GDPR – How Will it Affect my Business?

All businesses have paper and/or digital records of data relating to their customers and employees: names, addresses, emails and other personal information.

On 25 May 2018, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) becomes law. The GDPR sets new standards for data protection and its enforcement. It restates what is meant by data and how that data should be collected, managed, stored and secured.

While GDPR consolidates existing data protection principles, it significantly strengthens the rights of individuals (data subjects) in relation to data held about them including how they can access, rectify and have that data erased (“the right to be forgotten”).

A key decision for any business planning for GDPR will be to identify the lawful basis upon which they are going to process personal data. Much of the hype surrounding GDPR relates to “consent” which we will turn to shortly. However, consent is just one of a number of lawful grounds for which GDPR permits the processing of data. Other legitimate grounds are:

  • Contract – for performance of a contract with a data subject or to take steps to enter into a contract
  • Compliance – for compliance with legal obligations
  • Vital interests e.g. where necessary to protect a person’s interests or life
  • Public task – for the protection of public interests or in the exercise of official authority
  • Legitimate interests – to fulfil the legitimate interests of the data controller except where those are overridden by the interests of the data subject

Except for direct or indirect marketing then, the received wisdom is that consent should only be used as a condition for processing personal data where none of the other above grounds apply.

Consent already exists as a concept under the current data protection regime and GDPR actually makes it more difficult to obtain consent to the processing of data. Whereas organisations already need to obtain consent before sending marketing communications (e.g. the pre-ticked box), GDPR requires that consent is be freely given, specific, informed, properly documented and easy for people to withdraw. The use of pre-ticked, opt-out boxes will no longer be permitted as a method of obtaining consent to receive marketing material.

Even where a lawful basis for processing has been identified, you still need to audit the information held to ensure its accuracy. Internal procedures should be reviewed to ensure that there are the correct resources to manage and protect the information on a continuing basis. There should also be a very clear privacy policy in place.

For the first time, GDPR also introduces the requirement to report data breaches. A data controller has 72 hours from becoming aware of a loss of customer details which could leave that individual open to identity theft to report that loss to both the individual and to the Information Commissioners Office (ICO).

Another fundamental difference between the current regime and GDPR is enforcement. Pre-GDPR, the maximum fine which the ICO could impose for a data breach is £500,000. Under GDPR, the maximum fine will be €20Million or 4% of turnover, whichever is greater.

Undoubtedly, GDPR brings in significantly more robust data protection rules and will require all businesses to review and develop their existing data protection policies and procedures. But remember that the core purpose of GDPR is to ensure that all businesses adhere to what should already be best practice.

The ICO’s website contains a lot of essential information about GDPR and will be an invaluable resource for anyone tasked with ensuring that their business is GDPR-ready in time for 25 May 2018.

The content of this blog is for information only and should not be construed as legal advice or treated as a substitute for specific advice given by Mitchells Roberton.

Rise in First-Time Buyer Numbers

There was a sharp rise in the number of first-time buyers entering the property market in 2017 despite having to put down a deposit that is more than double what was required ten years ago.

The latest Halifax First-Time Buyer Review found that the number of first- time buyers rose by 6% in the last 12 months. Halifax data also revealed that although the average price of a typical first home has grown by 21% from £174,703 to £212,079, first time buyer levels have almost returned to those last seen in 2007, when 359,900 took their first step on the property ladder. This is an increase of 87% compared to an all-time low of 192,300 in 2008 and is now just 11% below the most recent peak of 402,800 in 2006. First-time buyers now account for half of all house purchases with a mortgage, an increase from 36% a decade ago.

“A flow of new buyers into home ownership is vital for the overall wellbeing of the UK housing market,” commented Russell Galley, Managing Director, Halifax. “This ten year high in the number  of first time buyers shows continued healthy movement in this key area despite a shortage of homes and the on-going challenge of saving enough of a deposit.”

“Low mortgage rates, high levels of employment and Government schemes such as Help to Buy have helped first-time buyers become a much greater segment of the market,” he added.

For expert legal advice on buying or selling a property in Scotland, whether you are a first-time buyer or an existing home owner, then please contact me Elizabeth Baker on 0141 552 3422 or by email eb@mitchells-roberton.co.uk

Gender Pay Gap

Organisations with 250 or more workers must publish their figures to report gender pay gap information by April this year. So far it seems that just over 500 out of the anticipated 9000 affected groups have done so. The next quarter of the year is therefore going to be busy.

According to the BBC news Ladbrokes, Easyjet and Virgin Money are among the major companies to reveal gender pay gaps of more than 15% in favour of men for mean hourly rate. Kate Palmer reports “Women’s hourly pay rates are 52% lower than men’s at Easyjet. On average, women earn 15% less per hour at Ladbrokes and 33% less at Virgin Money.” All three firms say men and women are paid equally when in the same role.

It is important to note that whilst equal pay and the gender pay gap deal with the disparity of pay women receive in the workplace they are two different issues:

  • Equal pay means that men and women in the same employment performing equal work must receive equal pay.
  • The gender pay gap is a measure of the difference between men’s and women’s average earnings across an organisation or the labour market. It is expressed as a percentage of men’s earnings.

Women’s Equality UK responded to the figures released: “Transparency –while welcome- is not enough to close the gender pay gap. Action is needed to address the imbalance of power which underlies the problem, and to make sure women and men’s work is valued.”

In Britain in 2016 there was an overall gender pay gap of 18.1% .Employers with low or no gender pay gaps include the British Museum (0%) and the Armed Forces (0.9%)

A report recently published by the BBC found that there was a gender pay gap in favour of men of 10.7%. Director General Lord Hall pledged to close the gap by 2020 saying that the corporation should be “an exemplar of what can be achieved when it comes to pay, fairness, gender and representation.”

House Price Trends in 2018 Expected to be Similar to 2017

Halifax has revealed that prices in the final quarter of 2017 (October-December) were 2.7% higher  than in the same three months of the previous year. In addition house prices in that quarter were 1.3% higher than in the previous quarter (July-September).However despite there being a rise of 0.3% in both October and November 2017 there was a fall in December 2017 of 0.6% which was the first price drop since June 2017.

According to the latest House Price Index from Halifax the average price of a property in the UK at the end of 2017 was £225,021 which is 2.4% higher than in January 2017 when the average price was £219,741.

Halifax says it expects house price trends in 2018 to be similar to last year. Overall, annual house price growth nationally is expected to stay low and in the range of 0.3% by the end of 2018. The main drivers for this apparently are the continuing effects of the squeeze on spending power as inflation has outstripped wage growth and the uncertainty regarding the prospects for the UK economy next year.

“As we’d anticipated, the housing market in 2017 followed a similar pattern to the previous year,” commented Russell Galley Managing Director, Halifax Community Bank. “House price growth slowed  whilst building activity, completed sales and mortgage approvals for house purchase all remained flat. This has been driven by a squeeze on real wage growth and continuing uncertainty over the economy.”

“However nationally house prices in 2018 are likely to be supported by the ongoing shortage of properties for sale, low levels of house building, high employment and a continuation of low interest rates making mortgage servicing affordable in relative terms,” he added. “Overall we expect annual price growth to continue in the range of 0.3% at the end of 2018.”

For expert legal advice on buying or selling in Scotland then please contact Alison Gourley on 0141 552 3422 or by email ajg@mitchells-roberton.co.uk

The Problem with Plastic

According to The Independent “Humans have produced about 8.3 billion metric tonnes of plastic since 1950”.Researchers writing in the journal , Science Advances ,warned that if current trends continued some 12 billion tonnes of plastic waste would be in landfill sites or the natural environment by 2050.

Campaign groups suggest that the average person throws away the equivalent of 1,212 Coca Cola bottles or 4,600 plastic forks each year. Scientists from a number of Universities in a paper published in Science Advances state that “The growth of plastics production in the past 65 years has substantially outpaced any other manufactured material”.

“The same properties that make plastics so versatile in innumerable applications – durability and resistance to degradation-make these materials difficult or impossible for nature to assimilate.”

“Thus , without a well-designed and tailor- made management strategy for end-of-life plastics, humans are conducting a singular uncontrolled experiment on a global scale, in which billions of metric tons of material will accumulate across all major terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems on the planet.”

In October 2014 shops in Scotland began charging 5p for single-use plastic carrier bags. In the first year the number of plastic bags handed out in stores was slashed by 80%- the equivalent of 650million carriers. Scottish government research concludes that a reduction of 650 million bags means a net saving of more than 4000 tonnes of plastic and other materials each year.

MPs are now considering a 25p latte levy on disposable coffee cups to reduce waste. Apparently the UK throws away 2.5 billion paper cups every year with less than 1% being recycled. The rest are incinerated or buried in landfill sites because they have an inner-lining made of plastic which paper mills struggle to remove.  The Environment Audit Committee is calling on the Government to introduce a minimum 25p charge on disposable coffee cups to cut waste in the same way as the plastic bag levy.  It seems that MPs are open to the idea but want to ensure that any levy would trigger a change in behaviour not merely an increase in price.

In our office we do our best to recycle as much as possible but these figures suggest we should be doing considerably more to protect our environment.

Value of Privately Owned Housing Stock Reaches New High

New research by Halifax has revealed that the total value of privately owned UK housing stock has surpassed £6 trillion for the first time.

Since 2007 the total value of private residential property in the UK has grown by £1.94 trillion (or 48%) to an estimated £6.02 trillion. The average value per household in the UK now stands at £256,912, up from £187,310 in 2007, representing an increase of close to £70,000 (37%)

This increase has been driven by a 45% rise in the average house price and the stock of privately owned homes expanding by 1.9 million from 21.5 million to 23.4 million.

Net housing wealth peaks as homeowners reach retirement age, with 40% of wealth in households with owners aged over 65. Three in five (61%) of homeowners in this age bracket are mortgage free. Almost a quarter of total household wealth is held by householders in the age group from 55-64. 47% of those aged 25-45 have a mortgage and account for 15.4% of total housing wealth. Just 0.1% net housing wealth is held by those aged 16-24.

I have been a residential conveyancing practitioner for over 24 years and I would be delighted to advise you on buying and selling property. If I can help please contact me Alison Gourley on 0141 552 3422 or by email ajg@mitchells-roberton.co.uk

Christmas Closing

Please note that our office will be closed from 5pm on Friday 22 December until 9am on Wednesday 3 January.

If you require urgent assistance, an emergency out of hours number 0141 552 3422 will be in operation between 9am-5pm, Wednesday 27 December to Friday 29 December.

We wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Email Downtime from 2:30pm, Tuesday 18th September

Please note that from 2:30pm on Tuesday 19th September, we are anticipating a disruption to our email service due to planned maintenance works by our Internet Service Provider. The downtime may be up to four hours and any messages sent to us during this time will be delayed. If you need to contact us urgently, please call our switchboard on 0141 552 3422. We apologize for any convenience this may cause.

Parkers Take Note

I was chatting to someone the other day who said they had received a parking ticket for parking their van in a Morrison’s car park for four hour. The gentleman said he was just going to throw it away because it was unenforceable.

With my solicitor’s hat on I told him that this unfortunately was a common myth and that recently motorist ,Carly Mackie, received the largest ever parking fine in Britain amounting to £24,500. Ms Mackie had been issued with multiple parking charges by Vehicle Control Services Limited who were employed by the factors of her parents’ housing estate to provide a parking scheme. In the estate there were visible signs , eight in all,  advising that a permit was required to park in the area and the consequences of a fine if the terms and conditions were breached.

Despite this Ms Mackie parked her car outside her mother’s home and ignored the almost daily parking charge notices on her windscreen. She wrongly believed she was entitled to park her mini without a permit within the private parking area and that the tickets were unenforceable. Ms Mackie had been offered a parking permit but declined on principle.

However the private firm Vehicle Control Services Limited took her to court last year when she had racked up an £18,500 bill for ignoring more than 200 penalty notices. The action raised at Dundee Sheriff Court was defended by Ms Mackie on the basis that Vehicle Control Services Limited had no right to issue the parking charges and therefore she was under no obligation to pay them.

Generally speaking the public accepts that Local Authorities are able to issue parking tickets known as a fixed penalty. But car parking operators are able to issue parking charges for private car parks provided they display signs in the parking area setting out the terms and conditions of use.  If a motorist parks a car within a private parking area  which has clear signage setting out terms and conditions of using the car park then the driver is taken to have accepted the terms and has entered into a contract which if breached can lead to charges being applied.

In a written judgement of the case Sheriff George Way said Ms Mackie had “entirely misdirected herself on both the law and the contractual chain in this case” and ordered her to pay £24,500.

So be warned!

Dementia and the World of the Arts

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I recently read a very moving and interesting article in The Observer of 16/7/2017 by Nicci Gerrard called “Say it with a picture or a song”. It resonated with me for certain  reasons, primarily because of the work we do here with adults with incapacity and our involvement with Project Ability Glasgow, an art project creating opportunities for people with disabilities and mental health issues.

As Nicci Gerrard explains “A few weeks ago turning on the radio, I hear a voice saying that creative writing can help wounds heal faster. Startled I turn the volume up. Volunteers were given small wounds; half were then asked to write about something distressing in their life, the other half about something mundane. The wounds of the confessional writers healed substantially more quickly. A thought or a feeling is felt on the skin. Our minds, which have the power over our bodies, are in our bodies and are our bodies: we cannot separate the two. Words, self expression, can tangibly help pain and suffering. Art can be medicine for body and soul”- potent words indeed.

An all party parliamentary group inquiry into the arts, health and well being has been gathering evidence over the last two years and has come to the unambiguous conclusion that the arts used appropriately by health professionals can help with some major social challenges of an aging population, long-term illness, loneliness and mental health ,saving money in the health service. As Lord Howarth of Newport co-chair of the all party group said “The arts have a vital role to play for people with dementia. Research demonstrates that visual arts, music, dance, digital creativity and other cultural activities can help to delay the onset of dementia and diminish its severity. This not only makes a huge difference to many individuals but also leads to cost savings. If the onset of Alzheimer’s disease ( which accounts for 62% of dementias) could be delayed by five years, savings between 2020 and 2035 are estimated at £100bn. Those are powerful statistics, but this isn’t just about money; the arts can play a powerful role in improving the quality of life for people with dementia and for their carers”.

There are projects the length and breadth of the country in theatres, galleries, community centres hospitals and care homes. As Nicci Gerrard describes” I attended one of the monthly sessions at the Royal Academy in London where people who have been art- lovers through their life- and are art-lovers still come to talk about a particular work, led by two practicing artists. We sat in front of an enigmatic painting by John Singer Sargent and there was an air of calmness, patience and above all time and there were no wrong opinions. There are many ways of seeing. People with dementia are continually contradicted and corrected, their versions of reality denied: it’s Sunday not Friday; you’ve already eaten your breakfast; I’m your wife not your mother; anyway you are old and she is dead….In this humanising democratic space, people were encouraged to see, feel, remember and express themselves. Slowly at first they began to talk. There was a sense of language returning and of thoughts feeding off each other. They were listened to with respect and were validated.”

Nicci Gerrard also mentions in her article the film “Alive Inside”. It is a documentary which follows social worker Dan Cohen founder of the non-profit making organisation Music & Memory as he fights against a broken health care system to demonstrate music’s ability to combat memory loss and restore a deep sense of self to those suffering from it. Nicci Gerrard points to an emotive example “an old man with advanced dementia sits slumped in a wheelchair. He drools; his eyes are half closed and it’s impossible to know if he is asleep or awake. A few times a day, soft food is pushed into his mouth. Then someone puts earphones on his head and suddenly the music that he loved when he was a strong young man is pouring into him. His eyes open and knowledge comes into them. His toothless mouth splits into a beatific grin. And now he is dancing in his chair, swaying. And then this man –who doesn’t speak any longer –is actually singing. The music has reached him, found him, gladdened him and brought him back to life.”  The arts creating a miracle of which there should be more as we realise the wonderful benefits of the artistic world.

To find out more about Project Ability, please visit http://www.project-ability.co.uk/