Newsletter Archives - Palmers Solicitors
Palmers Solicitors


Are you paying care home fees that should be met by the NHS?

The subject of care home fees has long been a contentious one. On the one hand, the care provided by residential or nursing homes must be paid for, but on the other hand, who should pay for it?

Care fees can often run to tens of thousands of pounds – money that few people have to hand without selling their homes. However, care fees do not necessarily have to be paid for by the individual or their family.

Local authorities will generally assist with care costs where the individual has less than £23,250 in assets, while those with assets in excess of this amount may still qualify for help, depending on their circumstances. The value of a person’s home may count towards the value of their assets for these purposes but will not do so in all circumstances.

However, if the individual primarily needs health care, rather than personal or social care, then these costs should be met by the NHS. Unfortunately, many people do not receive this fully funded continuing care because they have been wrongly assessed by the NHS, largely because deciding whether someone is eligible to have their care fees paid can be highly subjective.

Until 1 October this year, it was possible to claim back wrongly paid care fees dating back to April 2004. Although the rules have now changed, it is still possible to make a retrospective claim for the period from 1 April 2011 to 31 March 2012. Claims relating to this period must be registered with the NHS by 21 March 2013.

Even if an individual is not entitled to NHS funding, they may still have been incorrectly assessed by their local authority, meaning there is still scope for a claim for any fees wrongly paid.

With the final deadline for registering claims for reimbursement from the NHS just months away, anyone who believes they have a claim should act sooner, rather than later. At Palmers, we are highly experienced in all areas of law affecting elderly clients, including claims for wrongly paid care home fees.

If you have a relative who is about to enter care then it is sensible to seek advice on the funding issues at the earliest possible opportunity in order to avoid any problems further down the line.

To find out how we can help you, please contact us on 01268 240000.

Lee McClellan is a partner at Palmers Solicitors, specialising in advising clients in disputes with the NHS and local authorities over the funding of residential and nursing care.

Ensuring your web presence is accessible to all

As the world of business becomes ever more reliant on technology, more and more companies are setting up an online presence to complement their physical operations.

With increased competition, businesses need to stand out by having websites that are both eye-catching and simple to navigate. However, firms also need to remember their obligations under the Equality Act, especially in terms of making sure that their sites can be accessed by disabled customers.

This point was recently highlighted by a review of five of the most popular price comparison sites by the charity AbilityNet. Four of the sites did not comply with the terms of the Equality Act, and the other only met some of its requirements.

Although the Act does not specifically mention services provided online, the consensus has always been that it applies as much to these services as it does to conventional bricks and mortar operations.

The introduction of the Equality and Human Rights Commission’s code under the Equality Act last year made this even clearer by explicitly stating that websites are included with regards to the provision of services.

Consequently, businesses will need to ensure they make the necessary adjustments so that their websites can be accessed by disabled individuals.

“The law is clear on this issue,” said Robin Christopherson of AbilityNet. “It is just as illegal to bar disabled visitors from accessing your goods and services online as it would be to keep them out of your shop in the ‘real world’.

“Whilst no company would do this knowingly, as this report shows there are plenty of high profile sites that are contravening the Equality Act (2010) by not considering their disabled customers.”

For more information on this topic, or any issues relating to the Equality Act or discrimination, please contact Karl Barnes or Lara Murray.

Going green on patent applications

Innovative businesses should make the most of a green channel that helps speed up the patent process for eco-friendly ideas at no extra cost.

Accelerated processing of a patent application can be requested under the green channel if the invention relates to a green or environmentally-friendly technology.

The benefits of this service were highlighted by intellectual property minister, Baroness Wilcox, who praised Gordon Murray Design for its use of the green channel.

This has allowed the small company to get its product off the ground faster and go on to produce low-cost, environmentally-friendly cars, which use recycled plastic bottles in the cars’ body panels.

She said: “It’s tremendous to see how an idea has been turned into an actual business product swiftly and efficiently. By using the green channel, an environmentally-friendly idea and novel approach to manufacturing is being brought to market quickly, helping to deliver real value and growth to a typically inventive small British firm.”

Protecting your intellectual property, and maximising its economic potential, is important for all companies. However, intellectual property issues can be confusing, particularly for small businesses with limited resources.

Taking the appropriate steps to protect intellectual property, with the assistance of legal professionals specialising in this field, is likely to prove a wise investment for the future, so please contact us.

Opening up the patent box

A patent box regime is set to come into force from April 2013 that will allow eligible companies to benefit from a 10 percent rate of corporation tax on all the profits arising from qualifying patents – whether through royalties or as part of the sale price of products – and other intellectual property rights.

All patents granted by the UK Intellectual Property Office (IPO) and the European Patent Office (EPO) will be covered by the legislation, as well as those granted by EU national patent offices where the patentability criteria are similar to those in the UK.

The regime will be phased in over four years, with the 10 percent rate applying to 60 percent of the qualifying profits in the first year. This will rise incrementally by ten percent each year, reaching 100 percent from April 2017.

Consequently, companies looking to make the most of this regime should ensure that each of their new products is protected. This will make sure that as much of the company’s profits as is possible will be covered by the patent box, and thus liable for the ten percent tax rate.

In addition, as the patent box regime only applies to granted rights (and not pending applications), it is worth pursuing both UK and European rights separately. With the IPO process taking less than four years – compared to six or seven years for the

EPO – this can result in products qualifying for the patent box rate more quickly.

At Palmers, we regularly advise on intellectual property matters, so please contact us for more information.

Creating a winning team

While major sporting events such as Euro 2012 and the Olympics become key talking points for the few weeks they are on, many employers worry as much about productivity levels as the fortunes of their favoured team.

So what are the main issues employers should be considering?

Firstly, employees may want to use their holiday allowance to watch such sporting events. Although workers have a statutory right to annual leave, they need to give notice, and employers can say when holiday can be taken and how many people can be off at any particular time.

Employees may also take unauthorised time off or fake illness to avoid working. In these cases, it is important to refer to company policies and the employee’s contract, though employers will need to ensure that any absences are not genuine before taking disciplinary action.

Even if employees are in work, there is still the possibility that they may use the internet to follow events online. Again, having clear policies in place beforehand and referring to these will help employers manage the situation.

Another consideration is employees who have spent the previous evening celebrating or commiserating their team’s performance, and then arrive at work with a hangover.

Research by the charity Drinkaware showed that one in ten employees go to work suffering from the after-effects of too much alcohol, which is over half a million every day. This can significantly affect productivity, with almost one-fifth of those who go into work with a hangover admitting to struggling with their workload and to making mistakes.

Again, employers should have a clear policy on alcohol so that all employees know what is acceptable, and any repeated incidents should be carefully investigated to check for underlying problems.

However, dwelling on these potential problems could mean employers miss out on an opportunity to engage with employees and enhance staff morale – an unfortunate casualty of the recent economic downturn.

With some of the Euro 2012 matches starting at 5pm UK time, employers should consider being flexible where possible by altering start and finish times on match days.

This is also the case for employees who are required to conduct business in London during the Olympics, when journey times may be longer or alternative routes may need to be found. Consequently, employers should consider avoiding peak congestion times or holding meetings in offices outside the capital.

However, it is vital that all employees are treated fairly, so that those who are not interested in sport do not feel resentful or discriminated against, and that workers of all nationalities have the same opportunities to watch their country compete.

Communication is key – it is important for employers to explain in advance what they expect from employees in terms of attendance and performance during sporting events. If they are unable to make any changes to their working patterns, employers should explain this; but if they do make allowances, they should ensure employees understand these are only temporary.

At Palmers, we can advise on all aspects of employment law, so please contact Karl Barnes or Lara Murray for further guidance.

Queen announces changes to employment law

In her speech at the official state opening of Parliament, the Queen outlined the government’s plans for the forthcoming year, including the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill.

The Bill, which will be considered during the next session of Parliament, will make it easier for businesses to manage their relationships with employees due to an overhaul of the tribunal system.

In additional to higher costs for bringing cases against former employers to tribunal, those looking to make claims for unfair dismissal will need to attend a dispute resolution service first.

Furthermore, the new legislation will look to improve the competitiveness of British businesses by strengthening the anti-competition regime and improving the speed and predictability of outcomes.

The Bill will also give shareholders a binding vote on future executive pay, speed up the UK’s transition to a green economy – which includes setting out the purpose of the Green Investment Bank – and repeal any unnecessary legislation to reduce the burden on businesses.

Commenting on the new legislation, business secretary Vince Cable said: “Securing economic growth through business investment and trade is absolutely essential to recovery.

“Government’s plans to cut red tape, boost green investment, reform the competition landscape and reform the banks are vital moves that would help strengthen the business environment and boost consumer and business confidence.”

For more information on any aspects of employment law relating to your business, please contact Karl Barnes or Lara Murray.