divorce law myths

There’s no getting around people who seem to think they know everything they need to know about divorce. Unfortunately, beliefs are not always reality and some people could end up stepping into something they are not prepared for.

So, let’s look at some of the leading myths that circle around divorce…

Your Spouse Must Agree To Divorce

Although it’s always easier if you both agree to a divorce, you do not need your spouse’s consent to move forward. If the petition shows that the marriage is falling apart because of your spouse’s love affair, you do not need them to agree to the divorce. All you need to do is let the court know that your spouse has been served with the petition. No doubt, in a perfect world, it would be great if the two of you could sit down and work out the details but in many cases, that’s just not going to happen.

divorce agreement

You Will Be Responsible For The Costs

That’s not necessarily true. If you issue a petition that states your spouse has been having an affair or another behaviour, you can request they pay your costs.

A 2-Year Separation Will Allow the Petition To Go Through Much More Quickly

The procedure for divorce is the same and will take the same amount of time regardless of facts that might show the marriage has completely and totally fallen apart. If you choose to wait until the two of you have been separated for 2 years or more, you must wait until those 2 years have passed. Everything else, after that period of time, will be the same including the entire process and the time frame.

getting divorced

A Divorce Will Stop All Financial Responsibilities Between Both Of You

Again, this is just not true. A divorce will not stop all financial claims brought on the other. It is highly advised you seek legal counsel to understand the ramifications of being divorced without a financial agreement firmly in place.

The Decree Nisi Is The Final Degree For Divorces

First, a decree nisi (or rule nisi) is a court order that does not have any power unless certain conditions are met. Once the conditions are met, the ruling becomes a rule absolute and is binding. There are people who fling divorce nisi around believing they are now divorced. Again, wrong! This decree is only a step halfway through the entire process. After, literally, one year and 6 weeks from the declaration of the decree nisi will the decree absolute be put in place. The decree absolute is the final decree for a divorce. For more info on this get in touch with a good family and divorce solicitor.

divorce solicitors

You Can Issue A Petition Based On Irreconcilable Differences

Currently, this country only has a full-based system. The exception might be if you both agree to a divorce and have lived apart for 2 years or more. The courts, at this time, do not recognise no-fault divorces like some other countries and some argue that this is outdated and designed to make couples suffer.

 

Chess board with people on depicting employment strategy

You can tell the employment crunch is starting to hit when the BBC is starting to propagandize the benefits of a summer job to youths. But does this mean it’s going to be an employee’s market or will the knock-on effects of Brexit give employers even more influence over their diminishing pool of workers as everyone tries whatever it takes to retain profitability?

Here are some new changes to UK Employment Law and company practices that might impact just how you’re entering the workforce this year.

EU General Protection Regulation (GDPR)

While the UK has the intent to leave the EU, the government has also stated that they will broadly comply with the regulations under their implementation as the Data Protection Act 2018. While for most people this will seem only relevant in an extra info window they have to click through when browsing the Internet, for employers and Human Resources it has significant obligations.

Employees must be notified of detailed information regarding how the company controls their sensitive personal information and any monitoring of their behavior and interests. New documentation will have to be provided explicitly noting how data is gathered, how long the personal data will be stored, and if it will be transferred to other countries. It must show that sensitive information is handled with appropriate security, and informing employees that they always have the right to request access to their own data and to have said data deleted or corrected in specific circumstances.

There are supposed to be stronger legal protections for information that identify someone’s race or ethnic background, political opinions, religious beliefs, genetics, health, sex life or orientation, or membership in a trade union. What people choose to reveal about themselves is their own business, but a company must protect said collected sensitive information. There are severe penalties for data breaches and improper use of employee information.

A Data Protection Officer should be appointed to deal specifically with these concerns.
In summary, the UK Data Protection act does two things:

1) Employers must take extra care to protect the data that they collect and explicitly state to their employees what sort of data they are collecting,
2) Employers can generally no longer rely on broad consent terms in their contracts. Consent may be withdrawn at any time.

 

National Living Wage and National Minimum Wage

More obvious are the changes to the minimum wage that employees may expect depending on their age. This will take effect in April and is expected to help at least two million employees.

• For workers aged 25 and over, paid hours change from £7.50 to £7.83
• For workers aged 21 to 24 years old, paid hours change from £7.05 to £7.38
• For workers aged 18 to 20 years old, paid hours change from £5.60 to £5.90
• For workers aged 16 to 17 years old, paid hours change from £4.05 to £4.20
• For apprentices aged under 19 or in the first year of their apprenticeship, paid hours change from £3.50 to £3.70

Companies that pay less than minimum wage will be fined and named in the annual list of shame. Even such high street companies like Wagamama and TGI Fridays, along with hotel chain Marriott’s were found to leave employees underpaid.

Increase in Statutory Payments

Employees are allowed some paid time off for sickness or to have children. Similar to the above, the government has announced increases to the statutory benefit payments applicable April 2018.

• Statutory maternity, paternity, adoption, shared parental pay and maternity allowance will increase from £140.98 to £145.18 a week.
• Statutory sick pay will increase from £89.35 to £95.05 a week.
• In addition, the maximum amount used to calculate statutory redundancy payments will increase from £489 per week to £508 per week.

Payments After Being Dismissed from Work

While certain policies make it more attractive for employees, it is inevitable that there are many who will lose jobs in the new economic climate. There are also new laws that deal with this issue.

• As previously mentioned, statutory redundancy payments for jobs that will no longer exist in the company will increase and continue to remain tax-free. But all termination of employment on or after April 2018 will have all notice pay treated as earnings and will be subject to tax and national insurance contributions.
• Employers will be liable to pay national insurance contributions on termination payments above £30,000 (Class 1A NIC, Employer’s Liability Only).
• The maximum compensatory award for unfair dismissal has also increased from £80, 541 to £83, 682, as long as the effective date of termination is on or after April 6, 2018.

Increase in Minimum Contributions for Pension Schemes

But it’s not all money going down. It’s a unpleasant surprise to millions in auto-enrolment pensions to find that their minimum contributions will increase from 1% to 3% of their income. It’s not all good news for their employers either, as they must increase from their 1 to 2%. This, what used to be 1% + 1% or 2% minimum becomes 2% + 3% for a total of 5% minimums.

This takes effect on April 6 2018. However, expect more to come in April 2019, for then the employer’s contributions will increase to 3%, while the employee must pay our 5% from their own pocket, for a minimum contribution of 8% of their income.

 

Gender Pay Gap Reporting

2018 is the deadline for the Gender Pay Gap Reporting required for all companies. Some companies, including Apple or the Conservative Party even state that their gender pay gap is in favor towards women. This is an issue complicated by the difference between the median and the mean in gender pay gap reporting.

The or mean, is the wages of all employees divided by the number of employees. The median is the figure that stands in the middle when all employee wages are ranked from highest to the lowest. The results are enlightening.

While this has no direct effect yet, this transparency may influence workplace culture in the future and help in negotiating for your entry wages.

Employment Restrictions on Illegal Workers

Penalties for employing illegal workers can range from light to severe, up to unlimited fines or even 5 years of jail time.

To further disincentivize the employment of illegal workers, employers will henceforth be unable to claim Employment Allowance for at least one year if they ever hired an illegal worker, been penalized by the Home Office, and have already used up all appeal rights against said penalty.

In the wake of the Brexit confusion, employers have a duty to check that their existing employees retain a Right to Work and for employees to make sure their paperwork is filed well in advance. The EU Settlement Scheme is designed to be as easy as possible but less smooth in practice.

Employers should be mindful not to be too quick to take the option of dismissal however, because individuals should have the rights of appeal against their dismissal, as in the case of Afza vs East London Pizza.

Workers (Definition and Rights) Bill

One thing to really pay attention to is this bill, which is expected to amend the very definition of the worker; to make provisions of worker’s rights, and all connected purposes therein. This is very important to know when workers can be classified as employees instead of self-employed.

All workers including zero hour and causal workers could receive basic rights, payslips, and terms of conditions of employment from day one. Already one of the landmark cases in the push back against the gig economy, the tribunal has ruled that Hermes couriers are workers, not self-employed independent contractors, and thus were due minimum wage, holiday pay, and back pay for unlawful deductions to their salary.

 

Conclusions

For employers and employees the most significant are the laws specifying changes minimum wage, in taxation and contributions. These have the most immediate impact on income and profitability. However, perhaps the two most important employment legislation in 2018 are regards:

1) Employment Status of Workers
2) Gender Pay Gap

Sure there’s the whole Brexit situation to worry everyone, but these two have the largest long-term influence in the way we work. It is difficult to estimate with accuracy the number of people in zero-hour contracts. Figures gathered by the Labor Force Survey and Business Survey show between 900,000 to 1.8 million.

About 18% of those working in Zero-Hour Contracts are in education, showing how the flexibility of such contracts may be a benefit to students. However, approximately 4% of working adults are estimated to be working in the gig economy.

A change in the employment culture may in the short term mean less profits but pay off later in increased diligence and employee loyalty if independent contractual workers can have the right to negotiate for long-term employment after a span of time.

Meanwhile, the gender pay gap is a similar but distinctly its own issue from gender pay inequality or wage discrimination, which has already been set in the “equal work for equal pay” Equality Act 2010.

It can show how men earn more per hour than women or that the lowest paid workers in the company are mainly female while the highest paid are mainly men. The Gender Pay Gap reporting ensures that companies can no longer hide behind opaque pay records and so face the question ‘Why does this pay gap exist and what can we do about it?’

There have been many attempts to explain why the gender pay gap happens almost everywhere, from differences in energy and willingness to sacrifice personal time, to even the pay difference essentially being a penalty for childbearing.

While others may be well-meaning, for the most part their employees and management might not even be aware about the situation in their own company. As a worker, it would also be useful to know in which industries you will find yourself being paid less. Finance, for example, has shown to be a highly-divergent field in the UK. However, contrary to expectations, for many, finding out the gap existed in fields in which they were already unrepresented was not really discouraging further participation.

“The message we got back [from women] was that they were not surprised by the gender pay gap in tech, that it wouldn’t affect them wanting to work in tech, so long as the company was open about it and taking action,” said Sarah Kaiser, Emea diversity and inclusion lead at Fujitsu.

This is why the Gender Pay Gap Reporting and Defining Worker Status new laws are so useful. By confronting the issue directly, it can encourage further participation by new young workers, and could blunt whatever adverse effects on the workforce caused by Brexit.

google uk law

The recent ruling in favor of a businessman that wanted Google to delist search results about his past crime is just the latest skirmish between two different value systems on privacy.

The UK’s ruling is based on the concept that after having already served his punishment and showed true remorse, after a certain span of time convictions should be ‘spent’, that the offender becomes a regular citizen that for all intents had never been convicted at all, and thus make it easier to find and maintain lawful employment and dis-incentivize a return to crime.

Google’s argument is based on public interest, and that ability to look up information about previous behaviors is pertinent to future employers and relationships. Both have valid points. It is a rights vs rights argument: privacy vs free speech, freedom against harassment against vs right of others to know.

The Rulings

The recent lawsuit filed against Google actually involved two businessmen who petitioned google to unlink search results to previous legal cases. The first denied petition was about a previous conviction 10 years ago for “conspiring to intercept communications” and had served six months in jail. He plead guilty to the charge. Judge Mark Warby stated that because the first individual had reformed and the crime was less serious, it was no longer relevant information.

The other businessman was convicted for money or informational fraud, for which he had served four years in prison. Judge Warby ruled in favor of Google that it is remains relevant information and search results that include his name with regards to his crime should remain listed.

The Court observed that:

… it may be misleading to label the right asserted by these claimants as the “right to be forgotten”. They are not asking to “be forgotten”. The first aspect of their claims asserts a right not to be remembered inaccurately. Otherwise, they are asking for accurate information about them to be “forgotten” in the narrow sense of being removed from the search results returned by an ISE in response to a search on the claimant’s name. No doubt a successful claim against Google would be applied to and by other ISEs. But it does not follow that the information at issue would have to be removed from the public record … And a successful delisting request or order in respect of a specified URL will not prevent Google returning search results containing that URL; it only means that the URL must not be returned in response to a search on the claimant’s name.

“We are pleased that the Court recognised our efforts in this area, and we will respect the judgements they have made in this case,” was Google’s response to the rulings.

While it can be argued that this particular case had a neutral result, it is most significant by the precedent it sets. The same ruling against Google here could be used against other search engines and will set the tone for future petitions.

What is The Right to Be Forgotten?

In May 2014, the Court of Justice of the European Union established a RTBF (Right to Be Forgotten). It allows Europeans to request that search engines delist links present in search results containing an individual’s name, if the individual’s right to privacy outweighs public interest in those results. The delisted information must be “inaccurate, inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant, or excessive in relation to those purposes and in the light of the time that has elapsed.” The ruling requires that search engine operators conduct this balancing test and arrive at a verdict.

Three Years of the Right to be Forgotten white paper by Google

The particular precedent for this case was May 2014 EU Court judgement of Google Spain vs Agencia Española de Protección de Datos (AEPD) that decided that individuals do have a right to request search engines to remove links to webpages when the individual’s name is used as the search entry. Google does not have a journalistic exemption to the Act 1 of the General Data Protection Regulation.

  1. The data subject shall have the right to object, on grounds relating to his or her particular situation, at any time to processing of personal data concerning him or her which is based on point (e) or (f) of Article 6(1), including profiling based on those provisions. 2The controller shall no longer process the personal data unless the controller demonstrates compelling legitimate grounds for the processing which override the interests, rights and freedoms of the data subject or for the establishment, exercise or defence of legal claims.

The Right to Object is meant to be universal across all the EU, as it defines protections against the use of personal data for marketing and profiling. Contrary to expectations, most petitions are not to erase mentions of previous crimes. References to Crime and Professional Misconduct only comprise 6.1% and 5.6% respectively. (1/21/2016 – 04/26/2018 data)

By comparison, requests to remove non-sensitive Personal and Professional Information comprise 5.5% and 18.5% respectively. Another 4.5% on the Google transparency report could be the removal of sensitive personal information. A further 7.6% are requests to remove self-authored works.

As can be seen on the link, 88% of all requests come from private individuals. Delisting is not just about reputation management.

While removing personal histories might feel disingenuous, one has to remember that it has been less than two decades since social media has exploded into the global consciousness. Prior to the wide mainstream use of Internet, people had a general expectation of privacy. People have the right not to be exposed onto global scrutiny without their consent. People have a right to feel safe from being tracked or harassed by strangers. People have a right to object to false use of their identities. People have a right not to allow the stupid things they’ve said or done while teenagers or otherwise debilitated to haunt them later in their lives. People have a right not to have their personal information used for marketing purposes.

To sum it up, people have a ‘right to be forgotten’, a ‘right not to have their personal information be collected, remembered, and made use of by entities without their awareness of permission’.

Individuals cannot force government or journals to erase their content, but as a data processor they can petition Google to make it harder to find. For legal and investigative purposes, a background search could still be accomplished with other services designed for such activities.

The extremely broad net that Google and seach engines casts of the visible Web means that they are the primary tool to enable this right. The requester must file reasons for why the information must be de-listed. It is not automatic for Google however, and an argument can be said that this levies excessive obligation to treat each petition on a case by case basis.

What’s so bad about this?

Losing the ‘landmark’ Right to Be Forgotten case in the UK sets the precedent that if Google refuses to delist the information, individuals may appeal to their local privacy court. This may have unfortunate consequences if it becomes a common recourse.

  • The most obvious, of course, is that the appeals process moves the judgment for delisting to the courts, and so Google and the petitioner will have to present their arguments. Every court case makes it more annoying, more expensive, and slower for literally everyone involved.
  • The Streisand Effect may in the cause of attention to hide information make it more public instead.
  • This sets up a precedent of the local government having primacy over what is allowed to be listed under public interest. Sure, it might not sound as bad when it’s done by a court looking out for general public welfare. But the fact the Google can be ordered to delist by governments even though they have internationally located servers mean that less benevolent, less democratic governments can exercise more complete information control to the detriment of their own citizens.
  • Perhaps the most necessary but worst consequence is that the sheer load of petitions received and the need to evaluate each of them on a case by case basis means that automation might be the only way out for Google. Unfortunately, as proven by many other systems for automatic verdicts (such as Youtube’s whole mess of a copyright takedown system), software are… dumb. As much as it will make sending and processing petitions faster, it will very probably also make mistakes so much faster and more widespread, causing extra complaints and headaches for Google and all related websites.

The right to free speech means the right to let the public know true information that assists their interests. There are those that fear this may be a serious blow to the freedom of information that enables the Internet to be platform for advocacy for justice and liberty. On the other hand, the Internet has a proven record of abusing and harassing people for their lapses of privacy.

This is not an easy question to solve. There’s few wars as destructive as when good intentions come head to head. The best we can hope for is that Google and the EU come to a compromise in a way that could serve as a useful template for other countries and their people’s expectations for safer online interactions.