Today WIPO – the World Intellectual Property Organization – launched a new service called WIPO PROOF to assist creators to evidence and prove the date at which certain assets were in existence. Whilst there are a large range of possible uses, this service may be especially useful in relation to copyright materials, providing authors with an easy and verifiable method by which to confirm that a work was in existence at a certain date.

The initial costs of the registration of each document are low and so this service should be available to a large number of creators.  However, the requirement to have a WIPO account in order to purchase the tokens that are used for the registration will be a barrier to individuals accessing the service themselves.

WIPO PROOF is an easy-to-use global, online service that rapidly generates tamper-proof evidence proving that a digital file existed at a specific point in time, and that it has not been altered since that time. The service creates a WIPO PROOF token, a date- and time-stamped digital fingerprint of the file or data, which can be used as evidence in a legal dispute. WIPO PROOF tokens can be purchased one at a time for a modest fee, or in bundles of multiple tokens at reduced rates valid during a two year period.

If you would like to know more about the system, please visit the WIPO website (https://wipoproof.wipo.int/wdts/) or contact Justin Goldspink on 0207 822 2244 / jgoldspink@gscsolicitors.com or Ross Waldram on 0207 822 2236 / rwaldram@gscsolicitors.com on any Intellectual Property-related issues.

© 2020 GSC Solicitors LLP. All rights reserved. GSC grants permission for the browsing of this material and for the printing of one copy per person for personal reference. GSC’s written permission must be obtained for any other use of this material. This publication has been prepared only as a guide to provide readers with general information on recent legal developments. It is not formal legal advice and should not be relied on for any purpose. You should not act or refrain from acting based on the information contained in this document without obtaining specific formal advice from suitably qualified advisors.

 

The practicalities of returning to work

For many of us, the last few weeks have been very unusual from a working point of view. Some of us  have been working from home, while others have been on furlough and not working at all.

However, as the government has signalled a slight easing of the lockdown, the thoughts of some employers and employees have turned to returning to the workplace. What are the practicalities of this?

  • the current government guidance is to continue to work from home where possible, so for those who can continue to work from home, e.g. office workers, nothing has changed;
  • for those businesses where a return to work is being considered, it is important for there to be as much dialogue as possible between the employer and the employees in relation to all of the practicalities of the return to work, so for example things like any changes to the set-up of the workplace, which employees are to return, and whether employees are to return in phases;
  • employers have a legal obligation to make the workplace as safe as possible for employees, so will need to consider this, in particular in light of Covid-19. Employers should bear in mind that a breach of health and safety legislation can lead to criminal penalties;
  • some employees may have concerns about returning to work (particularly in relation to safety) and they should be encouraged to discuss any such issues with the employer with a view to resolving them;
  • employers should try to be practical in dealing with concerns about returning to work, and consider options such as allowing employees to change their hours temporarily so as to avoid travelling on public transport at peak time, or finding extra car parking spaces near the workplace to allow employees to drive in to work;
  • if an employee simply refuses to return to work, then the employer should establish why this is before taking any action. An employee who can show that the refusal is based on a belief that the return to work would put them in danger would potentially have the right to bring a claim against their employer if they were treated badly as a result of their refusal.  This underlines the need for good communication between the employer and employees to explain how the workplace is safe;
  • if someone starts to display symptoms of Covid-19 while at work, the government guidance is for them to be immediately sent home to self-isolate;
  • it has been reported that the government may enshrine the right to work from home in law, if an employee considers it unsafe to return to work. That is something to look out for.

 The law stated in this article is correct as of 21 May 2020.

If you have any employment law queries, please do not hesitate to contact David Nathan at dnathan@gscsolicitors.com or on 020 7822 2247.

© 2020 GSC Solicitors LLP. All rights reserved. GSC grants permission for the browsing of this material and for the printing of one copy per person for personal reference. GSC’s written permission must be obtained for any other use of this material. This publication has been prepared only as a guide to provide readers with general information on recent legal developments. It is not formal legal advice and should not be relied on for any purpose. You should not act or refrain from acting based on the information contained in this document without obtaining specific formal advice from suitably qualified advisors.

 

The Dangers of Online Wills

The current outbreak of COVID-19 has given many of us more time than usual and additional grounds to reflect on our future and has prompted people to ensure that their personal legal affairs are in order.

As a result there has been a surge in people putting in place Wills and the majority are using online services to this given the ability to draft a will online very quickly and for a very low fee.

While these are the attractions of this type of service, the benefits stop here with clients choosing online wills facing extremely high risks of not having their wills prepared by professionals.

If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is

The main problem with online wills is that when they go wrong, they tend to go horribly (and expensively!) wrong. Usually, by the time the critical mistakes that an online will contains are noticed, the testator has already passed away leaving the heirs to deal with the unfortunate consequences of the improperly drafted document.

What are the key points and common problems?

Ambiguity:  A poorly drafted will is at risk of being declared invalid due to being too vague. Such a will fails to effectively dispose of the testator’s assets in the correct manner and might trigger the rules of intestacy. Seeking professional advice is the only way to ensure that the client’s wishes are properly put onto paper.

Cost-effectiveness: While choosing an online will might be a quick and affordable option, serious financial consequences may follow. While in certain cases the issue may be merely covering legal fees for the rectification of a poorly drafted document, sometimes an online will can lead to undesirable tax consequences for the testator’s estate. In the worst-case scenario, the outcome can be part of the gifts or all of the them failing.

Identity verification: Online service providers do not verify the identity of their users in a manner sufficient for the preparation of a will. Online service providers are unable to check whether testators are who they claim to be and whether they have the requisite capacity. This can lead to disgruntled beneficiaries claiming that the Will has been drafted against the testator wishes or that they did not have capacity.

Solicitors are subject to strict regulations and obliged to conduct all the necessary checks.

Legal language: A high level of detail and legal language is required to ensure that a will serves its intended purpose. Using a single incorrect word can affect what the will intends. Lawyers understand the importance of including specific wordings to cover all eventualities. The interpretation of clauses in professionally drafted wills has stood the test of time.

Quality of advice: Online service providers do not offer advice on tax consequences, overseas assets, bankruptcy, trusts, marriage breakdown and many other things. To provide the advice you need, a professional will take detailed instructions on what the estate comprises and who the intended beneficiaries are.

Safeguards: Solicitors are bound by the SRA Standards and Regulations, subject to compulsory training and obliged to have professional indemnity insurance. Furthermore, lawyers are bound to keep up-to-speed on the changes in law. While lawyers have all the necessary safeguards in place, this is what online service providers often lack.

ValidityWhat are the legal formalities to make a will valid? What do the terms ‘trustee’, ‘executor’ and ‘administrator’ mean? How are they different from each other? Who qualifies as a witness? Solicitors will ensure that the will is executed in accordance with the rules and the estate goes to the testator’s intended beneficiaries.

Do not risk it

The risks faced by preparing an online can hugely outweigh the benefits. Though they can be quick and cheap, a poorly drafted will can lead to undesirable tax consequences or litigation.

At best some of the gifts in the will might not take effect, however, at worst the will might not be valid at all!

For these reasons, during these unprecedented times, clients should ensure that their wills are prepared, kept under review and amended by qualified lawyers with expertise in wills and estate planning.

However, even if clients have put in place an online Will, we would strongly urge that contact specialists for advice and assistance to get their documents checked as soon as possible.

If you have a question, please contact James Cohen directly on jcohen@gscsolicitors.com or 0207 822 2257.

© 2020 GSC Solicitors LLP. All rights reserved. GSC grants permission for the browsing of this material and for the printing of one copy per person for personal reference. GSC’s written permission must be obtained for any other use of this material. This publication has been prepared only as a guide to provide readers with general information on recent legal developments. It is not formal legal advice and should not be relied on for any purpose. You should not act or refrain from acting based on the information contained in this document without obtaining specific formal advice from suitably qualified advisors.

 

 

COVID-19: Business Interruption Insurance Claims  

As the spread of COVID-19 continues and the substantial economic losses across the economy become clearer, businesses and business owners should be looking at the insurance policies that they have in place, to assess whether or not they have coverage in relation to their actual or anticipated losses associated with the spread of the Coronavirus.

The starting point is to look at your insurance policy and check whether or not you are covered for “Business Interruption”,  as this will be the section of the policy which may respond to loss caused directly or indirectly by an insured event such as an occurrence of notifiable disease or a closure occasioned by the action taken by government in response to the COVID-19 virus.

Our lawyers can assist with insurance matters both before a dispute arises or after a dispute has arisen.

GSC can provide advice about how to notify your claim to your insurers.

Where a claim has already been declined by your insurance company, we can provide strategic advice as to the merits of challenging the insurers decision and pursuing that challenge via a dispute resolution process or if necessary, court proceeding or arbitration.

Just because your insurer or broker has indicated that your claim would be declined this does not necessarily mean this is the correct legal analysis. Furthermore, you should always take independent legal advice on matters such as this as there may be other options.

GSC Solicitors are able to assist with Business Interruption Insurance claims on behalf of a wide variety of businesses regardless of location or industry. 

In some limited circumstances, you might also have a claim against your insurance broker.

Practical Next Steps

So that we can help you navigate this process we have set out below a simple 8 step process so that we can support you at this time:

  1. Make sure that you have a full copy of your Business Insurance Policy (to include Policy Schedule and policy wording – your Business Interruption cover will usually be found in the same policy as your Property Damage cover)
  2. Please provide a brief summary about your business.
  3. Confirm if you have made a claim which has either been rejected or is yet to be responded to by your insurers (provide details).
  4. Confirm your insurance broker’s contact details.
  5. Send your information to helpmybusiness@gscsolicitors.com
  6. You will then receive an email confirming that we have received your initial information.
  7. Once we have received your information, we will review it. We will always be honest with you and if it appears that a claim on your policy is unlikely to have merit, we will endeavour to indicate this straight away (at no charge to you).
  8. If, following on our initial review it appears that your claim may have merit, we will also indicate this in an initial short email and briefly set out the elements that support this. In that email we will indicate the fixed fee for us to prepare a more detailed analysis and strategic advice. In some instance you may need help drafting the notification to your insurers we also will indicate the cost of this if applicable.

For any inquires please do not hesitate to contact our dedicated team on helpmybusiness@gscsolicitors.com or  Michael Shapiro on mshapiro@gscsolicitors.com or 0207 822 2246 or Hateem Ali on hali@gscsolicitors.com or 0207 822 2209.

 

The latest position on furlough leave

There has been a lot of news recently about the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (“the Scheme”), or furloughing.

As time has progressed, the details regarding the Scheme have become more apparent and in some instance have changed.

Below is a summary of the latest position regarding some of the key points:
  • Under the Scheme, an employer can instruct an employee to cease doing all work in relation to their employment as a result of circumstances arising from Covid-19.
  • There is a discrepancy in the government advice as to whether the employee should merely be informed by their employer in writing that they are being furloughed or whether the employee needs to agree in writing to  being furloughed. Best advice is to be cautious and for the employee to agree in writing to being furloughed.
  • The employee is to cease work for a minimum of 21 days.
  • The employer can claim 80% of the wage costs of each furloughed employee back from HMRC (up to a cap of £2,500 per month), plus related employer national insurance contributions and the related minimum  automatic enrollment employer pension contributions.
  • The employee will receive gross pay, which is then subject to income tax and national insurance in the usual way.
  • To qualify for the Scheme, the employee must have been on the employer’s payroll on or before 19 March 2020.
  • The Scheme will in practice primarily apply to employees, but it will also apply to other groups, provided that they are paid though PAYE, such as office holders and agency workers.
  • Currently, the Scheme is to operate between 1 March 2020 and 30 June 2020.
  • Employees employed and on payroll on 28 February 2020 that were made redundant or stopped working after that date but before 19 March 2020 can take part in the Scheme if the employer re-employs them, even if they are re-employed after 19 March 2020.
  • If the employer agrees, an employee can take holiday during furlough and while on holiday, the employee is entitled to their full pay.

The law stated in this article is correct as of 23 April 2020.

If you have any employment law queries, please do not hesitate to contact David Nathan at dnathan@gscsolicitors.com or on 020 7822 2247.

© 2020 GSC Solicitors LLP. All rights reserved. GSC grants permission for the browsing of this material and for the printing of one copy per person for personal reference. GSC’s written permission must be obtained for any other use of this material. This publication has been prepared only as a guide to provide readers with general information on recent legal developments. It is not formal legal advice and should not be relied on for any purpose. You should not act or refrain from acting based on the information contained in this document without obtaining specific formal advice from suitably qualified advisors.

 

Building a safer future

The Government introduced new building regulations  to improve building safety, which is the biggest changes in a generation. Will the reform help people sell or remortgage of flats in high-rise buildings? GSC’s Real Estate Partner Carole Joseph has got the update in the video below:

For any questions in relation to the above video or property-related issues, please contact Carole Joseph directly on cjoseph@gscsolicitors.com or 0207 822 2235.

COVID-19: Tenant stopped paying the rent?  Letting landlords leverage subletters…

It has been reported that a week after the March quarter day, UK landlords had collected just 57% of the rent they were due for that quarter, compared to 90% for the same period in 2019*.

Whilst the Coronavirus Act 2020 places a freeze on the forfeiture of business leases until 30 June 2020 where tenants have not paid their rent, there are other remedies that may be available to a landlord.

Landlords will most commonly first look to any guarantors that are liable to pay the rent where the tenant has defaulted and to any rent deposits that are being held.

A debt claim and the right to exercise CRAR (commercial rent arrears recovery), which is a statutory procedure that allows landlords of commercial premises to recover rent arrears by taking control of the tenant’s goods and selling them (previously the law of distress), are also potential options.

However, where commercial premises are sublet, one other avenue which landlords may not be aware of or which may not immediately come to mind, is the right to receive rent from a subtenant contained in section 81 of the Tribunals, Courts and Enforcement Act 2007.

This right applies where CRAR is exercisable by a landlord to recover rent due from its immediate tenant.  The landlord must follow the procedure set out in section 81 to give the subtenant notice of the outstanding amount of rent due from the immediate tenant.

When the notice takes effect (14 clear days after service of the notice on the subtenant), the right to recover and receive rent payable by the subtenant under its own sublease will be transferred to the landlord i.e. the rent payable under the sublease will be diverted and become payable directly to the landlord.

This right will end when the amount of rent that was outstanding from the tenant has been paid (by payments under the notice or otherwise) or when the notice is replaced or withdrawn.

For further questions in relation to the above article, please contact Amee Popat on apopat@gscsolicitors.com or 020 7822 2250.

* Research conducted by Remit Consulting, in conjunction with members of Remit Consulting’s Property Managers Forum, into rent collection levels across more than 18,350 properties in the office, industrial, retail and residential sectors during the first few days of April 2020.  The report received coverage in the Property Week magazine and in the Financial Times.

© 2020 GSC Solicitors LLP. All rights reserved. GSC grants permission for the browsing of this material and for the printing of one copy per person for personal reference. GSC’s written permission must be obtained for any other use of this material. This publication has been prepared only as a guide to provide readers with general information on recent legal developments. It is not formal legal advice and should not be relied on for any purpose. You should not act or refrain from acting based on the information contained in this document without obtaining specific formal advice from suitably qualified advisors.

 

Covid-19: Intellectual Property

As a result of Covid-19, many of the offices around the world that administer intellectual property rights, including the UK Intellectual Property Office, EU IPO and WIPO, have extended the time limits which apply in respect of proceedings in front of them. This can include opposition and renewal dates. However, care needs to be taken as the extensions are different depending the Intellectual Property Office.  Furthermore, they will not cover proceedings before other bodies such as the courts.

If you are concerned about any trade mark rights or proceedings that affect you, please contact us or seek details from the relevant intellectual property office.

Even where a deadline is inadvertently missed, it is likely that the relevant office will take a lenient approach to any belated requests for an extension to that deadline.  It is also worth noting that proprietors of trade marks can use the late renewal processes to address any marks which have inadvertently been allowed to lapse.

   Court Proceedings

The courts generally remain open and there have been not any automatic suspensions or extensions of the time limits that apply to these proceedings.  Where parties are placed into difficulty in complying with these deadlines, parties should seek to agree extensions between themselves before applying to the court.

Where possible, courts are conducting hearings on paper or via video/teleconferencing proceedings. Further information about those arrangements are set out in our earlier litigation update here.

For further questions please do not hesitate to contact Ross Waldram directly on rwaldram@gscsolicitors.com or 0207 822 2236.

© 2020 GSC Solicitors LLP. All rights reserved. GSC grants permission for the browsing of this material and for the printing of one copy per person for personal reference. GSC’s written permission must be obtained for any other use of this material. This publication has been prepared only as a guide to provide readers with general information on recent legal developments. It is not formal legal advice and should not be relied on for any purpose. You should not act or refrain from acting based on the information contained in this document without obtaining specific formal advice from suitably qualified advisors.

 

Dos and don’ts of furlough leave

In the last few weeks people have become familiar with the term furloughing. It is the concept brought in by the government in the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme which states that an employee can be  put on a period of leave during which they are asked to stop working for the employer. The employer can claim 80% of the wage costs of each furloughed employee back from HMRC (up to a cap of £2,500 per month).

Although many people are familiar with the basic concept of furloughing, below are some dos and don’ts:

  • Do make sure that the employee agrees in writing to being furloughed. This is necessary because it is a change to the contract of employment. An employee’s duties are not normally not do any work.
  • Do pay employees at least statutory sick pay if they become eligible for this while on furlough.
  • Do make sure that all relevant records and information are provided to HMRC.
  • Don’t discriminate when deciding who to furlough, as equality legislation will still apply in the usual way e.g. don’t just furlough women in an organisation.
  • Don’t undertake any work for the employer if you are an employee on furlough. However an employee can undertake work for a different employer if he/she has more than one job.
  • Don’t forget that it is possible to rotate employees on furlough. An employee must be furloughed for a minimum of 3 weeks, but after that it is possible to take him/her off furlough and put someone else in the organisation on furlough instead.

If you have any concerns or questions about your situation, please do not hesitate to contact David Nathan at dnathan@gscsolicitors.com or on 020 7822 2247.

© 2020 GSC Solicitors LLP. All rights reserved. GSC grants permission for the browsing of this material and for the printing of one copy per person for personal reference. GSC’s written permission must be obtained for any other use of this material. This publication has been prepared only as a guide to provide readers with general information on recent legal developments. It is not formal legal advice and should not be relied on for any purpose. You should not act or refrain from acting based on the information contained in this document without obtaining specific formal advice from suitably qualified advisors.