The Scottish Paralegal Association

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10 Mar

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Could employee ownership work for your business?

Employee ownership offers diverse benefits, such as resilience, staff retention, tax breaks and a smooth exit strategy. Plus there is plenty of flexibility over the extent, pace and structure of the deal.

As a result of these benefits, employee ownership is expected to surge over the next years. A recent article in the Herald newspaper (30 June 2017) suggested that up to 5% of all Scottish businesses could end up being employee-owned.

A PERFORMANCE BOOST

There are numerous studies and statistics showing how employee-owned businesses outperform other businesses. For example, during the recession, employee-owned companies grew sales by 11%, while traditionally structured businesses managed an increase of just 0.6%. The positive figures in terms of productivity, absenteeism and growth for employee-owned companies are often referred to as ‘the John Lewis effect’, after the UK’s highest-profile employee-owned business.

Moreover, employee ownership can be used in many situations – from starting a business to exiting one – and you can choose what share of the business is owned by employees. It could certainly be a useful option for the 16,000 or so businesses which, according to the Herald article, will be seeking to transfer ownership in the next five years.

Already in Scotland, there are numerous successful examples in sectors from food and drink to engineering. An added incentive is that the Scottish Government provides feasibility and transition support for businesses that take this route.

THE POSSIBLE BENEFITS

In addition to the performance benefits referred to above, there are also advantages for owners and employees.

Taxation: Owners who sell more than 50% of the company to employees directly or to an employee ownership trust receive valuable capital gains tax relief on the sale. This can increase their overall gains from the sale or enable them to offer a lower price to the buying employees.

Phased and planned succession: The option for staged buyouts can reduce risk for businesses and employees, and allow vendors to control their pace of exit. For example, some successful buyouts in Scotland have included arrangements for the loan repayments to be phased over a decade

Employees: Gaining a stake in a business is an excellent incentive for staff to stick around and perform well. In addition, staff at an employee-owned business can receive a tax-free annual bonus of up to £3,600

STRUCTURING THE DEAL

Once it has been decided that employee ownership is a good course for you and your business, there are three main aspects to think about:

Financial – including value of the business, raising finance, tax and timescales

People – including employee engagement and governance

Legal – including ownership structure, assets and protections.

Ownership structure is a key point here, since some of the options are specific to employee-owned companies. In summary, there are three choices:

  • direct employee ownership, where employees become individual shareholders
  • indirect employee ownership, where shares are held collectively on behalf of employees, normally through an employee ownership trust
  • hybrid ownership, combining the two options above.

Each of these choices has its pros and cons, and will be more or less attractive in different scenarios.

Those pros and cons show why you need good legal support from experienced advisers in this area. You want a team who not only have expertise in the specific structures available but can also view them in the wider context of funding, tax, employment law, governance and the issues around succession in family-owned businesses.

WHY ISN’T IT MORE POPULAR?

Employee-owned companies in the UK already turn over around £30 billion annually and the popularity of employee ownership is growing.

However, moving to employee ownership is a specialist area. Many professional advisers don’t have experience of it, and therefore do not (or cannot) guide their clients through it.

There are also various misconceptions around it – for example, that it may mean losing out on a better sale price in the open market; or that finance can be hard to raise. These may deter businesses and families from looking into it.

Such fears are either unfounded or easily handled. Having worked on successful employee ownership deals, including advising on the recent transition to this structure for Harvey Map Services as well as with organisations such as Capital for Colleagues, which invest in employee-owned businesses, we see huge potential in this area for our business clients.

If you wish to discuss how employee-ownership could benefit your business then please contact Douglas Roberts in our Corporate and Technology team.

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26 Feb

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Broaden your horizons


Exciting opportunity in Brussels for trainee solicitors/newly
qualified solicitors/paralegals.


The Brussels Office of the three Law Societies (England & Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland) acts as the voice of the Solicitors’ profession in Europe. Situated in the heart of the EU district we are well placed to represent the interests and views of the legal profession to key decision makers and legislators.

We are currently offering trainee solicitors, newly qualified solicitors and
paralegals from the UK, a unique opportunity to undertake a three to six-month secondment in the Brussels Office commencing in April/May 2019.

There has never been a better time to be in Brussels; you will be at the centre of the biggest political change of this century, which has momentous constitutional and legal implications.

Your role will be to assist the Brussels team in actively monitoring EU legal
developments that range from competition law to criminal justice, public procurement to private international law. Specific tasks will include: preparing and writing the Brussels Agenda as well as drafting legislative updates highlighting developments in the corporate client and private client areas. You will also attend European Parliament hearings and high level conferences offering the opportunity to develop contacts with MEPs, key Commission officials and UK Government departments.

Anybody interested in applying will need to provide a letter from their firm/employer confirming that it will continue to pay their salary during the secondment.

Candidates are invited to send their application, which should comprise a CV and covering letter and confirmation from your firm/employer of consent to the secondment to Antonella Verde, antonella.verde@lawsociety.org.uk.

The closing date for applications is Sunday 3rd March and interviews will take place the week of 4 March (telephone interviews are possible).

If you require an information note or would like to discuss the secondment, please contact antonella.verde@lawsociety.org.uk.

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25 Feb

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Scottish Paralegal Association – Paralegal of the Year 2019

Nominations for Paralegal of the Year are now being accepted.  The winner will be announced at our annual Conference to be held in the Grand Central Hotel, Glasgow on 18th April 2019. 

If you work with or if you are a paralegal who deserves the award please download a copy of the application form here.  Completed forms should be emailed to sandrareid@lindsays.co.uk.

09 Feb
SPA Conference 2019

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Annual Conference 2019

Scottish Paralegal Conference
Annual Conference 2019

Thursday 18th April 2019
Grand Central Hotel, Glasgow

Our 2018 Annual Conference was an undeniable success with over 130 paralegals in attendance, enjoying CPD verifiable presentations on Conveyancing, Executry, Criminal, Licensing, Civil and Debt Recovery.

Tickets for our 2019 are now on sale.

Register Now

05 Dec

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Creating a mentally healthy workplace

How can we create mentally healthy legal workplaces and promote a positive working environment?

There is a strong proven business case for law firms to promote good physical and mental health for all staff – it leads to greater productivity, better morale, better retention of valued and experienced staff, and reduced sickness absence.

Here’s our tips for creating a mentally healthy workplace:

PROMOTE WELLBEING

Wellbeing is a leadership duty. Getting senior leaders on board shows staff that wellbeing matters.

Training senior managers in leadership and mental health – making staff wellbeing part of their job role – is the best way to begin to change the culture of an organisation.

Introduce mental health days or personal days as well as sick days – people will feel they can take a day off if they are struggling and this means they may be less likely to go off sick later.

Encourage colleagues to treat each other with respect, say hello, say thank you, not raise their voice or threaten each other. Make sure there are clear and effective systems in place for reporting bullying.

 

RAISE AWARENESS

Encourage sharing of stories from people within the firm or invite a speaker to talk, lived experiences can help break down stigma and stereotypes.

Use existing internal communications channels to talk about wellbeing.

Encourage mental health champions – people at all levels talking openly about mental health.

Sign the Time to Change pledge< – this sends a clear message that it’s okay to talk about mental health.

 

WORK/LIFE BALANCE

Having the time to pursue the things we enjoy and spend time with friends and family is vital to wellbeing. Encourage everyone to work sensible hours – staff will take cues from how leaders behave. Take full lunch breaks; rest and recuperate after busy periods; avoid working at weekends; take annual leave entitlement. Make sure teams are well resourced in order to make this happen.

Flexible working, in terms of working time, location or pattern of working, can support healthier and more productive ways of working for all staff and benefit everyone –increased morale, commitment, productivity and reduced sickness absence.

Flexible working can be a vital early intervention to prevent mental health problems from getting worse and can support a phased return to work after a period of sickness absence.

 

LEARNING AND DEVELOPMENT

Everyone needs to feel valued, and supported and that their work is meaningful – a positive culture that values all staff and invests in their skills and development builds the trust and integrity essential to maintain commitment and productivity levels.

Managers should make themselves available for regular work-related conversations with employees.

Embed mental health in inductions and training, staff will understand how mental health is managed and what support is available.

Provide mental health training for all staff so they are aware about what to look out for in colleagues and how to support them and signpost them for help.

 

MENTORING, PEER SUPPORT

Peer support can allow colleagues to support one another outside the line-management structure and offers a great way to maximise the range of skills and experience held within your firm.

Mentoring and buddy schemes can help new staff to understand your firm faster and can support all staff to gain confidence and develop new skills.

Ensure that colleagues feel able to admit any mistakes they have made.

LawCare provides a free confidential helpline for all branches of the legal profession – call 0800 279 6888, 365 days a year. Additional information, resources and factsheets are available at 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

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