Our Corporate and Commercial Client Service
If you are starting out in business, FM&C can offer advice on whether to operate as a sole trader, partnership or limited company. If you decide a limited company is the best way forward, we can help you set this up. At the other end of the spectrum, we are able to assist in the dissolution of a business, whether this is partnership dissolution or the winding up of your company. We also advise on mergers and acquisitions as well as AIM listings and other types of corporate finance opportunities.
Paul Fairhurst, who holds an MBA and is finishing a PhD in Intellectual Property valuation, and Aaron Menuhin, who holds an MSc in International Management offer business consulting services and can work with the lawyers to help optimize your business strategy.
Our services include the following:
- IP Valuation, Registration and Strategy
- AIM listings
- Drafting business agreements and contracts
We provide a comprehensive commercial and corporate service to our many clients in the Cambridge area. Our Intellectual Property expertise helps us to advise on IP strategy, registration and valuation. We will also help you grow your company either through equity or debt financing.
We are also able to provide a comprehensive service in respect of commercial conveyancing and Leases. Please see our Conveyancing section.
Whatever the size of your business, its profitability and cash flow can be badly affected by bad debts. At FM&C, we are able to offer a fast and efficient debt recovery service that will improve your cash flow. If you already have a credit control department, we are able to provide assistance to them with regard to advice on appropriate methods of enforcing a debt.
Everyone who provides employment to others is going to need legal advice at some point. Even if you are a sole proprietor who takes on just one employee to help in your business, you will need to consider an employer’s legal obligations. For the larger employer, human resources can at times appear to be a frustrating and time-consuming nightmare. Ready access to legal advice can save dividends in the long term.
FM&C will tailor advice to the needs of your business. We can, for example, provide you with a model Contract of Employment (on paper, on disk or via email) that has been specially adapted to the needs of your business and that you can adapt for each member of staff. We can advise on your disciplinary and grievance procedures, work hours, part-timers’ rights, and correct redundancy procedures.
Our aim is prevention rather than cure, to help you prevent litigation wherever possible. But, if you part company with staff on agreed terms, we can advise on the Compromise Agreement which will be essential to protect your position.
If you face proceedings before an Employment Tribunal, we can either represent you or provide advice to allow you to represent yourself with greater confidence.
There are many situations where you may feel you need to be better informed about your rights as an employee. If you are having problems at work, discrete legal advice in the background may help you to resolve the situation. These can include working hours, harassment or bullying, disability rights, minimum pay, and internal disciplinary proceedings, to name a few.
In many of these situations, a solicitor can help you to clarify your rights in the hope that you can then resolve the situation directly with your employer.
If a situation occurs where your job is at risk or where you have been given notice, you need to take legal advice without delay. There are strict time limits if you wish to make an application for compensation to the Employment Tribunal, so it is vital you take advice early.
Our Brief Guide to Employment Claims
There are a number of different types of claim which may apply in the event of a dismissal. Whether you are an employer or an employee, it will help if you understand which type of claim is likely to apply in any given situation.
Wrongful Dismissal occurs where an employee is dismissed without having been given their correct contractual or statutory notice entitlement. The statutory minimum requirements are:
- after completion of three months’ continuous service – 1 week’s notice;
- after completion of 1 year’s service – 1 week’s notice for each complete year of employment up to a maximum of 12 weeks.
Your contract may entitle you to more than that, so the first place to look is in the contract. If the notice period (or pay in lieu of notice) is insufficient, you can claim the balance as a ‘wrongful dismissal’ claim. In practice, unless you are on a fixed term contract, wrongful dismissal will not usually attract compensation of more than a few weeks salary. You also need to know that in the event of ‘gross misconduct’ there may be no entitlement to notice pay. Wrongful dismissal claims may be made to either the County Court or to an Employment Tribunal but time-limits are more severe before the Tribunal.
You may wish to consider a claim for Unfair Dismissal if your employer has dismissed you in unfair circumstances or where the dismissal was appropriate but the employer did not follow the correct procedures. Unfair dismissal claims may only be made in the Employment Tribunal. There is a strict time limit of 3 months from your ‘effective date of dismissal.’ You may need legal advice to work out when that date falls, and if you do not claim within the 3 month period, your claim will be refused. You also have to show you have been employed for at least 12 months before you were dismissed. Assuming you fall within the right criteria and that your dismissal is found to have been unfair, compensation will fall into two elements: a ‘basic’ award which is for the same figure as a redundancy payment (see Redundancy) and a ‘compensatory’ award which provides compensation for loss of income, benefits and security of employment for a period decided on by the tribunal.
If a tribunal makes a finding that a dismissal has been unfair, but considers the employee’s behaviour has contributed to the situation, the award may be reduced by a percentage figure representing contributory conduct. You also need to be aware that welfare benefits, in particular Income Support and Job Seekers Allowance claimed during the period following the termination of employment, will be re-payable to the Benefit Agency out of any award made by a Tribunal (but not if you manage to reach a negotiated settlement).
The role of the Advice and Arbitration Conciliation Service (ACAS) in unfair dismissal and other Tribunal claims is crucial. Whichever side you are on ACAS can assist you to attempt a negotiated settlement in order to avoid the matter going to a full Tribunal hearing. If you instruct a solicitor, your solicitor will also be working to try and reach an agreement, in order to maximise the amount of the settlement figure which you retain personally and in order to reduce your outlay on legal costs.
If all else fails and a Tribunal hearing is inevitable, it may be possible to arrange to represent you on a ‘No Win No Fee’ basis subject to a risk assessment which will take into account your chances of success.
Constructive Dismissal arises where the employee is forced to resign due to a serious breach of the contract of employment on the part of the employer. The breach must be a fundamental one. For example, if the employer fails to pay the employee’s wages, or if the employer makes it impossible for the employee to do his or her job. Constructive Dismissal claims may therefore allow an employee to make an Unfair Dismissal claim to an Employment Tribunal where on the face of it there has not been a dismissal at all, the employee having simply walked out or resigned. In practice, constructive dismissal claims tend to be a good deal more difficult to argue successfully than a claim based on unfair dismissal where there has been a clear cut dismissal.
Redundancy can only arise where there is a redundancy situation, i.e. where due to the circumstances of the business, the company no longer needs someone to do the job. There are various requirements placed on the employer for example to consult, including to select candidates for redundancy fairly and to offer suitable alternative employment within the company if this is available. If the employer fails in these obligations, the dismissal may amount not only to a redundancy but also to an unfair dismissal.
Assuming the redundancy procedures have been properly carried out and the employee has been fairly selected, compensation is fixed as follows:
- For each complete year of employment between 18 and 21 years – ½ weeks’ gross pay
- For each complete year of employment between 22 and 40 years – 1 weeks’ gross pay
- For each complete year of employment between 41 and retirement age – 1½ weeks’ pay
The figure for “gross pay” is subject to a top limit. In practice you need to count backwards, to calculate the maximum award. You also need to have worked for a continuous period of at least 12 months before being eligible to claim at all.
There is a time-limit of 6 months in which to make a claim for a redundancy payment.
How to apply to the Employment Tribunal
You will need a form “ET1” which you can obtain from any Employment Tribunal, from a solicitor or from a Citizen’s Advice Bureau. The form is quite straightforward but it helps if you know what type of claim you are trying to make. It is a good idea to speak to a solicitor first but if you are up against a time-limit your priority must always be to get the form into the tribunal within the given time period. There is no fee payable. You should keep a copy for yourself.
Appeals to the Employment Appeal Tribunal
If you are unhappy about a decision made by the Employment Tribunal, you may be able to appeal. However, you may only do so on a point of law, not on a point of fact. You will first need to obtain a copy of the full reasons from the Employment Tribunal. Your solicitor can then advise as to whether there are likely to be grounds for appeal.
The Court Service website provides forms, information and reports of recent decisions made by the Employment Appeal Tribunal at www.employmentappeals.gov.uk.