Employment Law

Employment law can be complicated. However, many of the problems employees face have very little law attached to them and are more about relationship difficulties and lack of communication in the workplace.

Speaking to a lawyer is, on occasion, the best thing to do but there are a whole host of on-line resources and other organisations that can help before you contact a solicitor.

Employee Services

What happens if things are not going right at work?

If you have a complaint about the way you have been treated at work then you have the right to bring a grievance against your employer. If you can sort matters out informally, this should be your first path of action. However, if you can’t resolve it informally, then your employer may have a set procedure to follow. In the absence of a set procedure, you should follow the ACAS guide. Remember, failure to raise a grievance may result in any tribunal award being reduced.

How Amicus Can Help

Many employers fail to deal with grievances properly. This may be a combination of unfamiliarity on their part and a poorly drafted grievance from the employee. Submitting a properly formulated grievance together with an action plan to remedy the issue may get you a far better result. You should be looking to pay around £600 (incl. VAT) for this service.

Your employer thinks you have done something wrong. 

Here your employer should go through a fair procedure, and this includes letting you know what you have done wrong, invite you to a meeting to allow you to explain your side of the story, let someone attend with you and then make a ‘fair’ decision. They also have to let you appeal.

Being open and honest is usually the best approach to these meetings. Remember to listen carefully and take  full note of what is said. Bring someone in that you can trust and ideally, who could be impartial. If you are disciplined or dismissed and you disagree, then those notes will need to be reviewed to see if you may have a claim.

ACAS have a helpful guide to the subject. 

How Amicus Can Help

Being prepared for these hearings is very important and a solicitor can advise on how to approach these, often, very stressful situations. Having a well thought out action plan could make the difference between an unjustified dismissal and either keeping your job or negotiating some sort of termination package. You should be looking to pay around £600 (incl. VAT) for this tactical advice.

If you have been dismissed and believe it to be unfair, then you should have the right to appeal.

If this fails then you may wish to bring an Employment Tribunal claim against your employer. However, these can be lengthy and quite drawn out, also stressful and expensive (£7,500 + VAT for a standard claim would often be a minimum). It is possible to fight such a claim personally without the need for a lawyer. See the ACAS guide on the subject.

How Amicus Can Help

Knowing whether to bring a claim is probably the most important first step. There is little point in starting a claim only to find out that you will recover very little or that legal fees will be more than the claim is worth. Having a well drafted claim form will also help and understanding the tribunal procedure will give you an advantage. In addition, knowing how to approach a settlement may mean a much quicker resolution to the issue. Most employment disputes will not have enough certainty or value to justify using a solicitor from start to finish. However, using a solicitor as and when needed, will keep costs down and your solicitor should be able to give an estimate for each chunk of advice and drafting needed.

Where a role no longer exists, a workplace is closing down or the employer needs less people to carry out work, then a redundancy situation will arise.

Eligible employees may be due a statutory redundancy payment. For more details see the Gov.uk site.

How Amicus Can Help

Employers are expected to carry out the redundancy process fairly, yet many do not. Failure to follow a correct procedure or if the legitimacy of the redundancy is questioned, then this may be unfair dismissal allowing a tribunal claim to be made or a settlement to be negotiated.

All employees should be treated fairly, but extra protection is provided where the unfairness relates to your sex, race or because you have a disability.

Other ‘characteristics’ are protected and these are diverse.

How Amicus Can Help

Discrimination claims are complicated and the rules are specific. Navigating this complex area takes time and thought. It is often difficult to prove discrimination as the acts are rarely blatant and evidence unclear. Talking through any potential claim will help to avoid any expensive mistakes. Booking an hour’s appointment (£250 + VAT) could be a very worthwhile investment.

The employment relationship is governed by the contract of employment.

This will set out the terms of the relationship explaining what you can and can’t do. It is almost always drafted by the employer and therefore may be skewed in their favour. It must contain a number of standard clauses.

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With the unequal bargaining position between the employer and the employee, the contract may not always be fair. When it comes to restrictive covenants which try to stop you from getting another job or working for a competitor these often unenforceable, yet employers may still issue a ‘cease and desist’ letter. Getting an hour’s worth of advice (£250 + VAT) on this area, will allow you to make an informed decision about the options available to you.

Please read more information about Settlement Agreements below.

ACAS have a website on the subject and there is a full guide on what should happen.

For general information on workplace issues visit – GOV.UK.

If you need to speak to someone then the Citizens Advice Service have a helpline – 03444 88 9623.

There are also local offices in SedgemoorTaunton and Yeovil. West Somerset also operate an advice service.

How Amicus Can Help

Whilst there are plenty of very good free resources and organisations willing to help, navigating these and producing the documents and letters to get results often requires specialist advice. Instructing a solicitor may be your best option. However, you should be prepared to pay for advice and a one-hour appointment is likely to cost you in the region of £300 (incl. VAT). Please note that Amicus Law do not operate a ‘no win – no fee’ scheme for employment clients, nor can they offer a free initial consultation. It is therefore best to exhaust all other free options before instructing a solicitor.

Employer Services

AmicusLaw provide a whole range of services for employers including:

  • Employee selection and interviewing
  • Contract and restrictive covenant drafting
  • Disciplinary and grievance
  • Flexible working, zero hours etc.
  • Self-employment
  • Managing sickness absence
  • Discrimination and equal pay claims
  • Redundancy
  • Dispute resolution
  • Unfair dismissal
  • Settlement agreements
  • Enforcing restrictive covenants
  • TUPE

Contact Ian Pearson to discuss your requirements.

Settlement Agreements

A Settlement Agreement is a legally binding contract between an employer and employee, usually used at the end of the employment relationship and where Ian Pearson is the author of the UK’s guide on Settlement Agreements there is a potential dispute between the parties.

They used to be called ‘Compromise Agreements’ and do the same thing. These agreements have to be in writing, have to be voluntary and have to be signed off by a solicitor (or trade union official).

Settlement Agreements Book Ian Pearson
Ian Pearson is the author of the UK’s guide on Settlement Agreements

The main purpose of these agreements is to stop the employee from bringing an Employment Tribunal (and any other) claim against the employer. Settlement Agreements may arise after a disciplinary or grievance procedure, on redundancy, resignation or after a ‘without prejudice’ or ‘protected discussion’.

The ACAS Code of Practice suggest that a minimum of ten days are given for the employee to consider the terms of the agreement, although in practice, they tend to be signed much more quickly. The agreements can look quite daunting and contain a whole raft of legislation that are relevant to employment law. The reason for this is that it is against public policy for an employee to give up their rights to bring a Tribunal claim without taking independent legal advice. Therefore, every piece of legislation relating to the termination of employment or problems during employment needs to have a short clause inserted for the agreement to be legally binding.

There is no obligation to sign a settlement agreement and if you do not then your employer or you will need to resolve any problems a different way – or, perhaps, go to court or tribunal.

Ian Pearson is the author of The Adviser’s Guide to Settlement Agreements – the definitive guide for advisers. For more information www.settlementagreementguide.co.uk

It is usual for employers to pay for you to take legal advice.

This sum ranges from £250 to £500 usually. Assuming the advice you seek is purely on the agreement, this sum is usually sufficient. If, however, you want to negotiate a different agreement or you decide to pull out and not sign, then you personally will be liable for fees incurred up to that point.

The sums in the agreement will be broken down into taxable payments and those which can be made without deduction for tax – so called ‘payments for loss of employment’. The rules of this can be complicated and change on 6 April 2018. You will also need to indemnify your employer for any tax due, just in case the tax-free payment proves not to be.

Once you have accepted the terms of that agreement, it is usual for the solicitor to send confirmation that advice has been given to the employer together will a bill for the services. This will be addressed to you but marked payable by the employer. Remember, if the employer decides not to pay or the deal falls apart, you will be responsible for the fees. It may be possible to undertake the advice by telephone, if this is the case then your solicitor will arrange an appointment with you. You will need to send the agreement electronically and have a copy in front of you when you talk to the solicitor.

You will also need to provide identification to the solicitor for legal/compliance reasons. This will be your passport or driving licence and proof of address, usually a utility bill less than three months old. For further information please contact Ian Pearson.

Ian Pearson
Ian Pearson with copies of his new book on Settlement Agreements

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