At Rocket Lawyer, we want to change things by making legal services affordable, simple and available to more people than ever before. I’m proud to say that we’ve been able to build a service that millions of people rely upon. Every day we spend our time and resources making it easier for people to get the legal help they need, so they can focus on what’s really important.
Cannabidiol (CBD) is a compound found in cannabis and CBD oil is derived from the plant’s secretions.
Across the world, the laws relating to anything connected with marijuana seem to be in a continual state of flux. Therefore, it has to be clearly stated that any information regarding the current state of the laws regarding marijuana or its derived products is very much subject to change. That said, here is a brief snapshot of the current laws relating to CBD oil in the UK.
CBD products made from hemp are legal but require licensing to be advertised as medicine
Hemp or industrial hemp in the EU contains less than 0.2% THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and is therefore outside the remit of the 1971 Misuse of Drugs Act. It is therefore perfectly legal to sell hemp-based CBD products. It is, however, illegal to advertise such products as medicine unless they are licensed by the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency.
As a result, many hemp-based CBD products are advertised as cosmetics or nutritional supplements, rather than medicines. There are, however, some niche retailers who legally produce medical-grade CBD oil with the appropriate licencing.
In principle, CBD oil with more than 0.2% THC is available by prescription
Since November 1st, 2018, specialist doctors in the mainland UK (excluding Northern Ireland) have been legally permitted to prescribe cannabis-based medicines with THC content more than 0.2%. This change, however, has not satisfied campaigners who have highlighted the fact that, in reality, there are so many barriers to obtaining a legal prescription that the law actually has a very little meaningful benefit.
Based on media coverage and activity at sites such as ‘change.org’ it seems reasonable to assume that the government will be placed under pressure to take further steps to make cannabis-based medicines more widely accessible. Given the international trend towards legalising cannabis-based medicines (or at least decriminalising them) it is entirely possible that this law may be updated if not in 2019 then at least in the near future.
It is still illegal to import CBD oil with more than 0.2% THC without a valid prescription?
While EU rules mandate that goods must be allowed to move freely within member states, there is an exception to this for goods which are completely illegal in any given state. The logic behind this is that the member state in question is not unfairly protecting their own producers from competition, but simply banning a product (or service), for whatever reason they see fit.
Standard advertising/trades-description laws apply to legal CBD oil
As CBD oil has grown in popularity, there has been increasing concern that some vendors are misleading consumers regarding the quality of their products, for example by over emphasising the CBD content of hemp oil and thus implying that it is, essentially, the same as CBD oil. There have even been allegations of vendors infusing standard vegetable oils with some quantity of CBD and marking this as being equivalent to CBD oil. These kinds of tactics are entirely illegal and would be subject to the same penalties as would be applied to any other form of misleading advertising.
From a legal perspective, the manufacturer of electrical goods is the entity which is primarily responsible for designing and manufacturing equipment so that it complies with the safety requirements of the Electrical Equipment (Safety) Regulations 1994.
Understanding the concept of safety
In simple terms, it should be in the highest degree unlikely that an item of electrical equipment should cause injury to humans or domestic animals or damage to property. For practical purposes, this means that it needs to be constructed according to sound engineering principles and, in particular, that it needs to provide sufficient protection against electric shock. This may be achieved through the use of earthing or insulation (or both) or by any other means which can reasonably achieve this purpose.
Accepted standards and safety
Various bodies have set out standards relating to the safety of electrical equipment and an article of electrical equipment which complies with these standards can be presumed to be safe. These standards include: harmonized standards (agreed by the national standards bodies of EU member states); international standards (set down by the International Electrotechnical Commission) and national standards, (set down by a standard body in the UK or in another EU member state but not agreed by EU members as a whole).
The hierarchy of standards
Manufacturers of electrical equipment should aim to look for relevant standards using the hierarchy listed above. If none of the standards bodies above has published a standard which is relevant to the item of electrical equipment which is being manufactured, the manufacturer may still proceed to manufacture the item but must take all reasonable steps to ensure that the product is safe to use per the above definition of safe. This allows manufacturers to produce innovative electrical items which might not (yet) be covered by published standards.
The fact that something is possible does not necessarily mean that it is recommended and manufacturers in this situation might want to have their product assessed for safety by a notified body. While this might add on extra time to the pre-market process it could be time well spent if the relevant body picks up on something you’ve missed. It could also prove valuable if your product is challenged by an enforcement authority.
The requirement for appropriate documentation
The law requires manufacturers of electrical equipment to provide substantial documentation for their goods. In simple terms, this documentation must describe the item, give full and accurate details about its design, manufacture and operation and explain how the manufacturer has concluded that it complies with the relevant standards (or, at the very least, has been confirmed to be safe). Even if the equipment is manufactured outside the EEA, the supporting documentation must be kept within the EEA so that it is easily accessible to relevant authorities, and it must be stored for at least ten years after the related equipment has ceased to be produced.
Mentalhealth.org also went on to estimate that up to 70 million days are lost each year as a result of mental health problems in the workplace. This figure is said to cost employers approximately £2.4 billion every year.
With that in mind, it’s essential to understand mental health and have a plan in place to identify and support your employees who might be experiencing mental ill health.
Understanding mental health
When your employees are physically and mentally healthy, they’re able to be more productive and be better engaged with your company and brand.
Unfortunately, the stigma around mental health has made it so that some employers feel that they’d be uncomfortable talking to their employees about their mental health. This leads employees to feel like they shouldn’t feel the way they feel and they’ll be judged by colleagues or management if they share their experience.
Mental ill health is very common and understanding it can make all the difference to your organisation. Creating an encouraging environment where workers feel comfortable talking about mental health can have a positive impact on your company.
Employees with good mental health are more productive, engaged and loyal to your company. You’re also more likely to retain employees when they know that the company culture promotes positive mental health.
When your staff feel like they’re not able to talk to their managers or colleagues about problems that they may be having, they’re more likely to come into work when they’re too ill to effectively carry out the duties required of them.
This also leads to issues surrounding employees of staying at work longer than usual or even when they are ill, just to show the employer that they work hard and are important, as well as some health and safety concerns.
When mental ill health is left untreated, it can cause secondary symptoms. Examples include depression, mood swings, lack of care for physical health, withdrawal symptoms and more.
It also entitles workers to reasonable adjustments to enable them to carry out their job. This is intended to level the playing field by removing barriers to doing their job due to the effects of their mental health.
Some examples of reasonable adjustments include changing work patterns, providing special equipment or making alternative plans for client meetings.
Talking about mental health at work
There’s a number of things that can be done at work to encourage employees to join in the conversation about mental health.
While it can take some time to change the organisation’s culture, there are steps that you could take to promote positive mental health and to open up discussions around mental health. This includes:
Promoting wellbeing: Adjustments to company culture can boost employee wellbeing and engagement. Try to embed mental health into your company induction and employee training. Educate them on managing mental health, provide them with resources that could offer support when needed.
Involve staff in decision-making: There’s a link between employee engagement and their wellbeing. A mind.org survey on work-related stress shows that more than one in five employees has called in sick to avoid going into work when they feel stressed. 30% of the same employees also feel that they aren’t able to talk to their employers or managers if they were feeling stressed.
Involving staff members in the decision making process within an organisation increases motivation and helps them understand how their role fits into the overall objectives of the business. Using employee surveys, focus groups, diversity networks, team retreats and more, you’ll be able to get an idea of the areas within the business that contribute to employees’ mental ill health.
Company Culture: Regular discussions with staff members about their mental health goes a long way to creating a culture of openness. Consider setting a recurring meeting where employees can talk about their wellbeing and issues that may be causing stress.
Work/life balance: Promoting a healthy balance between employees’ work life and personal life has a positive impact on their wellbeing. While longer working hours may seem manageable at first, you may begin to notice a decline in employee productivity if maintained long-term. Consider encouraging your staff to work sensible hours, take some time off to rest after a busy period at work and to avoid working at weekends and home.
For too long now, tiresome and difficult court battles have been a part of every personal injury case, and these proceedings can often take their toll on claimants who are forced to face the defendant and rehash the unpleasant past. Thankfully, however, as society progresses, so does the law – so much so that claimants are now seeking out alternative routes to court proceedings in the form of mediation when it comes to settling their personal injury claims.
Historically, mediation services have been most commonly used in family law to resolve conflicts, but in 2019, we can expect to see the rise of mediation in a number of different areas of law – more predominantly personal injury law.
No longer will claimants have to satisfy an antiquated legal system through demanding court proceedings which very often add to the already almost insufferable stresses of the individual. Instead, mediation services will allow the claimant to reach a fair settlement which gives them the ability to carry on living comfortably after their losses. All of this will happen without them having to bring their case in front of a judge.
Mediation is focused around the individual claimant, their needs and their loss post-injury. The human element to the service gives the defendant the chance to apologise for their actions – something that they may not necessarily be given the time or opportunity to do in court.This can something be very beneficial for the claimant and their psychological and mental recovery.
It isn’t just the human approach that makes mediation such a popular alternative to traditional court proceedings for personal injury claims, but also the vast range of benefits that the service boasts, including costs and flexibility.
Instead of gathering numerous people together – from lawyers to medical professionals to witnesses – for a lengthy and expensive trial, mediation requires a far smaller number of relevant parties together upon a settlement which helps to significantly reduce both costs and the time taken to settle a case. When taking advantage of mediation services, claimants are also able to choose a mediator who is not only suited to their unique claim but also their budget.
By replacing a traditional court trials with mediation – or at the least, respecting mediation as a viable alternative in personal injury law – one would hope to see cases being settled within a shorter timescale at reduced costs. This will also allow both the claimant’s and the defendant’s solicitors to work towards a common goal of rehabilitation and compensation via an interactive process with the help of a neutral third party.
To conclude, the use of mediation in personal injury law, although a recent introduction, has already proven itself as a key alternative to trial. Costs alone are a driving factor for many claimants, and with a whole host of benefits, mediation in the personal injury sector is only set to increase in the following years.
Generally speaking, sales between one private individual and another work on the basis of ‘caveat emptor’ let the buyer beware. This means that the buyer alone is responsible for checking the quality and suitability of goods/services before a purchase is made. Property sales, however, are an exception to this rule of thumb and it is important to be aware of your legal responsibilities as a seller to avoid any possibility of being sued later.
Disclosure needs to be made via the Property Information Form (TA6)
It’s not remotely enough just to mention something verbally to a prospective buyer. Disclosure needs to be made via the legally-recognised means, which is currently the Property Information Form (TA6). Read the accompanying explanatory notes as well.
Ignorance is not necessarily an excuse
When it comes to property disclosure law, the relevant test is not necessarily whether or not a claimant can prove that you knew something, but whether or not it would be reasonable to assume that you either knew it or should have known it.
You need to disclose both practical and emotional issues (or potential issues)
In basic terms, you need to disclose anything which could cause a reasonable buyer to reconsider their decision to buy your property, or at least to do so at the agreed price. While it may seem obvious that you need to disclose any practical issues with your property and it may also be fairly evident that you need to disclose any forthcoming changes to your neighbourhood which might have an impact on the property, but it may be less obvious that you also need to disclose anything which might cause your house to be considered “stigmatised property”. This is a U.S. term but the basic concept also applies in the UK. Basically, it means that sellers must disclose anything which might have an emotional impact on the average buyer.
Some practical examples of points to disclose
Structural defects in the property.
Anything related to planning permission (approvals granted, pending requests or previous denials).
Anything related to pest control, including any pest-control measures taken in the past. In this context, pest-control means not only vermin, but also Japanese Knotweed.
Problem neighbours, if you know that your neighbour has an Anti Social Behaviour Order (ASBO), then you absolutely must disclose this. Other issues are more a matter of common sense, although the guiding principle is that if you are in any doubt as to whether or not something should be disclosed, then you probably should disclose it and disclose it accurately.
High crime rates.
Flight paths in your vicinity.
Proposed environmental changes which could impact on the enjoyment of the property.
You must make the buyer aware of any violent deaths which took place in your property and also of any suicides.
Expected to roll out in 2020 the earliest, Making Tax Digital (MTD) is an HMRC scheme that will require businesses to do all their taxes online. Making Tax Digital for VAT will be the first one to become mandatory, with your first full VAT quarter under MTD starting after 1 April 2019.
This digitisation will be relevant to all VAT-registered businesses who have a VAT-eligible turnover. This is currently set at £85,000. Businesses that fall into this category will have to move over to HMRC-compatible accounting software by spring 2019.
Making Tax Digital means big changes for SMEs. Companies will have to start using accounting software and are discouraged from relying on spreadsheets, where cell values can easily be changed. However, there will be a 12-month “soft landing period” when you can still copy paste data from a spreadsheet into your accounting software.
Using accounting software can be a notable added cost to small businesses. However, digitising taxation will be more effective and efficient, and you’re more likely to get your taxes right on the first try. The government expects the automation of taxes to reduce errors and generate more revenue.
Following a Government consultation into ‘no-fault’ divorce in December 2018, both family lawyers and the general public alike are now eagerly awaiting the response to the consultation which will determine whether the current grounds for divorce are to be modernised.
The Government recognised that divorce laws needed to be adapted to reflect modern society and a modern family unit, and subsequently a consultation was called for.
Should the consultation sway in the favour of modernisation, divorcing couples will no longer have to play the ‘blame game’ throughout divorce proceedings, but instead will be able to divorce on fairer grounds where the court takes a supportive and sensitive approach to the process.
As UK divorce law currently stands, divorcing couples must be able to prove the irretrievable breakdown of a marriage and assign fault through convincing and satisfying the court of one or more of five facts that demonstrate the failure of the marriage.
Pitting partners against one and other makes the already distressing process of divorce extremely upsetting for all those involved, and encouraging conflict via an antiquated system could have adverse effects not only on the mental health of each party, but also on the wellbeing of the couple’s child or children. However if a no-fault divorce system is introduced, conflict amongst estranged couples will be reduced due to the fact that unfair legal requirements will no longer need to be satisfied.
Highly publicised divorce cases, such as Owens v Owens, have drawn the public’s attention to the current state of divorce laws in England and Wales, which in turn has drummed up support for campaigns that call for change. Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice, David Gauke, explains how Tini Owen’s case against her husband, and other cases alike, have generated broader questions about what the law requires of those going through divorce.
It isn’t just a potential no-fault divorce system that is in the public eye, with the consultation also focusing on other changes such as reducing the length of time a separated couple must wait until divorcing, as well as removing a partner’s right to contest a divorce. Although the changes are still subject to the response of the consultation, the proposals are nevertheless encouraging for both family lawyers and separating couples.
As a no-fault divorce system increasingly resonates as a real possibility within divorce law, many have shown their support for the change, including former Chair of Resolution, Nigel Shepherd, who states “with MPs from all main parties voicing their support for change, I hope that we will soon see reform that will help thousands of couples and parents avoid unnecessary conflict should their marriage or civil partnership sadly come to an end”.
Despite campaign efforts dating back to 1996 when part 2 of the Family Law Act proposed to introduce no-fault divorce into UK divorce law, 2019 could be the year that outdated laws are modernised. Until the 8th March however, it is simply a waiting game to see what the future holds for divorce laws in England and Wales.
2019 is the year of change for employment law, with 6 big changes on the horizon ranging from post-Brexit immigration rules to national minimum wage increases to parental bereavement pay. It’s going to be a busy year for employers when it comes to all the new changes, so let’s make sure you’re fully prepared by taking a look at the 6 big employment law changes we can expect to see in 2019.
Changes to Immigration Statuses Post-Brexit
Brexit has dominated the employment law scene in recent months, and that isn’t set to change in 2019 with new immigration statuses being introduced post-Brexit. Once the UK departs from the European Union – deal or no deal – free movement of EU nationals will come to an end, complicating employment laws further.
Change won’t happen overnight, but it is nevertheless important for employers to prepare for the new rules surrounding the employment of EU nationals. EU workers will be able to apply for a ‘settled status’, which gives them the right to live and work in the UK indefinitely if they have already lived in the country for a minimum of 5 years. EU nationals who haven’t lived in the UK for 5 years can apply for a ‘temporary status’ which allows them to live and work in the UK until they become eligible to apply for a settled status.
Going forward, employers need to be aware that the employment of EU nationals is likely to be subject to restrictions in the same way as the employment of foreign nationals is. Employers will need to adjust their recruitment processes to fall in line with new employment rules in order to be fully prepared for changes post-Brexit.
National Minimum Wage and National Living Wage Increases
From 1st April 2019, both the national living wage and the national minimum wage rates will increase. The changes are as follows:
National living wage to increase from £7.83 to £8.21 per hour
National minimum wage (for those aged 21 to 24) will increase to £7.70 per hour
National minimum wage (for those aged 18 to 20) will increase to £6.15 per hour
Apprenticeship pay will increase to £3.90 per hour
Executive Pay Gap Reporting
UK companies with more than 250 employees will be required to report the pay gap between company CEOs and employees, as well as reporting any difference in benefits. Although reporting isn’t set to start until 2020, it is important for employers to prepare well in advance.
More information on executive pay gap reporting will follow the Remuneration Report.
Second Gender Pay Gap Report
It isn’t just executive pay gaps under examination in 2019, but gender pay gaps also. Companies with more than 250 employees will be required to report their percentage pay gap annually, on either 31st March or 5th April depending on the sector in which they operate (March for those in the public sector and April for those in the private or voluntary sector).
The second report aims to scrutinise those companies who have made no effort to address gender pay gaps in the last 12 months since the initial report.
If you’ve not done so already then you need to prepare to publish your gender pay gap report, which will be published on both your own website and the government website.
Statutory Family and Sick Pay Rates to Increase
On the 7th April 2019, statutory family pay rates will increase to £148.68 per week, and will apply to maternity pay, paternity pay, adoption pay, shared parental pay and maternity allowance.
The weekly rates for statutory sick pay for employees are also expected to increase to £94.25 come April 2019.
Introduction of Parental Bereavement Leave and Pay
The government also plans to introduce parental bereavement leave and pay for employees in 2019. The proposal will give employees the right to take paid time off work following the death of their child. Parents will be given 56 weeks from their child’s death to take bereavement leave.
Bereaved parents will be able to take leave in three different forms:
A single two week period
Two separate periods of one week each
Or a single week
If you haven’t already introduced your own bereavement leave policy within the workplace, then you need to prepare for the changes in 2019.
With more employment law changes and developments in the pipeline, it is import that as an employer, you do the upmost to ensure all new laws are complied with, as well as notifying your employees to any changes to their employment rights. So keep your eyes peeled for these 6 big changes.
There are certain rules on data protection that each business must consider in order to ensure that they are compliant with UK law. However, the collection of data occurs long before a person is hired. How do companies gather such information? Is it legal? What can you do to ensure this data is not used inappropriately?
Whether it’s in the recruitment process or in the workplace, this post will detail what information potential employers or current employers may have on file and what your rights are to ensure that this data is protected.
What are the rules employers should follow?
The Data Protection Act of 2018 is legislation that protects the use of individuals’ personal information by the government, organisations and businesses. There are strict rules called the ‘data protection principles’ that must be complied with to ensure that those who have personal data act responsibly. Some of these principles are that data must:
be accurate and up-to-date
be used for specific lawful purposes, fairly and transparently
not be kept for an indefinite period of time
be used in a limited way
be kept secure
The worry is that potential employers and your current employers may have a great amount of your data that can be used for other purposes. But be sure to recognise, at each stage in the process, whether the employer is complying with the proper data privacy rules. From the outset, they should do the following:
Confirm with you that your personal data can be processed.
Show a copy of that data to you.
Specify how that data is collected, what it will be used for, and when it will be disposed.
Of course, employers do need to know some of your personal information, by virtue of the recruitment process, or having you as an employee. Employers are allowed to keep the following data about their employees or their recruits:
date of birth
education and qualifications
national insurance number
emergency contact details
disciplinary action, training, accidents
However, data protection regulations now require employers to get express consent from the employee to keep certain types of sensitive data. They are the following:
trade union membership
This is good news for those who are applying to new positions and are taking part in the interview process. Potential employers are not allowed to ask you questions related to whether you are planning to have children, or if you are married or in a civil partnership, have undergone gender reassignment, have a disability, and so forth.
Beware of certain questions that employers may try to slip in without you noticing. Such questions might include the following:
What is your native tongue?
Aren’t you too young to have a position on this level?
How old are your children?
How did you acquire your disability?
What does your partner do for a living?
These innocent questions may sound non-discriminatory, given how the tone that they are asked, but and requires some degree of tact and diplomacy to answer. Make sure that you are prepared to answer such behavioral questions in the right manner. The interviewer may or may not intend to be discriminatory here, but it is within your legal right to refuse to answer such a question and make it known to the interviewer.
What are your rights as an employee?
Although employers are told to follow these rules strictly, you should also be on the lookout for potential red flags of discrimination and non-compliance with data privacy laws. Although not a definitive list, here are some of the rights that you have under the data protection law:
the right to rectify data that is inaccurate or incomplete
the right to access any and all data that they have on you
the right to delete data that they hold on you
the right to be informed and to ensure that there is transparency in the process
If you are unsure about what information seems to be more sensitive than others, then you should ask yourself the following: Is it necessary for my employer to have this data? A bank account number, for instance, is certainly something that an employer needs to have in order for the employee to be paid. Likewise, you should inform your employer that you are sick in order for them to record and process your sick days so that they facilitate the payment of statutory sick pay.
However, if an employer asks what illness you have that keeps you out of the office so often, you are under no obligation to give that sort of information out. Or, if you have given that information out in the past, you have the right for that information to be deleted from your file as well.
What to do when discriminated against
Measures or policies that affect or separates employees is direct discrimination. For example, they offer benefits for married employees, but not for those who are in a civil partnership or single. If you have a company that pays men and women differently, despite doing work of equal value, it is discrimination. If there is some action taken against you in a negative way which relates to any sensitive information above, then you also have a discriminatory act. Here are your ways forward if you are discriminated against.
If an employee does feel that they were discriminated against, then they are in their legal rights to file a grievance with a Grievance Letter and take their case to an employment tribunal. Employers are responsible for any discrimination carried out by their employees as well. Let’s say that a colleague discriminates against you. You’ve told your manager and others, yet they do not take the appropriate action. This would mean that the employer did not do everything they reasonably could in order to prevent or stop the discrimination.
The workplace can be a highly stressful place, but that does not mean that you should be unlawfully acted against based on your personal data or sensitive information. Ask a lawyer for advice regarding your situation and for further information read Data protection and employees.
We’re looking to expand the number of consultants we work with to provide legal advice to our small business and consumer customers.
We’re particularly interested in people with experience in one or more of the following areas:
Corporate law (e.g. start-up equity issuances, SHAs, founders’ agreements, basic restructurings or small scale M&A)
Employment law (e.g. advising small employers or employees on IR35 aspects of consultancy agreements and employment contracts)
Commercial law (e.g. everything from terms and conditions for a new website to franchise agreements and software licensing agreements)
Family law (e.g. wills, trusts and non-contentious divorces)
We expect that:
You’ll work remotely (we’ll send you referrals which you can deal with in your own time and when it suits you).
You’ll be experienced in your area of law with at least 3 years’ PQE.
You hold a valid England and Wales solicitor’s practising certificate.
It would be great to hear from anyone thinking about returning to work after a period away (e.g. maternity leave) but are, for example, finding that traditional private practice isn’t flexible enough or just won’t work for them.
What we’re not:
A traditional law firm. Rocket Lawyer is modernising the way legal services are delivered, increasingly automating legal advice and building a large scale platform for a network of lawyers to work with small business and consumers online to provide affordable legal advice.
Essentially, if you want to work remotely when it suits you, Rocket Lawyer has the work, the back office functionality, and the insurance. You can also service your existing clients via our insurance and back office.
Contact us with a CV and covering email to find out more.
About Rocket Lawyer
We believe everyone deserves access to simple and affordable legal services.
Founded in 2008, Rocket Lawyer is the largest and most widely used online legal service platform in the world. With offices in North America and Europe, Rocket Lawyer has helped over 20 million people create over 3 million legal documents, and answer over 30,000 legal questions.
By combining expert legal advice from solicitors with technology, Rocket Lawyer UK is accelerating its mission to provide access to justice to small businesses and consumers who are currently excluded from the market. We are investing in our technology and hiring a team of solicitors to take on this challenge!
Contact us with a CV and covering email to find out more.