The Scottish Paralegal Association

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09 Nov

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Christmas Pie and Prosecco Events

We are holding our Christmas event in Glasgow and also in Edinburgh this year. Places are limited for this free event and you can book your place.

4th December 2018 – Christmas Pie and Prosecco – Edinburgh
5.30 to 7.30 pm
Lindsays, Solicitors
Caledonian Exchange, 19a Canning Street, Edinburgh
Book Place

5th December 2018 – Christmas Pie and Prosecco – Glasgow
5.30 to 7.30 pm
Grand Central Hotel, Buchanan Suite
99 Gordon Street, Glasgow
Book Place

02 Nov

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How should employers handle flexible working requests?

It has recently been reported by HR News that 9 in 10 of the UK’s workforce work flexibly or would like to. Employers who receive flexible working requests from employees should be aware of the potential risks, and there are some key things they can consider to ensure a fair process is followed.

WHAT IS A FLEXIBLE WORKING REQUEST?
Under the Employment Rights Act 1996 (ERA) and Flexible Working Regulations 2014, all employees with 26 weeks’ continuous service with the same employer at the time of the request have the right to request a change to their contractual terms and conditions.

An employee can submit a request to:

change the hours they work
change the times when they are required to work (starting later in the day)
change the location of work (between their home and any of the employer’s workplaces).

HOW SHOULD AN EMPLOYER DEAL WITH A REQUEST?
Employees can only make one request to work flexibly within a 12 month period and employers have a broad duty to deal with applications in a ‘reasonable manner’.

There is no statutory definition of what a ‘reasonable manner’ means, however, the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) Code and Guide on handling requests suggests that this involves meeting with the employee soon after receiving a written request and carefully considering any request by looking at the benefits of any requested changes against any adverse business impact.

An employer must consider and decide all requests including any appeals within three months of receipt of a request unless the parties agree to extend the time limit.

A request must be considered objectively and can only be rejected for one of eight business reasons, such as the request burdening the company with additional costs or having a detrimental effect on productivity. An employment tribunal will expect to see the employer’s evidence supporting any decision to reject a request.

POTENTIAL RISKS FOR EMPLOYERS
If an employer fails to take into account the needs of staff with caring responsibilities when developing and implementing a flexible working procedure, they risk a potential claim for indirect sex discrimination. As the majority of carers are female an employer should ensure that they do not discriminate unlawfully by rejecting a flexible working request.

Shaw v CCL Ltd (2006) highlights the importance of employers handling flexible working requests fairly. An employee on maternity leave submitted a flexible working request to return to work at the end of maternity leave on a part-time basis. Her request was refused and she resigned in response. The Employment Appeal Tribunal held that the employer’s refusal to allow part-time work was direct and indirect sex discrimination and a breach of contract, entitling the employee to resign and claim constructive dismissal.

It is important that employers follow a fair process in handling flexible working requests as failure to do so may result in employment tribunal claims for sex discrimination or constructive dismissal.

MINIMISING THE RISK OF CLAIMS
To minimise the risk of potential claims employers should:

carefully consider flexible working requests and enter into a dialogue with employees to assess the merits of the requested changes and whether the application can be accepted
keep a paper trail to show that they have fully considered the request
if rejecting a request fully explain the reasons to the employee and the potential impact on the business have a flexible working policy to ensure consistency in managing requests and have a clear procedure in line with the ACAS Code of Practice, ‘Handling in a reasonable manner requests to work flexibly’ consider using a trial period rather than rejecting a request where it is unclear whether the requested arrangements are sustainable
ensure one of the prescribed business reasons applies before rejecting a request and back it up with evidence.

If you are an employer with any specific queries about flexible working requests, please contact our employment team for further advice.

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05 Oct

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Registers of Scotland: Coming to a town near you

This autumn, Registers of Scotland are touring the country, from Ayr to Zetland (the RoS county designation for Shetland), speaking to you, our customers about the changes within our organisation and the practical ways in which we can work with you to make land registration faster, cheaper and more accessible.

05 Oct

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World Mental Health Day 10th October

World Mental Health Day is an opportunity for us all to reflect on our wellbeing.  How are you, really? Life in the law can be challenging and sometimes things can get on top of you. LawCare’s confidential helpline is a safe place to talk without judgement. Callers contact us with a wide range of personal and professional problems: anxiety and overthinking, financial worries, stress, bereavement, drinking too much or if they are worried about the mental health of a colleague or friend. We’re here to help 365 days a year, with calls answered by trained staff and volunteers who have first-hand experience of working in the law. If you need support call 0800 279 6888 or visit www.lawcare.org.uk.

Useful Resources (PDFs) 

Ten tips for looking after yourself

How are you really?

Additional information, resources and factsheets are available at www.lawcare.org.uk 

31 Jul

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Scottish Paralegal Association Conference – Dundee – October 2018

We are delighted to announce our next conference will be held in Dundee on 2nd October 2018.

Scottish Paralegal Association

October Conference 2018

Apex City Quay Hotel, Dundee

2nd October 2018

Full day event covering Conveyancing, Family Law, Debt Recovery and Private Client.

The Agenda for our October Conference is here:

0830 to 0850 Registration
0850 to 0855 President’s Welcome
0855 to 0900 Ian Fraser, Managing Director, First Scottish
0900 to 0910 Callum Murray, CEO, Amiqus Resolution
AML for Legal Professionals
0910 to 0920 Trish McLellan, Law Care
Health and Wellbeing
0920 to 0940 Vassilis Manoussos
Cyber security threats to Law Firms.
0940 to 1050 Breakout sessions
1050 to 1105 Comfort break and refreshments
1130 to 1230 Breakout sessions
1230 to 1315 Lunch
1315 to 1345 Update from Jennifer Henderson, CEO and Keeper, Registers of Scotland
1345 to 1500 Breakout sessions
1515 to 1530 Comfort break and refreshments
1530 to 1615 Breakout session
1615 to 1630 Close

The committee look forward to seeing you at the event on 2nd October 2018 in the City Quay Hotel, Dundee.

Book your ticket now!

05 Jul

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Attitudes to mental health

Over the last twenty years it has become much more acceptable to talk about mental health. When LawCare was set up in 1997, initially to support legal professionals who had difficulties with alcohol, it was difficult for people to get support, or sympathy, and it seemed as if no-one in the profession wanted to engage with the mental health agenda.

There has been a gradual sea change in society and we have witnessed significant growth and change in the legal profession, as organisations start to embrace the mental health agenda and recognise the need to look after those who need support with mental health issues.  This has accelerated over the past two years.

In Scotland, Legal Wellbeing Scotland launched in June 2016, bringing together 19 representatives from a range of legal professional and educational establishments Driven by LawCare and the Law Society of Scotland, other members include Scottish Young Lawyers Association, Trainee and Newly Qualified Society Scotland, Society of Law Accountants in Scotland, Scottish Paralegal Association, Burness Paull, Pinsent Masons, Adams Law Blairgowrie, Grieve Grierson Moodie & Walker, FDA Procurators Fiscal section, Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service, Midlothian Council, Edinburgh University Counselling Services, Faculty of Advocates, Jack Grant & Co, Hamilton Ross Solicitors, Brodies Solicitors, and the  Royal Bank of Scotland. The goal of Legal Wellbeing Scotland is to promote improved mental health and wellbeing in the Scottish legal profession, by raising awareness and providing best practice solutions.

Recently the Law Society of Scotland launched LawScot Wellbeing, a dedicated online portal on the Law Society of Scotland’s website offering information, help and guidance on emotional wellbeing.

LawCare continues to work with the legal community in Scotland  to promote and support good mental health and wellbeing to all members of the profession – solicitors, barristers, barrister’s clerks, judges, legal executives, paralegals, trade mark attorneys, patent agents, costs lawyers, and their staff and families. Whilst celebrities and sportspeople now talk openly about their mental health issues in the public domain, many in the legal profession still struggle to open up about their problems. Our helpline on 0800 279 6888 is a safe place to talk without judgement and our peer supporters offer one to one support.

Our mission is to help the legal community with personal or professional concerns that may be affecting their mental health and wellbeing, and to promote understanding of how and when to seek help, without fear or stigma.

Find out more about LawCare at www.lawcare.org.uk or if you need to talk call our helpline on 0800 279 6888. You can also follow us on social media https:/twitter.com/LawCareLtd and https://www.facebook.com/LawCare/

Useful Resources (PDFs) 

Ten tips for looking after yourself

How are you really?

Additional information, resources and factsheets are available at www.lawcare.org.uk 

28 Jun

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Rounding up another successful SPA annual conference

Rounding up another successful SPA annual conference including the 2018 Paralegal of the Year Award; the association’s new website; and further planned events this year, including a Dundee conference

Conference highs

One of the Scottish Paralegal Association committee’s biggest tasks every year is to plan and deliver an annual conference for the SPA membership providing useful and accessible CPD. This year’s conference took place at the Grand Central Hotel, Glasgow on 19 April. It was a great success with more than 30 speakers, 150 delegates and 15 exhibitors. It was a very informative and interesting event. The SPA committee would like to thank all of our generous sponsors and in particular our main sponsor First Scottish, our excellent speakers, the staff at Grand Central Hotel and everyone else who participated. Without the generosity of all of our sponsors, the committee would not be able to host events such as this.

With the help of our continued sponsorship, the SPA website scottish-paralegal.org.uk/ is being renewed, and the conference was the perfect opportunity to show delegates a preview of it. At the time of writing the website is now live with more content and features being added all the time, and the committee hope that you will log on to see all the new features that have been added to make your browsing experience more interesting and informative. It is a more powerful website and will let us be more interactive with you. It is a great way to keep up to date with news about your association and will have details of useful upcoming CPD, SPA and networking events. Please check it out and let us know what you think.

The very best

At the conference each year the SPA presents a Paralegal of the Year Award to showcase the fantastic work that we paralegals do. This year the calibre of entrants was exceptional as always. Louise Dallas of TLT LLP was named SPA Paralegal of the Year. Louise commented: “I am very proud to be a paralegal. The level of work undertaken by paralegals is instrumental and I am very encouraged by the recognition being given to paralegals.”

John Paul Sheridan, managing partner Scotland at TLT, added: “Very many congratulations to Louise Dallas for this notable award. As team leader, Louise manages the CDR team in our Glasgow office and, over the past six months, has been instrumental in launching TLT Collect, a debt recovery service, which is handled exclusively within her team. We are delighted for Louise and pleased that her commitment has been officially recognised by this much deserved accolade.”

Fiona Nicoll of Blackadders was awarded runner-up. Fiona said: “A huge thank you also for my award. I am very humbled and honoured to have received such an award from an association which recognises and puts paralegals in such a good light within the Scottish legal profession. I am very proud of my membership with the SPA and even more proud to be recognised for my contribution over the years.”

Lindsay Darroch, partner of Blackadders, observed: “Fiona is a longstanding and loyal member of the firm who has gone above and beyond to give our clients great service and positive solutions. We are delighted that her efforts and dedication have been recognised by this prestigious award from the SPA.”

The committee would like to congratulate again the winners and to thank everyone else who took part.

Still to come

The committee is looking at the possibility of holding an autumn conference in Dundee in October/November this year. Plans are at a very early stage and full details will be shown on our website as soon as they are available. If you would be interested in attending this conference, we would be pleased if you would email us to let us know, and also let us know what practice area you work in so the conference can be tailored to suit those attending.

We have had some very successful “meet and greet” events over the last year and are planning to hold several more in the coming months. These events are free of charge and award a minimum of one hour of CPD. We hope to visit Ayr in the summer and full details will be posted on our website shortly. If you would like us to host a meet and greet in your area please let us know.

Contact us at info@scottish-paralegal.org.uk or President@scottish-paralegal.org.uk
Article appears in http://www.journalonline.co.uk/Magazine/63-6/1024917.aspx and was written by Committee member, Elaine Campbell. 
16 May

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Mental Health Awareness Week May 14-20

How are you, really?

Mental Health Awareness Week takes place 14-20 May this year in the UK and this year focuses on stress.

At LawCare we know that life in the law can be challenging and sometimes things can get on top of you.
We also know that people often don’t notice the signs of stress, some of which are:

  • Sleep deprivation: This is a vicious circle: worries about work lead to lack of sleep, which makes it difficult to perform well at work
  • Physical changes: Headaches, skin complaints, frequent colds, aching muscles and digestive problems
  • Drinking and smoking: Many turn to drinking and smoking to cope with the demands of work
  • Eating:  Comfort eating or skipping meals
  • Mood swings: People can become irritated and frustrated, get very angry one minute and feel fine the next. They can be short-tempered or difficult
  • Panic attacks: These can happen suddenly, for no clear reason. It can mean feeling sick, short of breath, shaking, sweating and experiencing a sense of unreality

Chronic stress increases the risk of addictive and damaging behaviour, of developing anxiety, depression and other mental and physical health problems. If you are feeling stressed and want to talk give us a call today.

We’ve been supporting all branches of the legal profession for 20 years: solicitors, barristers, barrister’s clerks, judges, legal executives, paralegals, trademark attorneys, patent agents, costs lawyers, and their staff and families. Our confidential helpline is answered by trained staff and volunteers who have first-hand experience of working in the law. We offer a safe place to talk without judgment.

Last year we responded to nearly 900 calls, with half of those calling citing stress and depression as the reason for calling. 

As well our helpline, we offer one-to-one peer support. If needed we can match you with one of our dedicated team of over 100 supporters who will help you work through your problems over a period of weeks or months.

Call our helpline on 0800 279 6888, 365 days a year. We’re open 9 am – 7.30pm weekdays and 10 am – 4 pm weekends and Bank Holidays.

Useful Resources (PDFs) 

Ten tips for looking after yourself

How are you really?

Additional information, resources and factsheets are available at www.lawcare.org.uk 

05 May

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What should businesses check to ensure HR processes are GDPR compliant?

With new data protection rules due on 25 May, HR teams in businesses and other types of organisations, including charities, have little time to get up to speed on their new obligations. Breaches could expose them to fines and reputational risk

The new law – the General Data Protection Regulation, or GDPR – involves two tasks for HR teams. Firstly, they have to deal with data they hold on employees. Secondly, they should train staff to correctly handle data on customers, suppliers and other business contacts.

Know your data

HR departments generally know what data they hold on people, have rules for managing it, and know how to access it. Therefore, auditing the personal and sensitive personal data they handle may be an easier task for HR than for other teams.

In our experience, an area where HR teams have a significant GDPR compliance challenge is their “lawful basis” for holding personal data.

Under the current rules, employers commonly rely on employees’ consent to hold data – probably via a consent clause in their contract. Under GDPR, this is unlikely to be sufficient, and they’ll need to establish new grounds for handling it.

Generally, organsiations will easily establish an alternative lawful basis for holding employee personal data – for example, to meet their legitimate needs as employer. But they need to review contracts, see if they’re relying on consent, identify a different lawful basis and if so, update contracts.

Personal data held on job applicants will also need to be audited – remembering that the lawful basis for holding applicants’ data is not going to be the same as it is for current employees.

For former employees, HR teams should audit what data they hold, looking at their basis for holding it, how it is held, and for how long.

Staff should be updated on changes to data protection policies – not just to assure them about HR compliance with the GDPR, but to bring them up to speed on their responsibilities when handling other people’s data on behalf of the business.

Dealing with requests and breaches

Another challenge for organisations and charities is going to be the expected spike in “subject access requests” (individuals requesting to know what data is held on them) from 25 May onwards. We recommend developing pro forma responses to streamline the process.

Another process to develop is how to monitor compliance with the new law, and report breaches to the regulator (which will be compulsory within 72 hours of an organisation discovering it).

There’s clearly a lot to do here, but there’s plenty of help available – from online guides to tailored advice on exactly what approach to the new law would work best for your organisation.

We advise most companies to designate a data protection manager – even if a formal data protection officer is not required – someone to drive audits and reviews, galvanise everyone into compliance, and identify what outside help might be useful. You can also refer to this useful checklist.

Daunting this task may be for anyone, but businesses will generally benefit from understanding and managing data better, and it will help to safeguard crucial relationships with staff, customers, contractors and other stakeholders.

Download the PDF

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04 Apr

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Charities must tackle vulnerability to fraud

High-profile fraud cases such as last year’s £500,000 vishing scam against the Highland Hospice have put Scottish charities on their guard, but this may not help them spot what the next fraud will look like.

Charities of all sizes are struggling to deal with the tide of attempts to defraud them.  This is a serious and very prevalent risk issue for charity trustees.

Rather than look out for specific types of scam, it’s more important to have systems in place to protect against the unexpected. Fraud can take any number of forms – cybercrime, banking fraud, procurement fraud, grant fraud, data breaches and more.

It can also threaten the fundamental survival of a charity: it’s not just about the money taken, but the loss of future funding as well: donors will be wary of giving money to organisations that can’t look after it.

So every charity and every trustee has to take fraud risks seriously.

The problem for charities is that fraud attacks can come from all sides, not just outside the organisation. Research from the Charities Commission, based on England and Wales, found that a third of charity fraud involved staff, volunteers or trustees.

How, then, can charities protect themselves?

The first way is to deploy common sense and caution. OSCR’s Fraud and Cybercrime factsheet reminds charities to check bank statements, change passwords, and not give out information over the phone.

One banking vulnerability many charities need to patch is having systems based on business practices that are out of date. For example, the standard practice of requiring two signatories for cheques is insufficient if an individual staff member can authorise large payments online.

Charities must also look at their wider governance arrangements. In particular, they must anticipate the possibility of fraud by trustees (including office bearers) and staff, volunteers or other individuals who know how their processes work.

Trustees should implement a range of checks and balances including: risk assessment procedures around the charity’s structure and financial accountability; controls on access to electronic information; and systems for staff or volunteers to report anxieties around possible fraud.  Written procedures and policies should be updated and reviewed by professional advisors.

Charities may also want tighten up their accounting or scrutiny arrangements. One Scottish charity only found out a staff member had embezzled £220,000 over a seven-year period when it brought in an outside firm to set up a pension scheme.

Reviewing governance systems around fraud prevention is uninviting when charities are hard-pressed for time, and more engaged with their mission and activity than administrative processes. But fraud prevention is essential for every charity’s financial and reputational health.

Having trustees with relevant financial and accounting skills can be useful here. They don’t have to be involved in the day-to-day financial minutiae, but will know how to ask the right questions and implement robust processes.

Secondly, trustee training and governance reviews (which we regularly undertake for a range of charity clients) can be helpful for shining the spotlight on all corners of the organisation, making it harder for fraudsters inside or outside to exploit weaknesses.

Fraud’s always going to evolve, and fraudsters will always be creative. So charities need to evolve their own practices too. The Tackling Charity Fraud Checklist, from the Fraud Advisory Panel, is a good starting-point.

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