Paid Leave Benefits For Caregivers, Yes Or No?

19/01/2018

In our workplace today, money and salary no longer reigns. Instead, employers are delving into more innovative benefits and perks to boost productivity levels amongst other reasons. And most of us are no doubt familiar that tech giants the likes of Google and LinkedIn tend to be the forerunners when it comes to truly “innovative” employee perks.

Naturally, it would come as no surprise that yet another tech giant has now come under the public’s eye. Microsoft has recently extended its paid leave benefits to employees who need to take care of a sick family member. This tech giant is now offering four weeks of paid leave with an additional eight weeks of unpaid leave to its employees who are family caregivers as well. Previously, the company offered 12 weeks of unpaid leave to such employees.

While focusing on employees needs by providing exceptional perks is a common trend amongst employers these days, employees who serve as caregivers at home are not getting sufficient attention. This could in turn take a toll on their productivity levels when it comes to work. Being a caregiver could force an employee to cut back on their work hours, take long leave of absence or in a worst case scenario, even quit.

Related readingGoing Beyond Basic Compliance with Family-Friendly Leave Policies

Several other companies such as Netflix offer unlimited paid time off or discretionary time off whereby employees can use them for family care. Likewise, a common benefit offered by most companies include paid family care leave or extending such leave beyond immediate family members to include grandparents or in-laws. Similarly in Singapore, certain government bodies such as the Singapore Workforce Development Agency (WDA) provide their employees with eldercare leave whereby employees are allowed to take leave to look after their parents or parents-in-law when they fall sick or to accompany them for medical appointments.

Given that rapid aging is a currently a pressing issue in Singapore, there is certainly a strong argument to suggest the need for such leave benefits for these caregiver employees.

However, at the same time, employers are mindful that mandating more benefits for these caregiver employees can have a detrimental impact on business operations. While it would no doubt help employees ease the burden of caring for their family members, it could in turn create several disruptions to daily work processes.

Ultimately, it all boils down to the individual company culture. Some companies are already providing some form of flexible work arrangements, whereby employees make use of such arrangements to take care of their sick relative. Likewise, providing discretionary time-off could also allow employees to attend to their personal matters, which includes looking after their elderly parents or sick relatives. As such, implementing a specific caregiver leave benefit might not be necessary in this case. Nonetheless, managers and HR have to work closely together to create an effective work plan to manage absences that might be brought on by any unexpected caregivers situations.

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This a guest post by RenQun Huang of Gpayroll. The views expressed here are of the author’s, and Zegal may not necessarily subscribe to them. You, too, are invited to share your point of view. Learn more about guest blogging for Zegal here.

About Gpayroll

Gpayroll is an easy to use, self-run online payroll service that will redefine and revolutionize the payroll industry. Its intuitive and automated system will help business owners focus on their core business without the hassle of managing payroll.

What is a company secretary?

15/01/2018

No, it’s not the kind of secretary you’re thinking of – someone who is responsible for managing administrative work in a company and looks after visitors. The type of company secretary that we are referring to is responsible for something else entirely.

Company secretaries are, simply put, individuals in senior positions in a private company, usually in a senior managerial position or above. They are responsible for ensuring that an organization complies with standard financial and legal regulations around running a company, and on the whole responsible for maintaining high standards of corporate governance within a company.

If you’re thinking about expanding your business, it is important for you to think about how you can best help your company function as an organization. This is where the role of the company secretary comes in, as an individual who will help ensure that your organization remains functional, and that the various stakeholders in your company are able to get the most out of their investment in your company.

Broadly speaking, in most jurisdictions, the company secretary owes duties to three groups of stakeholders – the company, the company directors, and the company shareholders.

These are, in brief:

Duties to the company

The company secretary ensures that the organization complies with the regulations set out in the respective pieces of legislation governing companies, in the respective jurisdiction in which the company is founded. In general, he is tasked with maintaining the high standards of corporate governance in a company, that is ideal for its functioning.

Duties to the shareholders

The company secretary is also responsible for communicating with shareholders and ensuring their interests are protected. He also is responsible for ensuring that shareholders are able to take part in the decision making process at a company’s Annual General Meeting, and does so by disseminating financial statements and any other relevant information needed for shareholders to come to an informed decision.

Duties to company directors

It is also their responsibility to register and communicate with shareholders, to ensure that dividends are paid. They also assist in the managing of company records, which include information like a list of directors and shareholders, and the annual accounts of a company. A company secretary often takes minutes at directors’ meeting as well.

Do note that these are the general requirements and expectations for such individuals. There may be additional specific scopes of duties depending on which jurisdiction you are in.

Relevant Legislation in the Asia Pacific

Singapore: Companies Act (Chapter 50)

Hong Kong: Companies Ordinance (Cap 622)

Australia: Corporations Act 2001

New Zealand: Companies Act 1993

United Kingdom: Companies Act 2006

These acts will generally set out issues such as who may be qualified to serve as a company secretary, whether a company must have a company secretary, the specific duties owed by the company secretary, and the potential penalties for contravening any of the regulations related to serving in this capacity.

The importance of this role in a company should not be overlooked. While the internal governance of a company may sound like one of the least exciting aspects of your business that you have to keep an eye on, it is undeniable that your company will not be able to function without it.

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What types of leave are my employees entitled to in New Zealand?

Many employers are cautious about ensuring workplace benefits and employee entitlements are not misused or abused by their employees. According to the Wellness in the Workplace Survey in 2017 conducted by the Southern Cross Health Society and BusinessNZ, an absent employee typically costs their employer NZD 600 to NZD 1,000 a year.

While the cost of an absent employee is a valid concern for employers, there is a good case for providing your employees adequate time to rest and recharge as studies have shown that wellness has a significant impact on productivity.

An employer that fails to give its employees its minimum leave entitlements may also face harsh penalties. For companies who flout the rules, the penalty is the greater of NZD 100,000 or three times the amount of the financial gain made by the company.

Source: Employment New Zealand

All employees are entitled to the following categories of holidays or leaves:

  • 4 weeks of annual leave for rest and recreation;
  • 11 public holidays per year;
  • Access to sick leave and bereavement leave upon fulfilling certain conditions.

Annual leave

According to the New Zealand Holidays Act 2003, all types of employees in New Zealand are entitled to annual holidays after they have worked for their employer for at least 12 months continuously. For your permanent, full-time employees, the annual holiday entitlement is 4 weeks of paid annual holidays.

For permanent but part-time employees with a constant work pattern, just calculate the quantity of annual holidays they are entitled to accordingly. For example, an employee who works 2 days per week is entitled to 8 days of annual holidays after 12 months of continuous employment. As for permanent employees with a work pattern that is unpredictable, a ‘week’ could be determined using an average number of days or hours per week over a suitable number of weeks prior to the leave being taken.

Where an employee is employed on a fixed-term agreement of less than 12 months, the employee can be paid annual holiday pay with their salary (i.e. on a paid-as-you-earn basis). This also applies to casual employees whose employment patterns are so intermittent or irregular that it is not practicable to provide 4 weeks paid annual holidays. Employees who are paid on a paid-as-you-earn basis do not get specific time off for their annual holidays.

If your employee has taken more than a week of unpaid leave during a 12-month period, as an employer you can extend the time required before your employee becomes entitled to annual holidays by the amount of unpaid leave taken in excess of one week.

Payment for annual holidays is at the rate of the greater of:

  • The ordinary weekly pay at the time the holiday is taken or
  • The employee’s average weekly earnings over the 12-month period before the annual holiday is taken.

Public holidays

Employees are entitled to a paid day off on a public holiday if it is a day they would have normally worked on.

If your employee works on a public holiday which falls on a day they would have otherwise worked on, they are entitled to an alternative holiday day, also known as a lieu day or day off en lieu. If the alternative holiday is not taken within 12 months, both you and your employee can agree for the alternative holiday to be paid out.

Sick leave

An employee is entitled to 5 paid days of sick leave per year to allow them to care for themselves or their dependents, as long as they have met the following criteria:

  • they have 6 months current continuous employment with the same employer; or
  • they have worked for the employer for 6 months for:
    • an average of 10 hours per week, and
    • at least 1 hour in every week or 40 hours in every month.

Any unused sick leave at the end of a 12-month period can be carried over and added to the next year’s entitlement.

Bereavement leave

An employee may take bereavement leave if someone close to them dies, as long as they have met the following criteria:

  • they have 6 months current continuous employment with the same employer; or
  • they have worked for the employer for 6 months for:
    • an average of 10 hours per week, and
    • at least 1 hour in every week or 40 hours in every month.

Payment for bereavement leave should be made if the employee would have otherwise worked on the day and calculated based on the employee’s relevant daily pay.

Parental leave

Employees may be able to take parental leave to care for their new child if they meet either the 6- or 12-month criteria.

To determine whether your employee qualifies for parental leave, check out the Parental Leave and Payment Eligibility table by Employment New Zealand.

Other types of leave

Other than the types of leave mentioned above, an employee may wish to take various other kinds of leave, such as:

  • Stress leave
  • Garden leave
  • Defence force volunteers
  • Leave without pay
  • Election voting leave
  • Employment during and after disasters
  • Long service leave

Learn more about the other kinds of leave.

Can I vary the arrangement with my employee in the Employment Contract?

While the Holidays Act sets out the minimum holiday and leave that an employee is entitled to, employers and employees do have the option to vary these arrangements in the Employment Contract that they sign, as long as it is allowed for under the Act.

Some variations that may be made by agreement include the following:

  • Transferring a public holiday by agreement: An employer and employee may agree that a public holiday will be observed on another day for the employee. This could be provided for in the Employment Contract or a separate agreement in writing.
  • Provisions for holiday and leave entitlements that are better than the minimum rights in the Holidays Act: If your company prides itself on its flexible workplace culture and emphasis on employee welfare, providing better terms than the minimum entitlements is a great way to demonstrate this.

However, take note that there are some employment terms that may not be varied by an Employment Contract or other kinds of agreements. The Holidays Act contains the minimum entitlement for each type of holiday and leave. Each entitlement is a separate category and cannot be “traded off” on a package basis. For instance, an employer and employee cannot agree that the employee will give up his right to extra pay on a public holiday in exchange for an extra week of annual holidays.

For more comprehensive information to leave and holidays, check out the leave and holidays guide by Employment New Zealand.

Looking for a fuss-free way to draft your Employment Contracts that reflect the most updated law in the new countries you expand into?

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Do you have any tips for hiring in the New Zealand market?

Share with us in the comments below!

Flying drones in the UK – the law and what you need to know

By Daniel Berke, Solicitor at 3D Regulatory Solicitors

The use of drones has grown enormously since they became available on consumer markets. Many photographers and videographers are using them as part of their kit, estate agents, hobbyists – even criminals  (and putting aside the moral issues, one must hand it to them for innovation) have used them to carry out drug deals and to fly weapons, phones and drugs into prisons (I do not expect this article to be too relevant to people who use drones for drug deals). Tech giants have recognised their potential; Amazon has experimented with drone deliveries.

This blog focuses on drones which are available to the public and looks at potential risks, the relevant law and responsibilities of drone users.

‘Drone’ refers to any object that can be flown without a human pilot. They can range from armed technologies used in military operations to smaller gadgets that can be purchased by members of the public. These items can be controlled remotely and may also be attached to a camera. 

When are drones a problem?

Drones become a problem when they interfere with other objects using the same airspace. They can present a problem for both military and civilian aircraft. Despite their relatively small size a collision could have disastrous consequences. Such incidents are more likely to happen when drones are flown too high or too close to areas where aircraft are taking off and landing frequently.

What are the rules?

If you have bought a drone for personal use, then you have some responsibilities relating to your use of that drone. Breaching these duties can result in prosecution. It is advisable to consult the Civilian Aviation Authority Air Navigation Order 2016, specifically Articles 94, 95 and 241. You can download the ‘Drone Code’ from the website www.dronesafe.uk  You must understand your essential duties as a drone owner, many of which are common sense:

  • know how to fly your drone safely, and do so within the law
  • understand that the operator is legally responsible for every flight
  • keep your drone in sight at all times – stay below 400ft
  • don’t fly your drone over a congested area
  • never fly within 50 metres of a person, vehicle or building not under your control
  • ensure any images you obtain using the drone do not break privacy laws
  • avoid collisions – you should never fly a drone near an airport or close to aircraft.

It is a criminal offence to endanger the safety of an aircraft in flight. If you break the rules, you could threaten life and also face prosecution, in some cases resulting in imprisonment or a substantial fine.

Are there extra rules when using drones for commercial purposes?

If you want to use a drone for commercial purposes, for example as an estate agent to take aerial video of properties for sale, then permission must be sought from the Civilian Aviation Authority. It is also expected that you will attend an accredited course which will test your knowledge of and competence with drones.

Drones understandably come with their fair share of responsibilities. If you follow the principles highlighted above, you will be much less likely to fall foul of the rules and regulations governing this exciting new technology.

This article is a guest contribution by Daniel Berke, Solicitor at 3D Regulatory Solicitors, and was originally published on the 3D Regulatory Solicitors blog here. The views expressed here are of the author’s, and Zegal may not necessarily subscribe to them. You, too, are invited to share your point of view. Learn more about guest blogging for Zegal here.

About 3D Regulatory Solicitors

3D Regulatory Solicitors is a niche practice based in Manchester, England that specialises in providing legal advice to professionals facing disciplinary action or criminal prosecution. Learn more about 3D Regulatory Solicitors here.

Zegal co-founder Chris Sykes is featured on Spain’s Legaltechies

12/01/2018

Our co-founder and Head of New Business – UK, Chris Sykes, was recently featured on Spanish Legal Tech blog Legaltechies. This is its first international interview in a series about people working in the Legaltech space. The original interview in Spanish can be found on the Legaltechies website here. We are grateful to Legaltechies for allowing us to reproduce the interview in English here. 

Read on for Chris’ thoughts about the Legal Tech space and how we at Zegal are realising our vision of a world where the business of law works for everyone! 

1. Who is Chris Sykes?

I’m an English solicitor from Manchester, and co-founder of Zegal. I practised law in the area of complex and ‘white collar’ crime before moving to Spain to work as a teacher of law and legal skills. I then moved to Hong Kong where we founded Zegal (Dragon Law as it was called then), and now I run our operations in the UK.

Related reading: Zegal has launched in the UK

2. What’s Zegal?

Zegal is an online platform that lets businesses create, store and e-sign legal documents. Our system asks the user a simple series of questions, and then the software generates a document, such as a Shareholders’ Agreement or Employment Contract. Our customers pay for Zegal by way of a subscription, which gives them the ability to build an unlimited number of documents from a suite of useful and practical documents which have been tailored to the local jurisdiction (Hong Kong, Singapore, England & Wales, Australia, New Zealand).

3. What motivated the birth of Zegal?

We realised that many business owners were unable to protect their businesses or accomplish simple legal activities because they had little or no legal budget, or preferred to ‘wait and see’. Some businesses would use templates from friends or internet searches, that would not be understandable or suitable for their needs. We realised there is a place in the market for a ‘do-it-yourself’ tool that business owners (especially startup founders) could use with confidence and convenience either on their own or with help from a law firm advising them through our platform, but also for a monthly recurring fee.

4. What kind of funding did Zegal use to start the project?

We were fortunate to backed by Angel Investors who saw the potential and huge scalability of our business model, and this has allowed us to grow to over 60 staff in 5 countries within 3 years of launch.

5. What’s the business model of Zegal?

We are a ‘software as a service’ (SaaS) solution which is B2B or provided by law firms as a ‘white label’ version. Our customers pay a small amount of money on a recurring basis. We offer three types of plans with different suites of documents and access to other features such as integrations and legal advice.

6. Zegal focused from the beginning on the small and medium size business segment. Do you think that Legaltech is taking enough care of that segment seeing how huge it is?

I think the reason we started Zegal was because traditional law was struggling to help businesses in these segments. Many lawyers are doing their best to help startups by providing cheaper services or pro bono services, but there was no solution for those with the lowest budgets. Legaltech is often focused on helping lawyers or mitigating costs around large and complex cases, but I have seen an increase in business that offer solutions for small businesses.

7. For a business, how is Zegal different from a legal template seller? In fact, if the business already has a legal department or someone internally responsible for the legal issues, could Zegal also be useful as a tool?

We are very different from a template seller. A template is a very static tool, which is often difficult to ‘fill in’ and easy to make mistakes with. A template can be a very useful as a one-off, but we are offering a platform that lets you do a huge range of legal activities, quickly and easily. Many in-house lawyers (including myself when I held that role at Zegal) use our platform, and it’s a great tool for those with legal training.

8. If you are a law firm or a lawyer you can also use Zegal to, as you promote it, “Work with clients in an entirely new way”. How does this new way work?

We work with lawyers in a couple of ways. Law firms use a ‘white label’ version of our platform to serve their clients – meaning they use our documents or their own (which we automate) on a platform which has the same functionality as Zegal but branded as the firm requires.

Related readingECYT launches first Zegal white label product

The second and most common way is through our Premium Plan. Our customers who want our platform and legal advice sign up for our platform and have access to an independent law firm via a live chat function, meaning they can communicate directly through our platform. The Premium Plan really is a new way of working as our customers have access to legal advice conveniently and for a low additional monthly fee (which goes to the law firm) and the law firm gets a startup client who wouldn’t normally be able to afford to retain a lawyer.

9. In the long run, and taking into account the amount of contracts and agreements that you are managing and storing, do you see that data with enough potential to be analysed and provide new legal insights and trends?

We certainly have plans to use our data in terms of analysis. Watch this space!

10. Zegal is now available in Singapore, Australia, New Zealand and UK. Do you see any big differences between the Legaltech communities and markets of these countries?

There are huge differences in the different countries.

In Hong Kong we were the first Legaltech business, but in the UK we are already part of a growing and influential community of entrepreneurial businesses and innovative law firms. In Singapore, for example, the Singapore Academy of Law has launched the Future Law Innovation Programme (FLIP) which will run a Legaltech accelerator. This demonstrates that market’s commitment to this area, and you see the same across many countries.

11. In the long term, what impact could Legaltech have on the delivery and commercialisation of legal services?

In the long term I see automation and AI dealing with a lot of routine legal activities, and I see the role of lawyers changing. Law firms will become a mixture of lawyers and legal innovators or engineers, and many with work across both areas.

12. Any plans to bring Zegal to Spain in the near future?

I would love to (having lived in Madrid for three years) and our software can use any language. Our focus is on the UK at the moment, but I would not discount expanding into other European markets. Legaltech is strong in Spain with both smaller enterprises and law firms (such as Cuatrecasas) building the industry there.

Interested to learn more about how Zegal can help your business in the UK? Reach out to Chris at chris.sykes@zegal.com to schedule a time to chat!

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