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Monthly Archives: August 2010

Data potection policy and your business

Data protection plays a key role in today’s business world. So it is good to know whether your business is under any obligation to comply with data protection legislation.

The Data Protection Act 1998 lays down a number of important principles which govern how personal data is collected, held and processed by businesses. Many businesses comply with the legislation without even realizing it. However, it is very easy to fall foul of the Data Protection Act in the absence of a fixed Data Protection Policy.

Have a look at the checklist designed by Information Commissioner’s Office as this can help you comply with the Data Protection Act.

Given the vast quantities of data held by businesses regarding their employees it is crucial to consider the issue of data protection from an employer’s perspective. A typical Employee Data Protection Policy will clearly set out the data protection obligations of an employer and lay down a number of organisational and procedural measures to ensure compliance with the Act. The rights and obligations for employees (as data subjects) should also be included in such a policy document.

Not all data within an organisation remains internal. It is common for businesses to outsource their data collection and processing to third parties. Employees’ data will frequently be passed on to trade unions and the providers of benefits such as pensions and private healthcare. To cover this eventuality, many Employee Data Protection Policies go beyond the organisation itself and address the obligations of such third parties.

 So what happens if you do not comply with the Data Protection Act? You as a “data controller” can be found criminally liable (i.e. for failure to comply with Commissioner’s notice; providing false information). Also managers and employees can be personally liable. While you might be prepared to pay a fine, you might want to reconsider putting a Data Protection Policy in place to avoid negative publicity that could destroy your business.

Absent from work on Friday 13th?

 

It is Friday 13th today. So what does this mean to you? How will this affect your business?

 

If you are not that superstitious, it may come as a surprise to you that according to the “Stress Management Center and Phobia Institute” in Asheville, North Carolina, an estimated 17 to 21 million people in the United States are affected by fear of this day.  It has been noted that some people can get so paralyzed by fear and cannot go about their daily lives. Some people cannot turn up for work; take flights or even get out of bed.  There are even estimates that in the US about $800 or $900 million is lost in business on this day. Also, a British Medical Journal study has shown that there is a significant increase in traffic-related accidents on Friday 13th.

 

So how do you feel about Friday 13th? Perhaps you are one of those people who suffer with paraskevidekatriaphobia (fear of Friday 13th). In that case, you should know that an Absence Self-Certification Form could be used by an employee to provide details of any sickness absence to their employer. The Absence Self-certification Form incorporates a section for the purpose of stating whether the absence was related to a disability under the Disability Discrimination Act. This is in order to make it easier for the employer to distinguish between general absence/illness and disability related absence, and to avoid any unintentional discrimination that may otherwise occur.

 

The employer, on the other hand, may want to conduct a return to work interview to discuss an employee’s Friday 13th absence. A Return to Work Form is usually used during this interview.  You can check your company’s Sickness and Absence Policy to see whether it will conduct a to discuss absence and illness or not.

Fearing work on Friday 13th?

 

Flexible Working hours during Ramadan 2010

With the upcoming month of Ramadan employers in the UK may expect that some of their employees will observe the obligatory fast during the sunlight hours. Fasting involves abstinence from food, drink, chewing and smoking from dawn till dusk. At dusk, Muslims traditionally break their fast with dates and water before proceeding to eat a meal.

Some of the Muslim employees that observe the fast may want to request a change to their working hours during Ramadan, from 12th August until 12th September 2010. This means that the employee may want to start and finish their working day early to cope with the tiredness associated with fasting. This may be a welcome arrangement, not only for many employees observing the fast during Ramadan but also for the employers who can ensure that the employee is given support to carry out his or her job to the full capacity.

Typically, a Flexible Working Policy is designed to help ensure that employers comply with the obligations imposed on them by law, in respect of their employee’s right to ask for flexible working hours.
Some Flexible Working Policies can also provide employers with the option of exceeding their legal obligations, if they wish to, by granting the right to request flexible working to all employees.

While some people never request special treatment when they observe a religious fast, an employer may want to confirm this arrangement in a Flexible Working Decision Letter.

 

Would your Flexible Working Policy cover such request or would you deal with this on more informal level?

Patents – how to go about it in the UK?

Patents are highly valuable assets. In common with other assets, patents can be sold in their entirety (assigned) or licensed, subject to whatever terms and conditions the parties may wish to agree upon. Under Section 30(6)(a) of the Patents Act 1977, if a patent is assigned, the assignment must be done in writing and must be signed by, or on behalf of the assignor.

A Patent Assignment document should provide for the transfer of patent ownership (and other intellectual property rights if you so wish). The terms of a patent assignment agreement can allow for the assignment of a single patent or multiple patents.

When assigning a patent, certain formalities in addition to the agreement itself must be observed. As soon as is reasonably possible (and no later than six months) after the assignment of the patent is complete, a Form 21 must be completed and submitted to the Intellectual Property Office along with a fee of £50. Form 21 and all other patent forms are available from the Intellectual Property Office website.

A number of undertakings on the part of the assignor should be provided for in an assignment, including the obligation to assist the assignee in practical and legal matters relating to the assigned patents. Warranties should be also provided, ensuring the validity of the assignment and providing reassurance for the assignee.

The patents are referenced in the document and must be defined in a schedule. Great care should be taken when completing the schedule. Full and complete details of the patent(s) to be assigned should be included to the extent that it should be possible to obtain all information necessary concerning the patent(s) relevant to the assignment from the schedule alone without further reference to additional documents.

Credibility for your business

Clear communication with customers, suppliers, business partners, banks, employees and other stakeholders is essential for success in any business. This applies especially to start-ups when they are establishing themselves on the market and building up their customer network.

A skilled tradesman may know the business more than anyone.However when it comes to creating legal documents such as agreements, contracts, invoices or letters the same person may struggle and omit any number of legal requirements.

Legal costs for start-up businesses are onerous. The average high street solicitor’s hourly fee is 200 +VAT. Not an expense a start-up will wish to budget for.

A simple and cost-effective solution to this problem is online legal document templates. This is an affordable resource for standard legal/business agreements and forms. There is a wide availability of contracts so specific industry requirements can be also met. (e.g. decorator’s terms and conditions, cleaners terms and conditions)

The price of some business document templates and forms can be considerably cheaper than solicitors. Comparing the prices you can come across really appealing offers.

Opting for the right service will also help you keep all your documents up-to-date. Reputable on-line providers of legal document templates regularly update their registered customers should any new legislation come into effect in connection with the downloaded documents.

Credibility is the key to your business success… don’t let typos and inexperience in document drafting trip you up. Don’t let solicitors’ costs prevent you from getting your business contracts, agreements and letters right.

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