We are delighted to have acted on behalf of the shareholders of AA Projects in relation to the minority investment in the company by Drees & Sommer, which is the first step towards the full merger of the 2 companies.

AA Projects is a highly respected UK property and construction consultancy in six locations across the UK, with 200 employees, for whom we have acted for many years.

Drees & Sommer has 46 locations in Europe, the Middle East, China and the Asia Pacific, with over 4,000 employees worldwide and an annual turnover of €517.2 million (£429.8 million) in 2020.

Through the  investment by Drees & Sommer, AA Projects will be able to build on its current platform creating opportunities for greater access to the market and complementing its existing business plan.

Kenneth Wood, Managing Director, AA Projects said,

“This partnership will provide us with the springboard to expand in existing sectors and markets in the UK where we already have an excellent reputation. It has been a pleasure to once again work with BBS Law who provided strong commercial and legal advice throughout the transaction and we look forward to their continued input in the future growth of our business.”

Dov Black and Rebecca Mills provided the Corporate advice on the transaction, assisted by Paul Stedman, who acted on the Employee Management Incentive (EMI) aspects and Elaine Hackett who provided banking support on the transaction.

Was a pleasure to work with Alex White of KJG, who provided tax advice and support and UHY Hacker Young Manchester, who provided accountancy advice and support.

BBS is delighted at this outcome for a longstanding client and looks forward to working closely with the company in the future.

BBS are delighted to have acted on behalf of founder and managing director, Paul Crudge, in relation to the sale of his company, Pro-Networks, a North Wales-based IT support services specialist, to an Employee Ownership Trust. Dov Black and Rebecca Mills provided the Corporate advice on the transaction, assisted by Paul Stedman, who acted on all Employment and Trust aspects. This is the latest in a number of EOT transactions that our specialist EOT team have worked on over the past 2 years.

An established and successful business for over 20 years, with 350 customers worldwide, Pro-Networks has joined a host of other companies across the UK, which have adopted an employee ownership model since it was first introduced by the UK Government in 2014. Renowned EOTs include John Lewis Partnership, Richer Sounds and Aardman Animations.

Chief executive Geoff Coote said: “A great deal of effort and planning went into structuring this deal with the interests of customers and employees as the absolute priority……we are very excited for what lies ahead for us as a business following this change in structure.”

Dov Black commented, “We are delighted that our experience with EOT transactions enabled us to provide a great result for our client”. BBS is delighted at this outcome for a longstanding client and looks forward to working closely with the company and EOT in the future.

BBS Law are delighted to congratulate our clients, the shareholders of Forge (We Are Forge) on its acquisition by Yardi. Dov Black advised together with Rebecca Mills in our corporate team.

Forge is a UK based provider of visitor management and access control solutions to the commercial real estate, retail and higher education industries.

Yardi develops and supports industry-leading investment and property management software for all types and sizes of real estate companies. Yardi is based in Santa Barbara, Calif., and serves clients worldwide from offices in Australia, Asia, the Middle East, Europe and North America.

Dov Black commented,

“this deal showcased the quality of our corporate team and our work was appreciated by clients and brokers alike. We are delighted to have played a part in an exciting move for the international Proptech sector”.

Should you require any further information or have a specific query you can contact BBS Law on 0161 832 2500.

By the BBS Employment Team, June 2021

It has been almost 15 months since the UK first went into a national lockdown and there is now some light at the end of the tunnel…the vaccine programme is being successfully rolled out and the government roadmap aims for all social distancing restrictions to be lifted from 21 June 2021.  Currently, the government guidance remains that people who can work from home should do so, and where working from home is not possible businesses should ensure that any return to the workplace is in line with Covid-secure workplace guidance.

“It is hoped that we can begin to return to some sort of pre-pandemic ‘normal’ in the coming weeks and with that in mind many businesses are now taking stock and considering how the past 12 months have impacted and will reshape their operations in the months ahead.”

Over the past year the majority of office-based businesses were forced to alter their working practices, with home/remote working becoming the norm.  With the correct checks and I.T infrastructure in place many of our clients have drawn positives from the new working style, including a better work/life balance, cost savings, more flexibility and agility.  However, along with the positives many clients also agree that working in a traditional office environment still has its advantages, including the collaborative nature of being with colleagues and the importance of social interaction, face to face and not via Zoom!  As the possibility of returning to the office is now on the horizon many of our clients have raised questions around their employees return, and we address some of the common queries here:

Can we introduce a hybrid policy (a mix of home and remote working) and do we need to change our employee’s contracts of employment?

Yes, you can introduce a hybrid working policy, this may include a structure of 3 days in the office and 2 days working remotely for example.   We would not advise making formal contractual changes to contracts of employment immediately as over the coming months the working world is likely to continue to change and businesses may need to make further adjustments in the short to medium term as they adapt.  We recommend that a hybrid way of working can be implemented with an initial trial period (for example 6 months), following which a business can reassess if the hybrid approach is working successfully, and if any alterations need to be made.

Can we insist that all our employees have the vaccine when it is made available to them?

Businesses should be mindful that making vaccinations compulsory is likely to give rise to arguments over human rights violations and potential litigation involving discrimination for employees with protected characteristics.  There are very few examples where an employer would be able to fairly dismiss an employee who refuses to be vaccinated.   We would advise against any policies making vaccinations mandatory and recommend that employers consider whether insisting on the vaccine is proportionate and necessary.

Do we need to provide employees with equipment to work from home and do we need to pay employee’s remote working expenses?

Generally, we would advise that a business should provide employees with the essential tools that they need to carry out their day-to-day duties. For office-based employees this would usually include a computer and or telephone. There is no legal requirement for a company to provide employees with equipment such as desks and chairs.  If a business opts to continue with home/remote working post 21 June 2021, business leaders should consider and discuss with employees their individual home set ups, in order to ensure that it is conducive to effective and safe working.  It is also recommended that risk assessments and Display Screen Equipment (DSE) assessments are carried out for employees in order to comply with health and safety legislation.

With regards to expenses, employers do not need to cover the costs of electricity and broadband for example, unless there is an express contractual provision for them to do so.  Employees can apply to HMRC to claim a tax allowance in circumstances where their employer requests that they work from home.

Can employees request to continue to work from home when the business wants a full return to the office?

Yes. Employees with 26 weeks’ service are entitled to make flexible working requests. This was the case pre-pandemic and remains the position.  If a business receives a flexible working request, it should consider the request fully and if it cannot be reasonably accommodated a business can refuse the request if it falls within one of the following 8 reasons;

  • extra costs that will damage the business
  • the work cannot be reorganised among other staff
  • people cannot be recruited to do the work
  • flexible working will affect quality and performance
  • the business will not be able to meet customer demand
  • there’s a lack of work to do during the proposed working times
  • the business is planning changes to the workforce

The difficulty that some businesses may face when considering flexible working requests following the pandemic will be that many of the reasons given for refusing a request historically, for example flexible/home working will affect quality and performance, could be challenged by an employee following a year of successful homeworking.  As such businesses should consider any requests carefully and seek specialist guidance on the correct process to follow.

We envisage that many businesses will choose to adopt a more flexible approach to working in the coming months, including hybrid working.  Moving forward all businesses will need to review their workplaces and operations and the employment team at BBS Law are available to discuss any questions that you may have in relation to returning to the office, including drafting and implementing new policies.

Should you require any further information or have a specific query you can contact Paul, Vicky, Neal or Sarah in the BBS Law Employment team on 0161 832 2500.

An employee ownership trust (commonly called an EOT) is an ownership structure for private companies introduced by legislation in 2014 which offers generous tax benefits where companies are owned by their employees.

As well as enabling the incentivisation and engagement of employees and providing the benefits of employee ownership not just for the employees but also for the business and the wider economy, EOTs also offer significant tax advantages both to employees and to existing shareholders.

How does an EOT structure work?

Under an EOT scheme, the existing shareholders of a company sell a controlling stake in the business (at least 51%) to a newly established trust (the employee ownership trust) which then holds the shares for the benefit of the company’s employees.

The employee ownership trust is often established with a sole corporate trustee which may be a subsidiary of the trading company with a mixture of independent and internal trustee directors, or it may be established with an independent professional trustee.

What are the tax advantages?

Whilst BBS Law are not tax advisers and would recommend that anyone interested in the detail of the tax advantages of an EOT seek specialist advice in this respect, we would note the following as a high-level summary:

  1. A sale of shares to an EOT is free from Capital Gains Tax so any consideration paid to the selling shareholders is receivable by them in full.
  2. Contributions from the trading company to the EOT once it holds the shares can be made on a tax-free basis.
  3. Employees of the company are entitled to receive annual bonus payments (up to a capped amount) from the EOT which will be free from Income Tax.

Who might benefit from using an EOT structure?

As well as businesses looking to incentivise their employees and keen to move to a shared-ownership structure, EOTs may also be attractive to controlling shareholders looking for an exit which does not involve a sale to a third party, and which also allows them to reward the existing employees of the company.

There are a number of criteria which need to be met for a company to utilise an EOT scheme and we would recommend that anyone interested in finding out more about this type of structure seek specialist advice in this respect.

How can BBS Law help?

Here at BBS Law, we have assisted a number of clients in the sale of their businesses to EOTs and have considerable experience in the legal issues which commonly arise on the implementation of an EOT structure, and the preparation of the legal documentation required in this respect.

We work in a collaborative manner with the tax advisers on the transaction to ensure that the scheme is implemented in accordance with the tax legislation and also offer practical commercial advice to clients in terms of the operation of the business once this is owned by the EOT.

We advise from the start to the finish of the transaction and offer a commercial and client-led service on a fixed fee basis.

Note: This guide is for general information purposes only. If you require any further information or have a specific query you can contact our Corporate team. Our Partner, Dov Black (dov@bbslaw.co.uk) will be happy to assist.

The BBS Law Corporate Team led by Dov Black and Rebecca Mills working closely with Lopian Gross Barnett Accountants has played a key role advising Frazer Durris, Dean Cockett and other shareholders of Businesswise Solutions on the sale of the company to Inspired Energy plc, the country’s largest Commercial and Energy advisors.  You can read more about the deal here.