Employment law has for many years been one of the fastest changing areas of law there is in Europe, and with Brexit on the doorstep the changes could start to come even faster.
Whether you are an employer or an employee, the one thing that won’t change is your need to comply with employment legislation. Whatever legislation that is and whichever side of the fence you sit, it is essential that you know your legal rights and responsibilities. Before proceeding with any legal action, however, you should ask for initial claim assessment advice, fixed fee work and eligibility for no-win, no-fee arrangements.
At GHP Legal our specialist employment team has vast experience of dealing with the full range of employment law issues facing business owners and their employees today and our solicitors can help to clarify the complexities of new employment legislation and how it affects you specifically.
Our reputation has been built on understanding our clients' needs and working with them to pursue their objectives. We have a dedicated team of specialist solicitors with extensive litigation experience and a proactive approach who pride themselves in understanding the perspective of each individual, however senior or experienced they may be. The team regularly appear in tribunals and Robert Williams, Partner and head of Employment at GHP Legal, is a member of the Employment Lawyer Association.
The employment law specialists at our offices in Wrexham, Oswestry, Chirk and Llangollen, were noted for their handling of Employment cases by researchers compiling The 2017 Legal 500 list of Top-Tier firms in the United Kingdom. The Legal 500 is the leading guide to law firms in the UK. This is the best endorsement you can have for knowing that the employment lawyers you engage are among the best in the country.
Our Employment lawyers help clients across a wide range of industries to achieve their goals in solution-led, cost-effective and practical ways. Whether that is through litigation, negotiation or conciliation, our seamless and integrated service takes account of commercial as well as legal considerations. Further, through careful planning and foresight, our aim is to pre-empt problems by applying appropriate action before they arise.
For our Employer clients we act as an in house HR team, operating as a sounding board to deal with practical issues, drafting as much or as little of HR letters and contracts as required and always giving prompt considered and considerate advice.
Our Employer clients appreciate the value of their staff and ensuring that relationships are maintained however difficult the circumstances.
Getting advice from our specialist employment lawyers could not be easier. For an initial chat you don’t even need an appointment, you can just come along and meet to one of our weekly clinics that run on Wednesdays, 12noon-3pm, at our Oswestry office and on Mondays, 9.30am-12noon, at our Wrexham office.
Contracts of employment
A contract of employment is there to protect employers as much as employees and you will need to ensure that yours are not only watertight but also updated and amended in line with changes to legislation and your business needs.
Our employment lawyers are well equipped to guide you through the process and in developing that contract to keep you and your business safe.
Disciplinary matters and grievances
To protect yourself if you are ever faced with disciplinary matters and grievances, you should make clear to your employees from the outset exactly what is and what is not acceptable in the workplace.
Having in place a strict disciplinary procedure to deal with breaches of your required standards of conduct will help to avoid misunderstandings and ensure your employees understand what is expected of them. As an employer you are under a legal obligation to deal with such procedures fairly and consistently. The same applies to grievance and complaints, so you should similarly have in place a formal grievance procedure which takes into account the ACAS Code of Practice.
Seeking advice from an employment solicitor at the start of a grievance issue could keep your business out of the Employment Tribunal. This not only makes sound financial sense but can also protect your reputation and be less disruptive to the daily running of your business. GHP Legal has a long track record of successfully dealing with the complex issues that can arise from employee grievances.
Working on behalf of both employers and employees puts us in an ideal position to negotiate and resolve disputes because we understand and are used to dealing with things from both perspectives.
If for any reason you need to dismiss one of your employees it is imperative that you follow the correct dismissal and disciplinary procedure process laid down in the ACAS Code of Practice. If you don’t, you may find yourself facing a costly claim for unfair dismissal. Taking early advice from a specialist employment lawyer could prevent this.
Whilst it is not a legal obligation for you to follow the ACAS Code of Practice, an employment tribunal will expect you to be able to prove you have a justifiable reason why you have not followed it. Failure to follow the Code can also allow tribunals to adjust an increase of any award of damages by up to 25%. The Code does not apply to redundancy dismissals and non-renewal of fixed term contracts, though, unless you have a separate process, it can apply to performance disciplinary and dismissals.
There could be a number of reasons why you might need to make an employee redundant, for example if your business changes what it does or how it does it, or if you are changing location or closing the business down. Whatever the reason, you must be able to demonstrate that the employee’s job will no longer exist. If the reason is due to business changes you must show that you have tried to find the consequentially redundant employee suitable alternative employment within your business.
Employees are by law allowed to try out an alternative role for 4 weeks, or more if you have agreed that with them in writing, without foregoing their right to redundancy payment. The most important part of the redundancy procedure is consulting with your employee. Whilst there are no rules to follow if you are making less than 20 employees redundant an employment tribunal could rule that you have dismissed staff unfairly if you have not previously gone through a consultation process with them.
Consultation does not necessarily have to end in agreement but it must be executed with a view to reaching agreement. Our employment solicitors at GHP Legal can guide you through all the necessary steps of a consultation procedure.
All employers have a legal responsibility to promote equal opportunity in the workplace. It is therefore essential that your employment policy demonstrates compliance with anti-discrimination legislation by not discriminating against any employee or job applicant because of their race, colour, religion, national origin, sex, physical or mental disability, or age. Discrimination can include not hiring someone, selecting a particular person for redundancy, paying a worker less than another worker without good reason. If you are in any doubt about what constitutes discrimination you should contact a GHP Legal employment solicitor for advice.
Maternity and Parental Rights
There are many Employment Acts covering rights to maternity, paternity, shared parental and adoption leave and pay. Most of the relevant legislation was condensed into the Employment Rights Act 1996, but numerous additional regulations since that time have brought further significant changes, with the result that the laws surrounding maternity, paternity and parental rights are highly complex and very easy to get wrong. If you do get it wrong though you could find yourself on the wrong side of an expensive Tribunal case, so don’t take any chances. One of our employment solicitors can advise you.
In April 2017 the government ordered all firms with 250 or more employees to publish pay details and reveal gender pay gaps in a bid to tackle workplace discrimination. But even if you employ less than 250 workers you could still fall foul of equal pay laws that stipulate men and women must be paid the same for doing the same or an equivalent role.
Working time regulations are one of the key considerations for employers but they are also one of the easiest to slip up on. Working time regulations govern how long your employees can work without breaks. The legislation determines maximum weekly hours, holiday entitlement and daily and weekly rest periods. In most instances the maximum working week must not exceed an average of 48 hours, with 11 hours rest per day and 48 hours rest per fortnight, unless there has been an agreed opt-out. Overtime, travelling as part of work, training, being on call and working lunches are all included in those 48 hours. For workers aged 15-18 there are different rules.
Employment disputes can include:
• bonus and wage claims
• disciplinary hearings
• discrimination claims
• enforcing restrictive covenants including non-compete clauses and confidential information
• negotiating settlements
• unfair dismissal
GHP Legal employment solicitors have successfully represented hundreds of employers in the employment tribunal. Our primary aim would be, however, to resolve an employment dispute before it becomes litigious. This would minimise the impact that an employment law claim at a tribunal hearing would have on your reputation and staff morale. In the event of a potential employee claim we would encourage reasonable settlement through a compromise agreement (also known as a settlement agreement).
Practice & Procedure
The ACAS Code of Practice on Disciplinary and Grievance Procedures provides a legal framework to help you deal effectively with grievances and disciplinary issues. If you are unable to resolve an employee issue internally and a claim is brought in the Employment Tribunal, the Tribunal will look at whether you followed the ACAS Code of Practice. If they consider you have not followed the Code of Practice adequately it could increase the level of compensation awarded against you by up to 25%, particularly in cases of unfair dismissal, discrimination and breach of contract.
Our employment solicitors can help to ensure your grievance procedures are transparent and accessible to your employees and advise on employee consultations.