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What is arbitration?

Arbitration is a method of private dispute resolution that can be used to settle private family disputes. A family arbitrator is appointed and paid for by you and your partner (whether married or not) to make a decision that is binding. The family arbitrator listens to both sides of the dispute and then comes to a decision. This decision can be made into an Order by the Court, meaning it has to be upheld.

Family arbitration can be used to help separating couples resolve disputes relating to finances, property, child maintenance and arrangements concerning children (such as where and with whom they live; who they spend time with and, their schooling).

Family arbitration is likely to produce a result more quickly and it can be more cost effective than using the court process to resolve your dispute. Your lawyer can attend your arbitration sessions and support you throughout.

Related FAQs

I am due to file accounts at Companies House, but have been unable to complete them due to Covid-19. What should I do?

Every company has to file accounts at Companies House every year. If they are filed late, a fine is automatically levied. If there is a long delay in filing them, the directors are at risk of prosecution and the Registrar of Companies might start a process which could ultimately lead to the company being struck from the register.

However, Companies House has recognised that businesses might currently face exceptional problems in preparing and filing their accounts on time and so have posted a notice on their website which says that if immediately before the filing deadline, it becomes apparent that accounts will not be filed on time due to coronavirus, you can make an application to extend the period allowed for filing.

Is a limited company protected from divorce?

As a limited company has its own legal identity, the court cannot make orders directly against it. By way of example, if a limited company owns a house, the court could not order the company to transfer that house to the husband, even if the wife is the sole shareholder or wholly in control of the company.  It is the company which owns the house, not the shareholder.

However this does not mean that a limited company is completely disregarded. If a party in a divorce is a shareholder of a limited company, it is likely the court will want to know how much the shares are worth which inevitably requires an assessment of the value of the company and its underlying assets and interests. The court could order that those shares are sold to realise their value. A court could order that there is a transfer of shares from one spouse to another, which frequently happens if both spouses are joint shareholders. Alternatively, the court may offset the value of a shareholding against other assets so the shareholder keeps the shares in full but their spouse keeps more of a different asset.

A company may also be seen as a source of liquidity if it holds excess cash. Whilst a court cannot order a company to pay a lump sum to somebody, it could make an order against a shareholder requiring them to make a cash payment to their spouse knowing full well that the only way to satisfy the payment is to extract cash from the company such as through declaring a dividend or taking a loan from the company.

What is the over-riding statutory duty for employers to ensure the health and safety of employees?

It is worth pointing out that, despite all the guidance, survey results and other advice about managing Covid-19 H&S risk in the workplace, the law has not been changed. None of the guidance is codified by regulation/legislation, which means that you are managing this risk in the context of existing H&S law.

In very simple terms, HASWA74 requires employers to take “all reasonably practicable steps” to ensure the health and safety of its employees (and anyone else affected by your business).

“Reasonably practicable” means to balance risk reduction against the time, money and effort required. If measures are grossly disproportionate, you wouldn’t be expected to take them, but there is a strong presumption in favour of taking any steps which will protect workers.

As part of managing the health and safety of your people, you must control the risks in your workplaces. To do this, look for what might cause harm to people while they work and decide whether you are taking reasonable steps to prevent that harm. This related duty under MHSWR is to ensure you undertake a “suitable and sufficient assessment of risks.”

Can I still have my domestic gas appliances tested during the coronavirus outbreak?

Yes. The Health and Safety Executive has stated (as quoted from the Gas safe register site):

“Landlords have a legal duty to repair and maintain gas pipework, flues and appliances in a safe condition, to ensure an annual gas safety check on each appliance and flue, and to keep a record of each safety check.

“If you anticipate difficulties in gaining access as the Covid-19 situation progresses, you have the flexibility to carry out annual gas safety checks two months before the deadline date. Landlords can have the annual gas safety checks at their properties carried out any time from 10 to 12 calendar months after the previous check and still retain the original deadline date as if the check had been carried out exactly 12 months after the previous check.

“You are encouraged to arrange your annual gas safety checks as early as possible, as a contingency against tenants being in self-isolation for 14 days (in line with current guidelines), or gas engineers being unavailable due to illness. The two-month period to carry out annual gas safety checks should provide adequate resilience in most situations.

“In the event you are unable to gain access to the property, e.g. persistent refusal of access due to vulnerable tenants self-isolating, you will be expected to be able to demonstrate that you took reasonable steps to comply with the law, and that you are seeking to arrange the safety check as soon as all parties are able. This will need to include records of communication with the tenant, and details of your engineers attempts to gain access.”

Many Registered Providers have been suspending all gas and electrical testing where internal access is required, continuing checks in communal areas and are carrying out emergency repairs only, whilst void works are suspended and staff are working from home. This does not comply with the legislation, or the guidance.

What first steps would you recommend to creating a strategy to integrate pro-active mental health first aid across the workforce?

The Thriving at Work Report and the recent NICE Workplace Mental Health Guidelines provide a good baseline for what all organisations should be doing on workplace mental health – this includes some guidance on training. There does need to be a plan in place and we recommend taking a holistic view of the integration of mental health first aiders into a business – ie it should be one component in a strategy that also comprises training for line managers, awareness training and education for all staff, peer support, and a documented framework for support and signposting.  It is also worth ensuring you have senior manager sponsorship, strong links with Occupational Health if available and also raising awareness via any works councils or employee forums helps ensure there is buy in at all levels.