Last April I put my money on Tony Barlow, who runs The Mount Service Station in Shrewsbury, to win his battle with Saxon Paper and I’m pleased to say I won the bet (although as it was a bet with myself, I’ll now have to pay up).

Tony though, will not have to pay Saxon Paper for a delivery of unwanted till rolls. Saxon insisted that staff must have agreed over the phone and Tony told Saxon it was their own fault if they pitched agreement-seeking questions at busy staff. Saxon finally agreed to ’credit his account’ if he sent back the goods. Tony said come and get it yourself. Saxon said, in that case, the invoice still stood.

Tony wrote to Saxon explaining his storage terms - £5 a week. Then it got heavy. Debt collectors advised that, if the £62.87 was not paid in seven days, court proceedings would commence which would add another £88 in legal fees and £30 interest on the bill.

Tony wrote to every trade association he could think of and reported Saxon to his own trading standards plus Saxon’s TSOs and to the Telephone Preference Service because he was already registered with TPS to prevent unwanted calls. His TSO also wrote to Saxon saying that staff had no authority to place orders.

Then it got even heavier. The debt collectors wrote to say that if payment wasn’t received within seven days, solicitors would issue a ’clause 12’ against Tony’s company. This is a threat to freeze your bank account; freeze your assets; advertise your ’insolvency’ in the local press; and take out a CCJ.

Tony retaliated with his first invoice for storage and a reminder (charged at another £30). This continued to the point where Tony calculated that Saxon owed him more than they claimed he owed them.

And now the conclusion. Last month Tony emailed: "I went to court today and won my case for storage. I prepared well, believing in the Pearl Harbour approach: cover all corners and throw everything at them." Saxon did spoil his day by not actually turning up, sending in a written submission instead.

The judge agreed that he could charge £5 a week rent for the rent up till August 2006 (the date when it all went legal). Tony is now about to invoice Saxon for the period from August to this March. All told it was 14 months at a fiver per month storage.

He concludes: "I cannot stress too strongly that all businesses should register with the Telephone Preference Service, send your letters of dispute by recorded delivery and keep all correspondence."

== Know your rights ==

Employers have a number of duties to their employees. It is quite a responsibility - the hats they have to wear are numerous. If they get it wrong these days, there are numerous comebacks, most of which involve penalties costing dearly. This preamble is to introduce an unusual story. Unusual in that I was contacted by an employee rather than an employer.

I know employees read this magazine but normally their employer would be their first port of call for information or help in times of difficulty. However, this time it wasn’t going according to plan.

Hasmukh Soda joined Jet as an employee in 2001. It became Fuelforce. In June 2005 Murco bought the site (in fact the company bought 51 sites from Fuelforce and turned them all into Murcos).

At this point Hasmukh got a letter from Murco spelling out the fact that all of Murco’s UK company-owned sites are operated by a self-employed individual called a contract manager. He therefore would become an employee of that contract manager and not an employee of Murco, although Murco explained that all his rights would be protected.

However, when Hasmukh contacted me, two years had gone by and he had not had a payslip since June 2005, having been paid in cash since that time. The first contract manager left after one year, the second contract manager was due to leave and Inland Revenue was on Hasmukh’s case wanting to assess his tax liability. They were looking for tax and national insurance to the tune of £1,000-plus.

"I’m going to be 54 this year," Hasmukh told me. "I’ve been in this country for 30 years and I always pay my taxes." I spoke to Murco head office and explained that two contract managers appeared to have put at least one employee on the black market. A couple more calls and it did get sorted after Murco explained to the managers what their obligations were in view of their contract with Murco.

For the official word I consulted the workplace disputes experts at ACAS. A spokeswoman said that it is an employee’s statutory right to a detailed payslip at or before the time the payment is made.

== Due this month ==

Don’t forget that from this month paid maternity leave is extended from six to nine months. And yes, it will get worse for the employer because there’s likely to be a further extension to one year’s paid leave by the end of 2010.


=== Contact Jac ===

020 8502 9775

You can fax your queries, news and views to

020 8491 6728

or send an e-mail to

And if you prefer to put pen to paper, send your letters c/o Forecourt Trader, William Reed Publishing, Broadfield Park, Crawley, West Sussex RH11 9RT