TV Pundit loses age discrimination case

Legendary racing pundit John McCririck was given his “pantomime persona” as the reason for his dismissal from broadcaster Channel 4 due to the fact that it was “unpalatable” to a nationwide audience. An employment tribunal stated that this was a sufficient and just reason for the dismissal of the 73-year-old horse racing pundit.

An employment panel gave a unanimous decision against Mr McCririck who alleged that he had been given the sack following an astonishing 29 year long career in television due to his old age. The employment tribunal however favoured the argument put forward by Channel 4 who argued that the sacking was part of a wider plan to introduce horse racing to a wider more diverse audience.

The applicant in this case, Mr McCririck stated that this decision and the reasoning behind it showed a “historic setback” for those over 30 who wish to lodge claims for unfair dismissal based on age discrimination. The racing pundit earlier in the year took TV production company IMG Media Limited as well as Channel 4 to the tribunal while seeking to be compensated in the sum of £3m for the damages caused. Both parties denied and defended the allegations of discrimination. As expected both Channel 4 and IMG welcomed the decision reached by the e Central London Employment Tribunal.

While at the forefront of Channel 4’s racing coverage the racing pundit became famous with his attire consisting of gold jewellery, deer-stalker hats and wild gesticulations. On later TV appearances such as Wife Swap and Big Brother Mr McCririck confessed to his “pantomime villain” appearance. The aging pundit was replaced by a revamped team headed by Clare Balding when Channel 4 obtained broadcasting rights for horse racing in March 2012.

In the report the tribunal panel concluded that having obtained rights to broad cast Royal Ascot and the Grand National which are considered to be the crown jewels of the sport, it was evident why the broadcaster wanted to appeal to a younger audience  while maintaining its existent over 55 male audients.

The tribunal went on to state that Mr McCririck’s celebrity profile had increased after airing his personal views on matters which were previously not known to the public. The report referred to the pundit being asked to leave other well-known TV programmes such as Hell’s Kitchen, Alan Titchmarsh, and Loose Women, following the publication of his views.

Regulation makes it costly to run a media business

Some of the nation’s most respected newspaper and publisher groups have threatened to lodge a European legal challenge if the government penalises them if they fail to sign up to the royal charter backed regulation on the press. The papers fear that this is likely to increase legal costs in privacy and libel court action if the government does not allow self-regulation and insists on the royal charter standard of media regulation.  

The law has been already inserted in to section 20 of the Crime and Courts Act and means that magazines and newspapers will be unable to recoup their legal fees even if they are to win in their high court cases unless they have gone through a process of arbitration with a unit approved by the regulator. In the larger more complex cases there are likely to be other legal fees incurred such as punitive and exemplary damages in addition to the libel damages.

This effect of the proposed regulation is threatening for the business of the media groups since they are already faced with hefty legal burdens in the region of £500,000 to £1,000,000 for those prolonged libel disputed. The newspapers have made no secret of their concern which in their eyes will have a “chilling effect” on journalism across the board. The changes are likely to mean that there is more safety in publishing with sources being checked thoroughly and some articles remaining unpublished.

Insiders in the press business say that if the proposals regarding exemplary damages and legal costs are not reconsidered and revised, they are likely to lodge a challenge on the government’s proposed regulation with the European Court of Human Rights. A newspaper executive stated that the action would signify the little choice which the newspapers are left with the legal costs being so hefty and out of proportion that they would simply be unbearable.

Deep disappointment has already been expressed by the Sun, Daily Main and the Telegraph who have all had proposals turned down by the government. Stig Abell, the managing editor of the Sun, stated that the government’s latest refusal of the regulation proposal has given them one final push for negotiation which could either end up in the press setting up its own regulation system which does not get government approval or a government backed regulator to which no paper signs up. Essentially the argument is one of business with the proposed penalties for not signing up to the royal charter possibly leading to intolerable trading conditions with little room for the maintenance of a sustainable business.

 

 

 

Data Protection and Businesses

In the increasingly digitised and electronic 21st Century, information assurance and protection has become increasingly important.

As more and more information is uploaded, stored and accessed online, more and more sensitive information is in cyberspace. Exposure of such information can compromise a person’s personal details, financial details, medical records, or business records. Such information can be very sensitive. The risk of such information getting into the wrong hands can lead to identity theft, fraud, or industrial espionage. As more sophisticated criminals and gangs are now moving online and exploiting weaknesses in business networks, the risk of such information being found and exploited by criminals is very real indeed.

Measures have been implemented over the last decade to fight such online cyber-crime. Many nations have implemented legislation (for example, in the UK the Data Protection Act) to address this very matter, and have set out regulations to be followed by businesses to protect their information. At a government level, governmental groups and committees, and intelligence agencies such GCHQ seek, provide (and act on) information in this new arena.

For businesses, such regulations and legislations can be seen to be procedural, bureaucratic and administrative headache- but can potentially be vital to the safety of the business. Proper safeguards and above all employee awareness and training are essential in preventing online information from being accessed by an outside party, or leaving their particular network open to cyber criminals by carelessness or negligence. It is vital that employees receive adequate training in areas such as handling and storing digital information correctly, keeping sensitive records and databases secure, and processing online payments.

Another point here concerns customers and clients. Particularly of concern for direct customer facing businesses (such as in the service industries) is the need to keep customer information and financial details secure. Once again, staff awareness and training, and proper procedures and due diligence are needed in such industries to prevent the theft of customer data. Under legislation, it is actually a requirement of businesses to implement a secure system to store customer information.

For some businesses, the threat of cyber-attacks is very real indeed. For technology and pharmaceutical, industries, for example, industrial espionage is very much a concern, and one that can cost a company potentially millions in stolen intellectual property.

Although good digital working practices and procedures can be laborious and time consuming- such measures can be vital in protecting a company. Digital theft can result in sensitive information being out in the open, a great loss in revenue, and an even greater loss in revenue. Although laborious, a comprehensive and secure IT infrastructure and set of working practices can be invaluable for any business.

The Challenge of Finding the Right Person for the Job

It is challenging to hire good employees.

Whilst many potential candidates might have the right skills, qualifications and work history, there are other characteristics that are relevant when selecting new employees, such as their character and integrity, which cannot be established by an application form. Potentially, a candidate’s personality and attitude can be as important as their work history and skill set.

When in the process of hiring, recruiters should consider that skills, knowledge and experience are not everything. Potential employees should have a combination of the required skills and work experience, and other traits that are not so easy to quantify.

When starting the hiring process, here are some pointers the experts at Randstad Financial & Professional have suggested:

Clearly specify what skills and work experiences are essential. With recruitment consultants and in job descriptions clearly list all of the must have and desirable skills and experiences that are required in the job. These should be the bare minimum, to enable the recruiter to weed out candidates, and to ensure that all candidates can do the job required of them.

Work based experiences, technical expertise, and similar, are required usually- but some roles require more abstract characteristics such as leadership or performing well under pressure. These cannot be measured in a standard application process- making a face to face interview or assessment essential in selecting the right employee. The more abstract the qualities or personal characteristics needed, the more important an interview is.

In such an interview, the interviewer should endeavour to get to know the candidate’s personality. Asking open ended questions, getting the interviewee to share real life scenarios where they faced challenges or situations similar to what they will find in the workplace will aid the interviewer in assessing what is not an easy quality to quantify. Consider sending recruiters on courses on interviewing. Such courses and interview sessions allow recruiters to enhance their interview style, practice questions, and learn how to interpret body language and other nonverbal information that the interviewee naturally gives out- which will help them when making hiring decisions.

In a further attempt to assess the candidate’s suitability, the interviewer has to establish whether the candidate will be able to get along with fellow employees in the specific work environment. Once again, open ended questions, and getting to know the candidate as a person will help in making an assessment, but one thing does not change- trust your instincts as a recruiter. If the new hire does on fit in the workplace, this can result in friction, poor performance from all concerned and decreased productivity.

It does not help that recruiting can be unpredictable. A candidate can be strong on paper, and be the type of person who shines at interviews- but when they actually start work demonstrates a lack of technical ability or the ability to fit in with the team and company dynamic. That is why, whilst getting the employee on board, vetting is so important. Taking up references is a must, and is checking an employee’s work history and other relevant information that employers are allowed to gather. In this day and age, a check of an employee’s online record is also advisable. Taking care and time over vetting will ensure that the right person is brought on board- and prevents time and money being wasted on the wrong employee.

Above all, take time. Take the time to interview candidates, to get to know the whole person, and to assess whether they are the right fit for the role and company. Take time in selecting and vetting a new employee, even if the job needs to be filled quickly. Spending such time in hiring will pay dividends in maintaining a cohesive, productive workforce- and will ensure that the right employee is brought on board with the right skills and attitude.

 

What are the new rules & regulation regarding mis-selling?

Following the scandal of the systematic mis-selling of PPI in the United Kingdom, various rules and regulations have been formulated in an attempt to stop such things from happening again in the future.

Payment Protection Insurance (PPI) was designed for people so that in case of any accidents, sickness, death or unemployment they can continue repaying their loans.  This PPI was sold by the banks and lenders when customers took out both personal and business loans, mortgages and credit cards.  The mis-selling, most of the time deliberate, was to people who were not eligible to ever make a claim on the insurance due to self-employment, retirement, medical conditions etc. Many people were wrongly told the PPI was compulsory, or even were opted in to pay the PPI premiums without their knowledge or consent.

The Financial Services Authority helped bring about the end of the PPI mis-selling, paving the way for millions of people to claim their money paid in premiums back, with added interest.  Due to the sheer scale of the scandal however, new bodies have been set up to monitor our financial services industry, with the FSA now called the Financial Conduct Authority.

The government’s Competition Commission have introduced a batch of measures (rules and regulations) aimed at bringing a change in the way the PPI policies are sold to those who apply for loans, mortgages or credit cards.  Under the new laws and regulations, the banks or financial companies selling PPI policies to the customers have to make the following things clear and explain about the primary features of the policies to the potential customers:

The banks and financial companies have to make sure that aren’t involved in any mis-selling of PPI policies.  If they do, not only do they have to pay further in the form of compensations, they also have to face the legal consequences.

The banks must make it very clear to all customers that PPI is optional and not mandatory.

In case a customer is keen on knowing the claims ratio that explains the number of policy holders who make a claim on the insurance policy, the banks and the financial companies have to give proper information on it.

A credit card holder must be furnished with the annual statement of his account.

The banks must spell out clearly the right to cancel a PPI policy.

Claims for Unfair Dismissal Soar due to Impending Law Reform

In recent years claims for unfair dismissal have risen significantly, and this trend has seen a steep rise in numbers recently – up to a 44% rise.  Employees who think they have been the victims of unfair dismissal now rush to bring in their claims before new Government measures, which aim to make it easier to dismiss workers who have been underperforming, come into force. The Tribunal Service has shown statistics that state in the quarter to September 2012 there was 15,300 claims compared to 10,600 in the three months to June.

The proposal that will take effect soon will mean that anyone wishing to bring a claim under unfair dismissal will have to pay a £250.00 fee to make a claim, plus a further £950.00 if the claim was to go to court.  Prior to this proposal taking effect, it was free to make a claim.

One other proposal is that will see successful claims be capped at one years’ salary or roughly £74,200, whichever is lower in terms of money.

These are all parts of government planned legislation to make it more difficult for unhappy workers to bring the claims against employers in an attempt to unburden the currently busy system from “spurious claims”.

In The Telegraph Jon Taylor explained: “There will have been a spike in very light weight claims for unfair dismissal… The incoming changes increase the incentive for sacked employees to launch a free; unfair dismissal claim now; some people will be trying their luck when they still can.”

The rise of Zero Hour Contracts

The days of the traditional contract, be it part time or full time, are coming to an end. The last few years has seen the rise of alternative employment arrangements, such as flexitime, job sharing, remote working- and the ever popular zero hours contract.

Statistics recently collated show that the number of staff on zero hour contracts has risen, with almost a quarter of large UK employers using such contracts, in both public and private industries. The 2011 Workplace Employment Relations Study found that 23% of employers used zero hour contracts in 2011, rising from 11% 1n 2004.  Companies such as Abercrombie & Fitch and McDonald’s have long used such contracts, with larger charities and the public sector recently following suit.

In low paid sectors such as catering and cleaning, it is a relatively commonplace practice (and in many instances, the employees have to buy their own uniforms). However, it is the same for some jobs requiring skill, experience and responsibility.

G4S has previously employed custody detention officers- who work alongside  Lincolnshire police to oversee the safety and security of custody centres- on such zero hour contracts. Amidst concerns as to the quality and experience of the G4S custody staff, a G4S spokesman defended the initiative, stating that zero hour contracts gave “additional resilience to forces, and ensure they can respond effectively to peaks and troughs in demand, typically coinciding with major sporting events or music festivals…This pool of officers, less than 10%… receive the same training as their [full time] colleagues… and their skills are kept up to date through regular work and training.”

Concerned about the business approach of the public private partnership scheme, David Hanson, shadow policing minister, stated that “the police can suddenly be busy handling a public order situation, so what checks are in the system to ensure staff are available? Any public-private partnerships must pass tough tests on value for money, on resilience and security, on transparency and accountability, and most of all on public trust. The public need to trust that policing is being done in the interests of justice, not the corporate balance sheet.”

The same criticisms can be levelled at bank and agency staff currently provided for the healthcare industry- again many of them on zero hour contracts. Opposition MP’s and employee rights advocates are similarly critical of the concept of zero hour contracts, claiming that such contracts allow employers to avoid regular employer- agency worker relationships. Legislation entitles agency workers to the same working terms and conditions as permanent employees after 12 weeks. Additionally, such an arrangement gives little peace of mind to employees, who often do not know if they are working from one day to the next- especially in jobs where the rota can be changed with as little as 24 hours’ notice.

The Labour Research Department (which studies employment trends) is concerned that zero hour contracts are “increasingly being used to replace proper secure employment with its associated guaranteed level of paid work and other benefits… [zero hour contracts] can be applied in such a way that a worker, in order to have any chance of getting paid work, is obliged to be available for work at the whim of the employer and so cannot commit themselves to any other employment.”

In defence of the practice, many employers cite that the flexibility is very popular and beneficial for both employers and employees- especially employees juggling family or other onerous commitments. Many employers allow employees to choose shifts either in advance or online- and the inherent flexibility means that many employees do not have to sit by the phone waiting and worrying for a phone call. Employees can arrange their working patterns around often hectic lifestyles, and not the other way round, at times more suitable to their individual needs.

It is without doubt that the concept of zero hour contracts has, and will continue to, exploit ruthlessly low paid or young workers, or similarly vulnerable workers. It does alter the employer/employee relationship legally, in favour of the employer, sometimes to the employee’s detriment.

Despite such criticisms, zero hour contracts are both a product a reflection of the hectic, flexible, 24hr lifestyle of 21st century Britain- and are here to stay. The popularity and flexibility of such arrangements will continue to rise; regulation and perhaps legislation is needed to ensure that such a system is not exploited for employer gain.

Budget 2013: Effect on Businesses

The Chancellor’s Budget 2013 was announced on Wednesday, and British businesses were given a boost both directly and indirectly.  One of the most manifest ways this was outlined was in changes to National Insurance. When the measures come into effect in April 2014, small to medium enterprises (SME’s) will find that they have less obligations for employee National Insurance Contributions (NIC’s). Seen by the government and economic experts as the force which will give the greatest growth to the stalling UK economy, under the new proposals up to 450,000 SME’s will not pay NIC’s at all.  Being called the Employment Allowance, the Chancellor said in his speech that it is “the largest tax cut in the Budget” and that it is “taking a tax off jobs”. It will also apply to community sports clubs and charities.

Additionally, this will be an automatic rebate, with no administration or paperwork necessary. This new employment set of allowances will overall cut £2,000 from the National Insurance bills of all firms overall. A Treasury brief stated that companies will simply have to inform HMRC, and that it will be “delivered through standard payroll software”.

Many employers, particularly small companies or start up, find NIC’s a heavy levy. Charged at 13.8% of pay, they represent a pseudo tax on hiring an employee, and one of the hidden costs of employment for business.  Many business leaders are glad at the move. With the financial barrier to hiring employees set to disappear, it means that SME’s can hopefully stop unemployment trends by being able take on more staff with less financial consequences. Increased employment will only serve to boost the economy, and increase spending and business potential.  With less NIC’s, this puts less pressure on business, and potentially gives employees more take-home pay, as less will be taken off in NIC deductions. For both employers and employees, this new change is therefore very welcome.

Taking this amidst other measures designed to support businesses, the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) welcomed the Employment Allowance. FSB chairman John Walker said that “”the Chancellor has pulled out all the stops with a wide-ranging package of measures to support small business… [the measures are] beyond what we were asking for”.

Not all are overall pleased, however, with the Budget proposals.  Mr Osborne made no mention of business rates.  Many firms, in particular retailers who are struggling severely, were hoping the planned rise in rates would be cancelled: “Pressing on with a third successive business rates rise is very disappointing. Freezing rates would have made a real difference to our troubled high streets” stated Helen Dickinson, Director General of The British Retail Consortium.  As it stands, the rates will be rising by over 2%, meaning many businesses will be struggling further after overall rate rises of over 12% in just 3 years.

Business Contracts

Although commercial contracts do not specifically have to be in writing, it makes perfect sense to at least have the basic rights and responsibilities of all parties involved in the transaction written clearly and signed by those involved. This simple written contract may be very important if a commercial dispute is to arise.

Standard contract terms (usually called ‘terms of business’ and ‘terms and conditions’) are normally appropriate when the business is selling goods are services that are the same or very similar.  For other goods and services that may be different each time, you may want to negotiate separate contract for each transaction that take place; typically for services such as software development or one off goods or services.

Basic terms of trade and business will normally outline what each party in the transaction is agreeing to. Clauses must be included that detail the price of the good or service, payment terms, how and when they will be delivered and a description of the good or service.

Commonly, terms and conditions for the sale of goods allow the seller to keep ownership of the product until the full payment has been made to them. This protects the seller from a customer who may initially want the product and receives it, but later defaults of their promise to pay for it. If the seller choses to, they can opt out and decide to give the product to a buyer on finance or credit. The seller is well within their statutory rights to charge an interest rate of late payments. The rate of interest must be detailed on the detailed in the terms and conditions of the transaction.  It is very advisable to consult a legal expert when drafting up any terms and conditions for transactions, whether they are one off or continuous, this is to make sure that as a business, you are honouring legal requirements.

This information was provided by LegalIdiot.

Commercial Disputes

Commercial disputes can be very costly, stressful and time consuming. They also damage relationships and the reputation if the businesses involved. To minimise the rise of commercial disputes, it is advisable for businesses to have clear written contracts between customer, suppliers and other third parties.

Resolution

Despite taking up precautions that minimise the risk of commercial disputes, it is likely that eventually, one will arise. Sometimes it is necessary to fight for the right deal and not settle for an unjust outcome. It is advisable to aim for a resolution to a dispute rather than to try to come out on top. At the end of the day, although a conflict of interests has occurred, it is still possible to retain a working relationship and minimise the costs and disruption as a result of the dispute. When attempting to resolve a dispute, it is important to remain firm and have any dispute resolution clauses or terms put into writing with the aid of a legal expert.

If Negotiation fails, it is possible to seek other forms of resolution, such as mediation or arbitration.

Legal advice is can be very beneficial when it comes to safe guarding against commercial disputes. A long term relationship with a law firm would usually mean that standard terms and conditions would already be put in a way such they too also minimise the risk of disputes; a highly cost effective use of legal advice. A long term relationship with a law firm may also be very beneficial when it comes to dealing with recurring disputes such, such as debt recover issues; a common cause of many commercial disputes in the business world.

Commercial disputes can be very expensive, especially if they make it to court. You may want to consider an insurance policy to cover legal expenses as part of your strategy to deal with disputes.

Steve Turnbull has been financial writer and commentator for five years, covering topics such as personal and business finance. He is currently a resident blogger at http://www.missoldppiclaimsco.co.uk, where he is covering the latest financial news as well as reporting  on the mis-sold PPI claims scandal.