based in London. She was the office manager and personal assistant to the chief executive, Poonam Dhawan-Leach.

Problems arose after she had to undergo surgery and intensive chemotherapy after developing an aggressive form of breast cancer.

She said Ms Leach treated her "sympathetically and with natural concern" at first, allowing her to work flexibly around her treatment schedule and to work from home if she felt particularly unwell.

However, the attitude changed over the following few months. The concession of flexible working was withdrawn and she was told she would have to take sick leave for at least half a day on reduced pay if she had to attend a medical appointment, even if it was only for an hour.

Ms Leach contacted the firm’s HR department for advice, saying Ms Coughlan “had not done a single day’s work” in the last three months and the working arrangement was not sustainable.

Three days before Ms Coughlan was due to undergo major surgery, she received an email accusing her being unfit to work yet refusing to take sick leave.

The Hideaways club disputed the claims and said that many of their decisions were made out of concern for Ms Coughlan.

The Employment Tribunal dismissed Ms Coughlan’s claims of constructive dismissal and victimisation, but held that she had been subjected to discrimination and harassment.

Judge David Pearl said some of the firm’s actions like asking her to provide medical letters “violated her dignity” and it had been irrational to expect her to take half a day’s sick leave to attend a medical appointment.

He added that removing the flexible working arrangement was “plainly unfavourable treatment” despite Ms Leach claiming it was for Ms Coughlan’s benefit.

Please contact us if you would like more information about the issues raised in this article or any aspect of employment law.


More than a million people have opened Help to Buy ISAs

More than a million people have opened a Help to Buy ISA, the government savings account designed to enable first time buyers to get on the property ladder.

The scheme was launched on 1 December 2015 to provide potential buyers with the opportunity to save up to £200 a month with the government topping up their contributions by 25%, up to a maximum of £3,000.

First-time house buyers across the UK can open an ISA, which is available for home purchases up to £250,000 (£450,000 in London). If you plan to buy a home with someone who also qualifies, you are each able to separately claim the bonuses on your savings and put both towards the home you are buying.

The scheme has proven to be hugely popular, with the equivalent of 1,500 Help to Buy ISAs being opened every day since its introduction. The number of providers of the scheme, which includes banks, building societies and credit unions, has doubled since its launch to 28, with the Nottingham Building Society being the most recent to sign up.

Savings in a Help to Buy ISA are tax-free and are also quick and easy to open. Savers can receive on average 2.4% interest rate on their savings which is typically higher than an instant access savings account.

First-time buyers will be able to open a Help to buy ISA until 30 November 2019. Existing account holders can continue to save in their ISA account until 30 November 2029 when accounts will close to additional contributions. Bonuses can be claimed until 1 December 2030.

Please contact us if you would like advice about the legal aspects of buying or selling a home.


Three sisters win dispute over their father’s will

Three sisters have won a dispute with their father’s widow over the validity his will, which he made shortly before he died.

The case involved a man who lived in Grenada with his second wife. In 2014, he had visited England to see his three daughters from his previous marriage. While he was there he executed a will.

He then returned to Grenada where he died aged 74, leaving property in both England and Grenada.

The daughters discovered that his widow had applied for letters of administration of his estate in Grenada on the basis that he had died without making a will.

She assumed ownership of some of his Grenadian property without regard to the interests of his daughters who were entitled under the 2014 will.

The daughters took legal action both in England and Grenada to revoke the grant of letters of administration, and for them to be granted probate, which would enable them to administer their father’s estate in accordance with his will.

The widow claimed her husband had not executed the will, which did not reflect the discussions he had with her. Or, if he had made the will, it was because of undue influence.

The case was eventually settled in the English High Court, which ruled in favour of the daughters.

It held that the evidence showed the will had been duly executed, that the deceased had testamentary capacity and that he knew and approved of the contents of the 2014 will. He had left his widow some land but not as much money as she expected.

The terms of the will were entirely rational. It made less provision for his widow than she might have hoped for but that was a decision made by the deceased and fully communicated to his solicitor.

The 2014 will was accordingly admitted to probate.

Please contact us if you would like more information about the issues raised in this article or any aspect of wills and probate.


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