Employment law is currently more complex than it has ever been as a result of the Courts, successive governments and the European Union.
The last 20 years have seen such radical change…we have moved from unfair dismissal compensation limited to £11,300, just two forms of discrimination characteristic and two types of discrimination, to having nine protected characteristics and seven different types of discrimination. It doesn’t stop there; we now have TUPE, National Minimum Wage, the Working Time Regulations, and the limit for unfair dismissal has shot up to £89,493 or 12 months net pay.
How do you keep on top of this when your priority is running a successful business, not learning the complexities of employment law?
If you are finding that even the basic, but essential, tasks such as reviewing your contracts and staff handbooks are taking a back seat, then it is time to consider your options.
Whether through legal advice, representation or support, our clients value our practical and ‘hands on’ approach to solving their employment related problems.
It doesn’t matter what type or size of business you run; a public and AIM listed company, limited liability partnership, private company, local government body, or a charitable trust, any distraction can use up your valuable time and resources. We can help take these challenges off your shoulders through our comprehensive employment support package, Peace of Mind.
Peace of Mind
By joining Peace of Mind you will enjoy the following benefits:
Complete review of documents, including staff contracts and handbooks
Access to your own designated employment solicitor when you need them
Training, including claims avoidance training
The list does not end here as there are many other benefits that you receive by joining the cost-effective and highly recommended Peace of Mind membership.
How we can assist you with employment law in your business
With or without Peace of Mind, we have years of experience in supporting businesses like yours in a variety of ways, including:
Defending Employment Tribunal claims
When an employee or former employee brings a claim against you, the immediate reaction is to panic and think about the consequences of such a claim. We have a specialist team of litigators, who deal exclusively with Employment Tribunal claims and can help you overcome these initial feelings; working with you towards a successful outcome.
Led by Howard Robson, Employment Partner with over 25 years of experience, the team will guide you through the process from leading the negotiations during the ACAS Early Conciliation stage, to drafting the response to the claim. The team will also help you prepare witness statements and documents for disclosure of evidence.
In terms of advice, we will use our background and previous experience, as well as taking into account your particular situation and your company policies and procedures, to discuss with you the appropriate strategy to adopt, which claims would be successful or not and therefore whether you need to settle. We will provide a commercial and pragmatic steer enabling you to focus on your business while we focus on fighting your corner.
Restrictive covenants and confidential business information
In a highly competitive and increasingly global environment it is essential that you protect your trade secrets and good will. The starting point for this is to ensure that you have effective restrictive covenants in your contracts of employment to prevent the poaching of staff and customers, and the disclosure of confidential information. We can help you to draft the clauses that will best protect your business, as well as how to implement them during an employee’s current employment if their role changes.
We can also advise on strategies for the monitoring of your employee activities during their employment and consider restricting access to confidential information. Should a breach occur we can advise on the most effective method of enforcement, the action to be taken to recover lost information and whether it would be appropriate to seek an injunction or simply negotiate a fresh set of undertakings.
Sometimes you will find that your relationship with your employee is not working to your mutual advantage. You may wish to terminate their employment but you do not have the time to follow a fair procedure or you want to avoid them bringing a claim at a later stage. You can do this by using a settlement agreement, which is a legally binding formal agreement to terminate their employment.
A settlement agreement will usually include the payment of a lump sum by way of compensation and may also include details relating to their pension, bonus, holiday and company car arrangements. It could include an agreed reference or an announcement to your staff or customers, and it occasionally has restrictive covenants to protect your business from competition after they leave.
Our specialist litigation team has an effective system for preparing draft settlement agreements. Using a detailed checklist, we can gather all the information we need to be able to advise you as to the appropriate amount of money to offer by way of compensation, and to prepare the initial draft agreement to be given to your employee. We have a guidance script that we can tailor to your situation for you to use for the initial conversation with the employee, and we can help with the negotiation of terms or respond to their solicitor with any comments on the wording of the agreement.
Contracts and staff handbooks
Every employee is entitled to receive a statement of the terms of their employment within 8 weeks of starting their job. Usually, this will be found in a contract of employment but they may also be referred to the staff handbook where more detailed policies are set out. Whilst many of the rights that employees have are set out in legislation including their working time, entitlement to breaks, holiday pay and maternity and paternity rights, there are many clauses that we can include to protect you and your business and to ensure that the relationship between you and your employees works to your advantage.
Through our Peace of Mind service we prepare your contracts and staff handbooks and keep them under review, updating your documents to ensure that you keep up with changes in the law. This extends to legislation updates or following an Employment Tribunal outcome of note, as well as larger revolutionary changes such as General Data Protection Regulations.
A Directors Service Agreement is similar to a contract of employment for Directors.
The document will detail information such as:
Incentives such as bonuses, pension, company car
It is likely there will be provisions and protections for them should the company be sold, as well as protections for the company in terms of restrictive covenants. The agreement may also specify the consequences should they sell their shares, or if they are asked to step down as a Director.
Having your Directors Service Agreements drafted to work for both you as a business and your Director is a balancing act, and one that we can help you with.
Mergers and acquisitions
Whether you are buying shares in a business or buying a business as a going concern you will want to ensure that you are aware of the rights and obligations in relation to the employees engaged in the business. We can help you with the due diligence stage of any transaction advising you as to the current contracts of employment and the staff handbook which relate to the staff that you may be taking on. We can alert you to any risks that are inherent in the documents and any strategies that you might adopt to harmonise those terms with your existing staff documentation.
We can also help you ensure that the purchase agreement deals with the rights and obligations that you have in relation to the employees. We do so working in partnership with our colleagues in the Company Commercial team, or with other solicitors and advisers that you are working with. We can also provide the documentation that you need to inform the staff as to the change to their employer and give guidance as to any consultation that is required with employees ahead of the changeover.
Re-organisations and re-structuring advice
Changes in technology and the focus of your business can mean that there are times when you are required to change the roles of employees without the need to reduce headcount. You may wish to retrain your staff, change their job titles or change their working patterns to suit the developing needs of your business.
Making any of these changes will need to be done through the correct procedure, or you could leave yourself open to claims such as constructive unfair dismissal. Our specialist litigation team can help you to achieve your aims by providing you with guidance on the necessary process of consultation and writing the letters that you need to take your employees with you as you change. We often find it a popular option to come to us for advice on how we can work with you to develop the timeline for change and to advise on the strategy to achieve your business aims.
If you have a downturn in workload or introduce technology which means that you no longer need the employees that you currently have we can help you to identify an appropriate redundancy procedure to follow. Announcing such plans to your employees will be one that is met with caution, and we can advise on the proper procedure to make the transition as smooth as possible for you and your employees who are affected.
We can advise you on the pools of employees from which you will choose those to be dismissed, the consultation process and the appointment to alternative roles where possible. Our template letters will help you to follow the right steps to ensure that you don’t end up in the Employment Tribunal, and we can carry out the calculations for you so that you know what your employees are entitled to on dismissal.
A working relationship is like any other relationship, there will be times when your employees can do no wrong and times when they can do no right.
We regularly advise employers on how to handle difficult employees, from the informal conversations about dress code and behaviour that gently steer your employees back to the right path, to the formal disciplinary processes that might ultimately lead to their dismissal.
We have years of experience of guiding employers through investigation procedures and conducting hearings. We can also advise on how to respond to a grievance and whether or not there is a risk of an Employment Tribunal claim arising. Your managers will need support through the process to give them the confidence to make effective decisions and to manage the situation that they face to the advantage of the business. We regularly work with employers to enable their managers to have the support that is needed.
As an employer you are entitled to get the most out of your staff, both in terms of productivity and their performance as this will enable you to meet your business objectives.
We have worked with many employers over the years to consider the introduction of performance review and appraisal procedures, the use of bonus and other incentive schemes to motivate and encourage improvements, and the use of capability procedures to remove those employees who are no longer performing to the standards you require.
We are flexible to how you work with us, offering you advice the way that fits with the practicalities of your business. If you do not choose to become a Peace of Mind member, you can either pick up the phone, email or visit us, receiving our advice for defending a tribunal claim and being charged as per our hourly rate.
We publish a free weekly Employment Law Newsletter which is both irreverent in style and informative. We aim to make you laugh out loud at least once a week and all you need to do to receive these updates from us is sign up! Complete our online form, or view our recent copies.
To help you bring the law to life, we also run a full events programme, comprising of masterclasses and free seminars.
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