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Greene & Greene is a long established firm of solicitors based in Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk. Our lawyers advise individuals and businesses based all over the UK.

We regularly attract new clients who have been using firms in London, but now receive a more cost efficient and more personal service from us here in Bury St Edmunds.

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Thursday
Jul272017

Marriage: A Partnership of Equals?

 

In 2006, the House of Lords introduced the equal sharing principle in the joint appeal of Miller -v- Miller and MacFarlane -v- MacFarlane.  The Court described marriage as being a “partnership of equals”

Earlier this year, the Court of Appeal decision in  Work -v- Gray referred to the sharing principle as being “firmly embedded” and confirmed that the “ordinary consequence of its application will be the equal division of matrimonial property”.

However, in the recent case of Sharp -v- Sharp, the Court of Appeal decided that perhaps this was taking the sharing principle too far.  Mr and Mrs Sharp were in their early 40s and had no children.  Their relationship, including 18 months of living together before their marriage, lasted 6 years.

Mrs Sharp argued that the sharing principle should be relaxed in respect of their matrimonial assets. This was because  of their short, childless, dual career marriage and the way in which they had organised their financial affairs.

Throughout their relationship and marriage, Mr and Mrs Sharp shared household utility bills and divided restaurant bills equally. Mr Sharp had not been aware of bonuses received by Mrs Sharp and she had gifted him three cars.

The Court of Appeal agreed with Mrs Sharp that this situation fell within the realms of a very small amount of cases where it was appropriate for the equal sharing principle to be disregarded for their matrimonial assets.

The Court has always had the ability to exclude or depart from equal sharing of non-matrimonial assets, such as those owned by one party before the marriage or received by inheritance or gift, the general approach has been that matrimonial assets would be shared, and where they were sufficient to meet each parties’ needs, those matrimonial assets would be shared equally.

It appears that following the outcome of this case,  Courts will look more closely at how couples have organised their financial affairs in short to medium term marriages.  In a limited number of cases,  the way in which couples organise  their finances may influence the outcome of financial aspects of their divorce.

To misquote George Orwell, this may lead to an assumption that all marriages are equal, but some marriages are more equal than others.

For further advice following a relationship breakdown please contact Melanie Pilmer, solicitor in the Family Team at Greene & Greene on 01284 717 418 or melaniepilmer@greene-greene.com.

For more information on the services offered by Greene & Greene Solicitors please visit www.greene-greene.com and follow on Twitter @GreeneGreeneLaw.

Wednesday
Jul262017

Employment tribunal fees unlawful

   The Supreme Court has declared this morning that fees for those bringing employment tribunal claims have been ruled unlawful and will be nullified. As a result, the government will possibly have to repay up to £32m to claimants in respect of fees paid between 2013 and now.

The decision follows the appeal by the trade union Unison who argued that the fees prevented many workers from getting ‘access to justice’.  The Supreme Court referred to the Government’s review on the impact of fees (discussed in our previous blog on 1 February 2017).  There has been ‘a sharp, significant and sustained fall’ ‘in the number of employment tribunal claims since the introduction of fees representing a reduction of 66–70% of cases. The proportion of claimants receiving fee remission was also lower than the government had anticipated. On this evidence the Court concluded that many people found the fees unaffordable and had been denied access to justice.

With fees ranging between £390 (Type A) and £1,200 (Type B) for a case to be heard at a hearing, the Supreme Court also concluded that it was indirectly discriminatory to charge higher fees for type ‘B’ claims (which include discrimination claims) than type ‘A’ claims (such as unpaid wages). It was found that a higher proportion of women bring Type B claims than Type A and that they were placed at a particular disadvantage compared to men; and it could not be objectively justified why Type B claims were more expensive.

What happens next?

  • Anyone lodging a tribunal claim will not be required to pay the tribunal fees. Those who have paid the fees (be it Claimants or Respondents) will have to watch this space in terms of how to reclaim fees (if possible).
  • Whether the number of claims will rise as sharply as they fell on the introduction of the fees regime is something Employers, ACAS and the Employment Tribunals will be watching very carefully. If they do, significant resources will need to be put back into the system to avoid a further backlog of claims.  
  • The Court’s decision does not prohibit the government imposing fees in the future as the decision relates to the level of fees being unlawful and preventing access to justice. Further consultation on this is likely to be necessary before any decision is taken.
  • Immediate attention is required by the Employment Tribunals Service for reprogramming the online claim form system and for them to rewrite the tribunal rules.
  • There is also the question concerning the amount of people who chose not to bring a claim due to the cost of the fees and whether they will seek to lodge their claims out of time. Although the answer the question is unknown, anyone in this position will need to act immediately to avoid prejudicing their chances.

If you have any questions regarding employment tribunals or any other employment matter please contact Greg Jones (gregjones@greene-greene.com ~ 01284 717446) or Angharad Ellis Owen (aellisowen@greene-greene.com ~ 01284 717453).

For more information on the services offered by Greene & Greene Solicitors please visit http://www.greene-greene.com and follow on Twitter @GreeneGreeneLaw.

Wednesday
Jul262017

Greene & Greene advises Nexus on its first US Acquisition

Greene & Greene has been advising Nexus Group on its purchase of various businesses since 2008 and was delighted to have provided legal support on its first US acquisition of the Personal Accident (PA) Treaty Reinsurance MGA operated by ZON Re of New Jersey.          

Mergers and acquisitions specialist, Simon Ratcliffe, a partner in the corporate team at Greene & Greene, was primary advisor on the deal, working with longstanding adviser to the Group, Andrew Cooper.

A pivotal moment in history of Nexus, the addition of Treaty Reinsurance will bring a new class of business to the Group and will initiate the launch of its new company, “Nexus Re”

ZON underwrites an annual portfolio of over $15m in gross written premium and estimates it will generate EBITDA in excess of $3m for Nexus during 2017, making "Nexus Re" instantly one of its most profitable operating companies.

Established in 2003, the business will continue to be led by its existing senior management team.

Kieron Farrelly, Nexus Re chief executive, said: “We are pleased to be joining Nexus and bring our treaty underwriting expertise for personal accident reinsurance following a long and successful run under the ZON Re banner. Our core team and support staff remains intact so that we can maintain continuity as we grow the portfolio with our current panel of risk partners.”

Globally, there are very few Treaty Reinsurance MGA companies, and even fewer that have been trading profitably for 15 years. Nexus Re will be in the enviable position of representing US, European and Lloyd's Underwriting Partners in its specialist areas of Treaty Underwriting.

If you have any questions with regards to the acquisition, disposal or reorganisation of a private company, or any other Corporate law matters, please contact: Simon Ratcliffe (simonratcliffe@greene-greene.com  ~ 01284 717426) or Andrew Cooper (andrewcooper@greene-greene.com ~ 01284 717511) 

For more information on the services offered by Greene & Greene Solicitors please visit www.greene-greene.com and follow on Twitter @GreeneGreeneLaw.

Tuesday
Jul252017

TUPE: a cautionary tale of a business sale

In their latest blog, Employment law specialists, Angharad Ellis Owen and Greg Jones talk about the rights and obligations where employees transfer under TUPE.

You may have first-hand experience of business sales and having to comply with TUPE; alternatively, you may have only heard the acronym and wondered what it was all about!  TUPE refers to the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations 2006; the purpose of which is to protect employees' rights on a business sale. TUPE essentially means that a buyer of a business steps into the shoes of the seller. A buyer therefore needs to know what it is they are in fact acquiring.  

What transfers under TUPE?

Where employees transfer under TUPE, various rights and obligations, powers and liabilities transfer with them to the buyer. For example, this includes:

  • the employees’ continuity of service;
  • the contracts of employment, including all terms and conditions of employment such as pay, commission and bonus entitlements, holidays and sick pay provisions; and
  • liability for the seller’s acts and omissions in respect of the newly acquired employees.

 

How do you know what you’re inheriting?

TUPE requires the seller to provide the buyer with ‘employee liability information’ (ELI) 28 days before the business transfer. The ELI must contain the information that an employer is obliged by law to provide its employees when starting in post; this includes detail as to the employee’s rate and method of calculating pay.

The Employment Tribunal can award compensation of a ‘just and equitable’ sum in the event of a failure to comply with the ELI obligation. Any award is generally subject to a minimum of £500 for each employee whose information was not provided or was defective.

What if the seller wrongly labels the contractual status of an entitlement?

In the recent case of Born London Ltd v Spire Production Services Ltd, the scope of the ELI obligation was considered. S supplied B with its ELI and stated that it operated a non-contractual Christmas bonus. After the transfer, B contended that this was incorrect, that the bonus scheme was contractual, rather than discretionary, and S was therefore in breach of its ELI obligation under TUPE. B estimated its losses would exceed £100,000.

The Employment Appeal Tribunal held that although the employer had to specify the method by which remuneration had to be calculated it did not mean that the employer had to state whether any aspect of the remuneration was contractual. It therefore followed that as part of the ELI a seller was not obliged to state whether remuneration, including a bonus, was contractual or not.

“…that is a matter for due diligence, it is not a requirement of TUPE”.

The Employment Appeal Tribunal also observed that a buyer may prefer to have greater clarity as to the precise nature (contractual or otherwise) of some of the matters listed, but that is a matter for due diligence, it is not a requirement of TUPE.

Where does this leave us?

The decision should not be seen as authority for the proposition that a seller can escape liability for inaccuracies in the ELI.  However, the case does confirm that the employee liability information is not confined to contractual entitlements only. From the buyer’s perspective it is important that further details of the precise contractual nature of these employee liabilities should be pursued through due diligence and ideally dealt with in warranties and indemnities contained in the business sale agreement. Conducting thorough due diligence will also enable a buyer to agree a suitable price for the business, taking into account any potential liabilities that arise from the sale.

If you have any questions regarding to TUPE or any other employment law matters please contact Angharad Ellis Owen (aellisowen@greene-greene.com ~ 01284 717453) or Greg Jones (mail to:gregjones@greene-greene.com ~ 01284 717446).   For more information on the services offered by Greene & Greene Solicitors please visit www.greene-greene.com and follow on Twitter @GreeneGreeneLaw.

“This article was previously published in the EADT Business East Monthly Magazine on 18/7/17.”

Monday
Jul242017

Diversification within Farming

The word "diversification" has been employed more and more frequently in recent years whilst discussing the future of the agricultural sector, but what exactly do people mean? Rather than crop diversification rules, the industry’s focus has been on branching out from traditional farming activities to add new sources of income.

Whilst the full implications of the EU referendum result in June 2016 are yet to be revealed, there is no doubt that the coming years will be testing for many of the region's farmers. Diversification could hold the key to enjoying a thriving business for those with the assets and ambition to make it happen. On the face of it, the statistics associated with leaving the EU make for grim reading for our farmers.  In 2014, subsidies paid out from the EU under the common agricultural policy (CAP) accounted for 55% of total UK farmers’ income, according to DEFRA.  Furthermore, in 2013 some 62% of agricultural exports from the UK were sold to other EU member states. The UK Government has indicated that today's level of subsidies will be maintained until 2020, but with demands for a bigger slice of public funds from many quarters, there is little expectation that the support for farmers will be increased or indeed maintained at the current levels into the next decade. It is a sobering fact that a large number of the small to medium-sized farms in the UK rely on the subsidies under the CAP to break even, let alone make a profit.  

These stark figures are no doubt the cause of sleepless nights for some in the agriculture sector. However, the possibility of a new kind of system for farm subsidies may help encourage diversification, with payments perhaps moving away from the existing model, which is largely based on the extent of the holding. The payments made to farmers for rural development projects under the existing CAP Pillar II may hint at the type of subsidy regime the UK could adopt in the next decade.

The idea of diversification is not a new concept to a great deal of farmers who are already exploring a variety of means to increase revenues and make their business sustainable, so that subsidies are a more of a bonus rather than the difference between ending the year in the red or black. 

Farmers across East Anglia are using their property in a variety of ways in addition to growing crops or rearing livestock, with the intention of ending their reliance on subsidies and to help protect against the effects of a poor harvest or lower commodity prices. 

New Permitted Development Rights, which allow certain types of change of use and development of property without the need for a full planning application, were introduced in 2014 in respect of agricultural buildings. This can allow farmers to utilise their existing buildings for flexible use, education and residential.

In an area of outstanding beauty, such as East Anglia, farmers increasingly cater for tourists by providing B&B’s and holiday lets. A barn conversion can make a wonderful home and sell for high prices on the residential property market. The utilisation of property for lease as commercial units can be a lucrative option, as can a well-stocked farm shop.

The key to success when it comes to diversification often comes down to finding a gap in the local market and making the most of any under-used resources at the disposal of the farmer. 

Before embarking on any project it is vital that full consideration is given to the financial and legal ramifications of each stage.  Expert accountancy and tax advice should be sought and any legal issues should be explored.  For example, are there restrictions or covenants affecting the use of the property or will you be required to obtain full vacant possession from an existing occupier before commencement of a project?

Greene & Greene can assist on all property aspects and can offer advice from in-house specialist tax lawyers with particular expertise in the agriculture sector.

For more information on the services offered by Greene & Greene Solicitors please visit www.greene-greene.com and follow on Twitter @GreeneGreeneLaw.

“This article was previously published in the East Anglian Daily Times on 15/7/17.”

Friday
Jul212017

Greene & Greene advises Nexus on acquisition of Equinox Global 

Greene & Greene Solicitors, based in Bury St. Edmunds has advised specialty managing general agent (MGA), Nexus Group, on its recent acquisition of specialist trade credit insurer, Equinox Global.

Equinox, established in 2009, specialises in writing trade credit insurance for larger corporates and multinational companies and has offices in London, New York, Paris, Hamburg and Amsterdam. It will continue to be provided with underwriting capacity by Beazley – previously its largest shareholder – through a 10-year underwriting support agreement.

Nexus worked with Mergers and Acquisitions specialist, Simon Ratcliffe, a member of the corporate team at Greene & Greene, on this latest transaction, which follows the announcement of its purchase of Vectura Underwriting last week.

 

 

Nexus, which has secured all of the Equinox group companies, announced that the founding shareholders and management team will stay in place as part of the move.

Colin Thompson, founder and Executive Chairman of Nexus, said that Beazley’s offer of a 10-year capacity commitment “speaks volumes about the quality of both Equinox’s underwriting and management. We are excited about working together with Mike and his team to build a global market leading trade credit offering which, when combined with our current trade credit MGA Nexus CIFS, will be a £60m gross written premium (GWP) business underwriting profitable global specialist trade credit insurance”

The companies have exchanged contracts on the deal and completion is scheduled to follow during 2017.

If you have any questions with regards to Corporate law matters, please contact: Simon Ratcliffe (simonratcliffe@greene-greene.com  ~ 01284 717426).

For more information on the services offered by Greene & Greene Solicitors please visit www.greene-greene.com and follow on Twitter @GreeneGreeneLaw.