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Category : Legal contracts

Sign Here Please – Electronic Signatures and the Law

Whether your signature is an example of elegant calligraphy or of the scruffiest scribble, you have probably ‘signed here’ more times than you care to count. The 1677 Statute of Frauds required certain documents to be in writing and signed. This provision is still in force today.

But what of the documents being signed? Predications of the paperless office have become increasingly common over the past 100 years, particularly with the exponential growth of desktop and then mobile computing from the 1980s onwards. While a paperless business world is still, perhaps surprisingly, far from a reality, we are now closer than we have ever been before and think nothing of entire contracts being instantaneously transmitted from the other side of the world, ready for us to read on anything from a desktop computer to a smartphone.

Signing such a contract, though, often still catapults us back to 1677. Paper and biro might have replaced parchment and quill, but that all-important squiggle of ink on a physical page remains commonplace. Electronic signatures have been around for a while in various forms, but a question mark still hangs over them, particularly when it comes to important legal documents.

Clarification from the Law Commission

At last, clarification is at hand. Last month, the Law Commission confirmed that electronic signatures can be used to sign formal legal contracts under English law. Furthermore, the Law Commission has also confirmed that an electronic document is ‘in writing’ for legal purposes if it can be viewed on a screen in a legible form, and that deeds can both exist and be executed electronically.

Despite this, however, the Law Commission has said that there remains “a lack of clarity in the law” which is “discouraging businesses from executing documents electronically when it would be quicker and easier to do so”.

Law Commission Consultation on the Electronic Execution of Documents

With this in mind, the Law Commission has launched a formal consultation on electronic signatures and the electronic execution of documents. Specifically, the consultation seeks to:

“consider whether there are problems with the law around the electronic execution of documents and deeds (including deeds of trust) which are inhibiting the use of electronic documents by commercial parties and, if appropriate, consumers, particularly with regard to:

(a) Electronic signatures;
(b) Witnessing;
(c) Delivery…”

Following the consultation, the Law Commission will consider whether legislative or other changes are required to address these issues.

The consultation is open until 23 November 2018. Full details including a form to participate online are available on the Law Commission website.

Here at Simply-Docs, we are no strangers to electronic documents and if you’re here on our website, we suspect that neither are you. Do you distribute legal documents in electronic form? Do you use electronic signatures too, or do you prefer to execute documents using good old pen and paper? As always, we would love to hear from you in the comments below.

Zeroing in on Zero Hours Contracts?

According to the Office for National Statistics, over 900,000 employees in Britain are currently employed on zero-hours employment contracts. Zero-hours contracts often crop up in the news, and it’s fair to say that they’ve gotten something of a bad name – often not without good reason. Particularly with the rise of the gig economy, zero-hours contracts and other means of securing peoples’ labour without too much commitment have become very popular with some employers.

None of this is to say that the situation is settled, however, and some are now taking action to offer alternatives to their employees. McDonald’s, for example, recently offered fixed-hours contracts to its 115,000 zero-hours employees (according to the BBC, around 20% of employees at the Golden Arches have chosen to take the fixed-hours option. We certainly hope they’re lovin’ it).

On the political front, with a general election once again on our doorstep, the Labour Party’s 2017 manifesto includes a pledge to ban zero-hours contracts. The Liberal Democrats, while not planning to ban them, have pledged to create a formal right for zero-hours employees to request fixed contracts instead. The Conservative Party manifesto, on the other hand, is silent on zero-hours contracts themselves, but nevertheless emphasises the importance of protecting those working in the gig economy – a broad statement of policy to be sure, but one that arguably wouldn’t rule out future action on zero-hours contracts.

In October 2016, the government appointed Matthew Taylor, former policy chief to Tony Blair, and Chief Executive of the Royal Society of the Arts to lead a review of employment practices. Taylor has previously suggested improvements to zero-hours contracts including the payment of premium wages to zero-hours employees. As for the review, the deadline for the submission of evidence passed earlier this week, meaning that a final report shouldn’t be too far away. While the full results of the review have not yet been published, it is believed that Taylor will recommend a right for zero-hours employees to request fixed-hours contracts instead.

With such an emphasis on the negatives of zero-hours contracts, then, it may at first appear that the benefits are all one-sided, favouring only employers. While it is true that many employees prefer the certainty and security that zero-hours contracts simply can’t offer, there are those who like the flexibility that they provide. Indeed, according to a 2013 study (updated in 2015) by the Chartered Institute of Personnel Development, many zero-hours employees were happy with the arrangement and more content than their permanently-employed counterparts. Among the benefits, zero-hours contracts enable workers to take on a more diverse variety of work instead of being limited to one specialism or department. In other cases, they may facilitate a better work/life balance – ideal for those professionals that want to focus their energies on their families as well as their offices.

There is no question that zero-hours contracts have been used unfairly, and one may even be led to question whether their recent surge in popularity may have been buttressed by a government happy to see unemployment figures drop – even if the reality is that some of those who are “employed” have no work to do; but it is difficult to argue that the solution is simply to get rid of what can – when properly used – be a beneficial employment relationship for both employers and employees alike. What may be the better option for employers, then, is to offer employees a choice.

The future of the zero-hours contract may currently be a little uncertain; but for now at least, when used fairly and in the right circumstances, both employers and employees can benefit from their flexible nature. What’s more, thanks to the Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Act 2015, since 26th May 2015, exclusivity clauses in zero-hours contracts have been unenforceable, making them somewhat fairer than perhaps they once were.

To find out more about zero-hours contracts and to see whether they might have a place in your business, take a look at our Employment templates:

Zero Hours Contract
Zero Hours Policy
Zero Hours Employment Offer Letter
Casual Workers / Zero Hours Comparison

Does your business use zero-hours contracts? Perhaps you’re a professional that is on a zero-hours contract? We want to hear your thoughts. Not all zero-hours contracts deserve the bad rap, but with the election just around the corner, they’re in the spotlight again. Would you like to see them stick around as they are, reformed with restrictions designed to protect employees, or eliminated altogether?

6 of the Most Important Documents in World History

The world we live in today has been fundamentally shaped by the use of legally-bound documentation.

In fact, it’s safe to say that the majority of the most fundamental laws enforced across the modern world have been influenced and even directly dictated by documents created, agreed to, and signed decades and centuries ago.

Below we have listed just 6 of what we believe are amongst the most important documents in living memory; surviving to inspire modern-day laws, regulations and legal agreements within and between Western and European countries.

1. The Declaration of Independence

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On July 4th 1776, the United States of America was born. The Continental Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence, officially declaring the thirteen American colonies, then at war with Great Britain, as states no longer part of the British Empire.

The committee who drafted the Declaration included ex-Presidents Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin.

Bonus fact: John Hancock, the President of the Congress, signed the copy of the Declaration with a bold, pronounced signature, which led to  the modern-day synonym ‘John Hancock’ for ‘signature’.

 

2. Treaty of Versailles

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The Treaty of Versailles is one of the peace treaties declared at the end of the first World War, ending the state of war between Germany and the Allied Powers.

One of the provisions in the treaty required “Germany to accept the responsibility of Germany and her allies for causing all the loss and damage” during the war.

The Treaty required Germany to disarm, make territorial concessions, and pay compensation (equivalent to £284 billion in 2013) to numerous Central European countries; liberating many nationalities from German rule.

 

3. Magna Carta

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The Magna Carta is a Latin charter originally issued in 1215. It was the first document forced upon an English monarch to show that the royal family, too, is bound by the law of the land.

The document was integral in influencing the rule of constitutional law in English-speaking countries, offering particular inspiration during the creation of the United States Constitution.

Perhaps the most pivotal consequence of the Magna Carta was its requirement for monarchs to accept that “freemen” can only be punished according to the law of the land, a right that still exists today in Great Britain, the USA, and various other countries across the globe.

 

4. Germany’s WWII Surrender

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Germany’s “Instrument of Surrender” was the single document which officially, unconditionally ended World War II in Europe.

The document was signed on 8 May 1945 by representatives of the three armed services of the OKW and the Allied Expeditionary Force, together with the Supreme High Command of the Red Army, and French and US representatives.

This pivotal date is now known in the West as “Victory in Europe Day”.

 

5. Universal Declaration of Human Rights

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The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) is a declaration adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 10 December 1948, representing the first global adherence to a set of rights to which all people are entitled.

The document includes 30 articles which have been extracted and used in treaties, human rights instruments, constitutions, and laws on a global scale.

The UDHR is currently in practice in over 193 different countries worldwide, including African, Asian-Pacific, Eastern European, Latin American, Caribbean, and Western European countries.

 

6. Beveridge Report

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The Report of the Inter-Departmental Committee on Social Insurance and Allied Services, also known as the Beveridge Report, was a document instrumental in the founding of the United Kingdom’s “welfare state” after WWII.

The creation of the Report was chaired by William Beveridge, an economist who identified five “Giant Evils” in society which he believed were the source of its problems at the time: squalor, ignorance, want, idleness, and disease.

The Report proposed post-war reforms to address these evils, which formed the basis for the Welfare State as the UK knows it today; leading to the founding of the National Insurance system and the National Health Service (NHS).

Five Reasons Why Document Services Could be in Greater Demand Over the Next Few Months

UK businesses need access to a wide range of business documents throughout the year, but there are certain times when that need is greater than usual. Here we present five reasons why document services businesses may experience a surge in demand over the coming months.

#1 – Letters from HMRC

November 5th is the date from which employers will start receiving letters from the HMRC informing them of their obligations for filing tax documents for the 2012-2013 tax year. Though this is generally done using HMRC’s own forms and online systems, these letters also serve as a reminder to businesses that they need to get their financial records and other key business documents in order.

#2 – New hires for a new year

Many companies choose to recruit extra staff in January and February and for some this may push them from being a small firm to a larger one. In order to comply with employment law and keep their house in order they may then need a range of employment documents and legal contracts, from job application forms to equal opportunity policies.

#3 – Holidays

During December and January, many people choose to take additional holidays on top of their days off for Christmas and New Year. This extra demand for annual leave request forms and associated documents may provide a spur for businesses to acquire document templates to ease the workload.

#4 – Filing documents with Companies House

30th December is the date that limited companies are required to file their records with Companies House by for the year ending 31st March 2013. This may trigger a rise in demand for corporate document services.

#5 – New businesses

The beginning of a new year is a time when many people decide that it’s time to start a business. During this embryonic period, a wide range of document templates are needed.

SMEs Look Ahead to a Year of Growth

Small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are anticipating a year of growth in 2014, according to figures from Yorkshire and Clydesdale Banks, with 97% – 4.5 million SMEs in total – planning to invest in growth. The statistics make for promising reading for the UK economy, with SMEs often described as the lifeblood of the nation’s business sector as a whole, and build on reports of substantial new companies being launched in 2013.

Earlier in 2013, Direct Line noted the number of Brits who were launching businesses of their own as a way of boosting their income from a day job – around 800,000 new launches in local areas throughout the UK in the first half of the year. The insurer’s research found that 36% of people undertake some activity to boost their primary income each month, even if it only involves selling items on online auction sites, and across the board they average annual earnings of over £2,500.

For those going the extra mile to launch a new business as their primary means of employment, having all of the right legal contracts in place could help to protect any additional income earned, as well as to ensure there can be no doubt about customers’ obligation to pay for work done.

Looking to the future

Looking ahead to 2014 and the Cydesdale/Yorkshire Bank report, it seems many businesses are likely to need further business documents in place to ensure the legality of new recruitment measures or other types of expansion. The survey found an almost unanimous 97% of SMEs plan to invest in some way in their own expansion in 2014, with 60% saying they are doing so to keep pace with growing demand, reversing the effects you might expect to see due to austerity measures.

A majority (57%) said they are taking an optimistic approach to investing, putting funds into their business as they hope to see growth over the coming 12 months – and a reassuring 43% said they currently perceive no barriers of any kind to their investment.

Promisingly, while many SME managers face the challenge of performing both their primary task and all of the necessary admin, the main barriers to investment that were identified by the survey did not relate to red tape or burdensome paperwork. Instead, one in four SMEs were worried about the availability of funding, and 18% said their largest current challenge is finding new customers.

 Again, for those whose customer base is growing rapidly, paper client contracts are one way to ensure that the level of service that is required is set out from the start, along with any specific rules regarding payment. SMEs venturing into employing a workforce for the first time, as their order books become overwhelming for an individual, should also ensure they have contracts of employment in place that spell out employees’ duties, any obligations regarding confidentiality of data, and potential grounds for dismissal.

With this kind of focus on any issues that arise during investment and expansion, SMEs can protect themselves against unwanted shocks, and give themselves the best possible chance of capitalising on the potential of the coming 12 months. In amongst all this enthusiasm for business and entrepreneurial spirit, the importance of getting the paperwork right must never be underestimated.

Why Job Application Forms Are the Best Option For Recruiting New Personnel

Recruiting new staff is an integral part of running a small business. Indeed, you cannot hope to operate a competitive business if you do not have the right personnel in key positions to help make good things happen.

Like most other employers in the UK, you may well see employment application forms as being an integral part of the recruitment process. The key strength of job application forms is that they don’t just furnish you with pertinent information about prospective employees; they enable you to view it in a truly uniform format. This means that you can compare and contrast candidates’ credentials completely impartially (this is nowhere near as easy to do when looking through CVs and cover letters).

Of course, this is not the only benefit. Indeed, relying on application forms to recruit new staff also affords employers one other key advantage – peace of mind.

The fact that employment application forms require applicants to sign a declaration that confirms all of the information they have provided is true is often very reassuring to potential employers. A signed declaration means that you have a document which can serve as evidence of the claims made by an employee or potential employee.

Any background checks via references can be very useful in this day and age, as the increasingly competitive nature of the job hunting market as well as the relative scarcity of jobs in some sectors is encouraging more and more applicants to be “flexible” with the details of their credentials and work history.

So, now that you know why application forms are the best option for recruiting new staff, you simply need to make sure you have some suitably comprehensive variants of your own to hand when you next need to fill a vacancy.

Fortunately this is very easy to achieve when you come to us here at Simply-Docs, as we have a wide array of employment application form templates available for you to download from the Employment Document Folder here on our website. These high-quality templates have been designed by expert legal teams and HR professionals so you can be sure they will capture all of the pertinent information which you, as an employer, need to garner from prospective employees. In addition, all of our application form templates are compliant with current employment legislation so you can rest assured that this element of the recruitment processes will adhere fully to the Equality Act 2010.

To find out more and view samples of our high-quality document templates and legal forms, simply take a few moments to browse our pages.

Why Your Fledgling Small Business Needs To Provide Comprehensive Employment Contracts

Running a small business isn’t for the faint hearted. Starting a fledgling enterprise from nothing and then developing it into a fully functional company that is profitable and competitive takes a huge amount of effort.

Of course, there are a lot of legal issues to consider when undertaking a task of this kind, so it is important to make yourself fully aware of any and all legal aspects which may affect the way your company operates.

Although there are a great deal of issues that will need your attention (company formation, insurance and health & safety, to name but a few), arguably the most important legal aspects of all are those which pertain to your employees. After all, if you aren’t able to recruit and retain personnel, your business prospects could be hindered.

As an employer, you are legally obliged to provide all of your employees with a “written statement of employment particulars” within two months of their start date. This statement can be included in an employment contract.

But how do you go about this exactly?

Well you could take the path which many people looking for a solution take these days and use an online search engine to find a website which will let you download employment contract templates for free. However, you need to be very careful when going down this route as many of these offerings will not cover particular aspects which you, as an employer, need to include in your contracts.

With this in mind you may well find it more beneficial to come to us here at Simply-Docs. Whilst our contracts, templates and other documents are not free to download, they are guaranteed to be fully compliant with the latest legislation and they should be comprehensive enough to meet your needs. In essence, this means that you will be able to provide your employees with legal contracts that will specify their exact duties and responsibilities. This is important as, unlike a generic contract, it will ensure each and every person working for you is 100 percent aware of what is expected of them.

All of our contracts and templates have been drafted by legal professionals who are experts in their fields so you can be sure that any documents you download from us will fully address the particular needs of the roles they represent, as well as reinforce the staff seniorities which are implicit in the titles of the contracts.

As well as our comprehensive employment contracts and templates, you may also find our Staff Handbook Policies to be an invaluable addition to your business as they can provide your company with employment policies and documents which will help to ensure your contracted staff members comply fully with your firm’s employment regulations and codes of conduct.

To find out more and view samples of our high-quality offerings in greater detail, simply take a few moments to browse our web pages.

Benefits Of Using Document Templates

Like many other business owners, you may well have heard about the advantages of using downloadable document templates. Indeed, you may well have heard how templates of this kind enable users to create professional documents that have a unified and cohesive appearance. You may even know that templates used for these purposes can help business organisations of all sizes to exude a more corporate image.

However, these advantages are just the tip of the iceberg. The fact is that downloadable templates are able to provide business owners operating in all industries with a whole host of invaluable benefits.

The following are two of the most significant.

 

More Efficient Use of Time
Of course, staple documents like business correspondence, agreements and contracts are likely to be very important to your business. However, it is a fact that writing, editing and printing individual variants of these forms takes time. In addition, document creation – especially in small businesses – is often delegated to employees who would otherwise be carrying out their primary duties. This is hardly ideal as it forces workers to take time away from tasks which are likely to be more vital to your firm’s immediate business needs than proofreading forms! Templates can be invaluable in this respect as using ready-made documents saves a lot of time and hassle.

 

Simplified Document Creation
An important benefit of template services is that they provide your business with a comprehensive framework which gives you access to any files you may need, thereby simplifying the task of generating documents considerably. Indeed, making use of these kinds of template services enables you to effortlessly personalise any kind of document to suit your needs. Naturally this can be incredibly beneficial if your operation requires you to generate large numbers of documents.

Using a document template service gives you access to hundreds of ready-made documents which you can easily amend and alter to suit your needs.

So now that you know all about the chief benefits of using templates, you simply need to find a provider that offers a truly wide array of templates to download for ultra-competitive prices.

Fortunately for you, you’ve already found us!

Simply-Docs has an outstanding portfolio of legal and business document templates which is divided into five separate document folders – Business, Corporate, Employment, Health & Safety and Property – each of which contains a wide selection of templates for business contracts, agreements, forms, policies, statements and letters.

Subscribing to our service provides you with unlimited access to download any and all templates available from one or more folders for one whole year. For the price of a single document, you can download hundreds of templates, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Moreover, we always ensure our professionally drafted templates are kept updated so you can be sure your chosen documents will be in line with the latest legislation.

Taking advantage of our simple to use and very affordable template service will provide you with benefits which will help you grow your business.

Dealing with worker grievances

One of the most challenging aspects of running a company is personnel management. By their very nature, people are complex entities and making sure they are happy and productive in their roles isn’t always easy.

Complicating matters further, there is a raft of employment legislation in place these days designed to protect people from mistreatment in the workplace. These laws have helped to improve conditions for employees considerably and they serve an important purpose. However, if you’re not careful, you can quickly end up on the wrong side of law as an employer.

Why take the risk?

The good news is that help is at hand. There is plenty of legal guidance available as long as you know where to look and, by taking advantage of this, you can help prevent problems from arising and deal with any issues if they arise in the most effective manner.

Here at Simply-Docs we appreciate the pressures on firms when it comes to employment law and we offer a range of legal documents that might interest you. For a very small investment, you could access our templates and potentially avoid a considerable amount of hassle.

Some facts

At some point, all businesses have to deal with employee grievances and disciplinary matters. No matter how careful you are when it comes to selecting personnel and managing them, there are bound to be occasions when things go wrong.

Grievances can be defined as problems, concerns or complaints that workers wish to raise. All organisations must have written disciplinary and grievance rules and procedures in place that comply with the ACAS Code of Practice. It’s vital that you follow these rules and treat your staff members fairly.

The simple fact is, if you fail to do this, you may find yourself subject to long and costly legal proceedings. As well as hitting your bottom line, this could damage your reputation.

Our templates

On the face of it, guarding against legal action like this can seem like a daunting task. However, as long as you adhere to the rules, you can avoid problems.

Our Employment Document Folder should contain all the documents you need to help keep you on the straight and narrow. For example, it includes grievance procedures, disciplinary policies, dismissal procedures, suspension policies and letters, qualification disputes, appeal notices and more.

A harmonious environment

By making sure that you’re fully aware of your rights and responsibilities and by being fair and clear in your handling of any disputes with personnel, you can help ensure your working environment remains as harmonious as possible.

Find out more

If you’re intrigued by our employment documents and want to find out more about them, just take a look around our website or get in touch by email or telephone.

It’s also worth noting that we offer a variety of other documents. For example, perhaps you’d benefit from our standard terms and conditions template or maybe our accident book template will be of interest.

Accessing these documents may be cheaper than you think, and they could make your life much easier.

Plenty to think about when setting up a new company

Setting up a new company can be an exciting time. The thought of being your own boss and realising your ambitions is a tantalising prospect and, if you’re successful, you stand to reap potentially significant financial rewards.

However, there’s no getting around the fact that you’ve got plenty of hard work ahead of you and there is plenty to think about. Particularly if you’ve got little or no experience of company formation, you’ll have a steep learning curve to negotiate.

Help is at hand

The good news is that help is at hand. By using the starting up and company formation documents we provide here at Simply-Docs, you should find the process easier. These business documents are constructed in Word in a stable format and they can be edited to suit the needs of your business.

Whether you’re setting up as a sole trader, creating a private company limited by shares or teaming up to form a partnership, our documents will help guide you through each stage of the process.

Peace of mind

Having these business documents templates at your disposal can really boost your peace of mind. You’ll know that you’re following the right track and can rest assured that they are user-friendly and professionally drafted.

Getting your hands on the resources requires a small amount of expenditure, but this should prove to be a great investment. Not only will the documents make your life easier, they will also help you avoid mistakes that could cause you hassle and expense further down the line.

Research your market

Of course, there are lots of other issues to think about too. For example, before you commit too much time and energy to the project, it’s crucial that you research your market to establish whether or not your idea is viable. Talk to potential customers and find out if there is indeed a niche in the market.

You could also test your product or service with real customers and adapt it until you’re certain there is demand for it.

Getting funding

You’ll also need to think carefully about how to finance your venture. Without sufficient funding, your fledgling company won’t stand a chance.

There are a number of options. Perhaps you’re in a position to fund your new firm yourself, or maybe you’ll need business finance or a bank loan. Alternatively, perhaps you’ll be keen to take advantage of government-backed schemes.

Your premises

Then there are your business premises to consider. Depending on the nature of the company you’re planning to set up, you might be able to use your home as a base initially. This will help minimise your overheads.

If you need to take premises on, you’ll need to think about whether to rent or buy, and find a property that’s within budget, in the right location and has all the resources you need.

Find out more

If you’re interested in the corporate documents we have to offer and think they may be able to help you, just take a look around the relevant section of our website.

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