Employment Solicitors in the UK

Employment law in the UK comprises a vast array of regulations and rights with the principal aim of protecting employees and employers alike. From contractual issues, disciplinary and dismissal procedures, and discrimination at work to health and safety – if you employ people or if you are employed and you have questions or find yourself in a dispute, then employment law will almost certainly apply, and you may need the assistance of an employment solicitor. Solicitors for employment law are legal advisors who specialise in employment law, advising and representing businesses and individuals.

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Services Offered by Employment Solicitors

Negotiating employment contracts

The best basis for a strong working relationship is a sound employment contract. Employment law solicitors can assist with reviewing and negotiating contracts for both employees and employers. For the employee, they can ensure that the contract is clear, reasonable and protects their interests. For the employer, they can help create legally compliant contracts which limit exposure to potential claims.

Dismissal and grievance issues

Being dismissed from your job or dealing with a grievance is always a stressful time for any employee. The advice and support of an employment law solicitor can be vital in these circumstances. Whether the dismissal was unfair or even wrongful, or whether you are an employer dealing with a grievance procedure, their expertise can help. They can also attend employment tribunals as your representative.

Claims for discrimination

It is unlawful to discriminate against employees or prospective employees by reason of race, gender, disability or any other ‘protected characteristic’. Despite this, discrimination does occur in the workplace and can have a serious impact on the victim. If you think you have been treated unfairly or discriminated against for any of these reasons, then you should seek guidance from an employment solicitor. They can explain your legal entitlements, assist in collating evidence and submit a claim against the employer.

Choosing the Right Employment Solicitor

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The importance of employing the right solicitor to represent you can significantly affect the outcome of your litigation. There are a myriad of employment solicitors to choose from; there are some key factors to weigh up before deciding on who to instruct.

Consider the following:-

  • Experience and Specialist Knowledge: The solicitor will have a history of practising employment law disputes. Ask how many years experience they have and what type of cases they have dealt with. If you feel your case relates to a specific aspect of employment law such as discrimination or unfair dismissal, then it would be wise to opt for a solicitor who has a specialist knowledge in that particular field.
  • Accreditation and Associations: Is the lawyer accredited by a professional body like the Law Society or the Employment Lawyers Association? If they are, it shows they are committed to high standards and continuous learning – vital in the ever-changing legal environment.
  • Reviews and Testimonials: Reviews and testimonials are available online and are often provided by previous clients about the lawyers they have used. Feedback regarding their communication, responsiveness and track record can be very helpful.
  • Communication and Accessibility: A successful relationship depends on good communication between you and your solicitor. Ensure that you are comfortable with the lawyer and that your questions are answered promptly and you are kept up-to-date on the progress of your case.
  • Fees and Pricing Structure: Ask about the lawyer’s fees and ask him to clarify his pricing structure. It’s also appropriate to ask for a written fee agreement so you are not caught off guard later. Are there any additional fees (e.g. court fees, expert witness fees) that you may be responsible for?

No Win No Fee Agreements

These are also known as CFAs, Conditional Fee Agreements, which can assist people who are worried about the risk of losing their money if they bring a claim. A CFA is an agreement with your solicitor that you will pay their fees if you win your case. If you lose, you will not have to pay their fees although there may be some disbursements (expenses incurred in the case) to pay.

Here’s how a typical no win no fee agreement works:

  • Initial Consultation: The solicitor will take initial instructions and assess the merits of your case and see if it is appropriate to offer a no win no fee agreement.
  • Agreement: The solicitor will agree to conduct the work on a no win no fee basis and you will sign a CFA which sets out the terms and conditions.
  • Success Fee: You will give a success fee to the solicitor if you win your case. The success fee is a percentage of the compensation recovered and is capped by legislation.

Insurance: Most solicitors will recommend that you take out After the Event (ATE) insurance, which covers the other side’s cost if you lose your case. The cost of ATE insurance is often deferred until the end of the case and will sometimes be covered by the compensation received if you win.

The Process of Working with an Employment Lawyer

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Hiring an employment lawyer and working with them can be an intimidating process, but if you know what to expect it can help ease any anxiety you may have and make the process go more smoothly. Below is a general outline of what to expect when working with an employment lawyer:

Initial Consultation:

  • Obviously the initial step is to set up a consultation with an employment lawyer. This initial consultation is often either free or discounted.
  • You will meet with the lawyer, explain your matter, give any relevant information and discuss your goals.
  • The lawyer will evaluate your case, go over your legal options and give you his or her opinion on the likely outcome.
  • The attorney fees and any costs or expenses incurred in your case will be discussed at the consultation.

Retainer Agreement:

  • Assuming you wish to proceed with the lawyer, you will be asked to sign a retainer contract. A retainer deal is a contract between you and the lawyer that includes the scope of the lawyer’s services, fees, and any other terms of the lawyer’s engagement.
  • The retainer agreement should also indicate whether the lawyer will be charging on an hourly basis or a flat fee basis (some lawyers may perform both legal and business services, and charge accordingly). Hourly charges will accrue from the lawyer’s time spent on your matter, usually calculated in six minute increments.

Investigation of Your Case:

  • Your attorney will evaluate your case and review any documents you provide (contract, emails, or any other). Your lawyer may also obtain additional evidence in support of your claim.
  • Some of the things your attorney may do was call witnesses, ask for documents from your employer, or do legal research necessary to prepare a strong case on your behalf.

Negotiation and Settlement:

  • In most employment disputes, it is possible to negotiate and settle your case short of trial.
  • Your lawyer will advocate on your behalf, bargain with the employer or employer’s attorney, and attempt to achieve the best possible settlement of your case.

Employment Tribunal:

  • If settlement is not achieved, your case can progress to the employment tribunal solicitor.
  • Your legal representative will draft and submit all appropriate papers, attend the hearing to represent you, present evidence and make your case.
  • They will advise you on the tribunal procedure, so that you understand the steps involved and your entitlements.

Resolution and Enforcement:

  • Once a decision has been made by the tribunal, it is time for the decision to be enforced or for you to challenge it, if you did not succeed in your claim. Your lawyer will inform you on the next steps to take.
  • Tribunals vary and so do their procedures. However, there are widespread practices which your lawyer will follow in representing you. Those include:

Employment Tribunals: What to Expect

Employment tribunals are the courts in the UK that consider and decide employment disputes between individuals and employers. Unless the issue is resolved through negotiation or mediation, an employment tribunal will usually consider the dispute following unsuccessful negotiations.

The Tribunal Process at a Glance:

  • Claim: The process starts when the employee (the claimant) submits a claim to the tribunal. The claim sets out what the dispute is about and what the outcome should be.
  • Response: The employer (the respondent) has a chance to respond to the claim, explaining their version of events.
  • Case Management Hearing: It is conducted by the tribunal to identify the issues in dispute, agree a timetable for the case and raise any preliminary points.
  • Preparation and Exchange of Evidence: The employer and employee will each prepare and exchange evidence such as documents, witness statements and expert reports.
  • Hearing: A final hearing will usually last one day or more. Both sides present their evidence and arguments to a judge (or judge and lay members).
  • Judgement: The tribunal will write a written judgement detailing their decision and any remedy (compensation, reinstatement or simply a declaration of rights).
  • Appeal: A decision can be appealed by either party if they consider there has been a misapplication of law or procedure.

How Employment Solicitors Prepare and Represent Clients:

  • Case Evaluation: Solicitors will assess the merits of the case and advise the client on prospects and potential payout.
  • Document Preparation: They prepare and present all necessary papers, ensuring adherence to the tribunal rules and practice directions.
  • Evidence: Solicitors help the client to collate and organise all relevant evidence in support of the claim or defence.
  • Witness Preparation: They prepare the witnesses to attend and give evidence effectively and confidently at the tribunal hearing.
  • Representation: Where applicable, solicitors represent the client at the hearing, presenting their case, cross-examining witnesses and arguing their case legally.
  • Post-Hearing: They advise on any appeal options or enforcement of the judgement.

Rights and Protections for Employees and Employers

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UK employment law establishes the framework of rights and protections available to employees and employers. These statutory rights and protections are derived from a mix of statutes, regulations and case law.

Statutory Rights Under UK Employment Law Explained in Detail:

  • National Minimum Wage: Everyone who works is entitled to at least the national minimum wage (national living wage if over age 23).
  • Working Time Regulations: All employees are permitted restrictions on working hours, rest breaks, and paid holiday (annual leave).
  • Equality Act 2010: The Equality Act shields people from discrimination relating to protected characteristics such as age, disability, gender reassignment, race, religion or faith, sex, sexual orientation, matrimony and civil partnership and pregnancy and maternity.
  • Employment Rights Act 1996: This Act covers various rights, including protection against unfair dismissal, redundancy pay, and the right to request flexible working.
  • Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974: This Act charges a duty on employers to secure the fitness, safety, and welfare of their employees at work.

Ways Solicitors Assist in Promoting Compliance and Protecting Rights:

  • Giving Advice and Guidance: A solicitor will provide expert advice to clients on their employment law rights and obligations under the law, enabling them to understand their legal obligations and make informed decisions.
  • Drafting and Checking Employment Contracts: A solicitor may also draft employment contracts for employees and senior executives and review existing contracts to ensure they are compatible with legislation and protect their client’s interests.
  • Representing Parties in Disputes: In the event of a dispute, a solicitor will represent their client and ensure that their employer follows legal procedures in dealing with any allegations against them and affords them natural justice and their rights under the Employment Act 2006 and any other applicable legislation.
  • Training and Awareness: Some solicitors offer training and workshops to employers and HR professionals on employment law compliance, helping them stay up-to-date with legal requirements and avoid potential disputes.

By comprehending your rights and seeking legal advice when necessary, you can effectively navigate the complexities of employment law and protect your interests in the workplace.

FAQs about Employment Solicitors in the UK

What is an employment solicitor?

An employment lawyer is a legal specialist in the field of employment law and provides advice and representation to employees and employers.

Do I need a solicitor for an employment tribunal?

No, but a solicitor will drastically improve your chances of winning an employment tribunal.

What does an employment tribunal do?

An employment tribunal is a judicial forum which adjudicates on employment disputes.

What are the typical fees for an employment solicitor?

It depends on the experience of the solicitor and complexity of the case. Some may offer no-win-no-fee.

Can employment solicitors represent both employees and employers?

Yes. Employment solicitors usually represent both parties in a dispute.

How can I prepare for a consultation with an employment solicitor?

Make sure you have all the relevant documents such as your contract, payslips and correspondence relating to the dispute.

What should I expect during an employment tribunal?

The employment tribunal will adjudge on the evidence provided by both parties and apply the relevant law.

What are the benefits of a no-win-no-fee arrangement?

No-win-no-fee means that you don’t have to pay any legal costs unless you win your case. Therefore, you should be at less of a financial risk than if you were charged hourly.

Can an employment solicitor help with contract negotiations?

Yes. Solicitors can draft, read and negotiate employment contracts on your behalf.

What rights do I have if I’m facing discrimination at work?

You have the right to be free from discrimination based on your race, gender, disability, and other protected characteristics.

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