Expert speaks out on everything you need to know about a Blue Monday job crisis

Blue Monday is considered to be one of the most depressing days of the year for every-day working people.

It’s a day that often leads to self reflection, and encourages many to question life and relationship decisions, but more commonly work-related choices.

With that in mind employees across Wales could be contemplating handing in their notice of resignation this January 21. And CJCH Solicitors’ employment law expert Nigel Daniel revealed that the firm does traditionally experience an upturn in employment queries throughout January.

But where do employees stand legally if they make a snap decision to leave their job? Where do employers stand in this situation? And what happens next?

Here, Mr Daniel answers all the questions that discontented employees, and their employers, may have this Blue Monday.

Do you see an upturn in queries to the Employment Team on Blue Monday/ or during January?

It is usually the position as far as this firm is concerned, that we see an upturn in relation to Employment Law in the month of January, however this year there has actually been a decline at CJCH.

What sort of issues is the employment team contacted about? 

At this time of year, there are the inevitable enquiries about incidents arising out of Christmas Parties.  From the employer’s perspective, we have instructions regarding the implementation of disciplinary procedures, enquiries from new start-ups and unfortunately in this present uncertain economic climate, queries regarding redundancies and procedures that have to be followed.

Regarding the issue of Blue Monday and employees it may very well be the position, that if and when an employee decides to leave, we may have enquiries both from the employer and the employee regarding the possible impact of post-employment agreements.

What is the most common problem people contact your team regarding?

The Employment Team in CJCH, undertakes a broad spectrum of work involving both contentious and non-contentious Employment Law matters.  We are frequently instructed to prepare company handbooks, advice on disciplinary and grievance procedures and all aspects of family friendly policies.

On the contentious side of matters, the introduction of Section 111(a) Protected Conversations, means that we are frequently asked to try and negotiate exit packages for employees by both the employee and the employer.  In addition, of course, we are always instructed to act on matters involving unfair dismissals, wrongful dismissal and areas of discrimination.

The increasing awareness of the Me Too campaign has led to an increase of enquiries from female employees who have suffered the indignity of unwarranted attention of a sexual nature. 

What are the options for someone who wanted to leave a job with immediate effect and not give notice?

Most responsible employers will have in place contracts of employments for their employees which will give a clear indication of what notice the employee is entitled to, whether or not it is contractual or statutory.  In addition, most contracts of employment will give a clear indication of what period of notice an employee is required to give the employer.

It is the position, that even when there is no formal contract of employment, the employer is under a statutory obligation to provide an employee with a written statement of the main terms and conditions of his/her employment within two calendar months of starting work.  This should also include the notice provisions.

If therefore, there is no contract of employment or for that matter a Section 1 Statement of Terms and Conditions, the Employment Rights Act lays down the minimum period of notice required from an employee, that is one week.

It may very well be the position, that an employee who wishes to leave a job with immediate effect can agree with his employer to waive the notice period.

If however the employee leaves his job without giving notice, and without the agreement of the employer, a number of situations may arise.

  • It may very well be the position, that post-termination restrictive covenants are in place and the employer may very well seek injunctive relief to prevent the employee starting employment with a new employer if, there is a risk that the post-termination restrictive covenants would be breached.
  • It may also be the position that the employer is concerned about the breach and can refuse to accept the employee’s repudiation and request that he/she sits out the notice period at home.
  • It is also possible for an employer to seek damages against an employee who leaves in breach of notice provisions if it can be shown a financial loss has arisen.  However, circumstances such as these are very rare, as quantifying loss is difficult.

Can someone leave during a probationary period and what would they need to consider?

Leaving during a probationary period, has very similar consequences as above.

The main difference of course, is that an employee who wishes to leave during a probationary period is usually in the position of finding out, that he is not suited or does not like the post he has taken.

There are very rarely any circumstances, where an employer would seek to take action in such circumstances, other than possibly where the employer has paid for the employee to attend training courses prior to commencement of his employment and/or during the probationary period.

In those circumstances, there may be a recoupment provision.  In addition, notwithstanding the fact that an employee is in a probationary period, he may have gained confidential information which again may be subject to post-termination restrictive covenants.

What if a staff member is on Maternity Leave? What would they need to do to change jobs?

If a member of staff is on Maternity Leave, and wishes to change jobs, then the Maternity and Parental Leave Regulations provide that the female employee is bound by the contractual obligation to give notice to terminate her employment.

So a woman on Maternity Leave who decides not to return to work must advise her employer before the end of her leave period, either by a notice period which is contained in a Contract of Employment, or by the Statutory Minimum of one week under Section 86 of the ERA.

What industries do you generally get the most queries of this nature from? 

Most enquiries at this time of the year are generated from the care industry, retail, health care and security industries.

What is your top tip to anyone who might be spurred on to change jobs from Blue Monday?

Any Employee who is minded to change jobs under the Blue Monday syndrome, should consider a number of issues.

Firstly, it may very well be the position that they have more than two years continuity of service.  To leave therefore, would mean starting again and losing all employment rights that have been gained through having two years continuity of service.

In addition, any employee minded to leave and change jobs must also be acutely aware of any contractual provisions relating to the dissemination of confidential information, and of course post-termination restrictive covenants.

If the situation has arisen where the employee for some reason has become dissatisfied with his/her role, then possibly speaking to the HR Department or a line manager to discuss areas of dissatisfaction may resolve a problem.

CJCH Solicitors’ employment team is highly experienced and skilled in all aspects of employment law and the provision of HR legal services.

It supports a wide range of employers from SMEs to household name companies, universities and public sector organisations.

CJCH Solicitors partner named one of Wales’ 30 young lawyers to watch!

The senior partners of CJCH Solicitors are proud to congratulate Amy Roberts-Rees, our firm’s partner in charge of the Mental Health Law and Court of Protection practice, for being named one of the 30 young lawyers to watch in the Wales Online publication.

Amy joined CJCH in 2013 as a partner and has been instrumental in expanding the great work we do in Legal Aid to represent those in need of assistance with Mental Health Law. Amy has also developed and grown our Court of Protection practice, and built a high performing, client-centric department of dedicated specialists.

Congratulations on a well-deserved accolade and recognition of your continuous growth.

Find the full Wales Online feature here.

 

Theft, Drugs and Pirates – Steve Rees the enforcer

by Alexandra Roach

 

From the South Wales Police Force and the National Crime Agency to managing the Anti-Piracy and Compliance division of CJCH Solicitors. Steve Rees shares with us the story of his career across 32 years in the Police force and his experience managing the now global AP&C department which has increased nearly 10-fold under his management since 2014.

 

As a child who played by the rules and was instinctively drawn to the unexpected, Steve Rees later found that joining the Police force felt like a natural fit. He began his career with the South Wales Police force, as all officers do, in uniform learning about the world of policing and how to deal with people from all walks of life. In time, his developing interests and his inquisitive nature lead him to pursue an investigative role as a divisional detective within the CID (Criminal Investigations Department). Over this period, he engaged in all levels of crime investigation – from thefts and assaults to armed robberies and murder.  Later, as a member of the Force Intelligence Department, operating in Cardiff, he dealt with large-scale investigations of career criminals responsible for serious offences being committed in the area.

Steve Rees’ work across the Force Intelligence Department led him to being seconded to the National Crime Squad (the forerunner of the now National Crime Agency). During this time, he would use state of the art technical equipment to target both national and international criminality, further developing his knowledge of technical and data-based systems of monitoring and regulation.  After his tenure with the NCS, surveilling and getting close-up and personal with professional criminals, Steve left the Police force and began work as the operations manager of a private investigation company where his skills were greatly welcomed.

When Steve later began his work with the Anti-piracy and Licence Compliance team at CJCH Solicitors (which at the time consisted of only 6 people) he soon found his investigative skills, knowledge of computer systems and ability to deal with all manner of people were real assets when applied to tracking down and engaging with the infringers who the team were actively pursuing. Understandably, Steve’s most current challenge has been the management of a dramatically increasing number of staff. Four years ago, the entire team comprised of Steven and five young graduates. Considering that the team now comprises of fifty-eight employees, the challenges faced as a result of such a vastly expanding department are understandable. Both Steve’s and the firm’s Senior Partner Stephen Clarke have taken great pride in watching the department flourish and celebrate its successes as it continues to expand and take on new countries and clients at an equally impressive rate.

Software Piracy and Copyright infringement dealt a heavy blow – Pirates beware

In an article released just over a week ago on the China Daily – Europe online news site, a monumental win for French based software giant, Dassault Systemes (DS) was announced.

In an ongoing battle to tackle software piracy head-on, the organisation has partnered with law firms around the world to address the growing issue of  copyright infringement in terms of commercial software. Being a client of ours, we know all too well the dedication and commitment DS shows in the fight against Software Piracy and Licence Compliance, which is why we are delighted to share the news of their recent win in collaboration with our partner law firm in Shanghai, to the tune of $2.2m in compensation.

For too long companies such as DS have suffered at the hands of online deviant behavior which shows indifference to copyright law and Intellectual Property rights. Software pirates do not realise, or do not care about, the knock on effect their infringements have on innovation and development. The costs of research and development of new software can be astronomical, and when individuals take it upon themselves to illegally access and use this software without paying for it, it detracts from the creators ability to reinvest and expand their offering. Not to mention the extreme security risk the illegal software poses to the unauthorised users who open themselves up to threats such as unregulated software which is not monitored by the developers strict quality control processes. The use of illegal and cracked versions of software also potentially expose the user to embedded threats such as malware and viruses which are often inserted into fake versions.

Our partner law firm associated with this case, Han Yuan & Partners, will be joining us in Cardiff in September. We will host them to discuss our collective innovations in the field of Anti-Piracy and Licence Compliance and how the collaboration between China and our evolving technology innovation and IP Hub here in Wales can continue to service and support the Asian and European market and beyond. Discussions will include those with local IP communities, academia and the Welsh Government. 

CJCH Solicitors wins Financial & Professional Service Business of the Year – Cardiff Business Awards 2018

CJCH Solicitors has experienced unprecedented growth and achieved important milestones over the last few years, all of which have culminated in the first half of 2018 being a prosperous year for us at the Firm.

Our internationally acclaimed work in combating software piracy and enforcing licence compliance has seen the CJCH methodology become a highly sought after standard in Anti-Piracy, with our team of specialists travelling the world to share our experience and expertise with partner organisations and clients alike.

While building our international reach and expanding our offering through an entirely new way of thinking, we at CJCH still hold our direct, local client service delivery as number one on our agenda. As much as growth and expansion is an important aspect of a modern law firm, we knowledge that law is, at the end of the day, a service. A service is only as good as the quality delivered and the experience of the client. At CJCH Solicitors we see our responsibility being three fold: 1) maintain a constantly high performance level of service delivery to our existing clients, 2) continue to develop our Firm into the law firm of the future by understanding what our clients and the market will need next, and 3) challenge our own thinking to approach the everyday challenges that our clients face, both business and personal, from a collaborative and innovative angle.

It is this dynamic mind set that we have built over the last few years that has allowed us to achieve this prestigious award  of Financial and Professional Service Business of the Year for 2018 in the Cardiff Business Awards. We are honored to be among a list of exceptional companies who collectively strive to make Cardiff a better place, and a global player in the business market.

(L-R: Stephen Clarke (CJCH Senior Partner); Sian Lloyd (BBC News); Jacqui Seal (CJCH Senior Partner); Jemma Terry (Odgers Berndston Wales Managing Partner); Nick Wootton (CJCH Chief Financial Officer)

We would like to take this opportunity to thank the organisers and panel, without whom this achievement would not be possible, and for their immense education and effort in delivering this grand event. Especially to the founders of the Cardiff Business Awards,  Liz Brookes of Grapevine Event Management and Dylan Jones-Evans of University of South Wales.

Also a special thank you to the sponsors of our category, Odgers Berndston, Wales.

(L-R: Wendy Holmes (Acorn Properties); Andy Clarkson (Dassault Systems); Howard Patchell (CJCH Solicitors); Steve Rees (CJCH Solicitors); Malcolm Bruce (Acorn Properties); Rebecca Davies (Barclay’s Corporate Banking); Stephen Clarke (CJCH Solicitors); Jacqui Seal (CJCH Solicitors); Graeme Davies (CJCH Solicitors)

Lastly to our staff. All 130 individuals who make up the CJCH family and contribute to our ethos of excellence and determination. Thank you for all you do. Lets continue to shake things up and strive for more.

CJCH History Month: The Story of Patchell Davies Solicitors

By Amy Palin

In April 2017 CJCH Solicitors welcomed its newest addition to the firm, with the incorporation of, Blackwood based, Patchell Davies Solicitors.

The story of Patchell Davies begins in 1977, when a new face arrived on the legal scene in Blackwood, Howard Patchell. After working less than a year as an Assistant Solicitor in a local firm, he became a partner, but it would only be four years before Howard decided to go it alone and open his own practice. Howard Patchell & Co opened its doors on Pentwyn Road, Blackwood in January 1982.

The firm grew from strength to strength, and in 1985 was joined by Graeme Davies. This marked the beginnings of the team that, despite changes over the years, would remain at the core of the firm throughout.

Graeme’s arrival at the firm allowed for the expansion of its expertise, in family law and litigation, areas in which he specialises.

With an expanding team and growing demand, the firm moved to bigger offices at its current location on Blackwood High Street in 1987.

It was in 1992 the firm officially became established as Patchell Davies, the name by which it has been known for nearly three decades, and under which it became a well-known and respected face on the High Street, offering clients a wide range of services.

Howard Patchell specialises in Wills, Probate, Conveyancing, and Commercial work. Graeme Davies is accredited as a Senior Litigator by the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers and is a member of the Family association Resolution. David James, who has been with the firm for eight years, and the firm’s newest addition, Joanne Lerwill, specialise in Conveyancing.

The firm today takes pride in its reputation and loyalty from clients. This can be attributed to the quality of service, and also to the relationships developed with longstanding members of staff, who give clients the confidence that they will always receive a professional service with a personal touch.

Now an integrated part of CJCH Solicitors, the team from Patchell Davies continues to deliver their impeccable work ethic and client service standards.

CJCH History Month: Wales’ oldest law firm, Gaskell and Walker, joins CJCH

By Myles Thomas

As Wales’ oldest law firm, the acquisition of Gaskell & Walker is a matter of pride for those working at CJCH Solicitors. Given the continued growth and success of the tech-centric Consulting side of CJCH’s business, it is also apparent that the firm still holds true to the values and ethos of a community based high street practice.

E.W. Miles Solicitor on record for a probate matter, 1921

The origins of Gaskell and Walker go back to Ebenezer William Miles, who practiced as E W Miles & Co. in Cowbridge. Ebenezer was born on 8th June 1852 to Thomas Miles of Cowbridge, where he was later educated and admitted as a Solicitor in 1878. He practiced alone from 1878 until 1932 and was succeeded by Mr Morgan, who was admitted in 1900 and died in 1934.

At this point, the practice was taken over by Francis (Frank) Gerald Walker who was born in 1881, admitted as a Solicitor in November 1929, and practised in partnership with John Clare Gaskell. At the end of the Second World War, Frank handed the practice on to John Thornley Taylor, who acted as a sole practitioner until he was joined in partnership by Ian Jewell, Ray Nicholson and Anthony.

Following the unfortunate demise of Mr Jewell, Gwyn Davies joined Ray and Anthony in partnership in 1988 and upon Ray’s retirement in 1999 they were joined by Mel Butler. Up until the point where CJCH acquired Gaskell and Walker, astonishingly, that had only been a total of nine partners in over one hundred and thirty years.

John Gaskell record of Admission, 1902

When CJCH took over Gaskell and Walker in late 2014/early 2015, the two firms practiced from their offices in Caroline Street and Park street, respectively. Speaking with current members of CJCH Solicitors in Bridgend (the majority of whom worked for Gaskell and Walker previously) at their relatively new office in Dunraven Place, they indicate the new premises are just one of the many welcome changes they have seen since joining the CJCH family.

Rebecca May, Solicitor at CJCH, originally began her training with Gaskell and Walker under Gwyn Davies, who, despite his retirement remains a mentor to her. Originally, she had trepidations of CJCH’s takeover as she was only four months into her training contract and was worried for her future. Her fears were calmed by Nick Wootton, CJCH’s Chief Financial Officer who informed her she would remain a trainee with the practice. A few years on, Rebecca has flourished with CJCH and says that the takeover benefited her greatly, allowing her more opportunity.

Original Gaskell & Walker letter head on a conveyancing matter, 1946

The rest of the team who also worked for Gaskell and Walker collectively have almost one hundred years of service between them. Nigel Daniel, now Head of Employment at CJCH commented that the team is built on “good old-fashioned loyalty” and they are “incredibly tight-knit”. It is apparent that this is true, with stalwarts Hollie Wood, Louise Watts, Cathy Leyden and a more recent appointment, Caroline Jones regaling and laughing over their experiences in the office together. They insist that they are friends before anything else, there are no secrets between them and they love coming to work every morning.

One of Gaskell and Walker’s main focuses was their client-centric approach, aiming to provide full transparency with ‘friendly, professional and approachable advisers’. Their historic advertisements speak of not being just a ‘faceless law firm’ which they would be proud to see is still apparent today. The Bridgend Office oozes friendliness, charm and personality whilst remaining successful, efficient and professional.

CJCH History Month: Clarke & Hartland shaking up Cardiff

By Charlotte Bardet

In 1982, former prosecutor Brian Jones contacted Stephen (Steve) Clarke to ask him to form a new law firm under the name Brian Jones & Co. Steve, currently Senior Partner at CJCH, had completed his training contract under the supervision of Brian at the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS). Steve qualified in 1980 and two years later joined forces with Brian to establish a mainly Criminal Defence law practice in Canton, Cardiff. Brian Jones & Co. then opened its second office by partially moving to Clifton Street in 1983 and then fully moved to Clifton Street in 1985, when the firm changed name to Brian Jones Clarke & Co. It was at this time that Tim Hartland, now CJCH Managing Partner, joined the practice as a trainee solicitor and would later go on to become Partner when Brian retired in 1988. The firm became Clarke & Hartland Solicitors in 1990, with a staff of 16, and made its final move to The Parade, in Cardiff, in 2001.

Brian, Steve and Tim all specialised in Criminal law. The firm delivered prosecution work for the British Transport Police in South Wales throughout the 1990s, as well as defence criminal work, and acted for the Police Federation of South Wales. In the mid-1990s, Steve was one of the first solicitors in Wales to be given Higher Rights of Audience owing to his extensive experience, and about 5 years later Tim acquired Higher Rights as well. Both Partners appeared regularly in the Magistrates Court and conducted Crown Court proceedings. When the opportunity to develop the CJCH licence compliance programme came about, the skills both Steve and Tim had developed in criminal practice at Clarke & Hartland were ideally suited for what the project would require.

As well as Criminal law, the firm had experts in Commercial, Conveyancing, Matrimonial and Family law. Clarke & Hartland classed themselves as a high street practice, “providing local services to local people” Steve remembers. They developed their client base upon recommendations from previous clients and acted for many local families. In contrast to the work CJCH now does, Clarke & Hartland acted for very few corporations or companies, even throughout their commercial cases. Their work ethic was very personal and the strength of their team was grounded in excellent people skills. Steve noted that, unfortunately, this aspect of legal work is not as relevant anymore, with an ever-growing reliance on technology and big corporations.

Stephen Clarke & Tim Hartland

Around 2010, Clarke & Hartland recognised that the days of small high street practices were numbered. When the government threatened to introduce changes to the way legal aid would be administered in England and Wales, the firm decided to anticipate any future problems this would create by expanding its volume of work to ensure a criminal contract and merging with Colin Jones Solicitors, in 2013.  CJCH become one of eight firms appointed to do criminal work in South Wales and one of five in Gwent, where there had previously been a total of 65 and 25 respectively.  The changes to legal aid never ended up taking place and therefore the newly establish CJCH had to consider what new opportunities were available to them as a bigger firm.

Clarke and Hartland had been built upon Brian and Steve’s close working relationship at the CPS, as well as Brian and Tim’s regular tennis matches at Penarth Lawn Tennis Club. This theme of forging a working relationship based upon knowing someone for a long time would continue with the Colin Jones merger. Although Steve and Tim knew Colin Jones professionally as a criminal solicitor, they also knew him socially. Steve had also played rugby with Nick Wootton, CJCH Chief Financial Officer, for years and knew Jacqui Seal, CJCH Senior Partner, through the CPS, and had previously worked with her brother. This work ethic mixed in with a comfortable environment gave them the incentive to grow and gain more experience as a firm.

In moving from a well-respected, experienced high street practice to a global business providing legal and corporate services, Steve and Tim have tried to carry across one element of Clarke & Hartland in particular to the new business. “Clarke & Hartland was very much in our images and our personalities” claims Steve. They wanted a happy working environment and were able to have one for 30 years thanks to having a staff of no more than 20 people. With a staff of over 130, CJCH have tried to maintain this convivial, hard-working and conscientious atmosphere, all within a welcoming environment.

Tim admits that it is very difficult to say exactly where the firm is headed in the future, especially given its extraordinary expansion in the last 4 years. They are confident that CJCH has only just started its growth pattern and in the next five years it could be three times the size it is now. CJCH Consulting has already established itself as brand leader in a niche market, and nobody else is currently replicating what we’re doing, nor the way we do it.