Welcome everyone to episode four of Tina Talks. Today is our Christmas special, we have finally arrived in December, I know it's been a long year. Thank you all for those that emailed me in the last few weeks. I have some Christmas and of course a COVID question as well and so today.
I’m going to run through my questions and then I’m going to introduce you to three wise lawyers and they're all going to answer some questions that I put together for them.
So, let's go to the employment law questions first.
We obviously can't have a Christmas party this year, but our team is getting ready for drinks via Zoom; we are a little concerned we may be leaving ourselves open to issues. Do you have any advice?
We all love a Christmas party. This year obviously due to government guidance and restrictions the norm is a virtual party, so just because employers are putting on virtual parties that does not mean that normal employment rules and regulations and policies go out the window.
First of all, a couple of things employers need to be extra mindful of is that if you are hosting a virtual party you are still hosting a workplace event therefore your usual policies in relation to sexual harassment, discrimination, bullying all kick in as normal.
I think it would be wise for virtual parties that are occurring for employers to send employees just a very light-hearted but to the point memo which makes clear that even with a virtual party those employees are still attending a workplace event.
A of couple other things you need to be mindful of is that with a virtual party it might feel like there is no kicking out time, I would recommend you do suggest a time when the virtual party will come to an end, and be mindful that employees will not have access to the free bar, but may well have a lot of alcohol set behind them to get through.
Just be wary that some employees might find attending a virtual party a little bit more difficult and others will be taken out a year full of sitting in front of a computer to the maximum so enjoy your virtual parties but don't forget normal employment law rules apply
Here's your COVID question this month; can we insist our employees are vaccinated against COVID19 when they are given the opportunity?
We all know vaccines are well on their way and are actually being dished out in some hospitals and GP surgeries which is great news, but as it stands from an employer's perspective we are waiting for government guidance. We all know that as an employer we have an obligation to all our employees to ensure their health and well-being at work. An employee also has it responsibly to ensure that they are cooperating with their employer and that they are also looking after their own risk of health and the risk of their colleagues, put simply I’m not convinced you can force an employee to have a vaccine.
There will be some employees for example that might not want the vaccine due to religious reasons or their beliefs, other employees might have medical issues which prevents them from having a live vaccine, so I would not approach this as a blanket rule that every employee has to have a vaccine, but of course employers should encourage employees to have vaccines. For those that refuse or decline employers should consult with their employee to find out their reasons, and then carry out an individual risk assessment. As it stands for the time being, I would not encourage a disciplinary on the ground of an employee's refusal to have the vaccine.
That's my answers to the questions today. I'm now going to introduce you to my three wise lawyers who are joining Tina Talks. I’m really pleased that they are all joining today.
Three wise lawyers
Andrew Jones, Head of Commercial Real Estate
I’m first going to turn to our Head of Commercial Real Estate, Andrew Jones. So, Andy, my question to you is:
Mr Claus is looking to buy a new warehouse to keep all his toys in, but it's a big investment so what can Mr Claus do to protect his future and the future of his family?
Well that's a great question Tina, and thanks for allowing me to be here today. There are a few things that Mr Claus needs to think about really, how he's going to buy that property, whether he's going to buy that perhaps in his personal name, perhaps in the joint names of him and Mrs Claus or even potentially set some sort of trust up.
There's definitely some tax planning that he'll need to do around that to make sure that you know he's getting the most tax efficient way of dealing with things really. One of the things that we do for a lot of our clients like Mr Claus is look at setting a pension fund up for him with the help of his financial advisor so he could set up Santa Claus Limited what's called SASS. A SASS is where the company can contribute towards the pension fund, and that can be a way of ring fencing that asset in a pension fund so that any losses that Santa might make while he's making his deliveries for example, a claim against an accident when the sleigh crashes into somebody would be ring fenced against the potential liabilities of the limited company. There's also some fantastic tax benefits in that it also sets Santa really well for his retirement, he will have a pension fund built up because the company will be paying a rent into that pension fund and ultimately that's something that can pass to Santa Claus junior in the future when unfortunately Santa Claus may pass on to the other side. There are lots of ways of protecting that asset from the trading business.
That's great thank Andrew, thank you so much.
So, tell me what is your top tip for businesses in 2021?
So, my top tip for businesses is to prepare, plan and persevere. Have a plan, prepare that plan well in advance, but also persevere with it; if things don't go quite right don't just throw it in the dustbin, look at what you've achieved. I think human nature sometimes, we look at what we haven't done, rather than what we have done.
I think 2021 will be a fantastic opportunity to tick things off on our plans that we we want to achieve next year.
Thanks Andy, that's great.
Sarah Perry, Managing Partner
I'm now going to turn to our next wise lawyer, and I’m really pleased to let you all know that I am joined by our Managing Partner Sarah Perry, so Sarah, thank you so much for joining Tina talks today.
My question for you is; this year every company has had to adopt some sort of working from home pattern or or remote working policy where possible. Obviously, some employees have not been able to undertake their role from home but going forward there now seems to be a trend in remote working, and lots of employers are considering adopting a permanent remote working policy. Do you think that permanent remote working for part of the week will affect team spirit and the next generation of lawyers?
Hi Tina, thanks for inviting me today. I do think that remote working will have a huge impact on the next generation of lawyers if it's not properly managed, for one big reason and that is we learn from others, we learn by hearing from other lawyers more senior lawyers, we learn by not only through proper structured training, but actually sitting with that more senior lawyer and experiencing the job in real life. I think that's something that means that no lawyers should be working remotely on any sort of permanent basis. By all means, they can work one or two days a week at home, but junior lawyers need to be around more senior lawyers, because that's how they're trained.
So far as team morale is concerned that's down to the team itself, and it's really important that time is given in each day to make sure that you're checking in with each other, that you are supporting each other and that everybody is okay. That can be managed, but again my view is having the team together is really important, even if that's not all of the time.
Thanks Sarah, that's great. I’d also like to ask you please what is your top tip for businesses in 2021?
I’ve got a few things really, the first is to recognise that this year has put your staff under the most enormous stress, anxiety and pressure probably more than they would experience in a whole lifetime; so, give them the time to breathe, to re-energize, to prepare for the year ahead. The second is to give them a vision of the future, it's really important that we have things to look forward to that we can touch and feel. The last is to embrace change, change is here to stay, it's had a real positive benefit for businesses in terms of technology advancements and just encourage people not to be afraid of change.
Jeremy Hyde, Associate, Corporate Law
So, my final third wise lawyer today joining Tina Talks is Jeremy Hyde, and Jeremy is an Associate in our corporate law team. Thanks for joining Jeremy. My question for you is: do you see next year as being a year of opportunity in relation to acquisitions?
Thanks very much Tina for having me on the show. It's a pleasure to be here. Yes, I do think there's a lot of opportunity in the marketplace and what we're seeing is that businesses, the value of those businesses may be slightly depressed and actually there's a good opportunity for acquisitions, but not just down to value, but actually to acquire other skills. So, we're probably seeing certainly for next year lots of growth where businesses have realised during the crisis that they haven't quite got all of the skill sets in their businesses, and therefore they're actually looking to acquire businesses to build on that.
Thanks Jeremy. I'd also like to ask you what's your top tip for businesses in 2021?
My top tips for 2021 is actually a couple of buzzwords really, so, ‘adapt’ I think a lot of businesses have done that already, but it might be something they need to look at through the year. ‘Thrive’ so we are seeing that with our businesses that they're actually trying to to build and develop their businesses. The next thing is ‘growth’ so, I think that's probably where the key buzzword is for 2021. There's going to be a lot of growth in businesses and actually there's a couple of things that we can do. I’d probably advise is that first of all look internally so you know, have a look at what your employees are doing, which is your area team as well, but you know get those get your key employees incentivised, so whether that's introduced in some sort of gross growth scheme, EMI plan but get everyone on the key message. Then the next thing actually would be then to look at what acquisitions can you do? are you looking to exit? So, those are the things I think will be key factors in next year.
Okay guys and that's it for Tina Talks today. I really hope you've enjoyed meeting the three wise lawyers in our Christmas edition of Tina Talks. I would like to say that I know it's been an exceptionally difficult year, lots of lost loved ones and lots of businesses having to make very difficult decisions, but from the bottom of my heart, I do wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a better 2021.