November 2012 Archive

Know your building regulations when buying or selling property

Hannah Carey, head of the conveyancing team at Midland law firm Wright Hassall, stresses how important it is to be aware of building regulations when buying or selling a property. “Specialist knowledge of building regulations and their enforcement is an essential part of transferring a home. Conveyancers have a professional duty to ensure that necessary building regulations have been obtained."

Rural Payments Agency cross-compliance breaches rise by 11%

Earlier this year, the Rural Payments Agency (RPA) published their annual statistics for the number of cross-compliance breaches recorded in 2011. Breaches are penalised by a percentage reduction in the farmer’s SPS payment – the financial support given to farmers in return for looking after their land and the environment. This year No Spread Zones, aimed at protecting water from pollution by fertilisers or manures, has been added to the inspector’s list. To avoid penalties, all farmers should review their cross-compliance obligations so they understand what they need to do and by when.

Car cash allowances might be an opportunity to claim an NIC refund

The Court of Appeal (“CoA”) has decided in favour of the taxpayer in Cheshire Employer and Skills Development Ltd (“CESDL”) (formerly Total People Ltd) v HMRC. CESDL paid motoring expenses to its employees for the business use of their own cars. Employees were paid either (i) 40 pence per business mile or (ii) 12 pence per business mile for fuel plus a monthly cash allowance. CESDL argued that the monthly cash allowance, in so far as it did not exceed an amount equivalent to the number of business miles multiplied by 28p (40p-12p), should not be regarded as earnings subject to NIC.

The Green Deal for commercial property

The Energy Act has some important implications for commercial property and if building owners have not done so already, now is the time to sit up and take note. One requirement in particular, which will impact on at least 20% of existing commercial property stock, is causing quite a stir. This is the long-awaited new requirement which makes it unlawful to lease commercial property without a minimum EPC rating.

Financial Ombudsman increases award limit

The Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) increased its award limit from £100,000 to £150,000 from January 2012, but alongside this welcome development it seems the FOS has at times struggled to deal with the sheer number of complaints it receives, with delays of up to two years being reported. But our experience is that the service remains a cost-effective – and relatively timely - route for individuals and small businesses with complaints against financial services providers.

Dress code at work

Recent reports on the dress code crackdown announced by two major employers may give all employers the incentive to review their workplace dress code to take into account the latest fashions – particularly body art and scruffy facial hair. Both HMV and the Metropolitan Police have tackled the issue of body piercings and tattoos. The Met has actively banned tattoos from being on display, requiring staff with a visible tattoo, which cannot be hidden under clothing, to report it.

Obligations relating to disabled parking facilities

If your business occupies premises which have car parking facilities for visitors or customers, then you will be subject to specific duties under the Equality Act 2010 as an employer, a tenant or a service provider. There are no specific requirements to make provision for a certain number of disabled car parking spaces, but consideration should be given to ensuring that there are an appropriate number of spaces that are in a sensible proximity to the relevant building and that their use is policed in some way.

Flexible parental leave and the right to request flexible working

Following the Modern Workplaces consultation that launched in May 2011, there has been an announcement from Nick Clegg (Deputy Prime Minister) that the UK will have a new system of flexible parental leave from 2015. The Government shall also legislate to extend the right to request flexible working to all employees from 2014. The remaining elements of the consultation are yet to be published.

Ownership of LinkedIn contacts

Social media is rapidly becoming a vital part of networking for many businesses. However, the question has recently been raised over who owns contact lists on networking sites such as LinkedIn; are they the property of the employee or the employer? The issue has recently come to prominence following the US case of Eagle v Edcomm.

Charity fined £70,000 for data protection breach

Social care charity, Norwood Ravenswood Limited, became the first charity to be fined by the Information Commissioner’s Office (“ICO”) for a serious breach of the data protection rules and was ordered to pay £70,000. A social worker, working for the charity, had visited the house of prospective adoptive parents with the intention of delivering a file of sensitive information about four young children. Finding no one at home, the files were left outside the house and were missing by the time the owners returned.
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