How many of us have paid thousands of pounds in cash for that must have horse with our only proof being a handwritten receipt on the back of an old envelope that had been floating around at the bottom of our handbags for decades?  We are all to blame and unfortunately it is our equestrian culture that instils this happy go lucky philosophy in us all. 

However, when I tell you that on a daily basis I am contacted with equine law enquiries of which 90% relate to disputes and litigation you may think twice about how you deal with your transactions. My first question to any enquirer is ‘do you have any terms of your agreement written down’? The answer is always no and legally the majority of cases are relying on verbal agreements – ‘who said what’ – with nothing in black and white to support your case.

As litigation claims are on the increase, it is so important that you set your business up correctly from the start and by saying this I mean getting things in writing. Ok, I know this means spending more at the outset but the benefits outweigh the cost, as your risk of potential claims will be far lower.  By getting things in writing you have a formal written contract meaning both parties know exactly where they stand and in the event of a dispute, the contract should have the answer.  You will ultimately save time, stress and money in the long run by formerly recording transactions and having set procedures for dealing with them.

Livery yards need to ensure they have a master livery agreement (whether DIY, Part, Full or Working) in place before allowing new liveries and their horses on the yard.  Buyers and sellers of horses should complete sale / purchase contracts before completing a transaction, recording the price paid and disclosing in full any vices, diseases, behavioural problems with the horse. 

Professionals taking on horses to train should have a training agreement in place and in particular should ensure the horse is adequately insured for all eventualities. Most equestrian businesses employ one or more people – all employees are entitled to an employment contract and one should always be provided. Health and safety and employer liability should always be addressed with systematic records kept by an employer. Stud / nomination agreements need to record what has been agreed for a covering or artificial insemination – disputes frequently arise over whether ‘no foal, free return’ formed part of a verbal agreement.

Instructors and riding schools should have all pupils sign disclaimers – you cannot disclaim liability for personal injury, however, a disclaimer goes a long way in counter-acting any frivolous claims being made against you.  Grazing arrangements and tenancies need to be recorded by deed, otherwise landowners run the risk of people claiming permanent rights to land.

The equestrian industry is now a multi million pound industry in England and Wales and as such commerciality needs to come to the forefront.  If parties are unhappy to put things in writing, question whether you really want to do business with them!

For more information on equestrian contracts and factsheets please go to Daltons’ Solicitors Equine Law website at www.equinelawyer.co.uk   Alternatively please call equine lawyer Sarah Jordan

on 01730 262816

 

Don’t fall at the first fence

Equine owners and businesses alike are known for completing transactions on a handshake and by trust alone

Lawyer Sarah Jordan, pictured below investigates

Family business trusts aid the long-term growth of family firms

The Institute for Family Business (IFB) is calling for the simplification of the legislation on trusts and for HM Treasury to introduce a ‘family business trust’ to help family firms plan for succession and ensure the survival of the business

The IFB made its recommendations in a submission to the Office for Tax Simplification (OTS) for the department’s ongoing investigation into tax reliefs and their effect on the UK taxation system.

Grant Gordon, IFB director general, pictured above, said: “Failure to plan properly for succession is the biggest threat to the survival of family firms through the generations and trusts greatly help with the difficulties associated with the transition of ownership. When ownership succession is poorly managed it can jeopardise the growth prospects of an otherwise healthy company, putting jobs at risk.”

Many family businesses use trusts as a way to ensure stability in management and ownership particularly during the handing over of the business from one generation to another.

Changes to the Finance Act 2006 mean that it’s now more costly to create a trust than give an outright gift thus undermining the ability of business families to plan prudently using a trust.

The costs of compliance are also very high; it costs a six-figure-sum to review the tax status of a trust involving family business assets. Given that under the current regime this has to be done for tax purposes every decade compliance costs have increased dramatically.

The IFB has recommended to OTS that a road map for legislation is put in place to create a ‘family business trust’ which exempts business assets settled in it from tax charges and makes these trusts tax neutral. The association would also like to see the legislation simplified so that compliance costs are reduced.

Grant Gordon, added: “We welcome the efforts of HM Treasury to simplify the tax system and see the issue of trusts as one area where simplification would enormously benefit the chances of success for family enterprises.”

Five step plan for Government to encourage apprenticeships During National Apprenticeships Week (7-11 February 2011), the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) is urging the Government to lift the barriers to employment which stifle job creation to enable them to take on apprentices of all ages. 

More than two thirds (69%) of apprenticeships take place in small businesses that have fewer than 50 employees. The FSB believes that the Government can do five things to ensure that this figure is even higher as the Government looks to the private sector to help strengthen the economy. 

The FSB is calling on the Government to:

•Incentivise micro-businesses to take on apprentices through providing allocated funding and financial incentives – 37 per cent said this would help them take an apprentice on

•Make small businesses exempt from the ‘Time to Train' legislation, due to come into force in April 2011, to encourage firms to take on more staff and show the UK is open for business

•Give greater nationwide promotion of the Apprenticeship Training Agencies to help small businesses overcome the bureaucracy and red tape of taking on an employee

•Enable small firms to access apprentices through the supply chain if the business is trying to access a public sector contract

•Recognise that Group Training Associations provide an effective route for small employers to train apprentices and staff to their own requirements, and to ensure that Local Enterprise Partnerships work with these partners

John Walker, National Chairman, Federation of Small Businesses, said:  "Apprenticeships are valued very highly by small businesses, but Government must recognise that it is the burden of employment law combined with a lack of information and guidance that stops small firms from taking an apprentice on. 

"With recent unemployment figures showing that the total number of under-25s out of work reached 951,000 in the three months to November, it is time for action. We recognise that at a time of austerity not all businesses can receive financial incentives to take on an apprentice and that is why we are urging the Government to ensure that the smallest, micro-businesses still receive funding. 

"We also want to see the Time to Train legislation – due to come into force from April this year – scrapped for the smallest firms, as it just adds to the already burdensome employment legislation that a company has to get to grips with."

"Sector Skills Councils, as developers and issuers of Apprenticeship frameworks, recognise the importance of making it easier for small firms to recruit and train apprentices. All the research undertaken by the National Apprenticeship Service and the 23 Sector Skills Councils indicates that apprentices are a first class investment for a small business, in terms of profitability, improved customer service, and staff retention rates.

"We support the FSBs call for extra help to enable small businesses to take on more Apprentices, and in particular, see Group Training Associations as a highly effective way to provide support for small employers."

Bosses must follow legal process when disciplining staff

Small and medium-sized business owners are creating problems for themselves in the difficult trading environment by taking an unnecessarily tough line with late employees

Research by the Tribunal Service has revealed that one in six business owners are prepared to sack an employee for being late just two or three times.

With lateness costing British businesses £1.8bn every year it is clearly an issue that company owners need to take seriously but firms have been warned against taking action that will negatively impact staff morale and been reminded that there are legal procedures to which they must adhere.

Over the past year, employment tribunal cases have risen from 151,000 to 236,100 - a 56 % rise

Company owners must give documented, objective and fair warnings in writing and the employee must have the chance to correct any issues. In legal terms, being late for work comes under general misconduct and doesn't warrant dismissal for a first offence.

Business owners that don't follow the rules could end up at an Employment Tribunal and be ordered to reinstate or re-engage the employee in a similar post, or more commonly, give financial compensation to the employee.

The Tribunal Service has published figures showing a sharp increase in the number of employment tribunal cases brought against employers. Over the past year, employment tribunal cases have risen from 151,000 to 236,100 - a 56 % rise.

"If you want to dismiss an employee, follow the rules and avoid tribunal claims. Employment legislation is a minefield with many employers still unsure how to dismiss an employee properly. Employees should be given a verbal or written warning in the first instance," said Neeta Laing, left, head of employment at law firm, Lewis Hymanson Small.

"With many businesses still suffering as a result of the recession, consistently slow starters can add to the pressure and policies and procedures are often the last thing to be considered. However, it is vital the correct systems, procedures and advice are in place to protect employers from costly and unwanted tribunals."

 

Radical and wide-ranging employment tribunal reform will help support growth

Commenting on the announcement on the reform of employment tribunals and changes to unfair dismissal rules, David Frost, Director General of the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), said:

On Employment Tribunal “Employment Tribunals are one of the top business issues and we strongly welcome the Government’s move to reform the employment tribunal system. The current system wastes business time and money, and distracts employers from growing their businesses and creating much-needed jobs. In particular, the introduction of a fee for claimants will help to discourage spurious and baseless claims.”

On the new role for ACAS “We are pleased to see a new role for ACAS in viewing all claims before they even reach tribunal. This is a very positive step but must be accompanied with enough resource for ACAS to deal with new claims.”

On unfair dismissal “The changes to unfair dismissal from one to two years will be welcomed by employers as a sign that the Government is serious in their efforts to reduce red tape that inhibits business growth. However, this must be accompanied with more changes – on its own, this will not change the business view that employment law is weighted too far in favour of the employee.

“In his Budget, the Chancellor must announce further deregulatory measures and, in particular, re-assess plans to change the parental leave system twice in four years, amend flexible working legislation and remove the default retirement age.”