Law Centre NI

Law Centre (NI)

promoting social justice through legal advice,
representation, policy, training and publications

 

Welcome to our November 2012 e-newsletter.  We hope you find it useful. Feel free to circulate it to interested colleagues. 

If it does not display properly, you can read it in your internet browser.  Click on: November 2012 eNewsletter

Follow us on Twitter: @LawCentreNI

 

Contents

 

Training opportunities

Welfare reform announcement

Pro-bono work promoted

Anti-trafficking conference

Experts report on trafficking

Redundancy and notice pay

Training opportunities at Law Centre (NI)

Training session delivered by Law Centre (NI) for Belfast Integration and Participation Partnership. Photo Catherine Couvert

12 November:  Introduction to Immigration Law and Practice - two days - Belfast

28 November: Challenging Tax Credit Decisions: Overpayments - Belfast

5 December: Advocacy Skills - two days - Belfast

7 December: WRAP Refresher - Means Tested Benefits - half day - Belfast

11 December: WRAP Refresher - Means Tested Benefits - half day - Derry

13 December: The Rights of Agency Workers - Belfast

All our courses carry CPD points for solicitors, barristers and CAB advisers.

For more details, visit the training section of our website, contact noreen.hyndman@lawcentreniwest.org, 028 7126 2433 or view our training programme

Participants at ILPA training course run at Law Centre (NI) 2012. Photo Michael Beggs

Welfare reform: cautious welcome

The Law Centre gave a cautious welcome to the Social Development Minister’s announcement that he has secured changes to the way Universal Credit can be paid in Northern Ireland.

The Minister’s announcement represents a step towards tailoring welfare reform to Northern Ireland’s circumstances, but more can still be done to improve upon the Welfare Reform Bill currently before the Social Development Committee.

Giving evidence to the Social Development Committee on 23 October, Law Centre director Les Allamby said, “We are not looking to devise an alternative social security system but rather to ensure that the proposals designed for Britain take into account the specific circumstances and local needs of Northern Ireland.” 

 “The Committee needs to closely examine what other steps can be taken to protect households affected by the changes.  For example, the Committee needs to carefully scrutinise the under occupation penalty for people in public rented housing, the level of conditionality and sanctions proposed under the Welfare Reform Bill and the lack of childcare provision across Northern Ireland.”

He also called for comprehensive scrutiny of the regulations that will implement the legislation as this is where lies the scope and flexibility for things to be done differently in a Northern Ireland context.

The Minister announced on 22 October that:

  • the housing cost element of Universal Credit will be paid direct to landlords rather than the claimant;

  • the payment of Universal Credit may be split between two parties in the household;

  • the payment of Universal Credit may be payable twice each month;

  • and Universal Credit in Northern Ireland will now begin in April 2014.

We prepared an analysis of the Bill for the Social Development Committee.  Read it here: Law Centre clause by clause analysis of the bill.

Developing pro-bono legal work

Lord Justice Stephens speaking at pro-bono seminar organised by Legal Support Project and PILS. Photo Catherine Couvert

On 17 October, the Law Centre’s Legal Support Project (LSP) and the PILS Project (Public Interest Litigation Support Project) co-hosted a seminar on pro bono legal work, at the Inn of Court, Royal Courts of Justice.

 Chaired by Mr Justice Stephens, the seminar highlighted the importance of pro bono work in promoting access to justice and provided an outline of the current opportunities for doing  pro-bono legal work in Northern Ireland.
 
Participants heard from Rebecca Hilsenrath, Chief Executive  of LawWorks and  Elizabeth Mitrow of Terence Lyons & Co Solicitors in Dublin about the their experiences of pro bono working in GB and the Republic of Ireland.

Sinead Mulhern, head of the Legal Support Project, joined speakers from the PILS Project, the Bar Pro Bono Committee, the Law Society, the PILS Project and the LSP for the second half of the seminar, which focused on developing pro bono legal work in Northern ireland.

Many  practical suggestions for developing this area of work were identified.  The Law Centre will work in close partnership with others to take those suggestions forward.

Law Centre at anti-trafficking conference

Speakers at Department of Justice anti trafficking conference.  Photo Kevin Cooper

On 18 October, Law Centre (NI) spoke at a Department of Justice conference, hosted by Justice Minister David Ford, on tackling trafficking.

We highlighted the need for a coherent system of advice to victims of trafficking and effective training of frontline staff in contact with victims of trafficking.  We called for careful monitoring of the extent of cross-border trafficking.

We welcomed the Department’s announcement that it would create a new ‘engagement group’ to give strategic focus to anti-trafficking initiatives in Northern Ireland. The group will involve non-governmental organisations working on behalf of victims of trafficking.

GRETA report on trafficking

GRETA (Group of Experts on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings) recently published its report on the UK’s implementation of the Council of Europe Convention against Human Trafficking.  GRETA is the monitoring body for the Convention.

The Law Centre met with the delegation during its country visit in 2011 and we are encouraged that the expert group has focused a number of its comments on Northern Ireland.

GRETA notes concerns about the First Responder and the victim identification processes.  GRETA also comments on the few prosecutions in Northern Ireland and notes that no victim of trafficking has received compensation.  However, the report does applaud some anti-trafficking efforts underway in Northern Ireland, both on the part of statutory agencies and non-governmental organisations.

Read the report and government response here.

The Law Centre’s submission to GRETA is available here.

Redundancy and notice pay success

In a redundancy payment negotiation, we represented a joiner who had worked for the same employer for over fourteen years when he was temporarily laid off.  A month later, his employer asked him to submit notice of his intention to claim a redundancy payment and a letter of resignation.  Instead of acceding to the request, he sought legal advice from Law Centre (NI). 

The following week, the employer made him redundant and gave him holiday pay but no compensation in respect of his right to notice.

Under Article 118 of the Employment Rights (Northern Ireland) Order 1996, employers seeking to terminate an employee’s employment should give a minimum of one week’s notice for each year their employee has been employed, up to a maximum of twelve weeks.  The law also provides that if both parties agree to waive the notice period the employer should then pay the employee in lieu of the notice period.    However, if an employee voluntarily resigns then the employer is not required to give her/him notice payment. 

If our client had submitted a letter of resignation to his employer, as he was asked to, he would have forfeited his legal right to receive twelve weeks’ notice pay.  In addition to the first five days of the layoff period which he also had not been paid, this amounted to over £3,500.  

We lodged a claim with the Industrial Tribunal and Fair Employment Tribunal and entered into negotiations with the employer using the Labour Relations Agency conciliation service.  Legal proceedings were avoided and our client received his notice pay.