MW are very  proud of Vijaya Sumputh who has written an insightful article on same sex marriages in the Expert Guide Divorce Law 2014.

The article sits alongside articles written by well known and esteemed colleagues in the profession and finance practitioners. The piece is reflective of Vijaya's  analytic and practical approach to rapid changes in our legislation. Vijaya in her article scrutinises the question of potential challenges to the new legislation and her informative piece takes you through the recent Marriage Act 2013 and high lights important provisions as well as potential shortcomings in the legislation. This succinct commentary is an informative guide to the Marriage Act 2013 and will be invaluable to those practitioners who do not have the time to wade through the legislation. Vijaya states that she is delighted to be involved in an interesting area of practice which is continually evolving to reflect the needs of our modern society.

Click here for PDF version

Recent media reports have focused on the dismissal of Sharon Shoesmith, her Claim arising from her dismissal and the compensation paid to her as a consequence.

Head of Employment, Mark Jones, explains the facts of the recent case of Shoesmith and how the settlement figure was reached. 

From 30 June 2014 the Flexible Working Regulations 2014 will introduce new eligibility requirements for flexible working requests.

Under the new provisions the main changes are as follows:

  • Flexible working requests can be made by all employees (excluding agency workers) with at least 26 weeks continuous employment.  Flexible working requests are no longer limited to those seeking to care for disabled children or children meeting certain criteria.
  • Employers are now required to deal with flexible working request applications in a “reasonable manner”.  The previous provisions, which required employers to follow a prescribed procedure, has been replaced with a more flexible and open approach which requires employers to deal with requests in a “reasonable manner”.
  • There is a revised ACAS Code which explains what it means to deal with applications in a reasonable manner.  It is intended that Tribunals will take the ACAS Code into account when deciding the question of whether an application has or has not been dealt with in a reasonable manner.
  • Employers have a 3 month period within which to consider a request, discuss the request with the employee, notify the employee of the outcome and deal with any appeal.

Applications to the Employment Tribunal

The grounds, including the revisions are now as follows:

  • An employer’s failure to deal with the application in a reasonable manner.
  • An employer’s failure to notify the employee of the outcome of their application within the decision period.
  • Failure by the employer to rely on 1 of the statutory grounds when refusing the request for flexible working.
  • An employer bases its decision on incorrect facts or treats an employee’s application as dismissed without proper grounds for doing so.

The ACAS Code recommends that:

  • Requests are dealt with by the employers with the employees in a private place.
  • Employees are allowed to be accompanied to any meetings including any appeal
  • If an employee fails to attend a meeting or any subsequent meeting without proper explanation the Flexible Working Application can be deemed to be withdrawn.
  • Employers consider requests carefully by looking at the benefits of requests in the context of the impact on the working conditions of the employee as against any adverse impact on the business.  Requests are dealt with promptly.
  • Where more than 1 employee makes a request for flexible working the requests should be dealt with by the employer in the order in which they are received and that a right of appeal should be provided.

Points to Note for Employers

As always, Employers should be mindful that they do not commit acts of discrimination when dealing with flexible working requests. Employers’ policies, procedures and handbooks should be updated to reflect the new changes.

"MW welcome the ongoing changes to encourage, speed up and support adoption and more enduring family placements" - Neil Perot, MW Partner, Family Department

From September 2014, two-year-old children adopted from local authority care or who left care under a Special Guardianship (SG) Order or Child Arrangements (CA) Order (formally known as a Residence Order*), will be entitled to 570 hours a year of Government funded early education over no fewer than 38 weeks of the year (which equates to 15 hours per week).  The Government is extending the entitlement to free early education to these children in recognition of the difficult start in life they have endured and the real benefit early exposure to high quality early education can have in improving their life chances. There is strong evidence to show that good quality early education at the age of two supports children’s development.  If you are a parent of an eligible child and you would like to take up the offer of a free place, you should contact your local authority’s Family Information Service for information about eligibility and the process for securing a place.  Information can also be found on the Government’s website GOV.UK at https://www.gov.uk/free-early-education

 *From 22 April 2014, residence orders and contact orders are replaced by Child Arrangements Orders (s8 Children Act 1989). Child arrangements orders are orders making arrangements about the person with whom a child lives or has contact. Only Child Arrangement Orders relating to a child’s living arrangements immediately after they leave local authority care (looked after children) are relevant for the purpose of the 2 year old free entitlement.

In a decision this week Sir James Munby, President of the Family Division called on the Justice Secretary to intervene in relation to the lack of Legal Aid in a family case which the President felt was disadvantaging the child.  The case concerned an application by a father, a convicted sexual offender who was seeking contact with his 7 year old son.  The mother of the child opposed the application and expert evidence was involved.  Clearly the case was a complex one.  It is exactly the sort of case the Ministry of Justice had assured everyone would attract exceptional case funding Legal Aid as clearly it is almost impossible for there to be fair representation of the interests of the mother, the father and the child in circumstances where the parties do not have access to legal advice because their financial circumstances are such that they cannot afford it.  There has always been a principle in this country that justice should be open to all and not limited to the affluent.

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