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Over £11,000 raised by Pinney Talfourd for SNAP!

SNAP-Cheque
We are delighted to announce that we have raised over £11,200 in total for our Charity of the Year 2017, SNAP (Special Needs and Parents).

In 2017, we chose local charity SNAP, who work tirelessly in the community to help 0-25 years olds with special needs and their parents in a variety of ways, providing a respite lifeline for many of these families.

Our fundraising efforts

The firm’s fundraising plans for the year were a mixture of internal events, running challenges and slightly more out of the box activities. Our monthly dress down days in the office managed to raise £600, and this figure was matched by our client satisfaction questionnaires, which sees the firm donate £1 for every completed form we receive back from our clients.

Pinney Pacers Alex Pearce, Stephen Eccles, Lexie Jacobs, Keeley Miller and Suzanne Figgins took on the challenge of various running events throughout the year, including the Brighton Marathon. Their spirited efforts managed to raise an incredible £1,100 for SNAP.

October saw our most challenging task to date, when solicitors Sue Nash, Catherine Loadman and Lucy Birch undertook a 24-hour Danceathon in our Upminster office, which was also streamed live on Facebook. The entire local community and our corporate sponsors rallied around them and their endeavours managed to raise over £5,000.

Christmas is always a charitable time of year and our annual ‘Christmas at the Queens’ event raised over £2,700, with 50% going to SNAP (the remaining 50% is donated to Queens Theatre Hornchurch).

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Pinney Pacers Run Race4Business

Pinney Pacers Run Race4Business
The Pinney Pacers swapped their office attire for running gear to take part in Race4Business in support of our charity of the year, SNAP.

On Thursday 15th June 2017, four of our colleagues joined 800 other runners to take part in the SNAP charity event Race4Business. The 3.5-mile course took the team through the crowded streets of Chelmsford, past the Essex County Cricket Ground and into the picturesque scenes of Admirals Park and Tower Gardens on what was an extremely warm and pleasant evening.

 

 

 

 

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Pinney Pacers Dust Off Their Running Shoes

Pinney Pacers Dust Off Their Running Shoes
The Pinney Pacers are back in their running gear and in the throes of training in preparation for their next running event, all in support of our charity of the year, SNAP.

Their next charity run will be Race4Business, taking place on Thursday 15th June. The mainly flat 3.5-mile run will take the Pacers through Chelmsford city centre on their latest mission to raise money for our charity of the year, SNAP.

Three new members of Pinney Talfourd’s running club will be joining running maestro and Employment Solicitor Alex PearceEmma Withrington, Solicitor in our Land Development department, Claire Buttress, Senior Associate in our Elderly Client Services department and Rosie Hadley, Team Assistant in our Litigation department.

The Pinney Pacers’ efforts will help SNAP with its vital work to strengthen families across Essex by providing specialist training talks and activity sessions for those with children aged 0-25 with special needs.

If you wish to sponsor the team in their latest efforts, please visit their JustGiving page and donate.

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Pinney Talfourd's Charity Of The Year 2017

Pinney Talfourd's Charity Of The Year 2017
We are delighted to announce that our new Charity of the Year for 2017 is Brentwood-based SNAP (Special Educational Needs and Parents).

Every May the firm consults with our staff to decide on a charity to support for the financial year ahead. In 2016 the firm supported MNDA (South Essex), raising nearly £9,000. SNAP was a close second in the suggestion poll and we have continued to work alongside them in the last year, finding out about the good work they do. They were, therefore, an easy choice for this year’s fundraising efforts. 

SNAP

SNAP was founded in 1994 and helps families and their children aged 0-25 years with special needs and disabilities throughout Essex.

The children and young people have a wide range of disabilities including autism, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, sensory impairments, speech and language difficulties and learning disabilities.  SNAP’s aims are to inform, encourage and support parents so that they can grow in strength and knowledge and become better equipped to give the best possible help to their children.

Throughout the year more than 500 children and young people regularly use The SNAP Centre to take part in therapies, play sessions and clubs and over 600 parents and carers receive hands-on help at the centre. In total over 1,800 families across Essex benefit from the information and advice services, delivered by the team of friendly staff and 100 dedicated volunteers.

This year they must raise in the region of £250,000 from donations and fundraising in order to provide the level of service needed.

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Over £8,800 Raised For Our Charity Of The Year

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We are delighted to announce that we have raised over £8,800 in total for our Charity of the Year, Motor Neurone Disease Association (South Essex branch).

In 2016 we chose a charity very close to one of our own staff member's heart. Sue Nash is a family lawyer here at the firm and also the Chair of Motor Neurone Disease Association (South Essex Branch). She works tirelessly to raise funds for those affected by this terrible disease. Her colleagues have seen her dedication over the years and were inspired to help transform sufferers’ lives with a number of fundraising activities.

Our fundraising efforts

The fundraising had a healthy start in May when a number of staff members participated in the Walk to D’Feet event from Leigh-on-Sea to Southend, raising £429. Sue’s colleague, Catherine Loadman then raised the bar further with a bike ride from London to Surrey in July, with donations of over £600.

October saw Kim Huggins swim 22 miles in 22 days to raise £334, with 50% of her donations going to the pot. Our sporty bunch decided to push themselves again and enter the Brentwood Half Marathon in March. This had an amazing response and raised almost £3,000.

Christmas is always a charitable time of year and our annual ‘Christmas at the Queens’ event raised over £2,000 for charity, with 50% going to MNDA (the remaining 50% is donated to Queens Theatre Hornchurch). A charity casino night was the final big event on the calendar and guests gave generously to raise over £1,000.

In addition to these major events throughout the year, the firm has held dress-down days, bake sales and quiz nights. Every completed client satisfaction questionnaire raises another £1 for the charity.

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Charity Night - Come Play at Pinneys

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Join Pinney Talfourd for a night at the casino and help raise money for the South Essex branch of Motor Neurone Disease Association.

Join us for an evening of Blackjack, Roulette and Wheel of Fortune to help raise money for our Charity of the Year, Motor Neurone Disease Association.

We have decided to open our doors for an exclusive casino night dedicated to raising funds for the South Essex branch of MDNA. Motor neurone disease (MND) is the name given to a group of diseases affecting the motor neurones (nerve cells) in the brain and spinal cord. As the motor neurones gradually die, the muscles stop working.

The South Essex Branch is run entirely by volunteers, many of who have personal experience of the disease. Research to find a cure or effective treatments are always top of the list of priorities for people and families who have been personally affected by MND. Every year, a proportion of the money raised locally is directed specifically to research. 

Play at Pinneys

In conjunction with plenty of casino favourites, we will also have a magician on hand to astound and startle our guests. There will be drinks and canapés galore, and of course, an excellent chance to network, meet new contacts and win big!

Confirm your attendance:

Date: Thursday 30th March 2017

Doors open: 6:30pm

Tables open: 7pm

Final spins: 10pm

Venue: Pinney Talfourd LLP, 54 Station Road, Upminster, Essex, RM14 2TU

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Pinney Pacers – Marathon Mission Accomplished

Marathon-Newsletter
The Pinney Pacers have successfully completed the Brentwood Half Marathon in support of the South Essex branch of Motor Neurone Disease Association.

The run took place on Sunday 19th March, with the race starting at Becket Keys Church of England School in Sawyer Lane. The total route weaved through villages including Hook End, Shenfield and Doddinghurst. Even with blustery conditions on the day, the entire team managed to complete the course, with a number of members also smashing personal best times along the way.

The Pinney Pacers came in 7th out of a total of 36 teams – their personal chip times were as follows:

Nicholas Conway1:43:24
Stephen Eccles1:55:38
Alexander Pearce1:57:45
Keeley Miller2:00:36
Lee Kirby2:01:27
Lexie Jacobs2:27:18


Their fundraising target of £1,000 for our Charity of the Year, MNDA was also smashed, with £1,413 plus £284.50 in gift aid raised on their JustGiving page, and a single donation of £1,000 was also received from an extremely generous client, also with gift aid. These fantastic contributions brought their total fundraising efforts for the marathon to £2,947.50.

MND affects around 5,000 people in the UK at any one time, and there is no known cure. Degeneration of the motor neurones leads to wasting and weakness of the muscles, causing increasing loss of mobility and difficulties with speech, swallowing and breathing.

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Leigh-on-Sea Launch Party

champers
To celebrate the launch of our new Leigh-on-Sea premises, we are inviting the local business community to join us for drinks and canapés.

Our legal services are now even more accessible for the Essex community.

282 Leigh Road is in a fantastic location near to an array of restaurants and coffee shops, with Leigh Old Town just a short walk away. On street parking is available. Chalkwell and Leigh train stations are just a ten-minute stroll.

Pinney Talfourd's Leigh-on-Sea Launch Party

We have decided to host our party in the Francesca Maffeo Gallery - An independent photography gallery showcasing the work of emerging and established photographers. There will be drinks and canapés galore, and of course, an excellent chance to network and meet new contacts.

Confirm your attendance:

Date: Thursday 9th March 2017

Time: 5pm-7pm

Venue: Francesca Maffeo Gallery, 284 Leigh Road, Leigh-on-Sea, SS9 1BW

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Preventing Imposters - When to Register a Trademark

imposter
Have you ever considered how much your trading name, or brand, is worth to you? If not, think for a moment how your business could be affected if someone were to imitate your livelihood.

How would your business be affected if someone were to start up the same type of business with a very similar name?  A customer searching for you on the web might believe that you were affiliated, or even worse, that you were the same organisation and trade with them instead of you.  Just think of all the lost orders and potential for disruption.

It could get even worse.  The imposter may not provide the same exceptional levels of service to its customers that you do.  It may even deliver such a bad service that they quickly generate widespread bad press and if their name is similar, you will undoubtedly suffer the knock-on effects even though you are completely separate.  Such a situation could see your hard-won reputation evaporate overnight, taking months, if not years, to restore.  As business risks go, this one is very real.

Thankfully you can seek protection by registering your business name as a trademark.  By doing so, you are indicating that you value your brand and that you are prepared to defend it.  Protection can extend to just your business name, or further if you use a particular logo which your customers associate you with.

A registered trademark is no guarantee for avoiding problems, but if one occurs it means that you can quickly take legal action before any real harm is done.  The registration process is surprisingly straightforward and cost effective when compared to the harm that might otherwise be caused.

 

MORE INFORMATION 

If you need advice on intellectual property or any trademark issues, please contact Edward Garston, a Senior Associate in the Company Commercial Department. Call on 01708 229444 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 
This article was written by Edward Garston, a company commercial solicitor at Pinney Talfourd LLP Solicitors. The contents of this article are for the purposes of general awareness only. They do not purport to constitute legal or professional advice. Specific legal advice should be taken on each individual matter. This article is based on the law as of February 2017.
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Lloyd's of London Booze Ban - a Tipple Too Far?

Boozy-Lunches
Lloyd's of London has introduced a booze ban between the hours of 9 am and 5 pm. What are the possible repercussions for their employees if they decide to flout the new rules?

In a statement, the company confirmed that it had been considering the ban for some time - to bring into line the industry norms, and also in response to uncovering that half of grievance and disciplinary cases over the last two years were related to alcohol.

Other firms such as QBE have previously advised staff not to drink as opposed to an outright ban, leaving it to their managers to decide the most appropriate course of action.

Substance misuse and the law

Under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, all employers have a duty to ensure a safe place for work and safe systems of work for their staff.  However, it also looks upon substance misuse which includes both alcohol and drugs (whether prescribed over the counter or controlled substances). Managing substance misuse at a workplace is also likely to engage the Data Protection Act 1998, for example in screening test results for drugs and/or alcohol and HR Records of how the employer have dealt with the worker.  Any results of any alcohol or drug test would amount to sensitive personal data concerning the individuals physical or mental health or condition. 

It is important that an employer has a clear policy in respect of drugs and/or alcohol. The purpose of any such policy is to increase awareness of the effects of alcohol and drugs misuse and to ensure that all staff are aware of their responsibilities regarding alcohol or drugs misuse and related problems. Staff who have an alcohol or drug related problem should be encouraged to seek help at an early stage and staff who have an alcohol or drug related problem affecting the work, are dealt with sympathetically, fairly and consistently.

The employers' stance

It is up to an employer as to whether they take a zero alcohol tolerance approach to the workplace and work-related events, or to limit that to normal working day i.e. the approach taken by Lloyd’s of London.

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Kylie vs Kylie - The Power of a Trademark

trademarksymbol
When does a name become a trademark, and when should that trademark be disputed? Senior Associate Edward Garston explains.

Reports that the US Patent and Trademark Office has rejected an application by Kylie Jenner to register the name “Kylie” as a trademark will have been warmly received by Kylie Minogue, following a prolonged legal battle about the use of the name.

When Jenner, the reality TV star, applied to trademark the name back in April 2014, it caught the attention of lawyers acting for Minogue, most famous for a string of hits in the 80’s and 90’s.  You should be so lucky seemed to be Minogue’s reaction, and one which has been accepted in the application process.

Jenner has appealed the decision.

The battle brings into focus the often extensive and valuable commercial activities pursued by screen celebrities where name recognition and branding walk hand in hand.  Particularly significant in this case is that Minogue is more often than not referred to by her first name only, which may have been persuasive in the decision.

For businesses building and developing their own brands, a trademark application can be a relatively simple and cost-effective way of protecting an investment.  Although no guarantee that a competitor might try to infringe your rights, it permits swift action to be taken in such an event.

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Pinney Pacers Update

pinneypacersmain
Pinney Pacers are now 2 weeks into their 8-week training schedule for the Brentwood Half Marathon, which they are running in support of Motor Neurone Disease Association.

This weekend saw some of the team participate in a 10k race at the Queen Elizabeth Park in Stratford as part of their preparation, and their next planned session together is a more arduous 16k run on the first weekend in March.

The Pinney Pacers are already raising funds for the MNDA, with a current running total of £295 – their aspiration is to raise £1,000 for the charity of the year, who fund care, campaigning and research to achieve a world free from Motor Neurone Disease. MND is the name given to a group of diseases affecting the motor neurones (nerve cells) in the brain and spinal cord. As the motor neurones gradually die, the muscles stop working.

MND affects around 5,000 people in the UK at any one time, and there is no known cure. Degeneration of the motor neurones leads to wasting and weakness of the muscles, causing increasing loss of mobility and difficulties with speech, swallowing and breathing.



If you wish to sponsor the Pinney Pacers, please visit their JustGiving page:

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/PinneyPacers

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Does Your Company Dress Code Break The Law?

highheels
Alex Pearce, employment law specialist explains how your business could be breaking the law in light of recent sexism claims.

Sexism in the workplace has been rife in recent news, with MPs demanding that the government look to enforce the law to ban sexist dress rules at work that are discriminatory against women.

The article, published by BBC News touched briefly upon the Equality Act 2010 and the legal standing that women have regarding discriminatory dress rules at work. We look more closely at this legislation to understand what is currently protected under its rule.

The Equality Act 2010 is concerned with discrimination and harassment in respect of the following protected characteristics:

  • Age;
  • Disability;
  • Gender Reassignment;
  • Marriage and civil partnerships;
  • Pregnancy
  • Maternity/paternity;
  • Race, religion or belief;
  • Sex;
  • Sexual orientation.

Under the Equality Act, it is unlawful for an employer to:

  • Discriminate directly by treating a job applicant or employee less favourably than others because of sex;
  • Discriminate indirectly by applying a provision, criteria or practice that disadvantages job applicants or employees of one sex without objective justification;
  • Subject a job applicant or employee to harassment relating to sex, sexual harassment or less favourably treatment because they reject or submit to harassment;
  • Victimise a job applicant or employee because they have made or intend to make a sex discrimination complaint under the Equality Act 2010 or because they have taken action or intend to take action in connection with the Act.

Discrimination in employment is generally prohibited, however, there are certain circumstances where an employer may have a defence in respect of an act of discrimination.  For example, there may be an occupational requirement; however, being sexy at work is not a job requirement. 

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Pinney Pacers limber up for Brentwood Half Marathon

logo
Today marks the beginning of a strict training schedule for some of the Pinney Talfourd team, who are preparing to run the Brentwood Half Marathon.

The run, taking place on Sunday 19th March will be a first for some of our solicitors, such as Alex Pearce, whereas for the likes of partner Stephen Eccles (who is an avid marathon runner), it should be a walk in the park. Overall, 6 members of Pinney Talfourd have decided to take part in the event, with money raised going towards our charity of the year, Motor Neurone Disease Association.

The full line-up is as follows:

Stephen Eccles

Nicholas Conway

Alex Pearce

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The implications of a 'Hard' Brexit

brexit
Will we witness a 'hard' exit from the EU? Or will Britain go softly, softly?
 
Now seems to be the time to get thoughtful about the potential implications of the UK voting to leave the EU.  There could be significant repercussions for the way in which commercial counterparties within the European Union choose to contract with each other and for their ability to resolve international disputes. 


In January 2017, the House of Lords’ EU Justice Sub-Committee will hear evidence from two senior UK Judges on the significance of EU legislation designed to facilitate cross-border civil disputes.  However, it cannot be avoided that there is the smell of uncertainty about the detail of the consequences for us for ending the UK/EU relationship, if it ends hard.

For Contracts

At present, EU legislation protects parties’ abilities to choose what governing law there should be for their contractual relationships and the ability to choose forms a fundamental freedom offered by English law.

The current EU framework applicable to contractual and non-contractual obligations is enshrined in the Rome I and Rome II Regulations, respectively. 

It is not beyond the realms of possibility that a decision could be taken to leave the rules as set out in the above regulations intact after Brexit.  A possible consequence being that the English Courts would be the final arbiter of how the rules are applied - ultimately a job reserved for the European Court of Justice as things stand.  If that were to happen, then nothing immediate would change, but it is possible that the interpretation of the two regulations could start to differ between the UK and the remaining EU member states over time. 

If the Rome I and Rome II Regulations were no longer to apply following Brexit, then it is possible that the UK would revert back to the rules in force before those regulations became law.  As such, in regards to contractual obligations, the Rome Convention; which applied to the law governing contracts made between April 1991 and 17 December 2009 could apply, which, of itself, would not materially alter the present position as we know it. However, in regard to non-contractual obligations, the Private International Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1995 - which is a regime which is unlike to Rome II - could operate so that the parties would not have an express right to choose the law applicable to non-contractual relations between them. 

However, it’s anticipated that when the UK eventually leaves the EU, the courts of EU member states will continue to respect the parties’ choice as to governing law as before; so that on choosing English law the parties to a contract will still enjoy an application of the rules set out in Rome I and II.

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Faulty Christmas present? Know your consumer rights

christmaspresents
Most people will have heard of the Sale of Goods Act but a new law introduced in 2015 strengthens consumer rights against businesses.

If you have bought or been given something for Christmas that does not work it is important to know what rights you have.

Most people will have heard of the Sale of Goods Act, which for years has given consumers a right of redress against businesses who sell faulty goods, but few will have heard about a new law introduced in 2015 which strengthens consumer rights.

Nadia Fabri is a litigation solicitor at Pinney Talfourd. Below she explains the increased protection now available to consumers in the UK who purchase goods, services or digital content following the introduction of the Consumer Rights Act 2015.

The Consumer Rights Act

The Consumer Rights Act is designed to ensure that if something you purchase is faulty, not as described, or not suitable for the purpose for which it was intended, you have the right to insist that the business you bought it from does something about it.

Knowing your rights can help you challenge a retailer or supplier who fails to deliver on their promises. This is something that you might need to do at any time of the year but which tends to happen more frequently after Christmas.

Sale of goods

When a business sells you goods you have the right to be provided with goods that are of satisfactory quality, fit for the purpose for which they are intended to be used and as described in any literature or promotional material. If the goods are not of satisfactory quality, fit for purpose or as described, you have the right to do a number of things depending on the circumstances.

You have a short-term right to reject the goods within 30 days of purchasing them if you wish to do so. This is unless the goods you have bought are perishable, such as food, in which case rejection must happen sooner.

Once 30 days have passed you have the right to request that faulty goods, or goods which are not fit for purpose, or do not match their description, are repaired or replaced. If an attempt at repair or a replacement still falls below the expected standard you then have a further right to reject the goods or to ask for a price reduction.

Supply of services

When a business provides you with a service you have the right to receive a service that is provided with reasonable skill and care, which is charged at the rate agreed and which is performed within the time agreed. Where rates of pay or the timeframe for performance have not been agreed you have the right to be charged a reasonable rate and for the service to be provided within a reasonable time.

Where a business has told you certain things about a service or the person who will be providing it, and those things influenced you in your decision to buy the service, you also have the right to hold the business to account if the things you have been told are not delivered on or turn out to be untrue. This is a new right created by the Consumer Rights Act which makes it easier for consumers to seek redress when promises made by businesses are not honoured.

If services are not provided with reasonable skill and care, or fail to deliver on promises made by the business, you have the right to request that the business performs the service again so that it is performed correctly. Depending on the circumstances you may also have the right to claim a price reduction of up to 100 per cent.

Digital content

When a business sells you digital content, such as computer software and computer games or music downloads and films, you have the right to content which is of satisfactory quality, fit for its purpose and as described. If this does not happen you have the right to request repair or replacement unless this would be impossible or too expensive, in which case you have the right to a price reduction. If the digital content supplied has caused damage, either to other digital content or a device that you own, you may also have the right to claim compensation if you can show that the supplier of the digital content failed to exercise reasonable skill and care.

The rights in respect of digital content are new; previously digital content was treated as a general sale of goods contract and consumers did not have such extensive rights of redress when things went wrong.

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How to reduce sickness absence at work

flu
Alex Pearce, employment law solicitor, advises what steps you can take to reduce sickness absence within your organisation.

The average British worker takes 4.4 days’ sickness absence every year and minor illnesses such as coughs and colds are often cited as the reason. However, more days are lost on average to more serious complaints such as back, neck and muscle pain.

High levels of sickness absence can lead to reduced production, low staff morale, increased costs and poor customer service. For small employers in particular, this can be very disruptive.

 

Sickness absence policy

 

You should have a sickness absence policy in place so that employees understand what is expected of them. It should set out your arrangements for sick pay and for reporting and managing sickness absence. It will help managers to deal with sickness absence fairly and consistently.

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Removing a director from office - company law

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Edward Garston, company law expert explains how to remove a director and how a director may automatically lose his position.

Relationships in business can break down and companies often need to take a different direction necessitating a change in management, especially if one of the directors is not acting in a way that promotes the success of the company.  

Before considering what route to take, you must always ensure that your reason for removing the director is fair, or you could find yourself facing an employment tribunal claim for wrongful dismissal and a hefty compensation pay out.

How many directors should there be?

A private company must have at least one director and a public company must have at least two at all times. There is no legal maximum number of directors, but all directors must be over 16 years old.

Special considerations where a director is also a shareholder

Where the director being removed is also a shareholder, removal from office will not usually affect their shareholding and voting rights. In small private companies, where a director is often a shareholder, it is advisable to hold negotiations for the purchase of the ex-director’s shares. Alternately, it may be wise to insert a clause into the articles of association that a shareholder who ceases to be a director is deemed to have given the company a transfer notice in respect of his shares.

Removal by ordinary resolution

A director can be removed by an ordinary resolution of a general meeting under section 168 of the Companies Act 2006. The director can be removed before their period of office has expired, regardless of any other agreement to the contrary.

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School children design our Christmas card

School children design our Christmas card
Pinney Talfourd held a Christmas card competition with the children of Corbets Tey School. The winning design is now our corporate card. 

Pinney Talfourd teamed up with local special needs school Corbets Tey School for our annual ‘Design a Christmas Card 2016’ Competition this month.

Corbets Tey School is based in Upminster and prides itself on being a forward thinking school for pupils with complex learning needs. It currently supports over 100 children and young people aged 4–16 years and it’s highly committed members of staff make a difference in all their lives.

Brandon Riches, aged 13 won first prize with a cute design of Rudolph complete with baubles for earrings. It is now Pinney Talfourd’s Christmas card and Brandon received a toy of his choice at a special school assembly.


The Bulletin were also delighted to offer a prize to the runner up Zack Cassidy, aged 10 for his cheerful snowman.

Client Services Partner, Catherine Polli, said at the assembly “Thank you to everyone at the school for your time and effort. The children’s designs are always brilliant and this year did not disappoint. We are also delighted that The Bulletin has donated a prize again this year as there are always so many great entries it is hard to choose just one winner.”

Pinney Talfourd has worked with the school for a number of years to produce our corporate Christmas card. We would like to thank all the pupils and staff for their help with this project. We are delighted to be involved with and make a donation to such a worthwhile school.

Pinney Talfourd gave a donation of £250 to the school for their help in organising this annual event.

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Social media at the Christmas Party

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A drunken office Christmas party can create all sorts of gossip. Make sure your employees know the boundaries when sharing on social media.
The office Christmas party is a chance for everyone to let their hair down and have fun, but with alcohol often flowing freely and people’s judgement impaired the potential for employees to get carried away is clear.

In the days before social media a drunken kiss between Karen and Steve in accounts, or some seriously dodgy dance moves by the office manager, would have caused a few giggles and a bit of gossip at the time but would soon be forgotten. This is not the case now where we have at our fingertips the chance to share these embarrassing moments with the world with the tap of a few buttons.

Few employees realise the potential damage that can be done by their use of social media during and after the office party or that it could possibly result in them losing their jobs. Even fewer realise that if what they have posted or uploaded concerns a colleague they could end up getting their employer in trouble too.

A comprehensive social media policy which is communicated to all employees in advance of the office party, or indeed any other business-related function, can be a very effective way of highlighting the dangers social media can pose in this sort of situation. While the introduction of a social media policy now will come too late for those employees guilty of the misuse of social media at this year’s party it will hopefully prevent similar problems arising next year.

Employment law specialist Alex Pearce explains how social media policies work and highlights the key things that should be covered.

What is a social media policy?

A social media policy sets out the rules and expectations for your employees use of social media in the workplace as part of their work duties. It should also set out rules and expectations for the use of social media by your employees in their personal capacity where this might have an impact on your business. This includes at work-sponsored or funded social gatherings, such as the office Christmas party or the annual summer get-together.

Why is it important to have a social media policy?

Although there will be some cross-over with policies on electronic communications, the particular difficulties that inappropriate use of social media can create means it is important to have a separate social media policy. Recent examples of employees misusing social media to the detriment of their employer include an employee using his employer’s Twitter account to post his own unflattering views about Newcastle United supporters, an employee using Facebook to engage in derogatory ‘banter’ about managers in their employer’s business being drunk while working, an employee using Facebook to complain about their working conditions and an employee using Facebook to make threats to a colleague.

In the context of the office Christmas party there have been a number of incidents of employees uploading and sharing embarrassing or compromising photographs of colleagues on various social media platforms.

The potential for an employee’s use of social media to damage your brand and reputation is clear. However, there is also a risk that something posted on social media could expose you to potential liability. For instance, an employee who harasses a colleague on social media might put you in breach of your duty to provide a safe working environment. You might also be liable for an employee who uses social media to make discriminatory comments about a colleague or defamatory comments about a competitor. There is also the risk of damage being caused if an employee uses social media to post commercially sensitive or confidential information.

The speed and lack of control over the dissemination of information released on social media, and the difficulties in removing any posts made, presents a real risk to your business and is something that needs to be tightly controlled.

What should a social media policy include?

Your first step is to decide how much, if any, personal use of social media is allowed in the workplace or using work equipment. When it comes to using social media for work purposes, the policy should set out rules relating to appropriate use. These rules are aimed at protecting your brand and reputation, protecting confidential and commercially sensitive information, providing safeguards for checking any content before it goes live, avoiding breaches of copyright and avoiding any online bullying or harassment of colleagues.

It is also sensible to explain how the rules apply to your employees use of social media in their personal lives where this might impact on your business. For instance, although employees may regard their Facebook accounts as private, if they use their account to send insulting messages to a colleague or to complain about a supplier or customer, you may need to take action. Action may also be necessary if they use their account to post offensive or derogatory remarks about the behaviour or actions of colleagues at work-related events.

The policy should clarify if employee use of social media will be monitored and, if so, the purposes of the monitoring. This warning is needed to comply with data protection provisions and regulations on intercepting communications. The consequences for an employee who breaches the policy should also be set out. You may wish to state in your disciplinary policy that a serious breach of the social media policy may result in summary dismissal and link this to your equality policy.

Make sure you publicise your policy when it comes into effect and again at key times of the year, including Christmas. Keep your policy under review, particularly to ensure that it is still fit for purpose as technology develops. Finally, make sure the policy encourages effective use of social media for the benefit of your business because, used appropriately, social media can be a very effective promotional tool.
 
 

More information 

For advice on social media policies or any other employment law issues, please contact Alex Pearce in our Employment Law Team  on This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call 01708 229444 for advice.
 
Pinney Talfourd is currently offering a free employment law review service to ensure your employment policies are legally sound and to advise on resolving any issues effectively. Take advantage of this offer and discuss your employment needs with one of our legal experts. Simply call 01277 211 755 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to arrange a review.
 
This article was written by Alex Pearce our Employment Law Associate. The contents of this article are for the purposes of general awareness only. They do not purport to constitute legal or professional advice. Specific legal advice should be taken on each individual matter. The law may have changed since this article was published. This article is based on the law as at December 2016.
 
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