GCSE Reforms rejected in Wales

After the decision of the Welsh government to rebuff the proposed changes to GCSE exams in England there is a big chance that a schism forms between the English and Welsh educational systems.

While Wales is going to continue in the same way as now, in England GCSE will be replaced by the English Baccalaureate for subjects such as English and Maths.

There is a special system of examinations in Scotland and a review is to be carried out in Northern Ireland.

Jeff Cuthbert, the Deputy Minister of Skills said: “We will retain GCSEs and A-levels. Where necessary we will strengthen and amend these, but ultimately we have confidence in these well-established qualifications, which are recognised around the world.”

He also mentioned he wanted “best for students” in Wales no matter if this meant “diverging from England and the rest of the UK”.

As it was said new GCSEs in English Language, Welsh First Language and Maths will be offered alongside a “revised, more rigorous” Welsh Baccalaureate.

Head teachers in Wales welcomed the decision of their government. In the words of Gareth Jones from the Welsh branch of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) English universities had been taking Scottish students for years.

Another thing that Welsh government refused to accept were the changes to the A-level system in England recently announced by Michael Gove.

The spokesperson of the Department for Education said he cared about the Welsh education system.

“We are solely concerned with doing what is best for English students. That is why we are transforming the education system to raise standards in this country to prepare pupils to compete in a global jobs market.”

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Jack 3D Supplement – You are in Danger

After Claire Squire died while running the London Marathon and the investigation ascertained her death was caused by supplements her boyfriend called for greater control.

On April 22nd last year she collapsed because she had used the then-legal supplement know as Jack 3D. Since this case Jack 3D is been banned in the UK. It was proved to contain DMAA (dimethylamine) which athletes use for more energy and concentration.

The case with Clair was not the only such one- while practicing fitness two US soldiers died of cardiac arrest because of the usage of this drug.

The World Anti-Doping Agency has also banned DMAA.

Simon van Herrewege, Claire’s boyfriend, said that before the marathon she put some Jack3D in her water no matter she did not normally use it.

“She never particularly liked it but wanted to beat her previous marathon time,” he said. “In her own words, ‘if I hit a bit of a wall, I might take this drink and see if it pushes me through the end of the marathon’.”

In the words of Dr Philip Barlow the combination of DMAA and the extreme physical exertion resulted in her death. He added he hoped this case would make people think about this problem and manage to prevent such future events.

Simon shared that his girlfriend had been “passionately against the use of drugs” but she decided to use the supplement for better shape.

“She innocently took a supplement which at the time was entirely legal, and widely available on the high-street, and somewhat worryingly, apparently used by so many others,” van Herrewege told reporters when he went outside the court.

Jack 3D is still obtainable in the UK but the DMAA has been removed from it. However DMAA is something people may order online.

May be it will be good to consider a Alcohol and Drug Policy for your business, as this might save you lots of trouble.

 

Football Authorities Threatened With Changes to The Law

Football authorities were given 12 months to make some changes in the way the game runs, otherwise they will face changes to the law.

It was proved after a report that football authorities took almost no action to implement the changes that the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee recommended in July 2011.

Even the sports minister described football in the UK as “the worst governed sport in this country”.

The idea of this report is to propose ways which will help English clubs become more responsible with their finance and also give fans more opportunities to give their opinions on the running of the clubs.

It turned out that the three main football authorities- the Football Association, Premier League and Football League- disappointed the committee.

The expected reforms had to do much about the balance between the FA and the Premier League because Premier League is now the dominant one.

Due to this report if authorities did not make the steps needed the legislation would be introduced to enforce Financial Fair Play rules. These are made in a way that they limit the amount that clubs can spend in comparison to the amount that they earn.

The three football authorities made a statement saying they had done just enough:

“Significant headway has already been made on many of these proposed reforms, not least on sustainability and transparency….the remaining reform proposals are the subject of consultation within the game and we are confident that the necessary progress will be made.”

Despite this statement Hugh Robertson said they could do more:

“We have been clear that we want the football authorities to carry out the reforms they promised by the start of the 2013-14 season – most notably around improved governance and diverse representation at the FA, the development of a licensing system and greater financial transparency”.

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AN OVERVIEW OF COMPROMISE AGREEMENTS

A compromise agreement is a formal, legally binding agreement made between an employer and employee (or ex-employee) in which the employee agrees not to pursue particular claims that they might have in relation to their employment or its termination, in return for a financial settlement. Thus, the primary function of a compromise agreement is to stop an employee from making any statutory or contractual claim in connection with their employment.

Compromise agreements are often used in situations where employer and employee want to part company without resorting to redundancy, firing or resigning. They can also be used as a way of settling serious employee grievances, such as claims of constructive dismissal or unlawful discrimination. Generally, compromise agreements are used by employers in order to remove employees from employment quickly and easily, avoiding the possible adverse publicity and uncertain outcome of an Employment Tribunal or court case.

This article considers the overall legal requirements of compromise agreements, but legal advice should always be sought when drafting such an agreement.

Compromise agreements are complex legal documents and they must be specifically drafted according to the facts and circumstances of each particular case. The Legal Stop offers a fixed fee compromise agreement drafting service in addition to our compromise agreement templates. For further details please contact us using our request form.

Legal Formalities

In order for a compromise agreement to be legally binding, the following conditions must be satisfied:

  • The agreement must be in writing.
  •  It must relate to the ‘particular proceedings’.
  • The employee must have received independent legal advice from a qualified adviser as to the terms and effect of the agreement.
  • There must be in force, when the adviser gives the legal advice, a contract of insurance or professional indemnity insurance covering the risk of a claim by the employee in respect of loss arising as a result of the advice.
  • The agreement must identify the relevant adviser.
  • The agreement must state that the conditions regulating compromise agreements are satisfied.

Employee’s Complaints

A compromise agreement can be used to settle one or more employee complaints. It must clearly state each of the specific complaints being settled and refer to the relevant statutory provisions because, as identified above, the compromise agreement must relate to the ‘particular proceedings’. Please note that a ‘blanket agreement’ simply signing away all of an employee’s employment rights, or one which lists every form of employment right known to the law, will not be a valid compromise agreement.

Contractual and Statutory Claims

Compromise Agreements are an exception to the general principle set out in all employment legislation that an individual cannot contract out of their statutory employment rights. Thus, a compromise agreement is necessary to obtain a valid waiver of an employee’s statutory claims. Please note that there is no need for a compromise agreement in order to settle only contractual claims. This is because an agreement to refrain from instituting proceedings in a contract claim is binding without the need for any special requirements to be satisfied. A simple waiver and release of claims will be effective. On the other hand, with statutory claims, any agreement by an employee to waive their statutory rights that is not in the form of a compromise agreement will be invalid and unenforceable. This means that the employee would still be eligible to lodge a claim in the Employment Tribunal, even though they might have already accepted a sum of money from the employer in apparent ‘full and final settlement’.

‘Without prejudice’

Open discussions with employees in relation to compromise agreements are very risky. This is because such conduct, if not protected by the veil of without prejudice privilege, is likely to be enough to constitute a fundamental breach of the implied term of mutual trust and confidence, enabling the employee to resign and claim constructive dismissal. Thus, never invite an employee to resign in return for an exit package on an open basis. The employee might resign anyway and then issue a constructive dismissal claim.

For the ‘without prejudice’ rule to apply, the employee must have genuinely consented to the meeting being held on a ‘without prejudice’ basis, there must be a pre-existing dispute between the parties and the discussion must be a genuine attempt to settle the dispute.

Compromise Agreement Clauses

Common clauses found in a compromise agreement include:

  • An agreement by both parties to keep the details of the settlement confidential and not to make detrimental statements about one another.
  • A requirement for the employee to return the employer’s property.
  • The provision of an agreed form reference for the employee.
  • A requirement for the employee to resign as a director or as company secretary.
  • A requirement for the employee to transfer their shares in the company.
  • An agreement by the employer to contribute towards the employee’s legal costs.
  • A tax indemnity from the employee.
  • Post-termination restrictive covenants (if these are new, there should be a separate monetary payment, called ‘consideration’, given to the employee for agreeing to them).
  • Confirmation that the employee has not knowingly committed any breach of their employment contract or breach of duty owed to the employer.

Generally accrued pension rights cannot be waived under a Compromise Agreement (as the trustees of the pension fund are not party to the agreement).

If the terms of the Compromise Agreement are breached by the employer, the employee could pursue a claim for breach of contract.

Taxation

Employers often wrongly believe that all payments made on the termination of employment are subject to a tax exemption of £30,000. Not all sums payable under a compromise agreement are tax-free. In determining what tax is payable in respect of termination payments, the key is to identify each element of the termination package and then consider the tax provisions applicable to the individual elements.

Outstanding wages, bonuses, commission and holiday pay are fully taxable, being payments made under the employee’s contract of employment. Ex gratia (non-contractual) sums paid as compensation for loss of employment under the terms of the compromise agreement are taxable, but subject to the £30,000 tax-free exemption.

Where an employee receives a contractual payment in lieu of notice, the payment is chargeable to tax as earnings from employment. However, where there is no contractual entitlement to a payment in lieu of notice, a non-contractual payment will be regarded as compensation for loss of employment, making it subject to the £30,000 tax-free exemption.

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We provide affordable and transparent diverse online legal services on a fixed fee basis.  Our services include: Fixed Fee Legal Advice from UK Solicitors and Barristers, Fixed Fee Document Drafting and Legal and Business Document Templates.

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New Test for Immigrants Who Want to Stay in the UK

There was an announcement that British culture and history will be the main topics in the UK citizenship test. According to the immigration minister Mark Harper foreign migrants will have to answer questions about the “values and principles at the heart of being British”.

The updated preparation handbook and the new exam will be introduced in March.

The majority of the questions in the current exams are about catching trains and attending job interviews but now they will be replaced with ones about architecture, royalty and British comedy.

Harper said that “This is just part of our work to help ensure migrants are ready and able to integrate into British society and forms part of our changes which have broken the automatic link between temporary and permanent migration.”

According to him this will encourage people to take part in the British life to a greater extend.

More than 150,000 immigrants took the current Life in the UK test last year. There is a little bit of historical information in the handbook for this test but it is only for some academic interest and is not required for the test.

Don Flynn, the director of the Migrants’ Rights Network, compared the new version of the test to “an entry examination for an elite public school”.

“This looks to us like a big step backwards from the concerns with integration which the government is supposed to have in this area,” he commented. “Naturalisation procedures have already been sharply criticised for coming up with tests which have very little to do with the things that most British people feel are important about their lives.”

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Police Records Fall in Crime

According to an investigation of the ONS (Office of National Statistics) police has certain targets to meet when talking about cutting crimes so they are massaging crime statistics.

The yesterday research showed that for a year recorded crimes fell by 7%.

ONS, on the other hand, claims it does not believe these records because due to a poll on the crimes in England and Wales 40,000 households across the UK suffered different crimes.

This led ONS to the disclosure that police in fact recorded about 400,000 crimes fewer than they had to. Police did not record minor crimes such as antisocial behaviour.

According to John Flatley, the head of crime statistics and analysis for ONS, the decision about which offense is not too low so that it could be recorded is often a “judgement call”.

“There are marginal instances where someone’s complaining about anti-social behaviour by neighbours and there’s a grey area over where that tips over into harassment and becomes a notifiable offense.”

Another statement came from Mike Hough, from Institute for Criminal Policy Research, according to whom the pressure on officers to record complains is nowadays not that big but that it was notable that judging by the figures that police showed the rate of crime was falling.

An answer on the problem came also from the spokesman for the Home Office who said:

“As the ONS highlights in their report, there is no simple answer as to why there has been some variation in crime trends between the Crime Survey and police-recorded crime. The two measurements were always intended to assess different things and have different strengths.”

The shadow policing minister said that the fewer crimes reported are due to the fact that the number of police officers and stuff was cut.

“The home secretary should examine urgently whether, as the ONS suggests, the cuts to police budgets mark a return to fewer crimes being recorded,” he said.

 

UKBA Slammed Over Fresh Immigration Backlog

After the discovery of more than 16,000 unresolved immigration applications, the UK Border Agency underwent lots of critics.

The found applications which were not inspected were of people living outside the EEA but who wanted to settle in the UK because of a partner there.

Inspectors said that most of these cases were appropriately dealt with but of course they managed to find some failings.

There are about 14,000 cases in which applications were rejected one time and when people had tried to apply for a second time their applications had not been dealt with at all.

Some cases were called “complex” as they were not being handled as stuff which needed further guidance.

The independent chief inspector of borders and immigration John Vine criticized this, saying:

“The agency should know about its workload. It should prioritise its resources and, at the very least, have a plan to deal with some of the things that we come across in inspection,”

“For people to be in such a backlog of cases is not acceptable and I urge the agency to deal with the cases swiftly. To wait such a long time, even if your case is complex, is completely outside any service standards.”

On the other hand Mark Harper, the immigration minister, defended UKBA claiming the agency had already had too many problems when they had inherited it.

According to him the system was not good enough to deal with such situations in the past but the new policies will change everything.

In our wide range of documents, you will find lots of employment documents, including a variety of employment contracts and policies.

 

 

Cameron Talks about the Potential British EU Exit

If the Conservatives win the next elections British people are promised to take part into a referendum on EU membership.

However, David Cameron said he looked forward to a new settlement between Britain and the European Union. Just after this settlement British people should decide either to accept it or not.

Both Labour and the Liberal Democrats slammed Cameron’s speech.

According to Nick Clegg, a deputy PM, this acting in the shorter-term interests of the UK is a failure: “years and years of uncertainty because of a protracted, ill-defined renegotiation of our place in Europe”.

The opinion of the shadow foreign secretary Douglas Alexander, on the reform is that it will be a beneficial one but he also said that “the idea that you put a gun to the head of your European partners, that you stand in the departure lounge shouting at 26 other members of the EU as a way to get those changes, doesn’t make sense to me”.

Some EU critics claim that the proposal made by Cameron will probably not go far enough while others applauded his approach. The mayor of London Boris Johnson described this speech as “bang on” which would present “a chance to get a great new deal for Britain- that will put the UK at the heart of European trade but that will also allow us to think globally”.

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QC’s vs Junior Lawyers in criminal trials

Today the justice secretary said that QC’s are definitely not the best choice for criminal defence because they are being paid by the legal aid budget and it needs serious cuts.

He had the option to state his opinion on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme saying less expensive lawyers were much more suitable in such cases.

He said: ‘If you look at the daily rate for a senior QC it can be between £1,300 and £2,000. For somebody who’s going to become a QC in a month’s time, it’s just over half that amount.”

In his words there are many other lawyers who are almost as experienced as QC’s so there should be no problem if these protect criminals.

Grayling said: ‘The reason I’m starting this discussion, and I’ll be talking to the Bar Council and others, is that in some cases we’re now spending £500,000 or more on legal fees.’

The bar chair, Maura McGowan, is on the opposite opinion mentioning that according to her such cuts may turn out to be damaging. She compared the situation to one in which a junior doctor with no experience decides he might perform a complex surgery.

As the Bar Council has been without a chief executive since David Hobart changed his position, it has now begun searching one.

There is an advertisement in The Sunday Times saying: ‘Strong candidates will be proven general managers with considerable financial acumen.”

Cuts on the Legal Aid Budget

According to the words of the Justice Secretary Chris Grayling as legal aid covers the costs of accused criminals they should not be offered to use top-rate lawyers.

He talked on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme with the idea of stating that these people should not use expensive QC’s when less experienced and much cheaper lawyers are able to do the same job.

He proposed than junior lawyers should defend such criminals explaining that this would cut some of the costs from the legal aid budget.

“The question is, can we really afford so often to use people who are paid such an additional higher rate compared with somebody’s who’s nearly as experienced, who’s a seriously competent barrister, who will become a QC one day if they choose to do so? The reason I’m starting this discussion, and I’ll be talking to the Bar Council and others, is that in some cases we’re now spending £500,000 or more on legal fees.”

Critics, on the other hand, showed their concerns that such cuts will mean worse outcomes for the people who cannot afford legal representation and these will have no access to justice at all.

The current budget for legal aid suffered changes and has already been slashed but most probably some new reductions are on their way.

Martha McGowan, the Chairman of the Bar Council, said Grayling’s decision was wrong and it could be compared to a trainee doctor carrying out a complicated surgery.

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