If you’re a business with staff on your books, it’s likely that you’ll need employment lawyers for employers from time to time. Whether it’s for a routine matter like ensuring your policies and procedures are fully compliant with employment law or because you’re facing a dispute with an existing or former employee, you’ll want to know how to choose the best firm for your requirements. Here, we offer some aspects you should check before hiring a firm of solicitors.
The first thing you’ll want to know is how to hire a professional. After all, regrettably, there are some unscrupulous firms in the profession. You can use the Law Society’s website to find a solicitor based in your area, who offers services in the precise area of law you need and who meets the high standards in technical legal skills and client care that the Society lays down. The Law Society collects the information it supplies from the Solicitors Regulation Authority which, as the name suggests, regulates solicitors and firms in England and Wales.
Qualifications and Experience
Once you have found likely candidates, then perhaps the most vital asset to look for in an employment solicitor, or firm of solicitors, is the right level of experience. Employment legislation is a highly complicated area of the law, as it is spread across numerous statutes and regulations. It has to deal with a vast number of areas within the employer-employee relationship. Employment law is also subject to frequent changes, not least to respond to ways in which society is evolving.
So it’s incredibly important that you don’t opt for a firm of solicitors that merely dabbles in employment law from time to time. For preference, you want one that has developed a strong expert team who have been dealing with cases over a number of years. This ensures that you and your company will benefit from a legal representative who genuinely understands the nature of your problem and can ultimately offer the best solutions.
The more complex the issue, the more due diligence you should do to ensure you’re hiring a firm with relevant experience. Likewise, whether you’re running a small, medium, or large business, you should aim to find an employment lawyer for employers who has dealt with companies specifically of your type and size. Ask about similar cases they’ve handled in recent past – and the outcomes of those cases – so you are confident they are up to speed with the current framework and can respond accordingly in dealing with your matter.
Very often, the most pragmatic solution to any case is for it to be settled through negotiation before it comes to court or to an employment tribunal. This keeps costs down, shortens timescales, and ensures a solution which both parties can live with. Sometimes, though, a mutually beneficial agreement can’t be reached, and the next step is to take the case before a judge.
It’s in your best interests to ascertain whether your chosen firm has employment tribunal solicitors who have recent experience of defending cases at tribunals or in the courtroom, as this also helps maximise the chances of success. This kind of expertise is useful in framing and presenting your case and being able to anticipate how the presiding judge will deal with it.
Ability To See Both Sides
Another highly useful question to ask is whether the employment solicitors you are considering have handled cases on both sides of the relationship. In other words, do they routinely act for employees as well as employers? That might not seem important, but in fact, if they have, it gives you a huge advantage.
Lawyers who have had recent experience on both sides of the equation will be able to offer invaluable insight into the other side’s strategy. They will also be able to anticipate and address challenges and give you a balanced view of the strengths and weaknesses of your case.
A Clear Charging Structure
It’s no secret that defending or bringing a claim under the law against another party can be an expensive matter. It’s regrettable, but sometimes it’s an expense worth paying to defend your company’s reputation and to gain an outcome that’s as satisfactory as possible to all parties concerned. Even the best lawyers, though, cannot predict every twist and turn a case may take, or precisely how long it might be before you reach the outcome, so it’s rarely possible to say at the outset how much the case will cost.
But that doesn’t mean you have to commit to paying unlimited amounts for fair representation. Make sure you choose a firm that is transparent and open from the outset about how they charge for each of their services; and how and when you will be expected to pay the bill.
First Class Communication Skills
As noted, employment law is a complicated area. While you will be relying on your solicitor to address and respond to the points of law and technicalities within a specific case, it’s still important that you understand the framework.
The best employment lawyers will offer a free initial discussion, during which they will listen to you as you lay out the situation you are seeking advice on. Your solicitor should be able to explain your rights and responsibilities and the strengths and weaknesses of your case in a way you understand. They should then be able to clearly and concisely explain the aspects of the law that apply, in plain English and without resorting to jargon, so you fully comprehend the position and possible options for resolution of the matter.
Once appointed, you should expect a good firm to respond in a timely fashion to your communications and to keep you fully informed of progress as the case moves forward.
OGR Stock Denton LLP: Professional, Experienced Employment Lawyers For Employers
At OGR Stock Denton LLP, we promise all of the above and more. Employment law is one of our areas of expertise and as a firm, we have been representing businesses and individuals for over 50 years. As well as bringing many cases to a satisfactory resolution through negotiation, we also have a dedicated team who handle representation at employment tribunals or in court.
Our experience as employment law solicitors in London covers employment issues within small, medium, and large businesses across a wide range of industries. And feedback from clients suggests that our high-quality advice is always given in a way that’s clear and easily understandable.
You can see our charging scale and an indication of the likely costs involved in an employment case here on our website. And if you’d like to discuss a particular matter with one of the experts here at OGR Stock Denton LLP, you can call us on 020 8349 0321 today.
How much will it cost to bring a case?
Our fees for tribunal claims in unfair/wrongful dismissal range from £225 to £335 per hour plus VAT (depending on the complexity and who deals with your matter). The whole process can take around 6 months and include disbursements such as expert witness fees (£500 to £4,000 plus VAT per day), medical records (£50) and counsel fees (ranging from £125 per hour for junior barrister to £500 per hour for QC +VAT).
The total cost will depend on the amount of time incurred and the stage of the matter that is has reached. If the matter proceeds to a full hearing in the Employment Tribunal, the fees are likely to be in the region of £10,000 – £50,000 plus VAT, depending on the complexity of the matter. A full costs estimate can be provided once we have all the details of your case.
In addition, disbursements of the nature referred to above may be incurred.
[Please note all VAT is charged at the prevailing rate of 20%]
Key stages of an employment matter
We set out below an indication of the likely key stages of defending a straightforward unfair or wrongful dismissal claim. Not all stages may be required or relevant to your case. In this case fees may fall at the lower end of the ranges we have stated. Our costs set out above cover all work in relation to taking your initial instructions, reviewing the paperwork and advising you on the merits and the possible level of compensation that may be awarded against you if the claim succeeds (which may be subject to change as the matter progresses):
- Reviewing and advising on the claimant’s claim;
- Entering into pre-claim conciliation where required in order to consider whether a settlement can be reached;
- Preparing the defence/response to a claim;
- Advising on and making applications as appropriate prior to the Tribunal Hearing (e.g. application for further and better particulars where a claim form has provided insufficient detail of the allegations made, or for an unless order – where you apply for the other party’s claim or response to be struck out if it does not comply with an order made by the Tribunal);
- Considering a schedule of loss;
- Preparing for (but not attending) a Preliminary Hearing;
- Advising on the obligation to disclose all documents relevant to the claim to the other party;
- Exchanging documents with the other party and agreeing a bundle of documents;
- Drafting statement, taking and agreeing the content of witness statements;
- Preparing a bundle of documents;
- Considering and advising on the other party’s witness statements;
- Agreeing a list of issues and list of those involved; and
- Preparing for the Tribunal Hearing including instructing counsel.
The range of fees detailed above will not include the following:
- Considering and negotiating settlement throughout the process, including drafting and negotiation of a settlement agreement if negotiations are successful;
- Advising on a data subject access request (where a claimant exercises their right to request disclosure of personal information under data protection laws);
- Advising on any claim other than unfair dismissal and/or wrongful dismissal;
- Advising in respect of a separate claim brought in conjunction with a claim for unfair dismissal and/or wrongful dismissal (e.g. discrimination); or
- Defending any related claims in the High Court.
Timescales for your employment matter
Timescales can vary enormously depending on the facts of each matter. The time it takes to bring your matter to a conclusion will be determined largely by the stage at which your case is resolved.
The mandatory pre-claim conciliation period may last for up to no more than one month and two weeks. If we reach settlement during this period then the matter should be dealt with in that time frame.
However, if the claim proceeds to a Tribunal Hearing then the length of the process will depend on several things such as the complexity of the claim, the availability of the relevant Tribunal to hear the claim and how many days the Hearing is set for. Generally, we would expect a more straightforward case to take up to six months and a more complex case to take up to nine or 12 months. However, please note that these time periods are indicative only.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
What does an employment lawyer do?
Labour legislation solicitors representing an employer assists and advises on all matters under employment law, including recruitment, drafting, or reviewing contracts of employment, policies, and procedures. They can advise on defending against employees’ claims of discrimination, unfair dismissal, and other disputes. They can assist with redundancy proposals and negotiate with employees and Trade Unions on an employer’s behalf, and more.
What are the main employment laws in the UK?
Employment law is spread over various pieces of legislation. The Employment Rights Act 1996 covers contracts of employment, family-friendly leave, redundancy, and unfair dismissal. But many other acts apply, including the National Minimum Wage Act 1998, the Employment Relations Act 1999, and the Maternity and Parental Leave etc. Regulations 1999. Firms should offer employment law advice covering all these areas.
How long does an employer have to issue a contract?
There’s no legal necessity for an employer to issue a written employment contract. If the period of employment is set to last a month or longer, the employer must issue a ‘written statement of employment particulars’. The main document must be issued on day one of employment, with a wider written statement within two months of that date.
Are job descriptions required by law in the UK?
It is not a legal requirement, but it is good practice to give a detailed job description in addition to the written statement of employment particulars, which must be given on or before your first day at work, and must contain the title and/or a brief description of the role. Business solicitors for proprietors can advise on further content.
Why do we have Employment Law in the UK?
UK employment law governs the employer-employee relationship and lays down the employers’ and employees’ responsibilities. Compliance with employment law ensures that recruitment and dismissal processes are fair and the workplace as a whole is safe, free from discrimination and equitable.
Can an employer ask you to do a task that is not part of your job?
Legally, an employer can change a job description and the daily activities of a role if there’s a solid business reason. Employees must typically be consulted and offered proper support and training to change roles. There should also be a fixed timescale with arrangements in place for what will happen if the employee’s unable to fulfil the role despite training.
What rights do employers have in the UK?
Employers have a right to expect employees to carry out their roles to the best of their ability. If an employee is less productive than expected, you can request improvements to performance. Employers also have a right to contest any claim for compensation made against the company; to confidentiality of trade secrets; and to loyalty to the company (within reason).
What are employee and employer rights?
Employers and employees both have responsibilities towards each other, and also an expectation that certain rights will be upheld. These rights and responsibilities include health and safety in the workplace, the provision of and adherence to terms and conditions of employment, provision of and access to equal opportunities, and the right to be paid a minimum wage.
Why do employers need an employment lawyer?
Examples of when employers should retain employment solicitors in London include:
- Routinely, to develop internal policies and procedures for an effective, safe and fair workplace;
- In case of disputes with employees over each side’s rights and responsibilities;
- When negotiating new contracts or changes to existing ones; and
- If an employee brings a claim for unfair dismissal against their employer.
How do I choose an employment lawyer?
Experience is a critical factor. As employment law is about people, the resolution to issues is not always clear-cut. An experienced employment attorney for business can achieve better outcomes faster, as they’ll have dealt with similar scenarios before. A good track record of success is imperative as the practice of employment law is an art as well as a science.
Obligations of Employers To Employees
An employer must provide a written statement of employment particulars and uphold the commitments given under that, including paying employees the agreed amount if they are present and carrying out their duties. Employers must also meet the National Minimum Wage requirements and provide a workplace pension.
Employers must also observe all relevant health and safety obligations; prevent discrimination; pay statutory sick pay as a minimum and for the minimum period; and provide annual and parental leave in accordance with the law, in addition to other responsibilities. Good employment law solicitors can advise on all this and more.
Employers’ Health And Safety Responsibilities
Employers have a duty to protect the health, safety, and welfare of employees and anyone else affected by their business (e.g., site visitors, members of the public, and so on).
This means in practice identifying any risks to health or injury that may arise within the workplace, assessing their likelihood and severity, and mitigating against them occurring.
Employees must have risks pointed out to them and given instructions and training where necessary, so they know how to avoid or deal with the risks. They must also be consulted about all relevant health and safety issues, via a representative (a safety officer, for example) or directly. Job solicitors for employers may be needed for detailed advice.
Reasons For Hiring An Employment Solicitor
Ideally, a business will hire legal counsellors for business before taking on the first paid employee. This is a good time to become educated on your responsibilities as an employer and to ensure policies and procedures are established to manage the employer-employee relationship fairly and in accordance with the law.
If you’ve missed that window, it’s still important to seek legal advice on policies and procedures that are already in existence.
Otherwise, consult a lawyer if there’s a dispute with an employee; before altering existing terms and conditions; or if an employee has filed a case for harassment or discrimination.
Employer Rights And Responsibilities In The UK
Statutory rights employees are entitled to include:
- Health and safety in the workplace;
- Terms and conditions of employment;
- Pay and benefits;
- Equal Opportunities and freedom from discrimination;
- Statutory sick pay, redundancy pay, and pay for maternity, paternity, parental, and adoption leave.
Prevention is always better than cure, so take steps to put correct procedures in place from the outset. Businesses that neglect or are unaware of their responsibilities under employment law may otherwise find themselves in need of employment tribunal lawyers to argue their case.
Things To Ask Before Hiring An Employment Solicitor
Taking legal advice, while invaluable, can be expensive, so you want to ensure you’re hiring the solicitors experienced in employment law in London or elsewhere from the outset. Here are some questions you might like to ask:
- How long have they worked in employment law?
- Have they acted for businesses like yours before?
- Do they understand your current issue and do they consider what you’re aiming to achieve to be realistic?
- Can they suggest practical solutions; and in a language you understand, rather than speaking in jargon?
Whether you have a particular issue with an employee or simply want to ensure the policies and procedures you have in place are compliant with current legislation, the team at OGR Stock Denton can help. With over 50 years’ experience in acting for businesses and individuals and a strong employment legal team, we can give you and your HR department the support and solutions you need. Call us today.